Motoring Mysteries of the Far East
A Curious Collection of Asian & Pacific Vehicles
May 16 – September 14, 2014
Hershey, PA (April 29, 2014). In these modern times, vehicles originating from far-away countries such as Japan and South Korea are commonplace and are taken for granted. Vehicles from Russia, India and beyond still remain curiosities here in America. Manufacturers such as Kia, Hyundai, Toyota or Honda have become household brands with millions of loyal customers and followers, but this was not always the case. Motoring Mysteries of the Far East: a Curious Collection of Asian & Pacific Vehicles will explore a variety of these vehicles in a fascinating exhibit this summer at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum.
Japan started producing vehicles in the early 1900s, with Mitsubishi creating Japan’s first series-produced vehicle, the Model A, in 1917. GAZ built their first line of vehicles in Russia in 1932 with cooperation from Ford. India entered the automobile scene later in the 1940s with Hindustan and Mahindra, and both China’s and Korea’s automotive industries started in the 1950s. Numerous other Asian countries also jumped onto the vehicle manufacturing scene mostly producing bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and three-wheelers, and to a lesser degree trucks and automobiles. Many of the automobiles produced in these countries were very similar to, or produced under license agreement, with makes from Europe and America. In fact, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler each had production plants in Japan between 1925 and 1936.
Even with these early beginnings, seeing any of these products in the United States was very unusual, even into the late 1960s. Many factors contributed to this including: Unfavorable feelings due to previous wars and conflicts (along with the industry policies and regulations that followed); America’s desire to have bigger, faster, more luxurious cars to travel on the new superhighways; Plentiful fuel at low prices; as well as lack of infrastructure to support vehicle importation. Most such vehicles were brought into the States by ex-servicemen coming home who were stationed overseas.
In the November 1952 issue, Popular Science reported that, “The new [Japanese] models…are small, low powered and poor in performance, but they are rugged and cheap to run”. Toyota opened its sales headquarters in Hollywood California on October 31, 1957, and started selling Toyopets and Land Cruisers the following year. Datsun (Nissan) also debuted here in 1958 at the Los Angeles auto show, selling 83 cars that year. One year later American Honda Motor Company was established in Los Angeles as Honda’s first overseas subsidiary, selling small motorcycles. It took ten more years until Honda sold its first car in America, the N600 in 1969. By the mid-1960s the United States was established as Japan’s largest export market.
This large upswing in manufacturing had its drawbacks back in Japan. With more cars on its highways, the Japanese government became aware of the exhaust pollution problem, putting in place the country’s first emission restrictions in 1966. The United States followed in 1969 with its own restrictions. American automakers wisely partnered with various Asian manufacturers to sell their re-badged products through the Big Three dealerships. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1974 created plummeting sales of the large, gas-guzzling offerings of the Big Three, and gave the small, fuel efficient imports of Japan and other countries a huge boost in sales here in America. Sales continued to climb rapidly, and in 1982 Honda became the first Japanese automaker to build cars in America by producing the Accord in an all-new plant in Ohio.
In comparison, the South Korean offerings followed much later, but caught up quickly. Hyundai Motor America was established in 1985, and imported the Excel the next year. Kia signed its first 20 United States dealers in 1993, and started selling the Sephia though four Portland Oregon dealers in 1994. These corporations are now building some of the highest ranked automobiles available.
The AACA Museum celebrates and showcases the early roots and later creations of the Asian and Russian motoring industry and their impact within the United States. From the Pre-War years to the Kei class microcars of the 1960s, to the trucks and sports cars which appeared later, these unique and seldom-seen vehicles are examples of an important historical part of the auto industry. We invite our visitors to explore these forgotten treasures from the Far East.
About the AACA Museum
The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, a member of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program, displays beautifully restored automobiles, buses and motorcycles in unique life-like scenes representing the 1890s – 1980s in a cross-country journey from New York to San Francisco. This Museum, a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, is known to be one of the largest automotive museums. Special exhibits change several times a year and focus on a variety of eras and types of vehicles. The Museum is located just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Regular admission $10, seniors age 61 and older $9, juniors age 4-12 $7, children age 3 and under are FREE. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For further information, please call 717-566-7100 or visit www.AACAMuseum.org.
Special Note of thanks: The AACA Museum would like to share our sincere thanks to Artist JoepeP who created the custom artwork we’re using for our exhibit. If you would like to see more of Joe’s work, you can connect with him on Facebook. You can also receive special – archival signed prints by JoepeP for more information inbox him on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Authorized Licensed JoepeP Automotive print sellers: GraphicsGarageohio.com and ABSOLUTELYCANVAS.COM