Turn back the clock about 30 years and join me for a few photos and reflections on the nation’s largest event dedicated specifically to cars from the Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) has been a core event in southern California since 2005.
Howard Koby wrote about last year’s event for The Journal, and I put together a story about the event in 2021 in addition to highlighting the story of the leadership team behind the program. The organization started with humble roots but has gained momentum over the years. The website says, “In recent years, the event has grown right alongside the popularity of classic Japanese cars themselves. It remains America’s first and original Japanese car show, dedicated to old-school Japanese cars.”
This year’s 18th Annual JCCS was once again held at Marina Green Park along Shoreline Drive in Long Beach. This is the same setting where the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach is held, and it has remained a popular and scenic destination for automotive events over the years. Based on how things looked on Saturday, October 7, the Japanese collector-car community is booming, and the momentum shows no sign of slowing down.
I made the 800-mile round-trip trek the show in my 1994 Acura Legend LS coupe, and the car rolled 590,000 miles on the way to southern California from Phoenix. Eligibility for JCCS extends to vehicles from model year 1995 and older, so my car made the cutoff by a narrow margin. The event attracts a wide array of models from brands like Acura, Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Infiniti, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Subaru, and even defunct brands like Daihatsu. Every car becomes a conversation piece, and usually, the more obscure it is, the more attention it gets.
The morning marine layer near the waterfront kept things chilled until about 11:00 when the blue sky made its debut. By then, roughly 500 import vehicles had already been staged at the waterfront, and the spectator crowds had begun pouring in. An emcee kept the music and entertainment going, and a variety of vendors and food trucks gave people shopping and dining options when making the rounds. Jeff Koch of Phoenix was a repeat-attendee who traveled to the event as one such vendor to display and sell diecast scale-model toy cars under his brand name, The Toy Pimp. Thanks to strong volunteer support, the show field was well-organized according to make: The Honda and Acura community gathered toward the west end, and groupings were made for different models within each brand.
One of the highlights of the day for me was when Jake Berg from Acura Public Relations showed up with a not-yet-released Honda electric scooter called the Motocompacto. This 40-pound collapsible bike goes on sale in November and garnered a lot of attention from attendees. Its design and name are a throwback to Honda’s original compact bike called the Motocompo which, although gas-powered, had the same “urban commute” utility and could fit inside the back of a vehicle with ease.
No Japanese car show would be complete without a good number of Acura NSX, Nissan Z, Mazda Miata, and Toyota Supra models, and JCCS did not disappoint. Those types of performance cars were some of the reasons why Japanese brands made such an impact on the automotive landscape during the 1980s and 1990s.
The awards ceremony kicked off around 3:00 p.m., and trophies were distributed in categories according to class. The “Survivor” award was handed to a 1985 Honda Civic 1500 S named Wanda. She is owned by David and Kathy from Visalia, California and has accrued 860,147 diligent miles over the past nearly 40 years. David’s fastidious recordkeeping included a notebook of handwritten maintenance notes. Wanda received a recent paint job and some upholstery refurbishment, but her engine is original.
Another first-place winner for the day was Mark Leaver who drove his pearl white 1991 Infiniti M30 convertible all the way from Portland for the event (nearly 1,000 miles each way). Mark’s car recently received an overhauled interior complete with new leather upholstery, and the attention to detail was also evident with the pristine condition of the exterior for this rare Japanese model. The M30 was sold in the Japanese market as a Nissan Leopard; convertible variants were customized by American Sunroof Corporation when new and used a push-button fully automatic top.
The Japanese Classic Car Show is a must-see event for any enthusiast of some of Japan’s greatest hits from yesteryear. Make a mental note to attend in 2024 if you haven’t already done so!
As always, stay tuned on current events in the classic car community at the ClassicCars.com Journal.