I Went to a Japanese Car Meet and Came Back With Many Pictures and Opinions

All photos by the author
Photo: Andrew P. Collins (Jalopnik)
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Yesterday’s colossal Japanese car meet was cool enough to remind me that I am definitely still all about tuner cars. If you couldn’t make it to LA’s Petersen Museum to see it for yourself, don’t worry, I have lots of pictures and opinions for you right here.

The Petersen has a big Japanese car exhibit now through April 2019 called “The Roots of Monozukuri: Creative Spirit in Japanese Automaking.” It features some really interesting and ancient cars from Japan, some of which you probably never knew existed.

But on Sunday, July 22, tuner mag Super Street along with Toyota and Hagerty Insurance took over the parking structure for an all-Japanese car cruise-in.

I brought my $100 300ZX, which you’d know if you followed me on Twitter, and ran away from it as soon as I realized it was the jalopiest car there by a margin as wide as a Skyline’s wing.

Just kidding, there were two other cars in attendance with damaged clearcoats, and I was actually proud to be the sole representative for Nissan/Datsun Z31s. Two people told me they had similar Zs in high school, which is exactly what celebrating modern classics is all about!

Speaking of which the cars that I grew up worshiping, the same Civics and Integras and turbo Eclipses that got heroic scenes in the first Fast & Furious flick, are now classics. That means, man I’m old, and also I’m looking at modified versions of these things with a whole new appreciation.

In high school, I was obsessed with tuner cars. A bought a base-model salvage-title ’96 Integra with lawn mowing money and didn’t get further than “big ass exhaust” before wrecking it, but my friends and I went through a ’99 Civic Si, several 3000GTs, a Starion, a 300ZX and an RX-7 before we moved away to college and I moved on to off-roaders.

Anyway, point is these vehicles were hugely popular in my formative years of car ownership and now they’re cool again. This Petersen meet had some of the same cars you might have seen at a NOPI show or Hot Import Nights (anybody else remember that?) but the vibe was, mercifully a lot more mature.

Now, a tuner Civic can be a custom classic. Which, wow. Seems funny to me and probably a lot of you reading this, too. Let’s take a tour of what some of the coolest newish and oldish modified Japanese cars in Los Angeles are looking like these days.

At 6:45 a.m., Fairfax was already looking interesting. The OG NSX literally looks cooler to me every single time I see one.

Painted valve covers were definitely a thing the first time tuner cars were cool, but as far as I can remember, we were only painting them red, blue or yellow. This space scheme is fun, though.

A thrashy delinquent style with a touch of class in the form of a classic grille emblem. Interesting.

Another classy-and-crazy clash. The “Japan Automobile Federation” is like Japan’s AAA according to Japanese Nostalgic Car, which I trust to be accurate on the matter.

A wild Drift King appears! This is cute and funny and made me wonder why more people don’t put goofy stickers hidden in their pop-up headlights. Oh, right, because nobody has pop-up headlights anymore.

I normally advocate for keeping cars stock, but these wheels are really working for this NSX.

This bone-stock MKIII Supra, which I liked so much I also shared it on Instagram, was mint enough to brush your teeth with. Though I guess you’d need a pretty big mouth. A seriously perfect-condition car.

Behold, the juiciest engine bay.

And here’s the Mitsubishi 3000GT it was powered by. Hey, sweet flag in the background!

Bōsōzoku cars elude logic, which is the entire point. This customization style makes the stance life seem sane.

The Castrol livery is great. And my hot take here is that the R32 needs a special livery, because it’s kind of a boring looking car. Sorry.

Speaking of livery, this Eclipse on airbag suspension was like a weird hybrid of stance and tuner and fascinating to look at. This style of design covered most of the car’s body.

Just some fun Honda butts.

And a totally normal early Honda powered by a motorcycle engine.

I call this image “Appreciating Assets.”

I already mentioned that I owned an early DC2 Integra, and was always jealous of the facelifted cars like this one. Man, I miss my Integra so much. That thing was seriously perfect and mine wasn’t even a good one.

Speaking of radically appreciating Acuras...

I would never build a car in this style, but I’m a sucker for minty colors. And the second generation Lexus GS. This car just screams VIP class to me. If it could be had with a manual, I would have tried to get one instead of my Acura TL.

Wow, what amazing pin stripe work! Oh hey, that’s my car. How’d that picture get in here...

Not only was this mirror fender-mounted, it had its own freaking wiper!

I am strongly in favor of under-hood art.

OK, so, this was inside an EG (early ’90s) Honda Civic hatchback, which is already one of my favorite car designs ever. But it’d also had a K-Series engine swap done, and this absolutely bonkers shifter linkage hooked up to it. “It was the only way I could make this setup work without cutting into the car,” the owner told me. Like, holy shit. I think this is amazing.

Wow, such sparkles.


Here are some vehicles Super Street and Toyota were showing off. The Hondas look great together.

Even at a Japanese car cruise-in, where Supras were expected, MKIVs turn heads.

Sorry I didn’t take too many pictures inside the garage, where there were plenty of cool cars (literally, because they didn’t have to melt in the sun) but I still struggle to take decent photos in low light. This Toyota truck was worth making an attempt for, though.

I don’t think this looks good, but I bet some of you will. I will admit it’s extremely distinctive.

This captures about half of the show. The Petersen is a great venue for cruise-ins because after 10 a.m. you can check out the museum, and nobody minds if you leave your car on the deck all day as long as you come back before the place closes.