Car Show Classics: Toyota Classic Car Show in Tokyo Gaien

Each November, Toyota hosts a classic car show in downtown Tokyo in the Meiji Jingu Gaien complex, a series of parks, athletic fields, and museums in the central part of the city. Up until a few years ago, I was an annual visitor – but last trip I noticed that the cars were pretty much the same ones as the previous year, so I passed on attending in 2016 and 17. The weather was beautiful this year so I decided to give it another go – and I’m glad I did. Lot’s of new cars and a new attraction.

Toyota hosts the show and brings several cars from its factory museum in Nagoya. It also invites other manufacturers to bring cars from their respective museums. In addition, it allows about one hundred individual owners to display their classics.

The show’s theme for this year was cars from the late 1980’s – and Toyota, Subaru and Nissan each brought an example. This is one of the first JDM Celsiors (Lexus LS 400) to come down the line – and is now displayed in Toyota’s factory museum. Toyota sure got this one right – this car still looks good. It took a spin around the display area – and was as silent as a Prius.

What else would Nissan bring but a GT-R, this being an R32. Nice to see one still in original condition.

Subaru brought a first generation Legacy AWD wagon – another one that was one of the first down the assembly line.

Toyota also ensured there was a good representation of cars from all over the world – how often do you see a Panhard Dyna Z – this is a 1958 model with a 851 cc flat twin under the hood turning the front wheels.

Given they both drive on the left side of the road, Japan has always had an affinity for cars from the UK – this restored MGA looked like it had just come off the line at Abingdon.

Another MG beauty – a late 1940’s TC – looks great in bright British Racing Green.

Here’s a late 50’s AC Ace – with a 2.0 litre Bristol straight six with three Solex downdraft carbs – one of only 463 built.

There were several Rollers but this creme-colored Silver Cloud was a stunner.

It seems Austin’s were exported everywhere – this is an A50 Cambridge.

Italy was represented by several Ferrari’s but this Maserati Merak caught my eye – a photograph really doesn’t do it justice, as its a beautifully sleek design.

I didn’t recognize this nice looking little 2-door – I initially thought it might be an Izusu or Hino, but a quick look at the back showed it was a Simca – a late-sixties 1200 Coupe. Simca asked Bertone to style the body and Bertone gave the assignment to a recently hired young designer; Giorgetto Giugiaro. Very nice, even with the vinyl top.

You know you’re getting old when you go to a classic car show and see not one, but three cars that you had previously owned. During my first military tour in Japan in 1981, I bought a 1974 Toyota Crown Royal Saloon MS60 “Kujira” exactly the same as this one for the princely sum of $500. It was a great car – it had the M-series SOHC 2.0 straight six and it would just purr right along.  Owned it for three years and not one problem – I got my money’s worth…

The Isuzu Bellet has a cult following in Japan, similar to the AE86 Toyota Corolla. I had seen coupes and four-doors but didn’t know they made a fast-back 2-door. This is a GT version from 1967.  You can see a regular coupe in the background.

This is a 1987 JDM Toyota Cresta sedan, recognizable to US readers as the Cressida. Again, in 1992, I bought a 1988 JDM Cresta exactly like this one. The Cresta was a little more expensive than the Crown I had bought 11 years earlier – I paid about $8K, but it was almost nearly new with only 6K kilometers.  Quiet, refined – you could tell Toyota was inching toward Lexus levels of quality.

An early Isuzu 117 Coupe – a lithe, sleek beauty that could be had with a strong 1.6 litre DOHC four. Another Giugiaro design.

A Toyota 2000 GT from the Toyota Megaweb museum in nearby Odaiba – the Yamaha-designed DOHC six is a work of art…

I had heard Irv Gordon had passed the day prior to the show, so had to take a pic of this handsome Volvo P1800.

This one brought back a few memories – a 1963 Ford Fairlane 2-door with a 260 cu in V8 – my first car was a 64 Fairlane 4-door also with the 260. Mine didn’t have Torq Thrusts, I could only afford a set of “Baby Moon” hubcaps…

As I finished making a 360 around the area, I noticed a couple of long lines – several owners were graciously allowing attendees to sit behind the wheel of their cars and snap a few pictures. There were three cars in this area; a Model T, an XKE and a beautiful pre-war Horch cabriolet. I had driven a Model T and an XKE years ago, so I had to sit in that big Horch – yes, your author is behind the wheel.

What a beauty – its a 1937 Type 853, with a 4.9 litre OHC straight eight. Definitely large and in-charge. I’m sure CC readers know Horch was a predecessor of Audi and Auto Union, and specialized in luxury cars in Germany in the pre-war era.

As I was leaving, I noticed the police were holding back pedestrians from crossing the street – then came a series of police cars and motorcycles – obviously a DV motorcade was coming by. Before I could get the camera out, the Japanese Crown Prince whizzed by in a new Toyota Century – the chariot of choice for the Prime Minister, Fortune 500 CEO’s, and the Royal Family.

An enjoyable day – I think I’m back to being a regular attendee…even if the Crown Prince doesn’t make an appearance.