In a city that prides itself with harmonizing modernity and tradition, there are few opportunities for the classic car enthusiast in Tokyo to get up close and personal with rare and interesting older cars.
While there are a few events throughout the year centered around on classic cars like the Suzuka Sound of Engine, Asama Hill Climb, and the La Festa Mille Miglia, most of these events are held outside of Tokyo. And the two main shows hosted in Japan’s capital, the Tokyo Motor Show and the Tokyo Auto Salon, cater to the latest and craziest trends in the automotive world.
Sure, there are car meets, but it does seem like the historic aspect of Japan’s car culture is often overlooked.
That’s where the Automobile Council show comes in. Now in its second year, it aims to bring classics and modern cars together under one roof.
The organizers of the show used the Retromobile in Paris and the Techno Classica in Essen as inspirations for the Automobile Council. It also aims to manufactures, both local and foreign, a chance to share their company’s heritage with fans. It’s a great chance for people to see and learn more about the history of some their most famous local manufacturers and a few foreign ones too.
Held at Makuhari Messe, the same venue as the Tokyo Auto Salon, the Automobile Council is similar in that it’s basically a trade show. Most of the cars on display are for sale while some have been loaned by manufacturers and collectors.
Compared to the Auto Salon, it’s a much smaller show. It’s odd being in the same space but actually having space to move around. On the press day there weren’t as many journos and cameramen as other shows in Tokyo.
Last year’s show had more ceremony; there were new car launches to kick off the inaugural show and they put more effort into it being a glamorous event. This year’s was more relaxed. There were a few press conferences from the manufacturers that had displays there but for the most part it was a great way to spend an hour or so looking at some of the quirkiest classics Japan had to offer.
Seriously—there were so many noteworthy classic cars, the show was a sensory bombardment. I had to take a few moments to take it all in. The highlight for me was the Classic Car JP stand which had a Porsche 906 Carrera, a Ferrari 750 Monza, a O.S.C.A. Dromos, and part of a Mercedes CLK GTR. It was my first time seeing the Porsche and O.S.C.A.; I didn’t even know the latter existed until seeing it at the show.
Next to them was an equally interesting display which included two Ferrari 308 GR.4 rally cars, a Mercedes-Benz 190E DTM racer, and what could possibly be the most uniquely colored Lamborghini Countach 5000QV in Japan.
The asking price for the Countach was a cool ¥48,000,000, or about $437,376. Most of the cars on display were from dealers, so if you really wanted to, you could pick yourself up a car on the day.
Also on sale were a RUF BTR Cabriolet, supposedly only one of three in existence. Yours for a cool sum of ¥40,000,000, or $364,428. Next to it was a Ferrari 412 Cabriolet (a bargain at ¥38,000,000/$346,256), another rarity being the only one of three converted by Scaglietti.
Lots of other unique cars were scattered around, such as the Lotus FE Concept M02T.
Strange name, strange car. It’s a one-off concept based on the Elise and was developed over two years for a customer. The design, which is quite Zagato-esque, also comes with bespoke badges to make sure no one mistakes this for a “normal” Elise.
I must’ve spent at least two hours there because I’d get distracted by another car every time I’d turn my head. If it wasn’t a very pretty Lancia Fulvia, it’d be a Ford Escort RS1000 or a Citroen DS Avant.
Another car I found interesting was the Porsche 964 Carrera 2 painted in Forest Green. I haven’t seen too many Porsches in dark green, and this gave this classic a very discreet and elegant look.
All manufacturers present even came in with classic displays of their own. Lamborghini Azabu and Yokohama, official dealers for Lamborghini in Japan, had a 50/50 mix of old new with a Countach LP400, Diablo GT, Aventador S, and Huracan Performante on their stand.
Audi came in full force with a trio of Quattro models from the ur-Quattro, Sport Quattro, and Group B rally car. The only new car on display was the second-generation RS5, presumably to show the “modern equivalent” of the Quattro. I guess the TT-RS was yesterday’s news.
Volvo did something similar with a lineup of their famous wagons such as the 850 and alongside the current V90.
Honda had two current generation NSXes as well as some classics. Nissan had the V Motion 2.0 Concept seen at this year’s Detroit Motor Show behind the marque’s first car, the Datsun 7. Alongside them were the first generation Silvia (which resembles a Lancia Fulvia) and a Prince Skyline Coupe.
Toyota’s “classic” contribution came in the form of the original 1998 Prius which was displayed alongside the current Prius Prime. Of course the current Le Mans LMP1 hybrid race car was also there, to show the hybrids can be fast too. Subaru had its first car, the 360, in center stage while the newly facelifted Subaru WRX and Levorg STI were on either side.
Interestingly, Mazda only brought cars from its past. In the back corner was a dark green NA MX-5 roadster displayed as part of its recently announced restoration program from the iconic sports car.
However, most of the cars were some of their most famous rotary powered cars. With the Cosmo to the 787 race car and of course the RX-7 all gathered, many were expecting an announcement on Mazda’s 50th anniversary of the rotary engine. However, despite a 15 minute long press conference there was no hint at a new rotary powered car. Perhaps they’re saving a big announcement at the Tokyo Motor Show in October. One can hope.
The Automobile Council is expected to return around the same time next year, again in the first weekend of August.
This kind of show isn’t exclusive to Tokyo or Japan. However, it’s a nice addition to a country where classic cars are often overlooked, especially by people overseas where the first thought of its car culture often comes from Initial D or viral YouTube videos with Morohoshi’s Lamborghinis. There are definitely more unique cars out there than just those things.
A show like Automobile Council, once it has grown in size and popularity, could just be the perfect stage for that.