Each year that I participate in the Marronnier Run, I come away having learned something.
I’d never categorize myself as a classic car guy, I just appreciate the history of cars in general and love picking up simple knowledge along the way. Call it natural curiosity and a will to learn.
Now in its 30th year, this little car rally held in a mountainous area of Tochigi Prefecture still enjoys strong support from vintage car owners. Once a year, we meet early on Saturday morning, do a bunch of timed gymkhana sessions around a coned-off parking lot, and then spend the rest of the day driving through Nikko and around Lake Chūzenji.
This was the fifth year I’ve participated in the Marronnier Run, and as it always has, my responsibility centered around reading pace notes from the passenger seat as the owner of our trusty 1969 Nissan Fairlady 432Z tackled various time trial stages. It’s pretty crazy that in five years of competing, the car has not once experienced a mechanical issue.
The Marronnier Run is a gentle and fun way to enjoy cars. Speed doesn’t factor into any of it, so it’s pretty different to the usual things I get up to. Call it a refreshing change of pace…
It’s for this reason that over the last couple of years I’ve spared you coverage of the first day of the event. Because seeing classic cars pitch and roll through corners is not the most exciting thing out there.The Odd Surprise
What I like to concentrate on is the Concours d’Elegance held on Sunday morning, where after a good night’s sleep at the Kanaya Hotel everyone spends a few hours checking out all the cars and chatting to other participants.
This 1960 Corvette was a welcome sight, its wide stance and blaring V8 soundtrack a nice contrast to the usually compact European and Japanese cars that make up most of the Marronnier Run’s entries. The Le Mans #3 race car look and livery made it that little bit more special.
Next to it was another car from 1960. A regular Marronnier Run attendee, this Lancia Appia Zagato GTE perfectly illustrates my point about European cars of yesteryear being so compact.
The Zagato body is stretched over what is a pretty long wheel base; it’s beautifully simple yet has that fuoriserie feel about it, a term used in Italy to describe special coach-built cars that are different from the stock chassis they are based on.
This 1958 Abarth 750GT is another Zagato-bodied machine we see and admire at the Marronnier Run every year. It’s possibly the smallest coupe out there, and not much bigger than a Fiat 500.
Then there are the surprises. This BMW Z3M Coupe showed up in the morning, stayed for a little while, and then vanished. Yes, it’s a modern car at a classic event, but that didn’t bother me too much as I welcome these sort of anomalies.
It’s a beautiful interpretation of a JDM-tuned German car, sitting tight on a set of RAYS Volk Racing ZE40s and boasting a meaty Brembo brake setup. The aero additions, like the vented hood and lip spoiler, add a little visual spice.
I bet this is a hoot to throw around corners.Unequivocally British
And so we move on to a few Brits. Not a few, quite a lot actually.
The Japanese love their British cars. In fairness, they love everything, which is what makes the car culture here so damn unique, but British cars are right up there.
If you recall our past coverage of Lotus Day Japan, you’ll know exactly how big a turnout those events have. But what turns up to the Marronnier Run are a tad bit rarer.
Prior to this, I don’t think I’d ever seen an Alvis TD21 Series 2. In fact, I’m struggling to remember seeing any kind of Alvis in person before.
This car sure attracted the crowds as everyone was smitten with its elegant looks. Basically, Alvis is one of those manufacturers with a great history (all the way back to 1919) that got bought out in post-war years by a bigger car company – Rover in this case – and then died a silent death.
The 3.0-liter straight six in the TD21 is what everyone was drooling over.
A 1964 Lotus Elan S3 and 1965 Lotus Seven S2 – two cars that are totally different but very much linked.
One made out of wood – a 1950 Morgan.
And one which looked like a torpedo on wheels – a 1939 Lagonda V12.
But the prettiest of them all was this Jaguar E-Type. Is there any other classic out there that can make weak-offset wheels look cool?From Big Tanks To The More Agile Cars
Do you like German muscle? Well, this my friends is where it all began. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 was a full-size four-door sedan that had its straight-six replaced by the 6.3L V8 from the 600 Limousine line.
The 6.3 is its own brand these days, the pinnacle of Mercedes motors that’s dropped into everything from the little C-Class all the way to the GLS and G SUVs. Of course, it’s no longer naturally aspirated and it’s no longer even 6.3L – but it’s the lineage that counts. At least it’s still a V8 and makes all the right sort of noises, and power continues to be on the rise so that’s a good thing.
As you can see in the opening picture to this post, this is one power plant that drew everyone in for a closer look. The M100, as it was called, is beautifully industrial looking, almost imposing, and gets much respect.
While the 300 SEL 6.3 had the power and the sound, I did see it go around the gymkhana course and it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just call it a ’60s autobahn cruiser and leave it at that…
Time for a quick shot of a 246GT Dino from the rear, just to balance out those SEL looks. Feel refreshed now?
Here’s a totally crazy thought: a 1993 Skyline GT-R V-spec is now a classic car. Well, ‘modern classic’ or something along those lines, but the fact that this car was eligible to enter the Marronnier Run shows how just open this event is. It’s more about having a nice time with cars than being strict about what can and cannot join in the fun.
The winner of the longest rear overhang goes to this stunning 1967 Chrysler Newport Convertible. For a two-door drop top, this thing was gigantic.
Did you spot the little ’68 Renault R8 Gordini 1300S hiding next to it in the side-on shot?
Same era, yet two very different schools of thought.
And staying with French cars, this was another surprise that showed up on Sunday morning. The Alpine A110 had nothing to do with the actual Concourse d’Elegance, but was a welcome sight nonetheless.
I’m a massive fan of this car; it’s brought the simplicity back into sports cars just like the Alfa Romeo 4C has. With light weight, a mid-engined layout, and a sweet chassis and handling package that everyone who has driven one keeps raving about, I really hope I get to sample one soon. I think the only thing that puts people off is the rather high asking price.
The R32 GT-R wasn’t the newest car that joined the event.
This 1996 Jaguar XJ6 definitely added to the colorful group that we see every year.
This 1952 Lancia Ardea has only been in the country for a few months; the owner flew to Treviso in Italy to meet with the seller, made the purchase, and then put it on a ship bound for Japan.
Once the car arrived it was promptly registered with limited edition Tokyo Olympics plates, and entered into a variety of classic car rallies.
I spent a little bit of time with the owner translating the Italian labels that were on each key and control in the cabin as he had forgotten what each one was. It was there and then he realized that the car even has a hidden battery cut-off switch for a little extra security.
There were noticeably less Alfa Romeos at this year’s Marronnier Run, but I still got my fix looking over this 1968 Giulia 1300 Ti. When I was a kid in Italy, these old Giulia sedans were all over the place – even the police had them. Who would have known then that they’d retain all their charm and decades later become sought-after collectibles.
I guess when you engineer a car to drive well and reward its driver, you’re halfway there.
Japan versus the UK. Which one would you choose?
Year after year this ’74 MG Midget takes the win on the Marronnier Run’s gymkhana course. It’s the only car that is driven properly hard and drifted around, rather than understeering and leaning all over the place.
By total surprise our Fairlady Z432 grabbed an award in the Concours d’Elegance, so it was smiles all round.
I’ve purposely left out a couple of cars from this main coverage as I want to expand on their unique character a little further. So make sure you check back for these two spotlights, and extra points if you can guess what cars I’m holding back on…
Dino Dalle Carbonare