The threat of rain in Long Beach, Calif. on Saturday, September 10, 2022, lingered on for hours as I checked my iPhone every 15 minutes. I acquired a two-wheel electric scooter many years ago to zip around car shows and quarter-mile drag strips to save wasted time and my legs. The scooter is not supposed to get wet, so I was hesitant to venture across the huge parking lot to the over 300 cars shown at the lovely Marina Green Park’s verdant lawn over looking the Long Beach harbor. The Shoreline Drive Park is a great choice for the “Kyusha” (vintage Japanese car) to be displayed, with various yacht harbor sights as the backdrop including the Aquarium of the Pacific, and near the front straight where the famous Long Beach Grand Prix takes place.
Even though the weather was overcast, I did not want to miss the show, so I hopped on my trusty scooter and shot across the quarter-mile parking lot to the entrance to pick up my media credentials. I thought, two years ago the show was held in the shadow of the Queen Mary ocean liner in Harry Bridges Memorial Park, and last year in the parking lot of the Anaheim Angels Stadium. I was glad to be back in attractive Long Beach on the rolling greens of Marina Green Park.
The field was massive, with you favorite Japanese cars from the 1950s through 1995 including Datsun 510s, Nissan Zs, Acura NSXs, Toyota Tercels and Celicas, Mitsubishis, Mazdas and many superb motorcycles. This admired endeavor that Terry and Koji Yamaguchi originally assembled in 2005, with hundreds of volunteers, is now in its 17th year and remains America’s first and best all-Japanese classic car show in the country.
The show is important as sponsors like Toyota, Nissan and Mazda showcased displays of vintage vehicles and historic racing cars from their vault. Many vendors were selling clothing, model cars, sticker, rims, sound systems and accessories as food trucks were serving mainly Japanese-influenced dishes to a hungry crowd. Yokohama and Nissan gave away free trinkets to spectators who filled out questionnaires.
Right off the bat I ran into my old colleague and friend, the legendary Peter Brock, founder of the BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) Datsun racing team. Brock says, “The thing I enjoy most coming to this show are all the fans that come up and are so appreciative of what the BRE team did starting back in 1968. John Morton came aboard when we started racing the ‘C’ cars in 1971 and won the National Championship in C-Production in 1971-72 and then won in 1973 the Trans AM Championship driving 510 Datsuns.” I asked Brock what his favorite sporty driver was and, with a big smile, he said, “A continuation Daytona Cobra with a Chevy V8, built in South Africa.”
Special guests included Sung Kang, the actor who plays Han Lue in the Fast and the Furious series. He signed autographs at his booth that displayed his Rocket Bunny Z and Erick Aguilar-built Datsun 510 with a Honda S2000 engine. Abel Ibarra brought his daily driver, a Mazda RX-2, and the original yellow Z of Yutake Katayama. One race car that stood out was the 1989 Mazda 767B that won in class at Le Mans in 1990 and was sold at Gooding a number so years later for $1.75 million.
Terry Yamaguchi once said, “The show is a good way to pass Japanese culture onto the next generation and show youngsters where these car types come from,” and he’s not wrong.
Take a look at the below gallery for more Japanese splendor.