Now in its 13th year, the annual Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California, has become one of the premiere Japanese car shows in the country. While the show isn’t a monster in size, it packs a ton of quality into a relatively small space, and it’s all but guaranteed that everyone in aatendance will see something they’ve not only never seen before but never even heard of.
Here are eight of the rarest cars we found at this year’s Japanese Classic Car Show, along with some bonus photos.
1971 Subaru 360 “Yacht”
One of just six built in this configuration by car-crazed visionary and founder of Subaru of America, Malcom Bricklin, this 360 Yacht is based on a standard 360 coupe. It was inspired by the Fiat 600 Jolly, a diminutive, surrey-topped runabout used by many a wealthy playboy to get across his estate grounds to the waiting yacht on his private dock. With a 360-cc, two-cylinder, two-stroke engine, it was the perfect car for the job. We’re not sure we’ll ever see another.
1985 Mitsubishi Delica L300
Never sold in the U.S., the Delica’s name is taken from the term “Delivery Car” and represents a series of compact work and passenger vans and trucks. This is a passenger version with plenty of added garnish in the form of a 4×4 drivetrain (courtesy of the Mitsubishi Montero), a turbo diesel engine and an intake snorkel said to be original to the vehicle.
Isuzu 117 Coupe
The Isuzu 117 Coupe is one of the prettiest cars to come out of Japan from any era, with styling by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro. Limited, handbuilt production began in 1968 and engine choices would include a series of gas and diesel four-cylinders, some with dual overhead cams and fuel injection—heady stuff for the time. This is an excellent example of an early Japanese sports car that is often overlooked by collectors, having not been sold in the U.S. originally.
1970 Datsun 240Z “Bonneville”
This 240Z was built by Nissan Technical Center and Competition Department employees to break the stock-body F/GT class land-speed world record at the Bonneville Salt Flats, a feat it accomplished in 1976 with a speed of 166.037 mph. The record would stand nearly a decade until being broken in 1985, then reconquered by another 240Z in 2010 at 172.974 mph. This car is still owned by Nissan.
1965 Honda T500
The T500 is a slightly larger version of the T360 pickup truck—the first production automobile to be sold by Honda. With a 38-hp, 531-cc DOHC inline-four, the T500 had a 9,000-rpm redline and a top speed of about 65 mph. The engine itself was basically a detuned version of that found in the S500 sports car. More than 10,000 were built between 1964 and 1967 and all were available in just one color: moss green.
Honda City and Motocompo
The first-generation Honda City was a forward-thinking car and the smallest offered by Honda at the time of its introduction in 1981. This three-door hatchback version was sold with an optional 50-cc folding Motocompo scooter that fit neatly in the cargo bay and was designed to operate in congested Japanese urban areas too tight for even the small City. To see both together in the U.S. is a rare thing, as neither were built for the American market.
Toyota Celica “IMSA Camel GT”
In 1983, Toyota and Dan Gurney’s All American Racers began an IMSA Camel GT campaign with the last of the rear-drive Toyota Celica sports coupes. This car contested the GTU class, for cars under 3.0 liters, and while it didn’t win a championship, GTU Celicas racked up 10 wins over several seasons against the dominant Mazda RX-7 GTU cars of the day.
Mazda RX-7 FC “Racing Beat California Roadster”
Instead of waiting for Mazda to produce its own version of the second-generation, “FC”-series RX-7, prominent aftermarket Mazda rotary specialist Racing Beat built its own. This car is the actual prototype as featured in several period magazines and is still owned by the Southern California-based Racing Beat. Seam welding, tubular reinforcements, and a taller central driveline tunnel helped to increase structural rigidity—especially important with the car’s tuned 241-hp engine, capable of getting this roadster to 144 mph. Later, the special California-style front end with blacked-out headlight covers would be offered to customers in kit form. To find a car with the kit installed is very rare today.