Reminiscing about one's JDM past seems a bit clich these days, but my JDMness sparked life long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Actually it wasn't that far away, just over here in Pasadena, CA, back during its infancy in '92 to be exact. Come to think of it, it actually started before I even owned my Civic!
My friend Pat Brennen (pro skater for Powell Peralta/The Firm then) was the catalyst for my Honda life, as it was for a majority of the FF-Squad faction (my group of car friends that was then known as Tiiite Boyeee Racin). Pat and I were best friends and sometime in '92 he wound up buying a black Honda Prelude Si with the ends he made from being pro. We were like Starsky & Hutch cruisin' around for skate spots in the 'lude. Another friend of ours, Steve, had a dumped '90 Prelude at the time and made an impression on Pat. So, Pat buys springs. Springs lower Prelude. Cutting springs more slam dumps Prelude. This leads to Stromung exhaust, then to a 4-2-1 header, then to PIAA fog lamps, and then-finally-to street racing on Friday and Saturday nights. Sound all too familiar? Drag racing led to flipping through Turbo and Sport Compact Car magazines and keeping an eye on the fast Hondas. One Honda Civic that made a "JDM" impression on me then was Junior Asprer's EF Civic hatchback. That thing was soooo incredibly clean! On top of being one of the fastest Honda's then, he sported JDM parts that I'm betting most didn't know about, like the taillights, headlights and gauge cluster.
I think my JDM geekiness started when I'd flip through car catalogs at auto boutiques we would visit. Noticing the exterior/interior differences between a JDM EG Civic versus a U.S. EG Civic made its lasting impression on me. I loved the EG's body style back then; it wasn't very pretty stock, but when it was simply slammed on stock saw blade caps: owned! And that was thing; slamming a Honda on the right set of stock wheels was the shit. No body kits, no big wheels, no crazy Eddy Gordo Combat spoilers and minimal to no stickers was the flavor my friends and I favored. Preserving the stock natural design of the car with a lower center of gravity was key. I do remember what made a slammed Honda look even hotter: seeing some hot Betty driving one around!
I wasn't aware of the JDM acronym until my internet iLife began in 1995-ish, thanks to the Temple of VTEC site. Not to brag or anything, but I got wind of [Internet] people thinking I originated the "JDM" term, but here it is folks-I didn't! Once I found out about it, I used the term often as an easier and alternate way of saying "Japanese parts." Back then, mentioning "JDM" (before the JDM explosion) to other Honda heads was awkward as not everyone was keen on the lingo. I couldn't afford an EG then, so I fertilized my JDM egg when I bought my first Civic in the summer of '94. It was a black '87 Civic Si hatchback, the E-AT chassis. My longtime friend Dylan and I would frequently visit the Kinokuniya bookstore in Little Tokyo L.A. and spend hours there flipping through Option2, Carboy, Speed Mind, Rev Speed, and J's Tipo magazines, looking for anything Honda related, especially N1-race and JTCC related. Getting ideas of what future mods we would try to mimic with our cars, even though JDM parts were a bit scarce then. JTCC (Japanese Touring Car Championships) was the highest form of JDM style to me - a stock, factory body look on the outside, but all race on the inside, and just SLAAAAAAMMED foo! I was and still am a tech geek. I wanted to know the specs on all JDM cars I was interested in. The RevSpeed bibles helped me become the FF technical therapist demigod I am today.
When the JDM cherry popped off back in '98-'99, it was interesting because it brought good and bad things to the Honda scene. Good things: it was pleasing to the eye seeing more clean Hondas on the road versus ricey Hondas. Parts were becoming easier to get. Engine hybriding was at an all time high. The Internet is just awesome, isn't it? Bad things: well, the scene was becoming saturated, companies were copying famous parts, Spoon clones everywhere, Honda thieves ruined enthusiasts lives, and then the JDM anti-Christ emerged as an editor of Super Street magazine. Gawd, thus started the Super Street era. I won't shy from the big pink elephant in the room, so thanks, Wong! (No, thank you Katty! -JW)
The state of JDM today is more diverse than it was four or five years ago. The goal of getting JDM parts is still here; it hasn't left. Hondas are not the center of attention like they were a few years ago but are sharing the limelight with other tuner cars like Subie STIs, Evos, Nissan drift machines and even M3s, which is totally fine because it gives Honda time to recuperate and make a come back-and there has been a comeback in the last few years. The K-series swap is the new B-series swap, the Fit is the new Civic hatchback, the new '06-up Civic Si family is track ready out-of-the-box (as is the updated S2000 CR) and building a Super Lap Battle car is the new thing. So, it looks like there is hope after all!
When I think back, the JDM look obviously was and still is a type of style for your car life. A lifestyle, no; a car lifestyle, yes. I just see it as a fun hobby that stuck and is hard to break away from. I've had no intentions of breaking away from it either. It's a long term relationship for me.
Jason "Katman" Kaplan