Myron Vernis is 67 and has been a car enthusiast all his life. But about 10 years ago, he began to sour on the collector car world. “The old white guys of my generation who were my friends became bitter old men,” he said Car and Driver. “All they kept talking about is how young people don’t care about cars anymore. And instead of talking about how we can make our cars more accessible, or better resources for others, all they wanted to talk about was how much their cars were worth it.” Boring, Boomer.
Fortunately, Vernis attended an event that shifted his perspective. “I was in Los Angeles and ended up at a Japanese auto show, and I saw this great enthusiasm for Japanese cars from people half to a third my age. The same type of enthusiasm and passion for cars that I had when I was young,” he said. This invigorated him, and he began making friends in this community and collecting rare and exotic Japanese cars.
In pursuing this new endeavor, he realized that there were many gaps in his knowledge, but he was surprised to find that there was not one coherent, published resource that could help him. So he and a longtime friend (and fellow Japanese car fanatic), Mark Brinkman, decided to create one. That’s when things got out of hand. “Our initial plan was to make a nice coffee table book of about 300 pages,” said Vernis. They started by listing cars they thought should be included. “Then as we started doing more research, we started finding more cars that we thought were cool. Eventually it kind of grew into this 1,400-page, four-and-a-half volume set.”
The set is called A Quiet Greatness and is a lavishly produced, $350, 35-pound tome that contains information, statistics, technical specifications, trivia, history and more than 2,200 images of the coolest Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars you’ve ever, if ever, seen. didn’t see “The Japanese with their cars were like the French with their wine, they kept the best stuff for themselves,” explained Vernis. (Former Road & Lane art director Richard Baron helped with the book’s beautiful design.)
A quick browse reveals the astonishing breadth of the Japanese car market. The handmade Autech Zagato Stelvio sports car. The creamy V-12-powered Toyota Century luxury sedan. The miniature snake-in-a-backwards baseball cap Yahama Ami. The winged Suzuki Cara, Mazda AZ-1 and Toyota Sera. The Michelotti-designed, Alfa-esque, rear-engined Hino Contessa. And the list goes on and on. You can barely turn a page in any of the volumes without coming across a new treat, achievement or vehicle.
One of the authors’ core goals was to help raise the status of Japanese collector cars, an admirable mission. But that left them in a bit of a Catch-22 when looking for a publisher. “There were a lot of higher-end book publishers who, when we sent them the digital files of the book, were totally blown away by it,” Vernis said. “But they said it was about Japanese cars, and they didn’t think they could sell it to anybody. So, we wanted to do it to raise the level of this part of the hobby, but the actual people we could help to do it wasn’t interested in doing it because it’s not at that level yet.”
Vernis and Brinker decided to self-publish the book, a financially daunting decision. But that wasn’t even the most expensive aspect of creating A Quiet Greatness. “The most expensive part of the project was discovering cars and then going out and buying them,” Vernis said with a laugh. As a result of the process, the two of them bought a total of 18 Japanese cars.
Although Vernis has numerous cars in his collection, he does have one unicorn. “To me it’s a Mitsuoka Orochi. It’s just the craziest thing. People will look at it and either say it’s the coolest car ever made, or the ugliest car ever made,” he said. Orochis is not yet legal in the United States because vehicles that were not originally available here must be over 25 years old to be eligible for importation. Vernis’ goal is to legally bring the first one to the United States.
His love for the Orochi made us wonder if there was any car in the book he wouldn’t want to own. “I’m a car omnivore,” he said. “I can honestly say there is nothing in the book that I don’t like.”
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