There's a saying: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Nowhere else in recent memory was this more true than in Hot Import Nights' (HIN) debut show of the 2016 series.
The longest-running import-specific show series in history, HIN has been known from the start as import culture's ground zero for setting trends in show builds and associated culture, and that has held true this year. But in years past where HIN drew record crowds, sometimes filling multiple halls of the Del Mar Fairgrounds near San Diego (and elsewhere packing venues such as the L.A. Convention Center and Chicago's McCormick Place) and drew the support of huge, non-endemic corporate sponsors, this year's inaugural show was … quite a bit smaller.
A decade ago, the import scene as a pop-culture phenomenon was in full bloom, and HIN was the be-all and end-all of the show world. All the big players — builders, models, DJs, vendors and company sponsors, alike — played in their arena. These days the scene is smaller and there are more options for tuners, at least in California and certain points east: SpoCom, Wekfest, Import Alliance, and more one-off meets and semi-annual shows than anyone can count. It's no secret HIN experienced some adjusting pains to today's more diverse, socially connected landscape, and it's still very likely in the process of righting the ship. But a quick look over the judging criteria and payouts show that participation is within reach of many, and prizes make it worth the effort to throw down. The mix of show-dedicated builds, daily driven street cars, throwbacks, non-import participation, models and go-gos, DJs and music, and of course fan turnout we saw at Del Mar proves the recipe is still right. Maybe all that's needed is more time and temperature.
HIN has a scheduled 17 stops on the calendar for 2016, across the U.S. and as far away as Hawaii and the Philippines. Chances are good one will be within driving distance from you this summer. Check out our gallery from Del Mar below, and find more info at hotimportnights.com.