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5 Hidden Gems From the Petersen Japanese Car Cruise-In

As you saw during our event coverage of the Petersen Automotive Museum's Japanese Cruise-In, co-hosted with "Super Street Magazine," the turnout of both cars and spectators this year was incredible, with vehicles packing three different levels of the museum's parking garage and additional cars spread across the streets below.

With such a large and colorful mix of cars, picking favorites was never going to be easy. But at the end of the day I managed to find five different vehicles which stood out in different ways. These might not be the fastest, most expensive or rarest cars that came out, but there's no shortage of character here.

1. SR20DET Datsun 510 Wagon

While the event included Japanese vehicles of all eras, lots of attention was given to the classic machines, and in that group this Datsun 510 station wagon was a car that quickly caught my eye.

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This one has been set up nicely with some subtle exterior modifications, a coat of perfectly 1970s pale yellow paint and a set of RS Watanabe eight-spoke wheels filling the fenders perfectly. No flares needed here.

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While the exterior is largely original, the engine is not. There's no better way to add power to a classic 510 than with an SR20DET from a newer Nissan Silvia, and this particular swap was done very cleanly with an upgraded turbo and other go-fast parts.

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The wagon variant of the 510 doesn't get as much love as the sedan and coupe versions, but they have no less potential when it comes to fun. This car certainly makes a strong case for choosing the longroof version.

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2. Second-Gen Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo

While the majority of the crowd was gathered around the several Skyline GT-Rs that came out, the Petersen's garage also included plenty of more obscure JDM machinery — like this second generation Mitsubishi Lancer Turbo imported from Japan.

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Years before the AWD Lancer Evolution became known as a rally legend, these rear-drive Lancers helped fly the performance flag at Mitsubishi. This one's got modified 4G63 power under the hood along with plenty of period correct upgrades.

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The three-spoke wheels in particular do a great job of conveying that early 1980s rally spirit, and they call back to an era when 14-inches were perfectly adequate on a new performance car. Oh, how times have changed.

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While it might not have been the same global sensation as the later Lancer Evos, this rare piece of Mitsubishi history was easily one of the most interesting cars that cruised over to the meet at the Petersen.

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3. 2JZ-Swapped Toyota Crown

The Toyota Crown sedan is an icon in its homeland in Japan, but here in the United States the car had a short-lived history with sales stopping in the early 1970s. Today seeing any Crown in the U.S. is a rare sight, especially one as nice as Janet Fujimoto's 1970 model.

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Janet's Crown is sporting a number of modern upgrades, chief of which is the naturally aspirated 2JZ straight six under the hood. It might not have tire shredding horsepower, but the NA 2JZ makes plenty of power for cruising the LA freeways in comfort.

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Other modifications include a set of Enkei Tenjin wheels that provide more than enough clearance for the large Brembo brakes, and the car sits with a mildly lowered stance that looks just right.

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Finishing it all off is an interior that keeps all of the Crown's old school charm with a few subtle upgrades for style and function. All in all it's a proper take on a very rare Toyota.

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4. Subaru Brat

While the majority of the cars that came out were modified, this all-original Subaru BRAT caught my eye with its all-factory looks. Long before the WRX and Outback, Subaru established itself in the American market with vehicles like this unusual four-wheel-drive pickup.

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While this particular example was unrestored, that didn't make it any less cool to look at. In fact, the slight patina on the body just made things that much better.

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While its EA-series flat four isn't going to win many drag races, it's hard to worry about power when a car has this much character. When was the last time you saw a car with its spare tire mounted inside the engine bay?

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And who can forget about another once-popular feature that defined many cars from the '70s and '80s... T-tops! You gotta love a car that takes you back in time like this one.

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5. JDM-Inspired Fox Body Mustang

Finally, we have a Ford Mustang. Wait. Isn't this an event for Japanese cars? Well yes, but the crowd also included other modified cars, many of them inspired by Japanese styles. This notchback Fox Body Mustang parked outside was one of them.

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With bolt-on over fenders covering a set of wide Forgiato wheels, the boxy Mustang was clearly inspired by the Japanese kyusha of the 1970s and '80s — and we dig the crossover style.

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The interior was equally unique with Alcantara upholstery, red accents, a pair of Cobra bucket seats and a really cool center console delete with the shifter coming straight up from the carpet.

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Other homages to the Japanese street racer style include the fender-mounted mirrors, external oil cooler up front and a duckbill spoiler on the trunk. I might be biased because my own Dodge Dart is built with similar influences, but this 'Stang was easily one of the most memorable vehicles at this event.

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Want more? Check out our Cruise-In event photo gallery.

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