It’s that time of year again – time to take a few moments to reflect on the last 12 months and all the crazy shit that happened. The year was replete with triumph, milestones and innovation, as well as the occasional sad story, and we were there for a lot of it. Having to choose what goes in a yearend “review” like this one is always a bitch, but one thing we can all agree on is how much these topics had us talking. See if you and your friends were talking, too …
Next NSX Inches Closer
The hype machine for the NSX, the Honda/Acura resurrected supercar, went into overdrive in 2013, starting with the unveiling of the latest concept version at the North American International Auto Show in January. In May, company reps announced the hybrid sports coupe would be built in Ohio, and then a couple months later a prototype served as a pace car ahead of the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. December may have been the mid-engine platform’s biggest month yet, however, as we learned not only that the next NSX will be twin turbo (still hybrid, though) but will also be featured in Gran Turismo 6. Expect to see a 2015 model year NSX released sometime in 2014.
It’s been one of life’s great rewards to be around for Formula DRIFT’s first 10 years. Watching America’s premiere pro drifting series go from demo show to staging a four-event first year in 2004, to building a proper U.S. championship, and now to setting in motion what looks to be the first real drifting global championship, we couldn’t be prouder to say we’ve been down since Day One. Over time FD’s cars got more powerful, the speeds higher, tracks more challenging, and competition fiercer – principal reasons why pro drifting is more relevant now than it ever has been; haters may gripe it’s not “real” racing, but the racecars are real, and so is the car control. Eight champions later (Sam Hubinette and Tanner Foust both nabbed two titles apiece), we’re still hooked to the sights, sounds and smells, and can’t wait to see what the next 10 years look like.
GT-R Breaks Into the 7s on the 1320
On July 13, the tuners at AMS and Alpha Performance brought their built Alpha Omega Nissan R35 GT-R to the strip at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin, where driver Ivan Phipps opened it up for an incredible pass of 7.98 seconds, crossing the beams at a speed in excess of 186mph and becoming the first R35 to make a 7-second ¼-mile pass. AMS/Alpha also had the first GT-R to break into the 9s, and then the 8s. More exciting still, the car seems to have more to give; Phipps launched hard and the car had a bit of wheel spin before it ultimately hooked up, leading us to believe the power still has same taming to go through. All on a car that is technically still streetable.
BMW Rules Formula D
Japanese and U.S. brands dominate pro drift, but this year a BMW team flipped the script in America. Piloting the GSR Autosport E46 M3, Michael Essa put a Bimmer on the top step of a Formula DRIFT podium at the beginning of June for the first time in the series’ 10-year history when he won round 3 at Palm Beach International, also becoming the first Euro automaker to score that high. Essa and his M3 went on to rack up a second victory at round 6 in Texas in September and another podium (second place) a round earlier in Washington during July, giving the squad just enough points to win the season driver’s title outright – and making the GSR Autosport M3 the first BMW to carry a driver to an FD championship.
Super Street’s Millions of Followers
It’s not often we get to toot our own horn about professional benchmarks, but this was a biggie – in October, after making more than 3,200 posts to our Instagram account, we eclipsed one million followers on the photo sharing app, becoming the first automotive magazine to do so. Then a few weeks later we did the same on Facebook, further expanding our sphere of influence. “We couldn't have reached this amazing milestone – not just for print media but for the automotive world as well – without the support of our friends and fans,” enthused magazine Editor Jonathan “JDM” Wong after the fact. “Thanks to everyone who ‘double-tapped' or 'liked' for Super Street!”
Rocket Bunny Version 2.0
The last time TRA Kyoto came out with a body kit from the master, Kei Miura, for the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86, people went bonkers; the same thing happened this October for version 2.0 of the Rocket Bunny wide body, now sans front fog lights but with LED holes and trading in the rear GT wing for a ducktail trunk spoiler. Greddy is again distributing the body kit in the U.S., just like ver. 1.0, but the biggest RBII salesperson so far may be Formula D driver Ken Gushi. His 2014 competition car will floss the kit, in addition to a turbo 2JZ mill under the hood (sexy!)
Bash to the Future: ASB and Freedom Moves
The events are a little like track day Woodstocks, featuring hordes of grassroots drifters and their fans congregating at some pretty far flung circuits in order to get sideways in more ways than one. Missile car extravaganzas like JustDrift’s All-Star Bash and Club Loose’s Freedom Moves were bigger than ever in 2013, with ASB in particular pulling 125 drift cars and an estimated 1,700 spectators to Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. this past October, their biggest meet to date. Don’t let the naysayers convince you otherwise – drifting is huge, ingrained and ain’t going anywhere; check out our video of ASB 2013 here.
The First Nismo GT-R
You’d think the R35 GT-R – Nissan’s pedigreed twin-turbo AWD supercar introduced in 2007 – would have a Nismo version by now, but surprisingly it didn’t until just a few weeks ago, when wraps came off of the specialty trim at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. The Nismo GT-R is the most powerful R35 yet, making 600 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque, and sticks to the ground via custom-developed Bilstein dampers, exclusive Dunlop rubber, 17.3mm hollow rear anti-toll bar, special front links, increased body stiffness, and a host of other chassis improvements. Paired with Nismo aero, the current-era Godzilla was able to reset the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record to 7:08.679, making it the fastest GT-R ever.
Forza Motorsports 5 & Gran Turismo 6 Releases
With both Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 5 and Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 6 out this year, it has never been easier to exorcise your inner speed demons virtually. Both fall racing simulator releases claim cutting-edge graphics and new levels of immersion, but we have to wonder if the upstart Forza has the advantage over the now 15-year-old GT franchise, considering the newest Gran Turismo is so far only for the previous-generation PlayStation3 (and not the latest PS4). Forza 5 meanwhile is made exclusively for the Xbox One, which flosses all of Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Either way, we’ve got no shortage of games to work through this Christmas break!
Walk the Liberty Walk
LB Works – known also as LB Performance and, famously, Liberty Walk – seemed to be on everyone’s lips in 2013. The Japanese supercar tuners touched a handful of higher-end rides this year that made the car show rounds in Southern Cali and ultimately the SEMA Show in Nevada – namely a BMW E92 M3, Nissan R35 GT-R and Ferrari 458, among others – and left mouths agape in their wake. The reason? Liberty Walk’s signature wide and low treatment, featuring riveted over-fender styling and impossibly stanced cars. Aggressive offset is one thing, but doing it on a car valued at over six figures is insanity – and we love it!
We’re convinced Ken Block never has a bad year. Even when the driver and skate shoe magnate seems to be losing he’s winning, and in 2013 he picked up even more accolades to add to his already stacked resume, including four Rally America podiums in a row (three of which were first place overall), an X Games Silver medal and a maiden Global Rallycross Championship win. A lifelong gymkhana fan, the motorsport got its biggest break yet thanks to Block, who convinced ESPN to add the discipline to this year’s Games in Los Angeles, and the man himself closed out his 2013 with the debut of “Gymkhana 6: Ultimate Grid Obstacle Course,” the latest in the crazy car control video series, which will likely attract even more millions of fans to the house that Block built (check out our behind-the-scenes look here).
Say what you will about the less-than-thrilling exterior of the next-generation Subaru WRX – like every version of the rally-inspired, turbocharged, AWD machine before it, the car is still a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The 2015 model gets the job done with a new, smaller boxer engine – a two liter – that makes more power than the outgoing 2.5-liter, stiffer chassis, new EPS, and an optional paddle-shifted CVT, among other upgrades. No hatchback this time around, but considering all the positive driving reviews the new WRX has already amassed, we’re OK pulling sedan duty.
Nissan rolled these out at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show in November – concepts created via new crowd sourced product development methods. The point of the IDx studies was to show how Nissan is using modern innovative means to meet the needs of younger, “digital native” customers, but every Nissan head we know went gaga over the 510-ness of the boxy base material and the familiar livery on the IDx Nismo. We can’t disagree – low and wide, festooned in carbon fiber and aero, motivated by a 1.6-liter turbo motor, the IDx Nismo looks to be built for sin.
Paul Walker's Passing
Some three weeks after the untimely death of actor Paul Walker, it still seems unreal. The Fast and Furious star with friend Roger Rodas were out for a Sunday drive in a Porsche Carrera GT outside of L.A. – part of a charity event, we hear – when the car, with Rodas behind the wheel, was destroyed in a single-vehicle crash and both occupants killed. As you might expect the future of the successful movie franchise has been thrown into doubt because of the loss, but the harm is even greater for the enthusiast community, who didn’t only lose a coconspirator but one of the best ambassadors the scene could have (check out Walker’s impressive car collection below). As evidenced by the F&F tribute video, the man was loved, and his passing leaves an incredibly large, unfair hole in our hearts. Race in peace, Paul.
And finally, our tip of the hat to the booth professional. Models aren't a new trend to the tuner world, or car fandom in general, but one that has continued to grab our attention (because we’re mostly hetero dudes). This year the talent was better than ever.