How dedicated are the proud owners of vintage Japanese vehicles?
Consider that Ken Weidner recently drove his 1981 Honda Accord from his home in Pennsylvania to Long Beach, California, for the 15th annual Japanese Classic Car Show.
Weidner is a show veteran and that he does the drive without such modern niceties as air conditioning and cruise control is testament to his appreciation for the event, which was launched in 2005 as a small, grassroots event but grew to attract participants from across the country, and even beyond.
Yet another Honda fan, Scott King, debuted his freshly restored metallic green 1972 N600 at the recent show as a way to celebrate his 40-year anniversary of ownership.
It is the level of effort and organization that Terry Yamaguchi, event founder and chief executive, puts into the show that keeps people like Weidner and King coming back and also attracts newcomers.
Yamaguchi and her team expanded vehicle eligibility a couple of years ago, accepting vehicles produced through the mid-1990s and the event has grown since that change.
This year 410 vehicles rolled onto the Marina Green park for the show. They are positioned by make and model, with Datsuns on the east, Hondas on the west, and every other Japanese manufacturer represented somewhere in between.
Among them, a couple of particularly special vehicles caught my eye, and they both happened to be from model year 1988. One was Ryan Glass’ Daihatsu Charade and the other was Chris Hoffman’s Dodge Ram 50.
The Charade, of course, comes as a throwback to the era when Daihatsu sold automobiles in the United States, which only lasted until 1992. It’s powered by a 52-horsepower 3-cylinder engine that made for a less-than-thrilling driving experience, but achieved 42 miles per gallon.
Glass’s car is in exceptional shape and is consistently the only Charade on the SoCal car show circuit.
“It’s all just a game, isn’t it?” he said with tongue-in-cheek. His sense of humor complements the car’s own quirkiness.
The Dodge Ram 50 raised some eyebrows and questions. Dodge is a domestic American nameplate, but as part of a rebadging strategy to round out the company’s showrooms and compliment the larger Dakota and Ram pickup trucks, an agreement was struck in which Mitsubishi allowed Dodge to sell its Mighty Max during the 1980s.
Hoffman’s silver Ram 50 has 101,000 miles on the odometer but looks brand new inside and out. The technology features include an AM/FM stereo with a separate cassette deck.
Hoffman has has attended all 15 Japanese Classic Car Shows.
Getting to see the wide variety of vehicles on display, getting to show his own vehicles and the people who bring the cars are reasons he said he returns.
“Fifteen years (and 12 trophies) later, the best prize is still the friendships you make,” he said.