The scent of freshly lit charcoal grills wafts through the air blending with the aroma of fuel rich exhaust, and the unmistakable fragrance of grilling meat. The symphony of aromas, equally matched by the intermingling sounds of salsa music, reggaeton, the DJ interjecting with announcements, and the occasional burbling of vintage japanese engines. This is Team Nostalgic’s 5th annual BBQ, dubbed “Old School Love, New School Flavor”, celebrating the best Japanese cars of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The event carries an atmosphere of a huge family picnic, more than a typical car show.
I proceed down the forest preserve road with camera in hand, numerous examples of decades old Japanese hardware line either side. Children scurry past in the grassy fields as I snap a few shots of an RX-3’s tail lights. The road between the vast line of classic and iconic Japanese sports cars is now a bustling avenue filled with strolling spectators, passing vehicles, and a huddled mass crowding an ice cream truck that crawls at a snail’s pace toward the end of the road. In between the traffic, I quickly nab a few more shots of a pair of Datsun wagons, displayed proudly in perfect “photoshoot” poses, like puckering super models. Teens rove in packs, pointing excitedly at a pristine AE86 adorned in immaculate white paint with carbon fiber accents in all the right places. I get a few more shots as they move on to admire the next time capsule on wheels. I hear the distinct sound of ice rattling around in a cooler as a someone searches for a cool beverage under one of the many canopies set up along the row. I pause for a moment to take in a Mazda REPU before raising the camera once again, I don’t recall ever seeing one in person. The clouds break a bit and I feel the warmth of the sun, a radio behind me croons “mi genteeeee!”. I line up a shot of a maroon Toyota Previa that looks like a lazy bear, laying flat on the ground for a post-meal bask in the sun. I marvel at an unbelievably clean Toyota Corona that appears to be from the 1960’s, a smile forming on my face when I see the hood propped up by a bottle of beer… a Corona of course. The smile progresses to a chuckle and head shake when I make my way to the tail end and notice the license plate. My shutter clicks a few more times.
A rotary engine braps to life in the distance, I wish I had brought mine along, but satisfied seeing the plethora of rotary power on display. I wait patiently on one knee as spectators move away from a matte black AE86, it’s glossy red engine bay accentuated by the muted exterior tone. The DJ calls out “fifty fifty!” announcing an ongoing raffle to the crowd lounging on the lush green lawn that surrounds him. A cool breeze keeps the warm sunlight from ever feeling oppressive, I hear the clapping of car club banners flapping as I continue my way down the road, dabbing a bit of sweat from my brow. Families roam the car lined road; with little one’s in tow, a father grasping his child’s hand while snapping a photo of an RX-7 with the other hand. Making my way back to the entrance, I pause to shoot from the hip, a Toyota Carina rolling down the line, leading a caravan of newcomers in search of a parking spot. I hear the giggles of my two year old daughter, gleefully running through the thick grass barefoot. As she runs to my arms and I lift her up, it occurs to me, this wasn’t a car show at all, it’s a family picnic. What a perfect day it was for a family picnic.
-photos and writing: Robert Sixto