The plan was to show up early. I had other commitments Saturday afternoon I couldn't shake, so I told myself ahead of the 2018 edition of the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) in Long Beach, Calif., that I would get there a couple hours before its 9 a.m. opening and absorb as much of the iconic machinery and new venue as I could. And it almost worked—except it was Saturday, and somehow my body knows this because it insisted on refusing to leave the comfort of my bed—as if to say, indignantly, I'm up early Monday to Friday, and now you want Saturday, too?! Uh-uh, not today.
I guess I'll sleep when I'm dead. And this was, after all, JCCS, an event you necessarily should not miss if you live and breathe these cars (namely vintage vehicles of Japanese brand lineage) like we do and are within a few hours drive of the event. In 2018, JCCS turned 14, and marked the occasion with a new hosting venue, Marina Green Park, which is basically a couple of wide strips of grass next to Shoreline Dr. (fun fact: a stretch actually used for the Long Beach Grand Prix each April!) on the other side of the mouth to the LA River from Long Beach Harbor. In fact, the opposite shore is where JCCS had been held for the last bunch of years, next to the Queen Mary, so it didn't move too far from where it was.
The park is actually situated on something of a berm, so many cars were lined up along sides of the "hill," while others were parked along its crest. From the park you had the marina waterfront on one side and the Long Beach Arena and downtown skyline on the other. And the sun was out early, and with a vengeance—no benefit of marine layer on this day.
I still managed to show up more than an hour before the gates opened to the public, which meant I got to check out the last bit of roll in. You can tell the staff at JCCS has been doing this for a while, because they have the system of ushering in cars down to a science. Even with the new location, even with the perpetual presence of laggers and over-sleepers (Ha ha! Guilty!) and the clueless, it seemed like a calm and orderly process. A lot of that last grouping of cars was Hondas—DA Integras, early-gen. Civics, etc.—which we covered separately, but reminds us about the new cutoff for eligible model years for JCCS.
Like we mentioned in Part 1 of our coverage, cars from 1995 and older are now allowed to register for JCCS, changing the longstanding cutoff of 1985. That meant expanded vehicular scenery—so fourth- and fifth-gen. Honda Civic, DA Acura Integra, Z31 and Z32 Nissan 300ZX, first-gen. 240SX, R31 and R32 Skyline, FC and FD Mazda RX-7, and others were now invited to the party. It was actually a little surprising to see how many four-door R32 were in the mix—we had no idea so many were in the country (remember, the Skyline was never sold in the US).
I see myself as having more of a "big tent" approach to car appreciation, meaning specifically I'm a lot more tolerant of experimentation and true hot rod-dery than your average "purist" enthusiast. So at an event like JCCS, I'm naturally attracted to the outside-the-box thinkers, and there's none more challenging to the status quo than engine swappers.
My beat for the show was the northeast half of the park, which meant I was deep in Nissan/Datsun country—and consequently a lot of SR20 swaps. Turbo or N/A, I found the inline-4 power plant in a variety of Datsun 510, Sports roadsters, and others, and for those wanting to stay native Nissan but buck the SR trend, I spied a handful of resourceful individuals who went with KA24 or CA18 power. One person even dropped a VQ V6 into their S30 Z car.
Within the paradigm of power plant musical chairs, though, you had guys that really flipped the bird to purists by going non-native with their mill of choice. While some stayed Japanese (the Sports 2000 with a Honda S2000 engine in it, for example), some decided to go for the most bang for the buck, like the Kyle Kuhnhausen and his LS1-swapped 240Z. Dropping a GM V8 into a RWD J car isn't anything new, but Kyle's S30 is more than a simple swap recipient, boasting tons of fantastic fabrication work and an incredible amount of attention to detail. Dubbed "InZanity," Kyle handled the build and all of the fab work himself, his hands on virtually every part of the sports car.
Incidentally, my favorite car of JCCS was another Z, this one a little more in line with a more traditional approach to modification but with a base platform that has sorta been overlooked by history. David Macias's slammed white Z31—discovered on Craigslist, picked up for $600—bagged and on Enkei mesh wheels, has challenged our perceptions of the first-gen. 300ZX. When I spoke to the owner at the show, he mentioned he just recently received the Pantera-style hatch from Japan and that he rarely takes the car out for these sorts of things. We're hoping he changes his mind about that, because his car is beautiful.
Of course, there was a lot more at JCCS, too. Dig into the 132-photo gallery for a big dollop of Nissan/Datsun and a little taste of everything else I saw at the show.