The Australians and myself were picked up from the hotel by the sons of several of the
Japanese Isuzu club members and were taken to the site of the 2002 Isuzu Owners Meeting in
a Range Rover and a mini van. The site for the show seems to have been chosen at least
partially based on the fun level of the windy roads leading into and out of the park.
Across valleys, up and down mountains, and clinging to the sides of those mountains, many
sections one lane, these roads made some of the film footage of the roads in Northern Italy
look downright pedestrian.
We arrived early enough that the parking lot was not quite halfway full, and over the
following several hours, were treated to the sight of Isuzu after Isuzu pulling in, often
in groups of ten or twenty at a time, and parking on the lot until it was completely full.
In true Japanese style, the cars were parked on the lot very differently than we would here
in the US. We would have parked diagonal across spaces, skipping spaces, and leaving plenty
of space between the cars so that we could show them off and get a good look at them from an
angle. Not here, though, as all the cars were parked in the somewhat small vertical parking
spaces, side by side, packed in so tight you could hardly walk between them, but the parking
lot was barely big enough to hold all the cars even packed in as they were.
A mountain valley filled with Isuzus. The part you are not seeing is that only half the
parking lot is showing in this picture, it wraps around the hill to the right.
As the official activities began, they had arranged for Ato Gawa Taiko Drummers from Nu
Kawa town for the opening of the event. This was followed by numerous speeches, first by
Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura, who was the event coordinator for the Gemini Owners Meeting. He welcomed everyone
to the show, thanked everyone for attending, and thanked the people from the town and the
park for allowing them to have the show there. He introduced Mr. Suzuki, the Mayor of Nu
Kawa. Speeches were given by several officials. They introduced the Australians, myself,
and Ms. Miki Shimameguri, a very nice young lady they had arranged to be our translator,
to the people attending the show. They went over the schedule of activities, which included
a spectator ballot, rides on the bonnet busses, a mid day discussion, an awards ceremony,
the rock-paper-scissors contest for prizes, and group pictures.
The Ato Gawa Taiko Drummers from Nu Kawa.
Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura, as event coordinator, announced the official openning of the show and
introduced the various guests, as well as presenting the schedule of events for the day.
Notice that Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura is wearing a IsuzuWeb T-shirt, lent to him by Mr. Kenji
Tsuzuki. I had also worn my IsuzuWeb T-shirt that morning, which was about like two young
ladies wearing the same dress to the same dance or party. Not really, but we did joke about
They gathered almost 100 Geminis, Belletts, Bellels, Askas, Florians, and Minxes, and
even a Lotus Elan S2. There was also a Piazza JT221 but it was in the spectator parking
area, and not part of the show. They also had about 25 Vehicrosses which I did not pay
much attention to and also a half dozen or so Bonnet Busses (called bonnet busses because
they have a hood or bonnet). I had originally shied away from the offer of a bus ride, but
later got to ride on one of the busses up and down the mountain in the park. It was sort of
like riding to and from school when I was very little, though without the big bully to pick
on you while going to and from school. Instead, a much more pleasant ongoing discussion
with other Isuzu enthusiasts.
I wish I had more time at the parking lot to take notes and interview car owners, it would
have taken several days, but I settled for running around and taking roll upon roll of
pictures. I shot ten rolls of film trying to document some of the more interesting custom
body and engine work, several of the more interesting looking cars, and as many show field
pictures as I could. But who knows how much I actually missed, because there was simply
too much to see.
Classic cars? Yes, there were classic cars. Rarely seen Isuzu manufactured Hilman Minxs
cap off the end of a row of Belletts and Bellels.
The opposite end of the row of classic Isuzu cars, from the angle of the Bellels and Belletts.
Green with envy? If it is envy of the owners of these two sharp looking Bellett GTRs, then
the answer is yes.
A row of Gemini Irmschers and PA Neros. The white sign in front of the white Gemini was a
lighted dealership display used as part of the display of the owner of the white Gemini.
It had a big note on the back of it that said "THIS IS NOT FOR SALE". Every single spectator
and show participant read that note, cursed aloud, and walked away. Even I did, because I
was trying to figure out how to fit it into the overhead baggage compartment of the plane
for the trip back to the US.
Street Racing anyone? Geminis and Gemini Coupes decked with various body and suspension
upgrades and ready to go out on the streets and hunt down unsuspecting drivers who are
unaware of the prowess of Isuzu automobiles.
The other end of the row shown above, street prepared R Body Geminis. Mr. Kenji Tsuzuki's
Gemini Turbo Diesel is the second from the right, notice the table in front of his car
which displays numerous Isuzu scale models.
The fabled Inchikarares. The name literally means "Fake Integrale". These I-Mark style
Geminis have all been modified, independently by their respective owners, to look like
Lancia Delta Integrale rally cars. The modifications include round headlights, grille,
hood scoop, flared fenders, trunk lid spoiler, roof spoiler, roll cages, and other various
details to keep the vehicle true to the appearance of a Integrale. Looking at pictures
of the two cars side by side, it must be admitted that the Inchikarares are very close
More Piazzas than you could shake a stick at. Stock, modified, race prepped, every possible
model, trim level, and level of preparation was represented.
Another row of Piazzas. Notice that the owners of several have brought several spare
parts to offer for sale to other show attendees. This seemed more the norm than the
exception, which is somewhat different to how shows are done in the US.
You can never have too many Piazzas, a third row. Note the light pearl green car, third
from the right with the hood up. This car not only sports custom paint, but also has
a fiberglass body kit.
Another group of Piazzas. These are all early model Piazzas, note the front turn signal
is up in the bumper instead of descended below and recessed into the bottom of the bumper
as with later models. It is also worth noting that all of the early cars with this
type turn signal have exposed steel bumpers which extend through a urethane nose cover that
is attached to the body of the vehicle, not the bumper.
Did anyone ask about Askas? Yes, there were Askas there also, a whole row of them, most
with the hood up to show off those top mounted intercoolers.
117 Coupes. The original Giugiaro creation, preserved and displayed in all their glory.
Hey, who parked the Gemini in with the 117 Coupes? Never fear, with Isuzus that beautiful,
no one complains. This was actually one of the few T Series Geminis at the show.
I may or may not have the names correct on this one, but I beleive this is Mr. Mochizuki
Masaaki standing next to his father, the senior Mr. Mochizuki of the Bellett Owners Club
of Japan, and the third gentleman may be Mr. Katsuyuki Aoki of Katsuyuki Racing Service.
The senior Mr. Mochizuki is the gentleman who has current posession of the fabled Isuzu V12
Formula racing engine, and both senoir and junior actively participate in racing Isuzu cars
in Japan. They are standing in front of a highly modified Gemini Sedan Non-turbo, which
is equipped with a rather impressive four horn and four throttlebody fuel injection system.
This wasn't just a car show, there was a sort of talk show or interview session conducted
over the loud speaker system in the middle of the afternoon, and from the looks of it, there
was a good bit of information presented. The gentleman standing at the far right with the
apron is one of the bus drivers, wearing a traditional bus driver uniform.
The awards ceremony was also lead by Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura. Each award recipient was given
the opportunity to say a few words and thank whoever they wished to for helping them with
their car, and almost every single statement was ended with some sort of cheer by the
award recipient that was returned by their own cheering section in the crowd.
Best of Show. This is Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura's wide body Stylus type Gemini. It was awarded
as the Best Gemini (Stylus type) and Best of Show. Notice that the headlights and grille
are from a non-Isuzu vehicle, which Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura refuses to discuss. The fabrication
of the wide bodywork is completely and totally custom and was done with sheet metal, not
fiberglass. Polished stainless steel "running board" style rocker covers extend between the
front and rear fender flares. The body work for the fender flares wrapps around into the
front and rear bumpers as well as the rear doors, showing quite a bit of thoroughness in the
execution of the design. Even details like the side view mirrors were custom grafted from
Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura's wide body Gemini (I-Mark type). This car is no slouth itself,
displaying its own custom fabricated steel wide bodywork
Mr. Koji Shinkai's Inchikarare. With all the design elements discussed above, this car
also features custom work to the front bumper to add additional venting for the radiator,
hood vents, rally instrumentation, and custom interior work in the trunk to display a tool
kit that is integrated into the interior panels of the trunk area. Mr. Koji Shinkai
graciously wne to the trouble of removing one of the back wheels from the car to show me
his disk brake conversion.
Gemini Irmscher AWD Turbo Sedans with the factory optional rally lamp front grilles. The
car on the right is owned by Mr. Eiichi Nakaoka's, the gentleman who would be my host in
Yokohama. Mr. Eiichi Nakaoka's car has been upgraded with the 180 HP factory racing
computer and modified suspension. The car on the left has one of the Geminist body kits.
Rarer than rare, a Gemini OZ Wagonback AWD Turbo. Add to that the custom body kit, and
you have something never seen in the US.
Even a Lotus Elan S2 was on display, but only for a short time.
This is another of Mr. Kenji Tsuzuki's photographs. This is the group picture of all of the
participants in the 2002 Gemini Owners Meeting. The big, brown headed American (me) can be
seen standing, fourth or fifth from the right end of the group. I am wearing a blue Front
Row club shirt given to me by Mr. Kenji Tsuzuki.
This is the group picture of the Front Row Gemini Owners Connection Car Club. I was asked
to sit in for this photo. Mr. Yoshiyuki Imura was nice enough to shoot this picture with
my camera. The big, brown headed American (me) can be seen holding up the right end of the
show banner. Mr. Kenji Tsuzuki is second from the right end in the second row. Mr. Koji
Shinkai is standing on the left end in the second row with his hands on his knees.
I was treated like royalty. Everyone wanted to meet me and shake my hand. This, also
was very different from how I am used to being greeted by people. I received pictures,
stickers, and other things from more people than I can remember that day. The Front Row
club members asked me to be part of their group picture and even passed a hat (parts box)
and made a collection which they presented to me. It amounted to about half the amount of
money I spent out of my pocket for the entire trip.
I said goodbye to Mr. Imura and Mr. Kenji Tsuzuki, as I would not see them again on this
trip, and it was something like saying goodbye to brothers.