A legendary 1974 Lamborghini Countach takes on the latest McLaren Artura hybrid supercar, while a 1967 Toyota 2000GT gazes down the hall at a brand new Nissan Z and electric Hyundai Ioniq 5. This is a car show where classic meets modern in the rawest sense of the word. the word. The Automobile Council’s event (which took place April 15-17), now in its seventh year, is a mishmash of automotive delights spanning nearly 100 years. Held in the massive Makuhari Messe complex about 30 minutes east of Tokyo, this rare event brings together the automotive genres of the past, present and future.
It is the only event in Japan, and one of the few in the world, to boast a combination of automakers debuting new models, while dealers and owners showcase some of the most legendary supercars of all time.
To find out how this event came about, I asked co-organizer and classic car enthusiast Masafumi Seki for a brief explanation. “Simply put, we started this event to create a new style of automotive culture in Japan. To achieve that goal, we thought it was necessary to understand the origins of where modern cars came from. If you have this knowledge and interest when you drive new or classic cars, you can enjoy it more,” he says.
“Europe and the US have each created their own unique car cultures over the past century, but here in Japan, a country that has been heavily focused on new car making since the late 1960s, I feel like that kind of car culture is somewhat is or should we say underdeveloped by international standards.” I know what he means Italy has its prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este the UK has its Goodwood Festival of Speed and the US hosts the exotic Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance event and many others every year Japan has its own particular style of car culture, including “floating”, turbocharged fast sports cars and “itasha” cars heavily decorated with manga or anime characters.It was this kind of culture that the creators of the Fast and furious movie franchise, and yes, this culture did indeed resonate with a large international audience of younger fans craving reasonably priced fast cars. But what Seki and his team are trying to do is enhance the passion and understanding of where modern cars come from through concentrated flashbacks to the legendary supercars and classic cars of yesteryear.
To come up with a menu of classics for each event, Seki told me that every year he conducts a questionnaire asking potential event attendees what kind of cars they would like to see. “The vast majority of over-50s say they would like to relive their childhood dreams and see classic supercars in real life,” emphasizes Seki.
That is why the organizers put in a lot of energy every year to collect cars that attract a lot of interest from the largest group of attendees. But to also arouse interest among enthusiasts who want to buy a car, organizers invite car manufacturers to show their latest and best cars. This aspect of the event can often lead to one or two automakers debuting brand new models in what they call a “world premiere.” For example, two years ago Mazda unveiled its all-new MX-30 SUV mild hybrid, turning the Automobile Council into part motor show, part hall, and part museum.
As I entered the hall, the first grandstand to greet me was indeed a rare one. The Alvis Car Company of England had a big presence on the floor with about 6 cars, all classics in their own right. Based in Coventry, Alvis began building cars from 1919 and closed its doors in 1967. In 2017, the company announced it would offer limited-edition models such as the 4.3-litre model, 72 years after the last model was produced. Two of the highlights of the booth were the 1936 Bertelli Sports Saloon and the elegant 3.0-liter Graber Super Coupe, which the maker still builds in small numbers for prices of $500,000.
Honda revealed the depth of the Automobile Council and chose this show to celebrate the Civic’s 50th anniversary since the model was first sold in the US. Sold some 27 million units worldwide in the past five decades, making it one of the world’s most popular entry-level runabouts, Honda celebrated with a first-generation Civic and a ‘Yamato Civic’ that raced in the 1970s.
The theme on the Mazda stand was a tribute to the brand’s long history and successes in motorsport, with a focus on achievements such as the 1991 14-hour Le Mans victory in the 787B 4-rotor race car. The stand featured legendary vehicles such as the Cosmo Sport Marathon de la Route, which finished fourth in the 1968 “84-hours of Nurburgring Endurance Race”, as well as the Familia Rotary Coupe which won the All-Japan Suzuka Automobile Grand Cup. race won in 1969. Mazda connected the past with the present and the future and also showcased a world premiere version of a custom MX-5 dubbed the Mazda Spirit Racing Roadster, with a unique four-tone paint scheme and massive rear wing.
In addition to the Porsche booth, the German company showed historically important models such as the 911 Carrera RS 2.7 and 911SC, as well as the latest all-electric Taycan Turbo S. At a nearby booth, another exhibitor enhanced Porsche’s presence with its rather special dark green 356.
Alongside Porsche was a tribute to the Nissan Z, with a 1970 Datsun 240Z, a 1982 Datsun 280Z, a 1989 300ZX and, once again, connecting these historic cars with the present, a brand new 400 hp Nissan Z looking to the future. be of the sporting heritage of the Japanese brand. Z fans have to thank the first president of Nissan USA, Yutaka Katayama, who saw the potential of a beautifully designed, fast and reasonably priced sports car in the late 1960s and forced his Nissan bosses in Japan to give the green light to production.
In front of the Nissan stand was a tribute to the famous German DTM racing series. Seki and other event organizers noted that this influential racing series is not well known in Japan, so they wanted to try to change that perception and increase its presence by showing cars based on production vehicles such as the BMW M3, Mercedes Benz 190E EVO II and a race winner in the Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI.
But without a doubt, the star attraction of this year’s show for me was the three Italian classics sitting in the center of the room, all written by legendary Italian designer Marcello Gandini. Breathtakingly beautiful and more like works of art than sports cars, a bright orange Lamborghini Countach sat next to a dark red Lamborghini Miura, one of the world’s most desirable supercars and a classic featured in the opening scene of the 1969 film “The Italian Work.” Then on the other side of the Italian booth sat a shockingly green-colored De Tomaso Pantera, written by Gandini in 1971.
Facing the Italian pedigrees was a collection of supercars that followed the “classic meets modern” theme, namely a 1975 Maserati Bora from 1971 and a brand new mid-engined Maserati MC20 with a 621-hp twin-turbo V6 and priced at about $216,000. As well as being breathtakingly beautiful, the Bora is a car famous for being designed by another legendary Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign, and it was the first Maserati to adopt an independent four-wheel suspension.
Rival supercar maker McLaren was also in attendance, presenting its all-new 671 horsepower twin-turbocharged V6 Altura supercar featuring the maker’s first-ever plug-in hybrid powertrain.
Other classics that graced the event this year included a Lancia Delta Integrale, BMW 2002, Ferrari Dino, an Aston Martin DB5 valued at 83 million yen ($640,000), a Toyota 2000GT valued at 100 million yen ($770,000) ).
To be honest, it’s great to see manufacturers launching their new electrified cars, such as the McLaren Artura and Porsche Taycan, vehicles that inspire a new generation and answer the planet’s need for CO2 reduction. But visitors to this show have really come to take a trip down memory lane and see their favorite legendary cars in real life, cars that hung posters on their walls as teenagers. And what memories they are.