Guest contributor: Royce Hong on the Rally Nippon 2013 in Taiwan
I’ve been following Rally Nippon since its inception in 2008. Rally Nippon is an annual classic car rally/tour not unlike the Mille Miglia or the California Melee. Featuring the crème de la crème of historic automobiles, from 1920s Bugattis and Bentleys to a 1974 Isuzu 117 Coupe. The Rally is known to take in ancient castles, shrines and breathtaking UNESCO sites along its 1,000+km route from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan in March 2011, Japan received about 20 billion yen in donations from Taiwan and its people, making Taiwan one of the major donation sources overseas. Yusuke Kobayashi, founder of the Rally, said the Japanese owe the Taiwanese people a debt of gratitude for their generosity following the twin disasters.
Mr. Kobayashi also mentioned that in Japanese culture, when you genuinely want to thank someone, you ought to do it face to face. And what better way to catch a glimpse of the people than a caravan of beautiful classics. Hence, after 2 years of preparation, Rally Nippon 2013 became a 4-day, 1,000+ kilometers tour around the entire island of Taiwan.
Car culture was virtually nonexistent in Taiwan until the 1980s. As the local economy grew, people became more affluent and started to view cars as more than an appliance for transportation. But even until today, the Taiwan government’s protectionist attitude toward local car manufacturers had resulted in a general ignorance toward car culture, which in turn has largely prevented classics from being imported and licensed for public roads in Taiwan. So the sight of any pre-1980s old-timer is rare, if ever. 60 priceless classic cars circumventing freeways and backroads around the island is a sight that I never imagined I’d see in my lifetime. So in July, when the organizers of Rally Nippon were asking around the handful of local classic collectors to volunteer their cars for their poster shoot in May, I raised my hand with blazing speed, glee, and disbelief.
Our 1967 Jaguar E-Type Coupe at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the quintessential Taiwan landmark.
During the shoot, I had a nice chat with Mr. Kobayashi about the Rally and our shared passion for motoring. Because I speak a little Japanese, he mentioned that the Rally was open to a couple teams of Taiwan entrants who share the same enthusiasm and values. Again, I leaped, ecstatic at the opportunity.
The official Rally Nippon 2013 Poster and Route Book featuring the big cat.
So on the cold and rainy Thursday morning of November 28, 2013, 60 invaluable classics and 120 enthusiastic participants gathered in front of Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building for the start of this unprecedented 4-day journey… (complete entry list here)
This is Day 1.
Before the start at the Presidential Office Building (designed by a Japanese architect and constructed in 1919).
A jaw-dropping variety of automotive pedigree was on display.
The stunning 1963 Datsun SP310 Fairlady amongst the Europeans
Incredible 1934 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B, with a newly minted “faux-patina”
One of the oldest cars is a 1927 Bugatti Type T35B.
Despite the crappy weather on a workday morning, the start was greeted by a small crowd of enthusiastic fans of all ages.
The lion dancers even came out, though bagged over to prevent water damage.
Quick tour of Taipei before hopping on the expressway
Passing through the very red and iconic Grand Hotel
I have never seen anything more stunning in my rear-view mirror!
Approaching our next stop, the old Taichung City Hall, we were greeted by a massive throng of paparazzi, or rather snaparazzi.
Turned out, a couple hundred fans were also waiting for our arrival…
The old city hall was built in 1913 during the Japanese occupation in Taiwan. The 1935 Bentley Derby was so fittingly period-correct here.
1934 Riley 12/4 Sports Special
After a brief lunch on the lawn in the building’s courtyard, we motored onward, cheered on by an even denser crowd. And as we depart Taichung, the cold wet weather broke into periodic sunshine.
Following the 1963 Giulia SS
After some getting lost or navigator mishap, the caravan manages to hop back onto the expressway for our next stop, Sun Moon Lake. Getting lost and double backing was very enjoyable when you have such incredible road companions.
Greeted by super heavy fog at the Xiangshan Visitor Center. The lack of visibility created a mysterious aura around the classics as the prosaic parking lot faded away in the blur.
But a bit of a pity that the stunning architectural backdrop was also entirely faded out in the mist…
1954 AC Ace, piloted by renowned Japanese Gagaku (ancient court music) musician Hideki Togi, who was always gracious to his fans seeking autographs and quick snaps at pretty much every stopover.
356s seemed especially photogenic in the fog, like this 1962 356B Cabriolet.
1961 356B Roadster, coming out of the “P.C.” leg. Many of the drivers took this seriously, equipped with computers, apps, and charts for this point-collecting system.
Translation: Grandpa 72 + Grandma 74 + Car 87 = 233 year-old (1926 Bentley Speed Model Vanden Plas 4-Seater Tourer)
1955 300SL Gullwing
Day one ends at the beautiful Lalu Resort…
This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Join us for Part 2 tomorrow.