I finally popped my HIN cherry.Yes, Chester finally got off his comfy sofa, set the TiVo and ventured out to attend my very first Hot Import Nights. And you know what? It wasn't so bad...
For those unaware, Hot Import Nights is a national car show series that visits major metropolitan areas. What sets it apart from the rest is they take place (as the name suggests) at night. By combining cars, music and girls, the events try hard to cater to the younger generation of MTV-bred car enthusiasts.
Being the performance snob I am, I'll admit I had pretty low expectations for the event. I'm too old and too uptight to be considered prime HIN material, and for those reasons I expected to come away with all sorts of condescending viewpoints and increased negativity. But, as I mentioned, I thumbed my nose at less than I expected, and actually tried to view the import culture from a different perspective.
HIN, if not "import shows" in general, has come a long way. Over the years the series has changed from a tacky, strictly Asian sport compact monstrosity full of improbable body kits and chrome wheels to today's, dare I say, more sophisticated presentation. The LA event I attended had many quality cars, and more importantly for et, I was happy to see many more Euros than expected. From R32s to 7-Series and Ferrari 430s, the heavy-hitting Euros were well represented.
It was a cool way to spend a Saturday night, and I dare say true enthusiasts would find more than enough to amuse themselves. But after saying that, it's obvious ol' Chester still doesn't quite "get it" when it comes to HIN. The entire concept is too damn distracting for my taste. I mean, is HIN supposed to be a car show, model contest or rave party? The answer, no doubt, is all three, but I'm not convinced it's possible to do all these things well. Cool cars, pretty girls and banging music are wonderful things, but I found the experience slightly overwhelming, and when you consider the event was held in almost total darkness, I have to wonder at what point do the cars become nothing more than an afterthought?
Although I was entertained at HIN, I'm still troubled by the direction our hobby is headed. Somewhere along the way performance modding has turned into a lifestyle, and whenever somebody labels your hobby as lifestyle, it's a good indication things have made a turn for the worse.
I know this sounds condescending, but as a performance geek I'm at a loss to understand folks who buy supercharger kits not for the extra horsepower, but for the extra judging points. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that the same people buy big-ass brake kits to fill the void left by their wheel preference. In some way I guess I'm proud to admit I truly don't get it.
There's a stronger social component to the HIN series - car clubs seem to have more and wealthier members, who take the competition very seriously. I suppose this is where the lifestyle thing comes into play, and explains why I feel like such an outsider. To me, competition means fastest lap, quarter mile, etc.
The European tuning scene is getting bigger all the time. HIN, VIP and other shows are just diversions for those who have a more superficial interest in automotive performance. In retrospect, that's fine with me because these events don't take anything away from those of us who view the hobby from a different level.
Who knows, if I find myself in the right mood, I may venture out again on a Saturday evening. And if I remember to bring my night-vision goggles and a good set of earplugs, I intend to check out some pretty cool cars.