The southern California car show calendar is bursting at the seams. On any given weekend, a car enthusiast in the L.A. area can choose from dozens of events to satisfy their need to ogle amazing automobiles, from small-group hangouts in shopping center parking lots to huge, professionally organized shows. In this environment, its hard to imagine adding another significant event to the calendar with any hope of drawing a good turnout right off the bat.
Yet somehow, that is exactly what El Segundo's Automobile Driving Museum has accomplished with their first-ever Japanese car show, which took place on Saturday, September 17. The ADM is in the process of transforming itself into a preferred gathering place for SoCal car enthusiasts and groups, and expanding their appeal beyond a more traditional classic American iron fanbase was a necessity. With interest in classic Japanese cars increasing exponentially over the past few years, adding an event to celebrate them was only natural for the ADM, a museum that is trying to outgrow its reputation as the "best-kept secret in South Bay."
As El Segundo-based specialists in JDM scale model cars (like the 1971 Nissan Skyline GT-R pictured above) we were overjoyed when we first learned of our local car haunt's planned Japanese car show (initially given the somewhat unfortunate name of "Shift and Drift"...more on that later). However, we had one major concern: could they draw a crowd of quality cars? The Japanese collector car community here can sometimes take a "show me" attitude toward events...it seems that no one wants to be the first person to sign up for something. Verification that an event is cool, and that one's friends are also going to be there, are virtual requirements for the success of any meet here. The Automobile Driving Museum was taking a big risk in organizing a "greenfield" event in the Japanese car space, particularly when scheduling it only one week before the undisputed king of them all, Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach.
We needn't have worried. Once a few key influencers in the SoCal Japanese car scene committed to attending, entries started rolling in. When the day of the show arrived, more than eighty cars had signed up, representing a wide variety of subgenres within the J-Tin community from pristine classics to stanced drift missiles.
A familiar favorite was Christopher Hoffman's immaculate 1980 Honda Accord liftback. Chris's Honda (one of several in his collection) is about as perfect an example of an early Accord as one is likely to find. There are some who cling to the obsolete notion that non-sporting Japanese grocery-getters like this will never be true classics, but we beg to differ: don't forget that '60s Falcons and Chevy IIs were once just grocery-getters too.
At the other end of the performance spectrum was Joel Tan's jaw-dropping Nissan Skyline "hakosuka." One of the most coveted of all Japanese classics, the hakosuka Skyline is often presented in largely stock form on RS Watanabe wheels, which made Tan's slightly "shakotan" look on deep SSR rims such a refreshing departure.
Of course, it wouldn't be a proper Japanese car show without the presence of a Toyota AE86 Corolla. Perhaps the most popular '80s-era Japanese classic, the "Hachiroku" has developed a worldwide following thanks to its light weight, rev-happy twincam 16-valve engine, and stellar rear-wheel-drive handling. We didn't catch the name of the owner of this gorgeous liftback that had been fitted with a few JDM touches, but it was a fine example of the breed.
If we had to pick a favorite car from the show, however, it would have to be Victor Ansari's spectacular Toyota Celica. This car had everything: gorgeous lines, a sonorous exhaust note, just the right level of JDM content, and an eye-catching set of BBS rims to complete the look. For American enthusiasts not yet hip to what makes Japanese classics so cool, this Celica would make an excellent reference point.
As first efforts go, the Automobile Driving Museum's first Japanese car show was a tremendous success. The variety of cars on display was outstanding, and the vibe was completely relaxed. Tara Hitzig, the museum's director, announced that next year's show will take place on September 16, 2017, and capacity will be expanded to accommodate over 100 cars. Best of all, our one complaint about the event - the name "Shift and Drift" - has been addressed. Going forward, the show will be known as "JDM at the ADM," and that is change we can believe in!