Japan isn’t as lucky as New Zealand. Covid-19 is still very much a thing we have to deal with over here. Ever since New Year’s Tokyo has essentially been in a ‘state of emergency’ (curfew) until it was lifted on March 22nd. Events were cancelled, including the Tokyo Auto Salon, and regular car meets had to be postponed several times. There was doubt on whether the 2021 Automobile Council would still happen in April.

Luckily, it still went on. Taking on the same measures the show’s organisers took when they held the show last July, there were temperature checks, social distancing, and every possible door and window opened. They also limit how many people can be inside the two halls of Makuhari Messe at any given time. That said, overcrowding was never going to be an issue because this year’s show was considerably smaller than previous shows. In fact, it was the smallest version of the Automobile Council I’d seen since its inception in 2016.

There was a glaring lack of manufacturer displays. Usually Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Mazda have massive booths on show but this year they decided to pull back. It seems manufactures decided to cut back their budget on attending shows after the year that was 2020. That just left local distributors of import cars such as Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren, and Dallara to bring their latest and greatest while specialist dealers covered the ‘classic’ aspect of the show.

While Mazda didn’t have an official display stand, they very kindly lent some of their Le Mans racers to the show for display. The RX-7 Le Mans, 737C, and legendary 787B were definite crowd pleasers. However, for me personally, it was the rally car displays that really stole the show. A jump and a skip from the Mazda Le Mans legends were some of Japan’s iconic rally cars including the Datsun 240Z East African Safari, Nissan 240RS, and Subaru Impreza WRC through the years.

But of course, it was the display of Lancia icons situated right at the heart of the show that was the highlight for me. The legendary Martini livery Lancia 037 Works, the Rothmans livery Stratos, and the very pretty Fuliva were my personal highlights from the show. The Fiat 131 Abarth was also a nice addition though the omission of a Delta Integrale was a bit unfortunate. It turns out these cars were brought in by the magazine Car Graphic from different private owners rather than them all coming in from one mega rally car collection. Either way, like the first Automobile Council show back in 2016, it’s good to know they can still bring out some surprises and hidden gems.

As for the rest of the show, have a look through the photos to see the scaled back, post-State of Emergency Automobile Council. Here’s hoping it comes back bigger and stronger than before.

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