The term JDM has long been a staple in our community, and one that instigates more debate and hostility than any other. Whether you’re the type that would trade your left arm and right leg for a set of old, beat-up Mugen wheels, or you’re the kind of enthusiast that would prefer to spend their hard-earned dollars on making your car perform better rather than roll on a piece of aftermarket history, you’re no doubt adamant about your stance. The war between both sides has produced some interesting debates, and if you’re anything like me, sitting back and watching the drama unfold can be entertaining at times.
Nine times out of 10, those that are pro-JDM refer to extremely high quality, unmatched performance, and race heritage as the basis to their argument. The dedication and loyalty to a particular brand is pretty remarkable. Entire threads on forums dedicated to sharing, discussing, and searching for parts from one particular manufactureroftentimes for parts that are no longer in production, making them even more valuable to those on the hunt. The anti-JDM soldiers are always there to either lend a snide remark or try their best to educate people on the fact that there are other avenues beyond the parts that are produced in Japan.
A Real Deal Replica... Again
Some plan their entire build around the parts offered by their favorite Japanese company. Every detail, from interior to engine dress-up goods are aggressively sought after like pieces of an elaborate (and expensive) puzzle. While I can appreciate the time and dedication that goes into anyone’s build, the thought of building a catalog car like the countless others before them, seems a little boring. Another white hatchback with Brand X lip, wing, mirrors, and wheels (can’t forget about the windshield banner) isn’t really a sign of progression in my personal opinion. Incorporating some of these parts along with a solid mix of old and new quality upgrades can lead to one incredible build. Oftentimes people ask about what makes a car cover worthy, but that’s a tough question to answer. Though it might be surprising to some, solely having expensive JDM parts on a car isn’t the answer. Sometimes it’s a build that’s groundbreaking, like the KR-Z from the April ’11 issue of Honda Tuning. Other times, it’s a car that doesn’t seem as if it could be built any better. That is, it covers every aspect of tuning in such a manner that it seems all but impossible to improve upon, much like Chris Sakai’s Civic from the Winter ’10 issue. The truth is, there is no specific formula for building the perfect cover car, and throwing a bunch of extremely hard-to-find JDM bolt-ons at a car doesn’t guarantee anything. Yasu’s ITR, seen on this month’s front page, was torn down and rebuilt in Japan, but more importantly, it’s a purpose-built track car that performs every bit as good as it looks. Add to that a very interesting story about its travel to Japan and the hardships faced with importing the chassis back to the U.S., and it’s easy to see why this Integra earned a spot front and center.
The Domino Effect
One of the byproducts from all of the JDM talk is that newcomers to the Honda community only know one thing; JDM. They talk about it as if it was a religion, referring to Japanese parts as the only viable option. What they’re missing out on is an entire world of high-performance goods that would probably amaze them if they gave them a chance. Companies like Bisimoto, 949Racing, Full Race, and so many others are almost overshadowed by folklore and regurgitated beliefs with no backing. The narrow-minded visuals that the noobies are plagued with are a direct result of hype, online mis-information, and a false sense of exclusivity. When a question like What header should I get for my B18C5? is posted, like programmed robots, the answers are typically one of two JDM brand choices. If this were 20 years ago, that would be fine, but these days there’s an entire industry chock-full of header options from all parts of the world, not just Japan. The other options can actually make more power for less money due to the fact that significant strides have been made in development over the past two decades, and some of the most prominent JDM companies haven’t touched their original B-series designs in over 15 years.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are a large number of car owners that despise those three letters and anything having to do with them. They very mention of JDM in their presence will usually set off a chain of events, including, but not limited to; head shaking, curse words, and debate. Typically, their disdain comes from the fact that many non-JDM parts will work just as well, if not better, than their Japanese counterparts. This is especially apparent when talking with enthusiasts that regularly track their cars. They have real-world experience with what works, what will hold up to abusive behavior, and they’ll often be able to separate the hype from reality with just a few laps or a couple of quick trips down the quarter-mile. That’s not to say that they completely abandon the idea of using go-fast and aero parts from overseas, as many of them perform remarkably well. The difference is, this group isn’t completely consumed by the aura. They’re more of a prove it bunch, rather than the well, if it’s from over there, it must be the best type.
The Bottom Line
I’ve said it a thousand times, members of this community aren’t always going to agree; that’s just life. Everyone is an expert in their own eyes, and no amount of arguing seems to ever budge either side. One thing I hope everyone will agree on is that there’s more than one way to build a Honda project. It’s the minute details, the thought put into every aspect, and the execution that really separates a build from the masses. Regardless if it’s a race, show, street, or an all of the above build, try to keep an open mind and look for the stuff that’s going to improve your build. Whether it’s JDM or not should be the last thing you worry about. Instead, make sure that what you’re buying is safe, effective, and suits the goals of your particular build.