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Industry Insider - Calling It As They See It

In Industry Insider

Evan Griffey
Mar 1, 2006 SHARE

Visiting manufacturers and performance shops are a big part of how we spend our time here at Turbo. We build these relationships so we can be close to the action and can be the first to hear about new products. The performance shops tell us if the new products are a piece of crap or work damn well. Our close relationships enable us to glean a general feel of the industry and future directions it might take.

When making our rounds we hear a lot of backroom chat that we can't publish. We hear rumors, diatribes against other people or products, inside deals, new product developments under wraps and other various information we have been sworn to secrecy not to spill. Sometimes it is so tempting just to gossip and tell you which import poster boy doesn't have an ounce of driving skill and which racer is racist, but alas, due to the powers that be we can't get sucked into the politics. We leave such banter to the chat rooms and forums.

We have, however, come up with an idea that we hope will be a happy medium starting with this very issue. We plan to publish a new monthly column written by an anonymous industry insider. This insider will change every month and a new individual will be able to grab the mic and spew whatever is on his or her mind. The anonymity will allow the person to say things that push the envelope more; things they couldn't say as a representative of their company/shop/race team.

We don't plan on it being a negative tirade against any particular individuals or companies, rather just an opportunity to get more true opinions out in the open. Our intent is not to have any mean-spirited flaming but rather to provide you, the readers, with some of the insider information that we hear and usually you aren't privy to.

We also are not going to get just any Joe Schmo off the street to give his opinion but rather we are going to use our connections and get folks high up in the automotive performance industry to share their two cents on the scene. The individuals that run product companies, race teams and performance shops are some highly opinionated people, le'me tell ya. They didn't get to where they are by standing on the sidelines. Always in the middle of controversy, they take risks to bring the sport compact arena to the next level. This sometimes means stepping on toes and doing things differently than the old-timer legends. Other times it means calling the bluff of their competitors.

As with any opinion editorial piece, we have to put it out there that the views expressed by our guest columnists are not endorsed nor necessarily shared by Turbo magazine or any Primedia publication. The statements are simply the opinion of the individual and he or she may indeed ruffle a few feathers. As such, you have been warned. Our premier insider speaks out:

The Sticker That Sparked A FireI recently came across a decal printed by a popular U.S.-based sport compact enthusiast magazine [Ed. Note: Not Turbo]. At the top of the decal was printed in Japanese characters "OREWA BAKANA AMERICAN JINDA" followed by "Biting the JDM style since 1996" in English and the name of the magazine underneath in big, bold letters. At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing and had to do a double take. But sure enough, I wasn't seeing things. My first reactions were shock and disbelief. Then as I started to think about the implications of the statement I became increasingly insulted and also deeply saddened at the same time.

You are probably wondering how a few words written as a poor attempt to be humorous could have such an impact. Well, let me explain. The literal translation for "OREWA BAKANA AMERICAN JINDA" is "YOU ARE A STUPID/IDIOTIC AMERICAN." Think about that statement for a second before you read on.

We have to remember that this statement was not made by a foreign magazine. This statement was made by perhaps the most popular sport compact enthusiast magazine in America. In the last few years, I have noticed that this particular magazine has become increasingly JDM focused in its coverage of our industry, and with the popularity and excitement created by drifting, a form of motorsports previously exclusive to Japan, it is understandable. Unfortunately, it would seem that the content of this particular magazine is dictated by a few young editors that are blind JDM fanatics, that for some reason, are driven not only to be stupid, but to also kiss the asses of our Japanese counterparts.

Making a statement like "OREWA BAKANA AMERICAN JINDA" crosses a line that should never be crossed. Not only does a statement like that show a lack of understanding of the Japanese mind-set, it also shows a lack of pride in being an American. Though the statement may be funny for some Japanese tuners to read, because many actually believe it to be true, even Japanese people would be shocked that Americans would have such little pride that they would willfully disgrace themselves with shameful statements like "You are a stupid American." In other words, a Japanese person, let alone an industry-leading publication, would never, in a trillion years, print a statement that "I am a stupid Japanese person."

Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with admiring the Japanese culture or their tuning market. In fact, the roots of our market were purely JDM at one point. I look back to the birth of our industry, as we know it today, back in the early 90s. For many of us, the only place we could get information on tuning Japanese compacts was from Japan. At that time Sport Compact Car magazine was featuring vehicles such as first generation Honda Preludes with airbag suspensions and gladiator murals; and even Turbo magazine was featuring turbocharged Buick Grand Nationals and Renault Turbos. The other magazines that are common in our industry today didn't even exist then. Naturally, enthusiasts that were looking for performance parts and a cleaner style had to look elsewhere for inspiration.

We referenced Japanese tuning magazines such as Option, Carboy, Revspeed and AP, to name a few. We started making journeys to Japan's Tokyo Auto Salon as early as 1994 to find out what parts were available for our cars. Back in the early 90s enthusiasts were JDM fanatics because that's all we had. But as the import racing industry evolved, we started having options.

Because many of the early enthusiasts were performance and street racing inspired, we began to move away from many of the Japanese performance products and more towards any product that worked better. For example, we stopped using HKS twin power ignitions and started using MSD ignitions. The mid-to-late 90s became a golden time for enthusiasts. We had the clean look borrowed from Japanese styling, as well as a wide selection of non-Japanese engine parts, turbo kits, and other performance parts. This is what I would like to believe is the American style; the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately, in 2001 Hollywood stepped in with an extremely popular movie that made true enthusiasts sick to their stomachs. As a result, armies of wannabes made up of fair-weather enthusiasts and opportunistic companies invaded our scene, and as a result our industry got off the track. Soon the "clean look" became "misguided styling" defined by pastel paint jobs, battle kits, gigantic rear spoilers, and clear taillights. And nitrous oxide became the cure-all for performance needs. Eventually as the tides receded and the squids went away, our industry was left without a clear focus.

In many ways the current JDM craze is positive step in the right direction, led by a new generation of enthusiasts searching for a style that is better than the crap left behind by Hollywood. In an industry that seems to lack direction, JDM gives enthusiasts a definitive style and direction. But if our goal as enthusiasts is to build the cleanest and fastest cars, we need to, once again, come to the realization that Japan is only one source for good parts and oftentimes Japanese parts are not necessarily the best. This is something that even Japanese tuners realize. Many of the most respected Japanese tuning companies source things like turbo cartridges, pistons, rods, and other hard parts from American companies. And many of the parts common to JDM styling such as Recaro seats, Brembo brakes, are not made in Japan.

So what is the point of all this? Well, as an enthusiast we look to magazines and editors for guidance, they are the leaders and are the spokespeople of our industry. But how can we look up to people that have an unhealthy and intensely one-sided view of our industry? How can we support magazines that have the nerve to insult their own customers and readers?

It can be argued that the viewpoints of editors are driven by enthusiasts. In that case, we need to evaluate where we lost control. To American enthusiasts and tuners, stand proud and let your voice be heard! To all the JDM-fanatic editors and enthusiasts out there that think the aforementioned decal is funny, SHAME ON YOU! What you are propagating is counter productive to our industry. If you really like JDM that much then "Orewa Bakana"! Move to Japan and humiliate yourself there!

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By Evan Griffey
271 Articles

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