Here's the good news: If you're reading this it means that you are a true car geek and a survivor. Those left standing are true intelligent discerning enthusiasts in search of speed and automotive knowledge, regardless of your car preference. But times are tough and sport compact tuning has been whittled down to nothing but hard-core enthusiasts. The fast and the furious era of cheap wheels and body kits is over and those who flocked to it have now moved onto playing with video games, computers, and digital widgets. If you're still driving your tuned import, it means you're not just some kid out to chase tail and look cool. Best of all, the know-nothing, cash-grubbing crap manufacturers and tuners are falling to the wayside.
The bad news is that import tuning will never be the same again. Say goodbye to big drag races, car shows, and being part of the mainstream. Like old muscle car farts and eclectic air-cooled Volkswagen fans, the sport compact market will only be niche in nature, far from the fad it once was. Many ex-readers have grown up, made money, and moved onto smoother, more refined, expensive European rides. On the other side, the market is flooded by cheap China-made copies sold through eBay. Knock-off parts, stingy buyers, and the shift of parts sales to the Internet have caused the demise of many manufacturers and magazines, good and bad.
Here's what I see coming in the future for the hard core. With worldwide economic hardships, the automakers will drop their performance platforms for smaller, cheaper econoboxes that appeal to the masses with functionality and fuel economy. Don't expect new Evos or STIs every two years anymore. There's just no margin in those cars. The few performance platforms that will still continue will be the ultra-priced, six-figure Porsches and GT-Rs that are only affordable as a luxury item for the wealthy. It's already happened in Japan with the proliferation of minivans and K-cars.
Don't expect the next age of econoboxs to inspire either. Even though our very roots were born from a similar economic outlook like we have now, inexpensive budget get-around platforms of the future won't be the sport compacts of yesteryears. Modern cars are simply too heavy and big (for safety reasons) and digitally integrated to be tuned on a budget. Future cars will also be hard to extract power and performance from. Tuning might soon be relegated to wheels and tires, highly technical suspension products, and the cosmetic cat-back exhaust system that will provide minimal power gains. We're all older now and less willing to deal with driveability issues and uncomfortable rides, let alone being hassled by the man for that matter. For those who are still into uncompromised hard-core tuning, the racetrack and dedicated track cars will fill the needs for our speed yayas.
If you want to see where we're all headed, just look at the muscle car market. It's filled with knowledgeable hard-core gearheads who might drive a bone-stock workhorse Camry as everyday transportation, but still have their pride and passion for the weekends. And price is no longer the issue. They are all older with disposable income and knowledge of the products, demanding only top-notch parts. EBay will only exist for finding rare, out-of-production OEM restoration parts and a huge restoration market will spring up for fenders, water pumps, dashboards, and gears. Like the pro street pushrods of today, we might eventually see an entire industry of future technology retrofitted for our favorite compacts. The big difference is that unlike muscle cars of the '60s, the emissions man won't likely go away. With the burden of environmental consciousness and emissions controls, it's unlikely for these soon-to-be old sport compacts to be grandfathered into the smog exemptions of older muscle cars. One day your kids will look at you as we once looked at hot-rodders, old men, and women obsessed with a bygone era fixated with antiquated technology.
So what's a hard-core SCC geek to do? Go out and pick up the sport compact of your dreams. Hide it in your garage (much to your wife's displeasure) and spend your weekends dreaming and restoring it to its former glory. Do your research and buy quality parts to support the industry that can only exist with your support. And one day, when you're older and wealthier, roll your baby out from its mothballs and drive it like you did when these cars first caught your imagination. Build it, show it off to your fellow geezers, be proud, and, most importantly, turn your spawn into future geeks.
As for SCC, rumors of our demise are true. This is our final issue, another sign of the times. For the last 15 years, we've been the go-to source for the common geek's no-nonsense tech and automotive knowledge. I'm sure it is a loss for geeks everywhere and it pains me to see such an end for something that so many have poured their heart and soul into. But if I have my way, there will still be hope. Appendix J will pop up somewhere else to continue my train of brain dumps and dry nerd humor. Until then, thank you for making SCC the leading no-BS technical publication of the past decade for the common man.