It was meant to happen in April. Then it got postponed to May. Eventually it was rescheduled to the end of July after the announcement of the post moment of the 2020 Olympic Games to 2021. However, there was going to be contingents in place to keep in line with government guidance.
The 2020 Automobile Council show was going to be the first big car show since the COVID19 pandemic came into full blast. It would be smaller show than previous years as organisers tried to minimise the number of visitors crowding the halls. Despite this it was nice to be at an event again after months of nothing happening.
There were some notable absentees from the show such as big domestic brands such as Nissan, Toyota/Lexus (although the Toyota Automobile Museum did have a display), Suzuki, Daihatsu, Mitsubishi, and Subaru decided not to participate this year. Instead, it was up to Honda who had a small display and Mazda to represent domestic brands. Amazingly, Mazda probably had the biggest display at the show.
Foreign manufacturer importers also joined in on the festivities though like the domestic brands their presence was minimal. McLaren, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, and Porsche had small displays with the rest of the show was made up with independent shops and dealers.
The Automobile Council has certainly diverted away from what it once used to be. Instead of a place of showing some of Japan’s best classic cars with their modern equivalents, the Automobile Council has turned into more of a swap meet where dealers and seller of relatively interesting classic cars try and sell some stock. There’s nothing wrong with that but I wish it hadn’t gone too commercial this early on. Hopefully it’s only because of the circumstance of 2020 and other exhibitors pulled out.
Regardless, there were still plenty of interesting cars to look at here are my top 10 highlights from this year’s smaller Automobile Council show where classic definitely met modern.
Iso Grifo A3/C
Like every year the show highlights a couple of ‘main draw’ cars. For 2020 one of them was this Iso Grifo A3/C. The brainchild of Renzo Rivolta’s Iso brand and Giotto Bizzarrini. Bizzarini knew his way around a sports car having been an integral player in the development of several Ferraris including the 250 GTO and of course Lamborghini’s V12 engine which would be named after him. After winning Le Mans with the A3 Stradale, the pair worked on a ‘Competition’ version of the successful street car. The car displayed here is 1 of 6 original works cars. Like the A3 Stradale, the A3/C is also powered by a 5.3L V8 engine from the Corvette. When Rivolta and Bizzarini had a falling out, Bizzarrini sued Rivolta for the necessary parts to complete production of his sports car. With Iso out of the picture the last few cars were built under the Bizzarini 5300 GT name.
The second of the ‘main draw’ cars was the Alpine M63. Alpine’s debut at Le Mans was with a car designed specifically for competing at the Circuit de la Sarthe. With its low 1000kg weight and Gordini-tuned Renault engines it was a recipe taken straight out of Lotus’ playbook. No, it really was because when Alpine contacted Colin Chapman for his help and declined, they enlisted the help of the next best person – Len Terry who had come up with something similar at Lotus. This particular car is chassis number 1701, meaning it’s the first M63. This car did compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963 but had to retire. A month later it competed at the Nurburgring 1000 and won.
Aston Martin Vantage V550
I love the 1990s era Aston Martin Vantage. I love its unapologetic boxy styling and hilariously cramped interior. I also love the V600 Le Mans which was, at the time, one of the most powerful cars on sale with a respectable 441kW. While those cars are considered the ‘holy grail’ of the 90s era Vantage, the V550 variant with the same twin-supercharged (yes, two superchargers!) 5.3-litre V8 could also be found in the V550 with a mere 404kW. The car here was displayed by Atlantic Cars who have this example for sale for a not-so-mere ¥23,800,000 or approximately $340,000.
On the same Atlantic Cars display was a Dallara Stradale. Years ago Atlantic Cars used to be an Aston Martin dealership but since losing the license they’ve moved on to more boutique sports cars such as the Dallara. This is the first full road car made by the chassis magicians based out of Italy. Powered by a 2.3-litre turbocharged EcoBoost engine, the 294kW produced by the Focus RS engine is more than enough to send this 855kg sports car from 0-100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds. It’s not about performance though and from what I’ve heard it’s one of the best handling things out there. I’d love to have a go.
Lancia Fulvia Rallye
Just look at it. The Fulvia is perhaps one of the prettiest front-wheel drive car ever made. Before the days of 4WD rally cars people had to make do with cars driving the front or rear wheels only. This is one of the 20 works Rallye cars used to competing in rallying. This particular car was entered in the 1973 East African Rally and is one of the last two factory works Fulvias to compete before being replaced by the Stratos.
Mercedes Benz 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet
Just one of Mercedes’ best and coolest cabriolets. They don’t make them like they used to.
I love a weird French car and the Citroen CX Famlliae is definitely that. It had four rows of seats and Citroen’s infamous air suspension. Overkill for a French family car, sure but fantastically cool nevertheless.
Driven by Roger Moore in the 1960s TV show ‘The Saint’ the P1800 is one of Volvo’s greatest hits. To see three pristine examples together was a real treat. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these out on the road and for good reason; they’re worth big money now. The rare shooting brake version is my personal favourite and also inspired one my favourite modern Volvos – the C30.
Porsche 911 KoaSpeed
Safari-style 911s are all the rage now and it’s something that’s even caught on in Japan. Tokyo isn’t exactly the ideal place to be using one of these to explore the concrete jungle in but there’s probably enough weekend off-road hobbyists for something like to make sense here. Then they won’t need to wrap their show car with fake dirt.
Mazda seem to have a knack of bringing out random rotary powered sports cars from their past to car shows such as this Cosmo Sport, as if to purposely tease us hoping for a follow up to their long line of rotary-powered RX sports cars. For the modern side, well we didn’t have a new RX but we did have a new MX in the form of the MX-30. Mazda’s latest crossover will be launched in Japan by the end of the year first off as a hybrid then later on a full EV.
Those were my highlights and here are some more cool cars from the show. What was your favourite?