Motoring Mysteries of the Far East

A Curious Collection of Asian & Pacific Vehicles

May 16, 2014 – September 14, 2014


Artist JoepeP

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.

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 industry 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, or produced under license agreement, to the cars from Europe and America. 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 a rare sight, even up 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 cheap fuel prices; as well as lack of infrastructure to support vehicle importation. Most 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 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 increases, placing 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 to appear 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.


Exhibit Vehicles

1936 Datsun Phaeton

1938 Datsun Fire Truck

1961 Rockford (Mitsubishi) Silver Pigeon Scooter

1962 Fuji Rabbit Scooter

1963 Valmobile Scooter

1964 Nissan Cedric 1900 Deluxe

1964 Pointer Comet 155cc Motorcycle

1966 Honda S600 Roadster

1967 Toyota Sport 800

1967 Fuji Go Devil

1968 Suzuki T500 Motorcycle

1969 Datsun 2000 Roadster

1969 Subaru 360 Pickup

1970 Datsun 240Z

1970 Subaru 360 Van

1970s Kharkov XB3 Bicycle

1971 Toyota Crown

1972 Suzuki Brute IV

1972 Honda 600 Coupe

1975 Honda Civic CVCC

1981 Honda Accord

1981 Isuzu 117 Coupe

1982 Datsun 280 ZX

1984 Mazda RX-7

1985 Honda CRX si Straman convertible

Suzuki Brute display engine

Circa 1950s Indonesian Pedi-cab

Subject to change – updated 5/20/14

“Motoring Mysteries of the Far East” opens May 16, 2014 through September 14. For inquiries concerning display items, please contact Executive Director Mark Lizewskie at 717-566-7100 x102 or

Special Thanks

We would like to share our sincere thanks to Artist JoepeP who created this custom artwork 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

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