Touge California, currently the sole vintage Japanese vehicle road rally in North America, has picked up a title sponsor for this year’s event: Mazda. The rally hosted by Japanese Nostalgic Car magazine is expected to feature 28 rare and original Japanese cars from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s – including 11 Mazda – as they convoy up the Southern Cali coast from San Diego to Mazda’s Irvine-based R&D facility.
"We are proud to have Mazda, a company that understands the importance of heritage and motoring thrills, as a partner for our Touge California rally," said Ben Hsu, editor-in-chief of Japanese Nostalgic Car. "As 70 percent of Japan's terrain is mountainous, our goal with Touge California is to give owners of Japanese cars the experience of driving on roads similar to those on which their cars were born."
Among the Mazda in this year’s rally will be a 1975 Rotary-Engine Pickup (REPU), a 1978 GLC compact hatchback, and 1985 RX-7 GSL-SE from Mazda's heritage collection. Through the 200-mile rally, participants and their co-drivers will enjoy California's coastal roads; at Mazda’s offices, they will be treated to an exclusive tour of the Mazda heritage collection, a working garage that houses more than 50 race cars, concepts, historically significant cars, and one-offs.
Hsu and rally driver Patrick Strong founded Touge California in 2015 after seeing many famous vintage rallies like Targa Florio or Carrera Panamericana for European cars but nothing exclusively for Japanese makes. Hsu and Strong launched Touge California to great success in 2015 and have since increased the number of participants and limited age requirements of eligible vehicles to cars approaching 40 years old, if not older.
The idea was adapted from the infamous and often daring underground touge races in Japan. "Touge" literally means "mountain pass," but it is now a term that's associated with celebrating vehicles that were both mainstays sold in the US and rare, exclusive sedans and sports cars that were forbidden from sale in the US for many years until they became legally importable.
This year’s Touge California Road Rally takes place on April 2. For registration information and further details, visit the Touge California page.