Japanese Nostalgic Car’s First True California Touge
Photography by Andrew Schneider
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I joined 20 drivers for 7 hours, winding through one of the most exciting routes I’ve experienced. On that day, Ben Hsu, owner and editor of Japanese Nostalgic Car, brought his dream to life: a true “Touge” rally in Southern California.
Patrick Strong, the coordinator for Santa Monica Sports Car Club, assisted Ben in putting together an extensive course that would challenge drivers in every way. Ben felt an obligation to create an event for Japanese enthusiasts, one that would truly resonate within the tight-knit community.
Historic events like the Mille Miglia inspired Ben to give the Japanese nostalgic car community a similar experience. So off he went, spending many nights carefully planning the Touge California—it took an entire year and a half to bring this event to fruition!
For those of you unfamiliar with the Japanese word touge, it means “pass”. These mountain passes are quite common in Japan and serve the purpose of decreasing elevation in the road. As these twists and turns were built into the mountain, Japanese enthusiasts took to these passes for driving pleasure—and has the entire sport of drifting, not to mention the world-renown anime franchise Initial D, as proof of the touge’s allure.
Ben Hsu & Patrick Strong went above and beyond to emulate a touge course in Southern California. The course started in Thousand Oaks, and ended in Torrance at the Toyota Museum.
At the starting point, drivers were provided with a freshly baked cookie, a pamphlet with directions, and an envelope that held routes around some of the most challenging sections of driving. If the driver chose to open the envelope, and thus not complete the full rally course, they would be denied proof of completion. I am happy to report that everyone completed safely!
The cars involved ranged from a first generation Honda Accord (with a two speed automatic transmission!) to a huge Toyota Century sedan, all the way to a C10 Nissan Skyline. Its noise was captivating, as the sounds of its sidedraft carburetors popped against the mountainside.
Ben and Japanese Nostalgic Car will hold events like this again in the future. It’s because of people like Ben and Patrick that keep wonderful nostalgia—so-called “J-tin”—on the road. These cars were built to drive, flow through corners, and provide unmatched excitement.
As the market for Japanese classics continues to flourish in the U.S., Ben and the rest of the community will be there, willing to dedicate the time and energy to unite true enthusiasts of Japanese classics.