The East Coast is a tough place to be for fans of vintage Japanese automobiles. While there are definitely pockets of enthusiasts throughout region (I’m thinking of Atlanta’s own Garage Zero), there just aren’t as many good original specimens to to be found. Most Northeastern cars have long since succumbed to rust, disappointing many junkyard pickers hoping to find that perfect chassis. And while there are still excellent examples to found down South, the prevalence of the pro-domestic, pro-muscle mentality following the post-war era meant that early examples of Japanese cars were largely treated as disposable economic appliances, and true contemporary enthusiasts were few and far between. So while I’ve certainly been exposed to my fair share of Nissan Z cars, the 80′s Toyota RWDs, and Mazda RX-7s, my experience with the more pedestrian models (not to mention modified examples) has largely been limited to a few random sightings. Read More
Deep in the city of Philadelphia, amongst the beat up taxi cabs, boring economy cars, and speeding limousines, there came a candy purple xB from New Jersey. Darren Balico’s little box attracted all sorts of attention in Center City. Everyone, from businessmen in tinted Town Cars to late night crowds looking for the next party, took notice of the gleaming purple box everywhere it went. Every person walking the streets seemed to have a compliment, some even stopped to ask if it was for sale.
It can be said that all design is rooted in the struggle of form and function. Each decision that a creator makes is a tug in one direction or the other. But good design never lies on linear scale. That is, success isn’t found in the ability to defeat one side or the other. Form at the expense of function is useless, an object d’art that can be discarded annually as the prevailing trends change. Function without the consideration of form, however, is nothing more than a tool or applicance. Good design, rather, is weaving these elements together in concert with one another, allowing each decision, regardless of purpose, to support one another. American architect Louis Sullivan writes, “Ornament and structure were integral; their subtle rhythm sustained a high emotional tension, yet produced a sense of serenity. But the building’s identity resided in the ornament. It was the spirit animating the mass and flowing from it, and it expressed the individuality of the building.” Form, therefore, becomes the eyes through which we are drawn into the function of the end result.
As popular as V8 swaps have become in Japanese imports these past few years, the benefit cars are usually purpose-built monsters destined for drift events or racetracks. Steve Richardson’s RX-7, however, could easily pass as a stock cruiser, intended more for preservation rather than devastation. The contrast of an OEM+ exterior with such an unconventional power plant is the classic recipe for a sleeper, but does the proverbial heresy of ditching the rotary engine leave you with a bitter taste? Personally, I love it. This is classiness and ingenuity together at their finest. Let us know what you think in the comments. Read More
In 2003, as a promotion for the release of the seventh generation Civic, Honda created a series of commercials celebrating the “Civic Nation”. Originally featuring 64 of Southern California’s most aggressively styled Civics, this video seemed to be a sign that Honda was finally ready to accept the massive subculture that had sprung from its humble pedestrian model. And while the days of neon, chrome, and loud body kits have since passed us by, that visual of dozens of Civics rolling deep was bold for the time. The release of the original The Fast and the Furious in 2001 had made tuner culture a nationwide phenomenon, but we didn’t see a mainstream manufacturer really embrace it until Toyota’s creation of the Scion brand in 2002. The Civic Nation commercials, however, connected a new product with the cars that were already on the street. The idea wasn’t so much that you had to go purchase the latest Civic to be hip–that is, it didn’t show a group of nineties-era hatches driving along only to have a fresh new EP Civic Si blow through the center with flaming tires. Rather, the point made was that if you did purchase a new Civic, you became a part of something much larger and much cooler than a frumpy-looking beige sedan would normally allow. Read More
The 300ZX sits in a rather peculiar place in Nissan’s historic sports car heritage. The model’s younger brothers, the 350Z and 370Z, have a massive following in the stance and performance communities, serving as both the poster boys for classic Japanese RWD antics, and at the same time showcasing some of the most impossibly low static setups we’ve seen. The ZX’s ancestors also are enjoying a revival in today’s retro JDM crave, with pristine 240Z and 260Z prices beginning to rise to well-deserved levels, edging near their American and European counterparts. Depending on who is asked and the model considered, the 300ZX (both the Z31 and Z32 models) however, were either sluggish coupes masquerading as sports cars, or capable machines with overly-complex turbo set-ups. There is no denying, however, that Thai Nguyen’s pristine 1991 Twin Turbo unit represents the beginnings of a golden age of Japanese performance in the 1990′s that included venerable models like the Supra, RX-7, NSX, and the JDM Skyline GT-R’s. Thai’s approach to his Z has been one of preservation rather than transformation, creating a perfect balanced example of one of Japan’s finest, yet under appreciated, performance models.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my trips to Road Atlanta is the opportunity to see other enthusiasts’ cars that otherwise would never fall into my circle of interest. There is almost always some vintage European car to discover, adorned with decals or medallions of historical significance, or a luxury SUV that has broken free of its usual suburban entrapment, having been outfitted with huge mud tires, a wench, and snorkel (and there’s almost nothing cooler than an off-the-lot GX460 with a snorkel, I assure you). The reminder that the automotive scene is so much larger than yourself, and what your friends think is important is both humbling and refreshing. And so, when I caught a glance of Vinh Le’s Firebird driving past the stands to find a parking spot amongst the sea of Nissans and RWD Toyotas, I knew I had an opportunity for a great story. Read More
May 25, 2012
Photography By: Yuya Yamashita, Key Mamiya
Words By: Andy Carter
When Mick Jagger sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in 1969, he was certainly on to something pivotal in regards to the frustrations we as enthusiasts experience in our daily lives with our cars. Interestingly, however, it is the converse of that lyric that has created and fed various scenes around the world; that is, “you always want what you can’t get”. That idea reverberates throughout our culture everyday, from the diehard Toyota fans begging for the return of the Supra, to FF Honda’s fans begging for a legitimate Type-R. Luckily for the scene, few of us stop there. Many JDM and Euro enthusiasts go to great lengths procuring models, parts, and merchandise from our markets of choice. Whether it’s a JDM coin tray or an R34 Skyline, there’s a certain feeling of owning something that was never intended for our shores. Not surprisingly, this feeling isn’t limited to American gearheads. For the ninth year in a row, thousands of USDM enthusiasts gathered in the Mie Prefecture to check out the best of what the American car scene has to offer, as interpreted by Japanese enthusiasts.
Many of you will remember Brendan Hinds’ Audi S5 that we featured a few weeks ago. He originally purchased the car with the intention to keep it stock, but we all know how that story ends. Here’s Load It Production’s take on that gorgeous S5 and the perfectly fitted Vossen wheels.
Last weekend, Road Atlanta once again hosted the Formula Drift “Road to the Championship” for the ninth year in a row. A favorite track for many of the drivers, the course offers both high speeds and close, technical areas, making for an awesome show for the record-setting audience. Fueled in part by the recent attempt by Atlanta city council’s ban on drifting within the city limits, the atmosphere was one of excitement, passion, and camaraderie. With the scent of tire smoke and BBQ filling the air, Atlanta natives enjoyed a solid two days of professional drifting, Pro-Am up-and-comers, time attack, and Formula 2000 races. It was, without a doubt, the best place to be south of the Mason-Dixon last weekend. Read More