Friday, December 14, 2007

MJS Special Exhibit at SF Rod, Custom, and Motorcycle Show


Motoring “J” Style Brings Classic Japanese Hot Rods and Sport Compacts to San Francisco Rod, Custom and Motorcycle Show
Story by Justus Dobrin

An exhibition of pre-1985 custom Japanese performance vehicles from the collection of San Rafael’s David Swig will be on display at the 8th annual San Francisco Rod, Custom & Motorcycle show, presented by Toyota Trucks, which runs January 11- 13, 2008, at the Cow Palace.

Among the cars on display in the show’s North Hall is Swig’s 1972 BRE Datsun 510 — a tribute to Datsun’s Trans-Am championship victories, complete with ‘bubble flare’ fenders and iconic red, white and blue Peter Brock-inspired paint. Also making debut at this, the West’s largest indoor rod and custom exposition, is a hand-fabricated, open-wheeled 1968 Toyota Corona hardtop which is powered by a modified Lexus 4.0 liter V-8 and equipped with an SC 400 automatic transmission.

This one-of-a-kind custom street rod, built by Mitch Allread of Newhall, California, embodies hot rodding’s spirit and desire for individuality and expression – all with a decidedly Japanese flair.

The 23-year old Swig has created “Motoring J Style,” America’s first comprehensive Japanese car show, an event celebrating the roots and history of Japanese performance street vehicles.

“Inspiration for the exposition came from events like the Good Guys’ get togethers, the Monterey Historics, and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance” explains Swig. “We wanted to elevate awareness and enthusiasm surrounding classic Japanese imports.”

“A key element to the gathering’s success has been de-fragmenting the Japanese collectable scene. Traditionally, Japanese import enthusiasts were divided by brand affinity -- Toyota guys hung with Toyota guys, Datsun guys with Datsun guys,” explains Swig. “The emphasis now is on personalization and individual expression.”

The Motoring J Style exhibit augments more than 300 street rods, cool Kustom cruisers, wild motorcycles, race cars, “suede” or “trad” rods, Toyota racing trucks, vintage Streamline Moderne trailers and Hollywood Star Cars on display in all pavilions, halls and grounds of the expansive Cow Palace.

Show hours for the San Francisco Rod, Custom & Motorcycle Show are 3 – 10 p.m. Friday (January 11); 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday (January 12) and 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sunday (January 13).

Admission is $18 adults ($16 with $2 discount coupon at Northern California Toyota dealers); $15 seniors and military ($13 with Toyota discount coupon); $8 children six to 12 and free for kids five and under.

For a list of Northern California Toyota dealers carrying discount coupons, consult the show’s website, For other show information contact RP Productions at (209)744-8090.

For show information, contact RP Productions (209) 744-8090

Press contact: Michael Dobrin/MDPR (510)865-8005

Japan's "Lucky 13"

Our friends over at Winding Road always have something interesting to report, and this month they've turned their attentions east to the Land of the Rising Sun.

In their January 2008 edition, Chris Paukert chooses Japan's 13 "Most Beautiful Designs". What cars made the cut? Read the magazine here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lost in Lone Pine: '60s Toyota Land Cruiser FJ45

It's not often I make it to the small hamlet of Lone Pine, California, but I savor the opportunities I do get. Located just east of the most rugged of the Sierra Nevadas, Lone Pine is a breathtaking place of natural beauty. 11,000 foot cliffs jut out of the earth's surface a stone's throw away, reminding us of the violence of nature and the limitations of our "go anywhere" vehicles. There are no roads west of Lone Pine. In this pristine alpine setting, mountain goats still trump Gelandewagens.
If we are to believe the words of John Muir, the mountain goats here also jump horns-first off of 150-foot precipices (let's see you drive your G500 off a sheer Sierra cliff!). I was always intrigued by Muir's tale of a mountain goat melee in the Sierras, and hoped to find evidence of such events on a recent trip to Lone Pine.

I failed. I didn't see a single mountain goat or big-horned sheep whatsoever. Nevertheless I did stumble across a different breed of mountain goat: a somewhat forlorn, but complete mid-sixties Land Cruiser FJ45 pickup.

In its original Mint Green paint (about 12% of which is still on the car), this FJ45 was a real find. I believe this looks to be a long wheelbase model, but I'm not familiar enough with Land Cruisers to say conclusively. Year? Circa 1965.

This is one that should definitely be brought back instead of being left to rot or turned into a parts car! Much rarer than the FJ40 models, the FJ45 is truly a classic, and one of the first truly heavy-duty Japanese pickups. Someone save it!

Meguiar's Car Crazy: J-Style Has Arrived!

I don't get to see myself on TV very often, so it was with some trepidation that I watched my own blabbering mug telling the world why old Japanese cars are so cool via the Speed Channel. At least I had some sweet AE86s courtesy of my Club J-RWD friends to serve as a backdrop.

Barry Meguiar is a guy who really has his fingers on the pulse of just about everything that's exciting in the car world, so it was a real honor to have his Car Crazy film crew with us last July at Motoring J Style.

I was curious to see what would come of that, and the result was a wonderful half-hour program giving an overview of the Japanese Collector Car scene as it is today. The show included footage from Motoring J Style, the 2007 Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, and the 2007 Toyota Owners and Restorers Club (TORC) show. In addition to interviewing me, Barry interviewed Koji and Terry Yamaguchi, founders of the annual JCCS show. We were in good company, as he also quizzed Jay Leno about his Mazda Cosmo Sport on the same episode!

Best part of the show? Koji Yamaguchi's response when asked about his affinity for his 1977 RA28 Toyota Celica: "Because it looked like MUSTANG!".

Unfortunately, it seems the episode won't be re-aired in the immediate future, but you can cruise on over to for some bonus video shot at the TORC show. Click to see the video here.

Thanks again Barry and the entire Car Crazy crew!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nissan to Abandon All North American Racing Programs?

I didn't believe it when I read speculation Tuesday on that Nissan would halt all North American factory-backed racing programs for fiscal year 2008. It certainly sounded like far-fetched rumor. If nothing else, it's inconsistent with the launch of their flagship GT-R, considering Nissan's position in the enthusiast marketplace.

But thenJalopnik again posted confirming the rumored pullout as fact, citing an interview with Scott Vazin, Director of Product Communications for Nissan Motor Company.

What does this decision mean for Nissan, and for U.S. racing? Frankly, I'm unclear if this is really major news or just a bump in the road that will be forgotten in a year's time. Nissan reps I contacted either hadn't heard about the matter or weren't reachable for comment.

The biggest single racing program that will be axed are the factory-sponsored Nissan trucks that compete in the CORR off-road series. Beyond that, we're talking about some scattered sports car racing programs, drifting, and presumably some SCCA contingency programs. Nobody has been able to confirm how big of a total package North American motorsports are dollars-wise for the company.

The real question is this: does this decision mean Nissan is no longer interested in motorsport? Of course not. Nissan has been a supporter of racing for decades, and if I had to put my money on a bet, I'm sure they'll be back in some form, sooner rather than later. Speculation abounds that they're planning to come out big with a stateside GT-R racing program, details TBA, and that would seem to fit with their corporate strategy.

So, enthusiasts, don't poo-poo them yet. I think they've got something up their corporate sleeve, and we'll just have to wait and see what that may be.