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Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

The Biggest Milestones In An Industry Life

Joey Leh
May 9, 2007

From a special one-off issue that debuted in late 1998 to the magazine you hold in your hands today, 2NR has seen quite a few different things. It may only be 100 issues, but it's been more than a million memories. From the days of street racing transitioning into sanctioned drag battles, from drifting to time attacks, we've seen it all.

It's difficult to pick out the events, people and cars that best mark the biggest milestones of the past nine years, but we've done our best to bring balance to this collection. 2NR has come a long way since '98, but we haven't forgotten the trendsetters and changes that took place along the way. These are the sixteen that still rattle our brains to this day.

0707_impp_03z+import_industry_milestones+apexi_building Photo 1/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

1. Arrival Of The JDM Manufacturers
The tuning scene has always been built on performance, and parts are the center of our industry. In the beginning, getting parts from Japanese companies was virtually unheard of, but a huge enthusiast following eventually altered minds and changed everything. From Mugen's very first steps into the market in the 1980's, to the arrival of HKS, GReddy, A'PEXi, Blitz, RS*R, JUN Auto (and departure of), Tanabe and Impul, the accessibility, customer service and tailoring of parts from JDM manufacturers to the US audience was, and still is, big news.

0707_impp_04z+honda_crx+right_front_view Photo 2/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

2. First Honda
Into The 10's

Nowadays, the formula for a street-legal, turbocharged 10-second Honda is routine. But back in 1996, it was anybody's game and nothing was figured out. On June 1, 1996 at Sacramento Raceway, David Shih and his Silver Bullet CRX ran a 10.87 at 136mph, marking a new E.T. benchmark for Honda's everywhere. Shih's was the first, but not the last, Honda to break the elusive 10-second barrier. Soon, front-wheel drives were knocking on the doors of the 9 and 8-second clubs.

0707_impp_08z+acura_integra+left_front_view Photo 3/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

3. Import Drag
Goes Serious

From engine swaps and chassis lightening to turbocharged creations, import drag racers did whatever it took to go fast in the 90's. But in 1999, the Bergenholtz brothers and their CRX combined a little bit of classic drag racing tech and brought wheelie bars into the world of FWD drag racing. It wasn't long before tube frame chassis', V8 engines, flared fiberglass bodies and corporate sponsorships transformed the world of import drag racing into the pro-level spotlight of today.

0707_impp_02z+acura_integra+drag_racing Photo 4/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

4. Battle Of The Imports
In an age when street racing was running rampant, Battle Of The Imports stepped in and provided a real drag strip coliseum for battles and records to fall within. Its popularity was instant and intense. Since the mid 1990's, Frank and Mike Choi have continued on with the BOTI format, and the venerable drag racing series continues to this day. Still catering to the street driving, weekend enthusiast, BOTI was the place to see import drag racing history take place back in the day. It's responsible for setting off the import drag phenomenon and feeding the drag racing scene of today.

0707_impp_16z+toyota_celica+right_front_view Photo 5/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

5. Age Of
The Supercars

Nowadays, JDM demo cars, such as the TEIN S15 and Mine's R34 GT-R, are shipped back and forth between shores just for show or display. But it wasn't always this way. It used to be a huge event and a rare chance when JDM machinery, such as the A'PEXi drag Integra, Top Fuel 300ZX and HKS R33 GT-R, came over to the U.S. Plus, back then, whenever a car came over from Japan, it always ran in anger, whether at the drag strip, the racetrack or the Bonneville Salt Flats. The only way it should be.

0707_impp_18z+import_industry_milestones+import_tuner_magazine_cover Photo 6/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

6. Publishing Evolves
With the import scene changing, it was only natural that the enthusiast publishing world, the news pipeline for the industry, should evolve as well. Originally a spin-off of Turbo magazine, 2NR has had its fair share of updates and changes, growing in both content and style, from signature white background covers into the refined package you hold today. The platforms, parts, girls and types of events we cover may have changed over the years, but the love of cars will never die.

0707_impp_11z+import_industry_milestones+import_show_party Photo 7/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

7. Import Car Show Explosion
From the depths of Southern California grew such car gatherings as Import Showoff and Hot Import Nights. Instantly exploding in popularity, gatherings such as Showoff became the premiere place to debut a show car, and HIN's nightclub/show formula eventually sparked onto the mainstream with a nationwide tour and corporate sponsorships. Nowadays, you can't find your way through any state in the US without running into some event that uses a combination of the words "import," "xtreme," "showoff," "fest" and "explosion."

0707_impp_13z+honda_civic+laguna_seca_track Photo 8/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

8. Roger Foo At Laguna Seca
Back when it was still called the 2001 SpeedVision World Challenge, and a regular guy with a good car could still stand a fighting chance, a Northern California road racer with a yellow EG Civic named Roger Foo came out to show what he was made of. His budget was small and his parts were off-the-shelf, but his speed was undeniable. By running away with the win at Laguna Seca over the BMW and the Acura-backed Realtime Racing teams, Foo proved the latent capability of the Honda chassis and the promise that anybody fast enough could win regardless of budget. His win would only add fuel to the fire as Honda's began to transition from the drag strip to the road course.

0707_impp_20z+import_industry_milestones+honda_meet Photo 9/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

9. Honda Invasion
Early on, if there was one thing synonymous with the import industry, it was Honda. With the number of enthusiasts driving CRXs, Civics and Integras, it was only a matter of time before engines were cracked open and cars lowered. When Honda brought out the Acura Integra GS-R and Type-R, and later the B16-powered Civic Si, it was all over. Having more in common with Lego blocks than cars, Honda's could be built out of any combination of parts from a multitude of platforms, and they were all fast.

0707_impp_23z+import_industry_milestones+fast_and_the_furious Photo 10/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

10. Getting
Fast And Furious
Three Times Over

With the level of growth the import world saw in the 1990s, it was only fitting that Hollywood would take notice. The first The Fast And The Furious movie landed with a combination of seven-speed Eclipses, highjack drama and Vin Diesel. After spotlighting the import world and converting some new believers to the sport compact way of life, the F&F franchise made a stop in Miami and later drifted into Tokyo.

0707_impp_21z+nissan_silvia_s15+irwindale_speedway_track Photo 11/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

11. First Ever D1 Grand Prix
Internet videos, Option mags and hushed hearsay hinted at it, but nobody in the U.S. had ever actually seen a real pro-level drifting event prior to 2003. When the exhibition round finally hit at Irwindale Speedway, nobody was prepared for what the D1GP brought with it. Overfilled grandstands, thousands of screaming fans and a hungry US audience ate up the tire-smoking, twin-drifting show. The rest is history. The price of 240SX's and AE86's skyrocketed, Kazama and Imamura became household names and the drifting craze began.

0707_impp_25z+mitsubishi_evolution_8+left_front_view Photo 12/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

12. The AWD Turbo Age
After the passing of the 300ZX, MR2, Supra, RX-7 and Eclipse/Talon, the turbocharged import car market looked frighteningly slim. It wasn't until Subaru brought the WRX over in 2002 that the new age of HP wars begun. A market hungry for modification-friendly powerplants ate it up. In 2003 Mitsubishi struck back with the release of the Lancer Evolution VIII, only to be beaten back very shortly by Subaru's announcement of a US-exclusive 2.5L WRX STi model. The Evo X and GTR models are just over the horizon and the US market shows no sign of loosing any enthusiasm for a factory turbocharged rocket.

0707_impp_27z+subaru_impreza_sti+jgtc_race Photo 13/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

13. GT Live - JGTC In The US
Established in 1994, the JGTC race series pitted turbo NSXs, V8 Supras, rear-drive Imprezas and boosted Skyline GT-Rs against each other in combat. Aside from a few magazine appearances and a 2 a.m. Speedvision broadcast, the US exposure for the JGTC series was nil. That is, until GT Live hit in December 2004. Bringing over such teams as Mugen, ARTA, Takata/Dome, Nismo and RE Amemiya, the GT Live event was the place to see high-revving, full aero, sequential shifting race versions of today's most popular imports. We still await their US return to this day.

0707_impp_29z+scion_xb+left_rear_view Photo 14/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

14.
Scion's
Arrival

For years, small cars with engines below 1.6L weren't considered cool-until Scion came along. Changing the entire world's perspective on little cars with a brilliant marketing campaign, Scion single-handedly made the boxy xB the cool car to have. A new tuner scene grew, based on community, cruising and style, and Scion was at the forefront. With the new xA and xD coming shortly, Scion shows no signs of slowing down.

0707_impp_30z+mitsubishi_lancer_evolution+left_front_view Photo 15/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

15. Time Attack Gains Momentum
With the import industry making whirlwind stops to the drag racing and drifting scenes, it was only logical that the road course would be next. Based in part on the popularity and escalating speed of JDM time attack tuner cars, the U.S. time attack scene has grown exponentially in the last couple years, with more purpose-built cars than ever before. A lap time doesn't lie and the import industry has been keen to this fact, allowing numerous tuners to line up against each other to see who is truly the fastest of the fast.

0707_impp_28z+pontiac_g6+formula_d_race Photo 16/16   |   Sweet 16 - Milestones of the Past

16. Formula Drift Begins
Pushing the growing drifting market even harder was the announcement of the Formula Drift series, the first U.S. series for professional drifting. With a nationwide schedule and an emphasis on spotlighting U.S.-bred drivers, the Formula Drift series has hit with huge success. A joint support venture with Champ Car and deals with ESPN only serve to highlight the current popularity of Formula D.

By Joey Leh
44 Articles

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