2015 JCCS Photo 1
11th annual JCCS continues to veer from the norm
Most car shows around the country are still a sea of 50-year-old American muscle. And the more upscale concours events like Pebble Beach, Concours d’Elegance of America and Amelia Island include the traditionally prestigious marques like Ferrari, Duesenberg and Bugatti. Yet for the past 11 years, classic car fans have had an oasis from the mainstream in Long Beach, California — a car show that draws some of the most unusual machines from Japan.
Each fall, the Japanese Collector Car Show attracts hundreds of vintage Japanese cars, along with thousands of spectators, to Queen Mary Park. The show has become the tastemaker for Japanese nostalgia cars. This year’s show, held Sept. 19, was packed with more unique machines and more classic car fans than we’ve seen in years past.
Part of the draw was almost certainly the anticipation of some rare vintage machines brought by the manufacturers themselves. This was the first official appearance of Nissan at the show, and the company came out in force. It not only brought a 1967 Bluebird 411 and a 1972 510 from its 65-car North American collection in Nashville, but also two from its exclusive and somewhat secretive 400 car “Zama” collection in Japan — an R390 GT1 Le Mans racer and a 1975 Bluebird GTX sedan. Yes, it actually shipped cars in from Japan. Of course Nissan brought the new Maxima, as well as a new Titan XD towing a funky classic Datsun 223 van.
2015 Japanese Classic Car Show
“We were really excited to partner with the folks at Zama and get a couple cars here,” says Nissan safety, heritage and motorsports PR man Steve Yeager. “It was certainly an expense, but we wanted to open up that channel for the future and share knowledge about our heritage.”
The JCCS evolved out of Toyotafest, an all-Toyota meet that celebrated its 20th anniversary this past May. So it was natural that Toyota hauled several cars over from its museum just down the road in Torrance, including a 2000GT, one of the most cherished of all Japanese collector cars.
Mazda brought five vintage machines, including a ’67 Cosmo Sport 110S and a pristine all-wheel-drive 323 GTX, the rally-inspired hot hatch from the late 1980s. And yes, there were Miatas too — an original model used at the car’s launch at the Chicago Auto Show and a brand-new 2016 model.
Nissan Nismo Clarion racecar
“We’ve been here pretty much since this show started,” says Mazda’s director of public relations and brand experience, Jeremy Barnes. “We’ve absolutely seen an explosion in the number of cars here.”
A few short years ago, these classic Japanese sedans and hatches were just old cars to most. Sure, they were embraced and cherished by the loyal fans that attend JCCS, but regular car folk didn’t see the charm.
They do now.
Today, the rare Japanese classics are nearly bringing Ferrari money at auctions. Just this summer, a 1973 Nissan Skyline H/T 2000GT-R “Kenmeri,” of which 197 were made, sold at an RM/Sothebys auction at Pebble Beach for $176,000. And Toyota’s voluptuous 2000GT has been hovering around the million-dollar mark.
So what’s going on?
Japanese classic stickers
“There’s a new generation of collectors out there without the biases of the old guard,” says Ben Hsu, editor-in chief of the online magazine Japanese Nostalgic Car. “They grew up with Datsuns, Toyotas and Mazdas — not muscle cars.”
And the trend isn’t limited to cars. Japanese trucks are hip now, too. It’s not uncommon to see a perfect vintage Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruiser bring north of $50,000 at auction.
“The previous generations primarily had memories related to American cars because that was what was predominately on the road,” says Jonathan Ward, founder and CEO of Icon and Toyota Land Cruiser restoration house TLC. “Many people (today) have the same relationship with imports. And nostalgia makes many of us want to revisit the experiences we remember.”
So now that Japanese collectibles from the ’60s and ’70s have become real investments, what’s next? Hagerty mentions that so far in 2015 they’ve supplied more insurance quotes for Mazda Miatas than Triumph TR6s. And he predicts the next wave of collectible cars will include ’90s sports machines like the Acura NSX, Toyota Supra Mk IV and the Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4.
The folks behind the JCCS haven’t missed the micro-trend of collecting newer Japanese cars. Next month they will host an inaugural show dedicated specifically to Japanese cars of the 1980s and 1990s at Toyota’s Automobile Museum in Torrance, CA.
Check out the Japanese Classic Car Show website for more information.