Foreign reinterpretations of American inventions are always fascinating. Australia's cult following for baseball, John Frum-style cargo cults among Pacific Islanders... and stock car racing of any kind. Invented by Moonshiners during Prohibition, stock car racing (NASCAR) has found success worldwide, with healthy race series operating in South America, Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. Other regions like South Africa have tried and failed to make stock car racing popular—and things went equally wrong in Japan.
Stock car racing in Japan fell defunct so long ago that little record of its existence can be found online, but a rare clip of this racing scene found its way online last Friday, giving a glimpse into the short-lived and bizarre world that was Japanese dirt oval folk racing.
Cars of widely varying origins and suitability for racing were caged up by aspiring Japanese stock car racers. A third-generation Toyota Supra shared the starting grid with the likes of a Volvo 960, two Lincoln Mark VIs, a Pontiac Firebird, and a plethora of Japan's then-plentiful, domestically built rear-wheel-drive cars. Japanese Nostalgic Car identifies some of the models seen as Nissan Cimas, Skylines, and Glorias, plus some Toyota Soarers and Mark IIs, all of which are the types of cars over which Japanophiles froth today.
Presence of those aforementioned examples of Detroit's handiwork raise a few questions—just why did anyone with access to the goldmine of good Japanese cars available during that time period buy something like a Lincoln Mark VI? Or a Pontiac Firebird? That question is seemingly answered by the cars that placed first and second in the first race shown in the video above; the winning car is emblazoned with the Stars & Stripes, and the runner-up rocks a Dale Earnhardt tribute livery. Clearly Americanophiles.
Maybe the grass always looks greener from the other side. Too bad we know the grassroots of Japan's stock car racing scene are long gone... you can't help but wonder what Japan's equivalent to NASCAR would have become today had it succeeded.