Made Rite in Japan

Los Angeles CA, May 17 2015 – Half a century ago in America, it was pretty hard to find a lot of foreign manufactured cars (except maybe German Beetles). One's rite of manhood was defined by 3 choices – was your daddy a General Motors or Ford or Dodge guy? But the huge market stateside was too much to ignore – a few Japanese motor companies ventured to start shipping cars to an unsuspecting crowd. Small and very basic in design, most people didn’t care to give much up in beauty, girth and safety to save a few bucks on fuel. Worse, Made in Japan was a bad a connotation as Made in China is today - given a repution for cheap-ness. This junk will never last, was the conventional wisdom of the day.

Then the 70s arrived, and conditions changed. The Japanese are honorable perfectionists – the quality of the cars was discovered to be rather good. Then the Oil Crisis hit consumers hard with other-world prices for oil. Saving a buck on an automobile and subsequent fuel runs wasn’t such a bad idea. Japan went on to give the US a spanking in their home court, creating attractive cars that seemed to run forever without bother.

Almost every driver in America would have a Japanese car story to tell. We’ve owned Honda Civics, a 320k mile Toyota truck, a 250k mile Mazda, and currently an old 105k Lexus. People keep coming up to say their ES has 250k+ miles and no sign of fail – we’ll possibly keep ours for another decade at minimal cost.

In light of the slow start to market, there aren’t many surviving examples of the Japanese invasion. Or so we thought, until attending The Petersen ’s Japan Cruise-In - lots lasted! Over 500 automobiles of Japanese descent filled pretty much the whole parking structure at Petersen’s Museum – otherwise closed for a massive facelift and renovations. There was surely one model of every kind of JA car and truck, and many in multiple colors. It was very cool to see some of the crazy motors stuffed into the small compartments. Japanese car tuners are in their own domain.

The only improvement to the morning would have been if the Petersen was open again for car gawking. Alas, we’ll have to wait until December. In the meantime, the Petersen is keeping busy and in the news. They’ve launched a crowd-funding project for an auto restoration project – a 1956 Davis in need of cosmetic and mechanical repair. This is modern thinking for an historic vendor – all about keeping their audience interested and engaged. Even when they’re closed.

More at CarStories presented by The Petersen.

by Randy Berg

1967-72 Mazda Cosmo

1967-72 Mazda Cosmo

Datsun 1600 Roadster

1969-70 Datsun 1600 Convertible

1982 Datsun 280ZX

1982 Datsun 280ZX

1991 and 1996 Acura NSX

 1991 and 1996 Acura NSX

2001 Honda S2000 2 Fast 2 Furious 2003

2001 Honda S2000 2 Fast 2 Furious 2003

Toyota Celica

 Toyota Celica

Lexus custom convertible

 Lexus custom convertible

Photos by Randy Berg

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