’80s & ’90s Kids: Celebrating The Neo Classics
The Not So Old School

As much as we enjoy getting out to the familiar automotive events on the calendar every year, there’s always a lot of excitement that comes with brand new ones. And that was exactly my feeling heading into this past weekend’s Street Neo Classics show in Southern California.

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What exactly is a ‘Neo Classic’ you might be asking? As far as this event goes it means a Japanese vehicle built between 1986 and 1999 – the era when things like twin cam heads, turbochargers and all-wheel drive started coming into their own.

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The event was created by the same group behind the massively successful Japanese Classic Car Show, but while that event is open to all manner of historic Japanese vehicles, Street Neo Classics would pay homage to those that might not yet be classics in the traditional sense, but are incredibly important to the history of the Japanese auto industry and the tuning culture that grew around it.

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The setting for the show was Toyota’s North American headquarters in the city of Torrance, California, and along with the parking lot event the automaker also opened up its nearby museum for a public open house. There was also a petition going around to help keep the Toyota Musuem in SoCal now that Toyota is moving much of its operations to Texas.

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I arrived at Toyota HQ shortly after the show opened and was greeted by a spectator parking lot full of AE86s, 240SXs, Miatas and even the occasional Skyline. It was going to be a good day.

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While it’s common to hear some sort of hip-hop or electronic dance music at many ‘import lifestyle’ events, the Neo Classics crew kept it old school with a steady stream of ’80s and ’90s pop hits to build the atmosphere.

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The cars themselves were mix of popular models from the ’80s and ’90s, including a heavy dose of JDM machinery plus a few obscurities. While many different styles of modification were represented among the bunch, the majority of the cars on display were built with a very period correct theme.

Late 20th Century Legends
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Speaking of period style, check out this trio of S13s, each modified with a distinct late-’90s and early-’00s street vibe.

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Subtle body modifications, perfect wheels and low ride heights – I loved it all. This tough looking Silvia from the Super Boss crew was a personal favorite.

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What’s not to like about a super-clean 240SX hatchback with a full OEM body and a set of 15-inch RAYS Volk Racing TE37Vs? Simple is best.

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Also exemplifying the clean approach was this Japanese market AE86 Levin wearing a set of wheels you don’t see too often anymore – 14×7-inch concave face TE37s.

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This AE86 SR5 notchback had an exterior that showed plenty of wear, but there was something rather interesting sitting in the engine bay.

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It’s not a 4A-G or any other swap for that matter – it’s the original SR5-spec 4A-C SOHC engine, albeit fitted with a custom side-draft carb setup. Thumbs up for being different!

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In contrast to that, here we have an ’86 Corolla GT-S which has been kept in incredible showroom-original condition. With the exception of some rear window louvers, I couldn’t find a single aftermarket component on this thing.

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Along with the line-up of AE86s, Supras and Celicas the MR2 was also well represented at the Street Neo Classics show. Will this be the next Japanese sports car to start skyrocketing in value?

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And for something a little bit different, how about this 1990 Toyota Camry? As you can see, this once quaint family sedan has been hot-rodded quite a bit.

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Along with the more aggressive suspension and wheel setup, the Camry is now powered by a fourth-gen 3S-GTE straight from Japan. You gotta love a good sleeper.

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Hondas were out in force at the event too, and that’s how it should be. The brand built some of its best vehicles during the ’80s and ’90s.

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One of my favorites was this ’86 Civic Si, which like the aforementioned AE86 has been kept in completely stock condition and has just 60,000 miles on the odometer. Not bad for a car that’s 30 years old.

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Another Honda that caught my eye was this third-gen Accord Coupe, one of those cool body shapes from the ’80s that you don’t see nearly enough of anymore.

Off-Road & On-Road
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The Mazda section of the show was full of RX-7s and Miatas and included this British Racing Green NA6CE, a textbook example of retro style done right.

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Speaking of nostalgic feelings, it was cool to see the A’PEXi FD3S RX-7 in the Yokohama booth. This is a car that’s sure to bring back memories to those who were around when D1GP first started coming to the US.

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An unexpected, but very welcome part of the show was the selection of Japanese off-road vehicles that came out.

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Toyota 4Runner with a nice lift and some off-road-spec TE37s and BFGoodrich all-terrain tires? Yes please.

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But as cool as the 4Runner was, my favorite of the group was this ’86 Pajero owned by Robert Ladd.

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Not only does the Mitsubishi feature a set of original Ralliart wheels, it sports a 4G63 turbo engine with a V-mount setup under the hood.

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Need to haul a bit more on your off-road expeditions? How about this jacked-up Toyota van with a roof rack and KC lights up top?

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Along with the array of Japanese cars from the Neo Classic era, there was also a section for ’70s cars if people wanted to go back even further to the era of carbs and over-fenders.

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And last but not least, the show also had one of the largest gatherings of Skyline GT-Rs I’ve ever seen in the US.  For many, this alone was worth the effort of coming out.

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With so many people considering the ’80s and ’90s to be the golden era of the Japanese performance car, it’s great to see this new event that celebrates those days. Here’s hoping Street Neo Classics becomes another must-see annual event, just like the JCCS.

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Stay tuned for lots more from the Street Neo Classics show as I bring you spotlights on some of the coolest and most interesting cars from the event.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia_media

Cutting Room Floor
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Not one NSX? Great pics!


BLKFLD Actually there were three in the show. And then somewhere between 4 and 5 throughout the day in the parking lot.


sometimes i hate being a 2000 kid, what iconic tuner can you think of that are from the 200's that isnt a nissan or a subie or a toyota. and with those listed i mean there isnt much, not like the 80's and 90's, thats when a car company focused on how the car looked and how it ran and they took pride in their work, let us look at the z32 to the z33. one of the only reasons that came out was because 'mad mike' and some others got together to take a trip to japan and talk to mr. katayama. (very amazing man katayama was and it sucks he isnt with us anymore) nissan by that time wasnt looking for car enthusiast, they were looking only for reliable everyday drivers to make money off of. yeah they had the silvia and skyline/gtr still in production, but look where silvia got in two years into the new millennium. and the skyline wasnt to healthy until either. im getting the feeling car companys are coming out with more tuner than they have in the past 10 years but still, nothing will be like the 90's, 80's, and even the 70's


It's great to see these classics in such good shape and not over done.


I've never seen so many "almost" oem 240sx s13's with paint-matched body panels since the drift epidemic.

Thumbs up!


This would have been awesome to attend. Least the great pictures almost make it feel like I was there.


Anyone know what wheels are on the silver MR2?  The amount of concave is incredible.


You featured more crappy 4x4's that belong on some redneck muddin' site than you did Mazda's, yet you say it was full of RX7's. FAIL!

It's funny how GTR's can be so exciting to the people that don't see them often, yet feel so mediocre to those that do. And I'm not saying the car is mediocre as such, but when you see them at every meet and even every week just on the road, there's no excitement over seeing them. It would be a plus if you were a GTR fan in the US, as it'd feel special to see them.


Spaghetti Dude.... chill. Plus, those were cool trucks? 4G63 Pajero? C'mon, thats cool?!?


Love the white hard top M30 near the bottom, and theres a couple 200SX's across from it. Nice!


Surprised to see no pics of na_hero's supra.


So awesome, my favorites are the white Camry and the red Mitsubishi Colt!


IMHO, the best era for imports.


eejjkk Spaghetti No, not cool. And for once I'm gonna be one of those people that rag on SH for featuring non-SH related cars, and I usually defend SH on that matter. 
Ok, I'll chill a bit...but I like RX7's and with a promise of a Mazda area full of them, we got 1. :(


You gotta love the Analog Era. The Golden era of real tunning.


You gotta love the Analog Era. The Golden era of real tunning when cars, where cars and have soul.
Not like the digital cars we now get, they are to green, to synthetic, to plastic. Todays cars are like clones, a copy of a copy of a copy without susbtance and emotion.
No new car can beat the character of cars from back in the day.


Yes, I spotted a Soarer there!


Disappointed with the serious lack of a Mitsubishi/Subaru presence. They were kings in the 90's yet all I see are Toyota and Nissan. Not that these are bad cars, but it seems that everyone owns one of these.


EliThanos While I love cars from this era, people were saying exactly what you said about modern cars back then. Too plastic, no soul, no character, too complicated.

At a certain point, automotive enthusiasts just have to accept that styling, technology and trends all change. There are countless cars from the here and now that I guarantee people will look back on just as fondly as we do car of the 80s and 90s today.


I know they use to say that. They always had. But you got to admid that today is more real than ever.
Well will have to wait and see no choice...but I feel that in 20yrs from now if they keep pushing for electric, low impact eco friendly cars, and focusing on apps & social media integration & the stupid idea of self driving cars. We might have to do what we are doing now... restoring and keeping our old cars alive. That is if self driving intelligence cars don't go haywire and take control of the world. Lol!!
If we are not careful our new cars could end up being fix in IKEA instead of a mechanic shop.


Definitely would be my kind of event!
That white CRX in the last photo definitely caught my eye.


This seems like it was a pretty fun meet, loved that Pajero I recently drove a 94 2.8 Pajero LWB that belongs to one of my big brother's customers and loved it; rugged, confident and agricultural. It really felt like the soul of the car got lost on it's way to the Armoured Personnel Carrier factory and ended up in a road-going SUV instead.
If i could be forgiven for saying this but it seems most of all we ever do on SH is celebrate the neo-classics, particularly Japanese neo-classics. Not nearly enough Euro youngtimers or American 80's/90's material on this site.


I'm over here like damn is my 90s car gonna increase in value now?  Then I remember that it's battle-scarred and modified beyond redemption and the only way to get any money back at all from it will be to eventually break it (´Д`。)

1990s cars are a long way off classic values but 80s on the other hand are going up faster than my blood pressure every time I look at a Cindy Crawford poster.


Awesome feature. Amazing how different the R34 is treated compared to other countries were it's allowed


Trentworth Hey, Speedhunters is a great lifestyle marketing tool to enrich the cultural and financial values of the 80s/90s J-tin many of us have invested our time and money in.  It's all about creating a strong brand synergy across the diverse range of neo-classic vehicles represented in the market sector.  Speedhunters is a global market leader in implementation of neo-classic automotive lifestyle marketing.


MTDatsun BLKFLD lol here i was thinking to myself not even one Z32 and i didn't even notice the lack of NSX's...hmmm or Mitsu GTO's come to think of it...these cars are out there i'm sure they just like to hide


This makes me feel old :(


I'm waiting for the really lean body styles of the 80s and 90s to make a comeback. In this day and age we don't require gigantic, draping panels to improve safety do we? One aspect I really like are the slender headlights you always used to see. We are LED crazy in this world, so you'd think we'd see a return to tiny (but effing bright) lights.

I'm also sensing an MR2 comeback. My buddy and I have been joking about picking up some before it becomes super hip to have one. In fact, i'm surprised it already hasn't. Rear drive mid engined compact coupe??? sounds like a  fun ride. 

I love this post!


EliThanos Perhaps I'm just not as pessimistic about new cars. I'm lucky enough to drive most new cars that come onto the market, and there are some absolutely brilliant vehicles out there. Some lack character, for sure, but we'll be raving about others in 20 years as much as we rave about the best cars of the 80s and 90s (and the 50s, 60s, 70s etc).

I'm open to the idea of electric and hybrid cars too. I own one of the first hybrids - a Mk1 Honda Insight, alongside my 1992 Eunos Roadster. It's a great car, and imbued with more character than you'd give it credit for. It was built in the same factory as the NSX, after all...
I've driven Tesla Model Ss, BMW i8s and i3s, Leafs, e-Golfs, a prototype R8 e-tron... while they vary in quality, and tactility, and fun, they're also an intriguing technological development, some are fantastic fun, and best of all, they're improving all the time. There's a price thing too - I'm looking forward to the day that used Nissan Leafs are the price of old Civics, and seeing what people can do to them with bigger motors, better batteries and the like - it's very different from old-school tuning, but there's a lot of potential there.

As for self-driving cars... I can't say I'd be interested in owning one myself, but I can certainly see a future for them. While everyone reading this page surely loves driving, plenty of people out there don't. I'd be quite happy for three quarters of traffic on the roads to become autonomous - it'd make driving around other people a lot safer and more predictable!

Above all, we still have older cars to play with. And today's cars will be a lot cheaper 10-20 years down the line. I think that's something people also forget. Cars depreciate. Today's stuff might look expensive and out-of-reach today, but down the line people will be picking up modern hot hatchbacks and Toyota GT86s for just a few grand, just as we do with 80s-90s stuff today.


EliThanos It's more real today because, I think, that technology is now in the form of entertainment and creature comforts. Cars were more simple back then because it wasn't mandatory to have this that and the other thing as standard. That's at least part of it I think. Like, we plateaued on what makes a basic vehicle "good", so now we just keep adding value instead of character.


Spaghetti you'll get spotlights and features later. Also, you don't see heavily modified 90s suv's that friggin clean anywhere. YOu also won't catch a "muddin' redneck" driving a toyota.....

take a chill pill man, i don't really like brotrucks either but these ones were literally nothing like that.


DRiFTaddict honda sk2, mazda rx8, nissan 350z, mitsubishi friggin evo, golf r (euro but the same damn thing) etc. you're not SOL


Not a single Supra was found. U0001f614


KingERM Yes I noticed,  Mike also does not like covering SIV events either,,,, he never responds to our emails.  We even offered to provide him content,  three years now.


esp grateful fort the Mitsubishi coverage <3. Love that colt and certainly the Pajero I've gained a real interest in owning one.

 I found a beige Ram Raider (Pajero's US twin) in near perfect condition with the spare tire/cover on the back gate sitting at the top of a hill in a euro-centric car yard, next to a 4x4 Eagle Wagon. The Pajero looked ready to fill up and drive out. Now thanks to this coverage I know the 4G63, an engine I'm very familiar with, looks like a worthwhile/ cheap swap. 

Its a perfect casual offroader because its a lil larger than a Suzuki Samurai and at least comes with locking hubs! I have a lady friend who lives in the middle of a state forest with plenty of seasonal access roads, and a dad with a serious FJ40 build. Yes I think I will embrace destiny.

 PLEEEZ do a feature on any one of those cool offroaders?


Thanks for the lovely picture of my 3rd Gen accord (green)


johnbezt EliThanos You might be onto something there - it's certainly very difficult to find a "bad" car any more - most people have got a handle on making cars that do more or less everything well, so it's now more features and design that differentiate cars than technical aspects.

However, I'm not sure it's really possible to "add" character. It's something a car either has, or it doesn't. It's a very hazy, indistinct attribute too - by modern standards, a first-gen Miata has character. But compared to an old Lotus Elan or MGB, a Miata arguably lacks character. An old Camry from the 1980s was the definition of bland when it was new, but by today's standards it has character. Again, I think "character" is an attribute that will be more obvious in cars sold today when we're viewing them in another ten or twenty years.


Neo classics and classic japanese cars have to be my favorite of any type of vehicle. I am only 17 but I am in love with all japanese classics and I wasnt even around in that era of automotive perfection.


Bad cars hard to find this days? Are you sure?
Current Toyota Corolla booorrriiinnnggg in fact the last Corolla that was cool & fun was corolla levin ae111. Thank Odin they made the Gt86. How about current Mitsubishi Mirage...boring & cheap and hideous. Scion IQ, Smart Two, Chevrolet Cruze & Spark, Hyundai I10, Mazda 2.. Hell even Honda has not made a cool car in a long time. Every manufacture had cars that are bad.
Even with all the technology they are still able to mess good cars it is actually those features they add that ruin them some times...take the lexus RC8 for example it looks and sound like a good recipe in paper..until you drive one...I almost bough one until I had a long test drive. Is a sport car that does not accept what it is and instead insist to hard to convince you that is Not that is a civilized car. The result a car with a identity Crisis that does not deliver and is very sad. Can't it be fix? Yeahh remove all the electronics crap, and loose weight.
They don't even advertise performance or handling etc anymore...No....all they advertise this days is entertainment features. Pandora, blueetooth, apps, touchscreens, satellite radios and rear view cameras...all stuff that we don't really need in our cars that's why we have bought smart phones and tablets.
So Yes character is very Important in a Car is what really set them apart and make them special.
If people don't like to drive they can use they're two legs, taxis, buses, trains, AKA public transportation, or even one of those electric wheels.
Autonomous driving makes driving safe you said. A computer program is never going to be able to drive safer than a human. No matter how many parameters you program. It would never be able to replace or trump a drivers instinct, intuition, experience, and decision making.
They keep making autonomous driving sound like is awesome and the best thing until something bad happen and if history has show us something is that bad things will happen.
What's gonna happen the day you are driving down the road and all the sudden there's a accident in front of you as so often happen in a blink of and eye. And there are only 2 choices to make. Either crash and kill you the passenger or get in to the sidewalk and kill pedestrian. What does your safe autonomous driving will do? Will it kill you? Cause the pedestrians are more people you are just one person in the car? Or would it decide that you the owner is more important. Yess it sounds crazy and out of a movie...but that is the real world it happens all the time. Someone will have to program and input that scenario into the car computer someone will calculate those life changing decision for you.
If you feel safer living those kind of decision making into the hands of a computer...be my guess.


cars with feel. I like these... I need another 80's car


johnbezt DRiFTaddict (im 14 so if my facts are off thats why) i just feel like car comapnys have been looking for more money than passion in the last 10 years at least. i mean yeah there is some needles in the haystack but honda has just kinda stopped being the honda every car guy has liked at least one point in his/her life. just look at how many hondas are in pictures, in 10 years no is gonna be like, hey look at my stock 2015 civic, everyone right now is looking for a 100% stock square body civic (once again young so im not 100 there with my car facts) i mean yeah there is alawys be car culture but not as iconic as pre-2000's


Slappy_Pistons Goodness gracious my brother, you speak like a marketing guy, pretty soon you'll be using terms like amorphous parameters, imagineering and mental real estate, LOL. But I get where you're coming from here, most of us in the audience are 80's/90's babies ourselves and the cars we grew up with are the cars we idolize, the thing is that  to create "...a strong brand synergy across the diverse range of neo-classic vehicles represented in the market sector..." we should also include some of the other elements in the youngtimer multiverse which hold or are prime mental real estate (haha, marketing guy speak). The Euro market is one such area. I currently own a 1996 Mercedes C280 (which I admit I have to get round to fixing) and am currently in the hunt for an 80's (C126) or 90's (C140) S-Class coupe for a long term restomod project, many others here own old VWs BMWs, Audis, Jaguars, MGs, Renaults, Peugeots (whatever possessed them to do that I can't explain), Vauxhalls, Alfas and etc but may feel a little underrepresented by the current coverage.


Trentworth Slappy_Pistons I was actually only kidding with all of that jargon but if you think I sounded at least a little bit credible then perhaps I should consider a career move!  I need to learn to take myself seriously I think, lol.  I like the way you think!  If you were to document your C280 resto and present it with some lovely photos I'm sure it would present a great piece to read about here or on a blog.  If you build it they will come, as the voice in the corn said.  Someone on my road has had a W202 for about a decade now and I was thinking the other day how it's now all of a sudden looking quite retro and remarkable whereas when they first bought it, it just blended right in to the background with everything else.  It's strange how that happens.  I'm not expecially into Mercs but it is a really smart design.


@3rdgenaccord Nice car!


Paizuri_4g63 More on the way!


This article speaks to me; being the last generation of 90's kids my viewpoint on cars has developed quite a bit. Contrary to most teenagers my age who have an interest in cars that developed from social media and videogames my exposure was different. I didn't play any nostalgic racing games or have Countach posters but once I did discover the wonderful world of car culture I found myself into the typical "JDM" (a term I don't like to use due to it's multiple preconceptions) scene. Reading your site and barraging the web for anything I could learn or what I found particularly interesting lead me to the neo-classic style you coined and historical movements. Enough with the rant but I think all car enthusiasts need to do some looking and research, how thing came to be and why? Last year if you asked me if I liked off-roading style and vehicles I would have laughed. With some more knowledge on the subject I realized what an amazing subculture I was missing out on. I can't really sum up this rant but I think you understand what I mean. Keep up the awesome Speedhunters!


Thank you!


KingERM nor Preludes, and there were some bangin' ones there.


johnbezt current safety rules won't allow these cars to be built again en masse


No Suzuki Swift GTI?


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