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Friday, April 3, 2009

Classic cars in a modern setting

Staff writer

At Tokyo Concours d' Elegance 2009, some 30 classic European automobiles owned by Japanese collectors are on show. Meaning "competition of elegance" in French, the title is used for occasions on which the owners of classic cars display their immaculately maintained, beautiful vehicles and compete for "best in show" honors — as in the famous events held annually at Pebble Beach in the United States since 1950 and Villa d'Este in Italy since 1929.

News photo
Old school: This W.O. Bentley 3-Litre, once owned by Jiro Shirazu, is exhibited in Roppongi until April 12.

This Tokyo event is at Tokyo City View, on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in the Roppongi Hills complex. There, more than 200 meters above the street, visitors can enjoy a romantic atmosphere that combines the cars' classic beauty and the futuristic appeal of one of Japan's best-known new skyscrapers.

Beside the classic cars, fashions that match their times and the concepts behind them are also on show — creating a wistful atmosphere of "the good old days."

Among the event's highlights is a 1924 W.O. Bentley 3-Litre once owned by Jiro Shirazu (1902-85), who was the Japanese government liaison officer with the postwar Allied Occupation forces and is currently the subject of a popular NHK TV series. Shirasu, renowned as a "gentleman," owned the mighty and magnificent Bentley when he studied at Cambridge University in England.

Another star of the show is a 1937 Rolls-Royce 25/30 HP Hooper once owned by Shigeru Yoshida (1878-1967), who was prime minister in the late 1940s and early '50s as is famed for his love of classic cars, Scotch whisky and cigars.

As well, other cars on display include two one-of-a-kinds: a 1952 Maserati A6G2000 Coupe by Vignale and a 1971 Michelotti Matra Laser.

Tokyo Concours d'Elegance is on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi on the Hibiya and Oedo lines until April 12; open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (doors close at 9:30 p.m.). Admission is ¥1,600 for adults; ¥1,100 for university and high-school students; ¥500 for 4-year-olds to junior-high-school students; free for infants. For more details, visit www.roppongihills.com/tcv/

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