As I mentioned in a previous post, I headed down to the Japanese Performance Show in Coventry on a bit of a whim the other weekend to see what was what with the Japanese aftermarket scene nowadays. While said Japanese cars might be my preferred segment of the modified car scene in general, I typically find myself sticking within the drifting partition and not paying too much attention to the show and track segments. I feel I should start spreading my attention more to help me fully appreciate what other enthusiasts are up to.
I’ll cut to the chase and open this post with my conclusion from the event, which will at least save you from scrolling right to the bottom to see what I thought. On the surface, everything has definitely stepped up a notch since the first time I ventured to Japfest back in 2010 or 2011 (my first proper experience of the Japanese aftermarket scene).
In part, I presume this is to do with the increased availability and accessibility to what used to be somewhat rare and difficult to source parts. Thanks to the increase in distributors, importers and auction bidding services, it’s no longer a nightmare to have your dream set of wheels custom built for you, let alone source that discontinued rear wing or rare late model headlights/tail lights. Personally speaking, it pleased me greatly to see so many genuine 326POWER parts fitted to cars on display that had been purchased from Street Track Life/326POWER UK. Thank you!
In addition, awareness has also increased and improved over recent years due to the internet and social media. With more and more photos from Japan hitting the net every day thanks to sites such as Speedhunters, Shirtstuckedin and DOHCresearch (to name but a few), enthusiasts are exposed to a near-constant feed of some of the wildest, boundary pushing and controversial cars coming out of garages and workshops in the motherland. This in turn leads to inspiration which, some way down the line, often results in ideas being applied to personal cars.
However, there is also a downside to this which became very apparent to me while walking around the show. There were plenty of cars that had all the right ingredients for the look that the owners had set out to achieve: super aggressive/low offset deep dished wheels, a bodykit from the likes of Rocket Bunny or Liberty Walk (or, in many cases, a replica) and a specific wing/aero part, for example, was one such recipe. However, what let so many of these cars down was their execution.
While all of the above parts might look great in a low resolution photo on Instagram (bonus points if your username follows the “that_[colour]_[chassis code]” format! That wasn’t a sly dig at anyone in particular, I must add), seeing some of these cars in the flesh actually resulted in me being slightly disappointed. You can have the widest and deepest Japanese wheels in the world but, if you’ve set out to build a nice show/road car, it doesn’t mean anything if your body panels haven’t been fitted correctly and have then been coated in rushed, poor quality paint.
I’ve encountered plenty of drift cars that are frequently abused and/or crashed on track that have had more time and attention spent on the quality of the bodywork (there was even one at the show and it, quite rightfully I might add, won an award!), so the “it’s built to be driven, not look nice” excuse doesn’t really cut the mustard when it’s quite obviously been built with the intention of looking good and grabbing (positive) attention.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to tar a wide range of people with the same brush, nor am I wanting to spread negativity through a scene that I am proud to be a part of. However, I can’t help but feel that there is so much focus on shock value and “internet points” (I hate that term with such a passion that I couldn’t bear to write it without the inverted commas) that people are forgetting all about the details.
For example, yes, you might have seen a particular car in Japan with a huge rear wing that looks absolutely fantastic but no, it won’t take a couple of hundred pounds and a hungover Sunday afternoon of work to make yours look the same. Look closely and you’ll see all of the other aero additions that the owner has fitted, along with having the perfect bodywork, ride height and wheel fitment to suit the desired look, not to mention countless other little details. Simply bolting an eBay “BGW” to your standard ride height car, slapping a sticker on the underside of it that references “haters” and then fitting up some wheels that are both far too narrow and sporting completely the wrong offset does not make for a cool looking car.
Anyway, that’s enough negativity for now, although I’d prefer to use the term “constructive criticism”. There were plenty of mind blowing cars on display to distract from those that were not so great, plus countless other cars that were subtly and tastefully modified and didn’t exist simply to scream, shout and make a statement. I often feel that the latter is golden era JDM styling at its truest and its nice to see that many still long for this approach; it’s just a shame that nowadays it’s often overshadowed by those that seek a much stronger reaction for their creation. After all, nobody follows anyone on Instagram just because they have a clean and subtle car, right?
Time to get cracking, starting with some of my favourites that I spotted on my way into the venue.
This boosted S2000 had all the right ingredients and flawless execution when it came down to achieving the owner’s desired look. While I’m not much of an S2000 guy, I really liked this thing.
They weren’t really to my taste but I couldn’t fault the presentation of this aired-out pair of Z cars. I don’t go to shows and events expecting to like every car (there’d be no creativity and individuality if that were the case!) but everyone should at least respect a car that has been well put together and is well presented.
I’m an S-body guy through and through and, if you’re a regular reader of the blog, it should come as little surprise to you as to why the above three were amongst my favourites on the day.
There are many people out there (including some of my best friends) who will quickly denounce someone for building an S-chassis car that isn’t for drifting. Yes, I know all too well that they are far from the best cars to drive regularly with any sense of comfort or reliability but, on the other hand, their consistently increasing market values and the huge modifying culture that surrounds them is far too much for some people to ignore. I don’t really care if you’re a drifter, circuit driver or show and shiner; if you build a nice looking S-body, I’m going to like it!
Beautiful retro Toyota goodness.
I will always have a soft spot for older Honda models and these three were no exception. I loved the flawless execution of both the EF and the CRX, while the Concerto was so simple yet brilliantly unique and a favourite of mine on the day.
On the more modern side of the Honda spectrum was this CRZ. I appreciated the boldness of it but I felt that it would have looked a lot better if the front arches had continued down onto the front bumper somehow, rather than ending in such an abrupt manner.
This aired-out CL-series Accord looked cool too. I wish more people would modify these as I think they are great looking cars with minimal effort required, although this particular example confused me somewhat when it left the venue at an aired-up ride height that looked to be higher than stock.
This S2000 looked pretty fantastic to me and a huge part of me was hoping that I’d get to see it drive out of the venue with this stance. My dreams were shattered when I saw it air-up but at least the incredibly shiny CCW wheels won the award for best wheels at the show.
Mega spec JZA80. I’ve never really wanted to own one but this Supra was hugely impressive and extremely well put together.
Stunning and well-executed Datsun pick up.
Have you ever seen an aired-out Honda CRV before? I hadn’t either until I saw this example, so I couldn’t resist taking a few photos.
Show me a stunning Hakosuka and I’ll be taking a photo before you know it.
If there’s one particular car that seems to be enjoying huge popularity in the Japanese show scene, it has to be the FD3S RX7. Personally, I put that down to the huge array of aesthetic options available for this platform, with everything from the stock-bodied OEM+ look (above) to the Rocket Bunny Boss-converted example (below) being attainable.
Of course, there were plenty of more traditionally styled RXs, with this one in particular being a very nice example with the right blend of aggressive aero parts and cosmetic touches to bring a new look to the FD3S shape without reinventing the wheel.
This example followed a similar approach, albeit in a less subtle manner with its Mad Mike-inspired livery and bodywork.
Sean‘s Rocket Bunny-kitted RX shows how much can be done to alter the shape of the timeless FD platform. Some may like it, some may not (personally, I’m a fan) but there’s no denying how awesome the dish on the rear wheels is.
Something I don’t think I’ve come across at a show before; an FB! These seem to fetching more and more money now and long are the days of finding piles of them for sale on eBay for a few hundred quid.
Another cool EF.
Leon off of EP Racing’s Rocket Bunny-kitted S15 Varietta. It’s my understanding that getting the rear of these convertible S15s low is an extremely tall order due to the amount of space that the folding roof mechanism requires when it’s stowed away.
A nice and simple SXE10. It’s a shame to see so many of these modified in such a tacky and tasteless way but this example couldn’t have been further from that.
An S12 with a Lexus V8!? Well, I suppose a single cam CA18 is hardly the greatest engine in the world so this was definitely an interesting conversion to see in person.
Moving back to Nissans and this S13 has recently become a favourite of mine. Again, it’s another case of excellent execution that makes it so awesome. It isn’t just about the flip paint and deep WORK Equips…
…nor is it just about the neons and 326POWER wing.
What ties this car together is the fact that the interior is just as hilariously brilliant, from the sequinned bucket seats to the full boot install (all with matching flip paint, obviously). This is the sort of build that we like to see come out of Japan, where the owner has picked a theme and not stopped until the entire car has seen work to ensure that everything is tied together to create a complete package.
Rich Starkey‘s S15 is another Nissan that can be appreciated as a complete package, with the mix of Origin Labo and 326POWER aero accessories working with the super deep WORK Meister L1s to complete what Rich describes as a “USDM-influenced” look.
More S-bodies! This time, a mix of clean and OEM+ styled examples ranging to the Rocket Bunny Boss-kitted car that you see above.
Super aggressive looking Evo. I was pleasantly surprised to see the stripped out and caged interior and I was told that this car does see regular track action.
A few more Nissans that I spotted outside, namely an R32, C33 and S15.
A very wide Z33 350Z with blended-in arches.
Tooley won the Best Nissan award, although with so many fantastic builds on display it must have been a difficult call for the judges to make.
So there we are, lots of photos from the Japanese Performance Show! It was a welcome change to attend an event that had nothing to do with drifting and hopefully I can attend a couple more similar shows in the near future.