I'm not sure when it all happened-and yes, I was paying attention. I never really took my eyes off of the action, the drama, the camaraderie, and of course, the trash talk. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, things changed drastically. I'm referring to import drag racing, and Hondas specifically. Flipping through some of my ancient copies of Turbo Magazine, the haggard, battle-torn and often hacked-up carcasses did away with any frills and instead focused on the task at hand-making history.
The idea of driving as fast as possible from a complete stop, covering a little over 1,320 feet, and recording the results, followed by spending every waking moment trying to better that result is nothing new. In fact, the art of drag racing has been around much longer than you and me. However, along those Domestic-dominated history lines, you'll find but a very small portion dedicated to those pesky little FWD micro machines. You know, the ones that all the Facebook kids call "wrong wheel drive" and spout off with cute nursery rhymes about how silly Hondas are, and how they'd smoke any Honda with the AWD car they're going to buy (most likely after they graduate high school). But I digress. What's almost as startling as the jaw-dropping timeslips being achieved by the upper echelon of today's competitive drag racing camps is how clean the cars look.
As you read through this issue, you'll come across a great article that Aaron Bonk did on a true pioneer: Stephen Papadakis. Ask him about the gorgeous Hondas of the early-mid-'90s era and he'll tell you about duct tape-clad front ends with "Honda speed tape," trash bags as rear windows, deleted rear bumpers, hack-job engine swaps, and so much more. At a time when man-made evolution outweighed off-the-shelf technology, there was really no set formula for going fast. The top dogs were constantly tinkering with new ideas, theories, and at times, some outlandish ideas dedicated to going faster. As things progressed and more power was being made safely, we saw some real standouts make their way to the track. A perfect example is the bright yellow Civic of pure fury that the late, great Shaun Carlson and Papadakis brought to Battle of the Imports to absolutely blow everyone's mind. Funny thing is, the car was so meticulously built that they also brought it to Import Showoff and it displayed proudly, bridging an often-awkward gap between race and show cars.
Take a look back at Jason Whitfield's SOHC CRX that basically carried no boundaries-a team effort between himself and, once again, the man, Shaun Carlson. It relied on a little 1.5L single cam when everyone on earth seemed to be going DOHC. It drew inspiration from various groups, including lowriders, mini trucks, hot rods, and everything in between, eventually becoming an icon among the import community.
Today, it's almost expected. Purpose-built drag cars sport custom paint or carefully chosen and applied vinyl wraps, matching wheels, shaved and tucked engine bays, color-coded hardware, and the list goes on and on. Gone it seems are the days of taking one avenue or the other; today's drag enthusiast is covering all of his or her bases. Some might argue it's just natural progression, and they could be right. But my gut says that fast, good-looking cars like those presented by Carlson/Papadakis, the Bergentholtz brothers, Carlson/Whitfield, and a host of others played a major part in what today's drag enthusiast does, and how they do it. Know your roots...