Passion for the Lotus Marque in Japan is massive. The brand has a cult like admiration and a fan base that I believe is just as big or even bigger than the Lotus following in the UK. For the past three years, Lotus owners in Japan have gathered at Fuji Speedway, a few hours outside of Tokyo for the now annual Japan Lotus Day. The event organized by Lotus Cars Japan and held on November 3rd included a wide array of interesting cars, races, vendor and shop displays as well as a parking lot full of Lotus fanatic’s.
As a special attraction this year, Planex, the authorized distributor in Japan for Classic Team Lotus merchandise organized a variety of special historic cars for the event including 10 historic Formula One cars. The Formula One collection was impressive to say the least and included everything from a 1967 Type 49 all the way through to the 1989 Type 101.
Adding to the overall atmosphere was the attendance of Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman. Clive was in attendance representing Classic Team Lotus and everyone was honored to see him at the event.
Every year Japan Lotus Day increases in size and this year’s event drew over 1500 fans along with nearly 600 cars. The collection of cars challenged the senses and it was hard to just focus one type. Once thing that is apparent is the attention to detail when it comes to just about everything in Japan. Cars, food, gardens, style, fashion…every detail is considered. For example, many of the cars on display in the parking area were running on period correct Dunlop or Michelin tires. That’s something you typically don’t see in the USA. Many of the drivers also adorned period clothing adding to the authenticity.
Vendors and specialty shops were out in full force. Parts, stickers and decals, Weber jets..you name it…all in stock. A C Minds, a Lotus and Caterham specialist located near Nagoya had a very impressive product selection available at the event as well as incredible collection of significant cars. In fact they managed to part with some of my Yen on some retro decals. Classic Team Lotus Japan offered a special collection of merchandise for the event. Hats, pins shirts and bags all adorned with the event logo were popular items. Of course Japan Lotus Day merchandise was available and seemed very popular.
The Elise and Exige platforms are well supported and the very admired in Japan. Witham Cars is a very active shop located in Tokyo that promotes the Lotus Cup Japan and organizes many races throughout the year. They offer service and support for those competing in the series and company boss Yuji Shinohara was on hand to not only compete in the Lotus Cup race held during Japan Lotus Day but to support his team and drivers.
The Lotus Seven and Caterham cars continue to attract a massive following in Japan. The cars popularity was obvious at Japan Lotus Day with everything from a Series 1 to the latest Caterham offering . Caterham Japan’s Justin Gardiner does an incredible job of promoting the brand and did a brisk business during the show selling merchandise as well as a few cars. Japan is one of Caterham’s largest market and Justin travels the length and breadth of Japan in a Caterham organizing events to help potential customers experience the thrill of one of the most excelerating drives out there. Long live the Lotus Seven!
The Europa holds a special place in the heart of the Japanese enthusiast. I lost count at 50 at the event and the number of heavily modified cars in attendance was even more remarkable. Technical Shop Happy, located in Tokyo was supporting a large contingent of Europas , both Series 2 and 3 configured with built Twin Cam engines, radical suspension, and body work. The cars were very fast and it was a pleasure to see such appreciation for the quirky Europa.
With so many interesting cars to see, we’ll break up the feature on Japan Lotus Day into several installments including a detailed look at the Formula One cars as well as the early racers like the Type 47 and finally a look at the road cars. Please check back soon or better yet, subscribe to The Garagista.