I realize I'm dating myself with this sentence but, I was actually at the very first Hot Import Nights (HIN) car show in Long Beach back in 1998. I was a sophomore in high school without a driver's license, so my mom had to drop me off. Smartphones were definitely not a thing back then. Heck phones didn't even have cameras yet. Instead, I documented the event with a disposable film camera. Film, damnit!
Until this point, Ken Miyoshi's Import Showoff was the only game in town. I knew that night HIN was a game changer. Since then, many different car show series arose. However, only a few have had any real staying power, while others have faded away as they couldn't adapt with the times.
The Tuner Show is a new contender to the car show throne. The small team behind it announced their intentions earlier this year, and since then I've watched with interest. Early on I could tell that this show was doing things a bit differently than others. For example, The Tuner Show recruited the help of current influencers in the car culture like TJ Hunt, Emelia Hartford, and the Hoonigans to spread the word via their own considerable social media followings.
It is an interesting strategy, but personalities are one thing, in the end it is really all about the cars. In that respect The Tuner Show did not disappoint. While the car count was not as big as I have seen at other shows, the level of quality was respectable. There was a nice mix of JDM, Euro, and modern muscle cars.
There were also a few outliers like massive, lifted trucks, and some vintage rides. Not least of which was a classic Nissan hardbody mini-truck complete with a custom trailer loaded with vintage '80s BMX bikes.
I also had the pleasure of beholding one of the cleanest Integra Type R's I have never laid eyes on.
Jon Sibal's RWB Porsche 964 made an appearance which is always a welcome sight.
I think my favorite car of the show was an absolutely thicc, widebody Nissan R32 Skyline adorned in many coats of bright Laguna Seca blue paint. This thing had wheels so deep they could double as kiddie pools.
As predicted, TJ Hunt drew a sizable crowd to his booth as fans waited in line for a selfie, autograph, and to get up close and personal with his small fleet of project cars, including his RX-7 with a bulletproof motor built by experts in New Zealand, RHD JDM Mark IV Supra, and his new A90 Mark V Supra sporting a set of HRE wheels.
Hunt's Mark V was not the only A90 Supra on the floor; LT Motorworks brought what is likely the first A90 equipped with a set of WORK Meister wheels in the country.
So, The Tuner Show had great cars and some well-known faces, but how was the show overall? If I'm being honest there were definitely some rough edges, but for a first outing it was pretty good. There is definitely a lot of potential here. Who knows? Maybe 20 years from now, someone will be writing about how they were at the very first Tuner Show...