The Petersen Japanese Car Cruise-In Was Incredible

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

You know it will be a great car show when the parking lot that serves the main event is an event itself. And so it was, April 24, when the Petersen Automotive Museum hosted its annual Japanese Car Cruise-In, the whole event framed by gemlike Los Angeles weather.

I parked a rental Toyota Corolla (you know I gotta keep it JDM) deep in the Petersen’s parking structure, then walked up to its roof, where pre-registered entrants parked their cars for the show. On my way up, signs of a special day in the making: a 240Z on TE37s with a carbon-fiber hood, a 350Z slammed on its exhaust, a Toyota HiAce with a surfboard on its roof.

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

And on the top floor? A JDM explosion. Nobody had a straight answer when I asked how many cars showed up, but the closest guess seemed to be “hundreds.” A row of Datsun 240Zs stretched the length of a football field. NSXs and Sixties Hondas packed into every last space. A Kenmeri Skyline alone, sat between structure supports, that looked like it found overflow parking in the last possible spot. Then there was another level above the main show floor with more cars.

That meant something for every Japanese-car fanatic. Nissan showed up with its brand-new Z (and to its credit, Nissan brought both of its cars with a manual transmission). The thing looks absolutely perfect in person, with delightful nods to the vintage Zs parked nearby and the 370Z’s compact proportions preserved. I can’t wait to drive it.

But, of course, most of the metal parked on the roof was vintage. My favorite: a Honda Acty kei truck with a Honda Monkey pit bike parked in the bed. Both bike and truck were immaculately detailed, gleaming in the Cali light. The monkey had remote-reservoir Öhlins dampers at both ends, which, who knew that was a thing? The best cars conjure a whole lifestyle in your mind with just a single glance. The Acty-Monkey combo did that for me and many other showgoers. I salute you, Acty-Monkey person.

For a few frames of that one, check out our Instagram Stories from the event. There was just so much more—please go to that Instagram link just to get the vibe of the event, and check out some interviews with owners of cool cars and a whole bag of nonsense.

The Petersen roof was packed with enthusiasts, people swapping stories and tuning tips, and fans just gawking at one another’s cars. There was a real convivial spirit. The whole thing was a blast.

Of course, members of the Petersen (and others like myself who just kind of wandered in) had access to the museum. Whether or not you’re there for a car show (you should be), the Petersen is a must-see. I’ve been writing a story about the Baja peninsula for an upcoming issue of R&T. What should I see in the museum but the first Meyers buggy prototype. The first one down Baja. Not Japanese! And yet incredible!

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

R&T was there with a promotional tent, handing out magazine issues and tote bags. (I was there, looking like a doofus, mostly drooling over the multitudinous Z cars, and also chatting with readers.) This was the first in a run of shows where we’ve partnered with the Petersen. I promise I’m not just high on my own supply here: This was maybe the best time I’ve ever had at a car show, period. When it got a bit hot in the sun, there was a line in the shade for coffee and samgak gimbap (these are great little snacks, essentially Korean beef bulgogi, rice, and veggies, wrapped in seaweed—they’re handheld and mostly mess-free). Or you could poke into the museum to check out exhibits with hypercars, F1 cars, or Baja off-road legends.

We’ll be back again too. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on the Petersen website and on our site here.

Can’t wait to see you at the next one.

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

Photo credit: Kyle Kinard

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