There is a certain inexplicable novelty inherent in all that is JDM. A recent conversation with a friend focused on that mystifying aura surrounding our fascination. I think this picture helps to shed some light on it...
Top Secret Titanium Tow Hook
As the JDMphasis header asserts, JDM is not simply rare parts. Don't get me wrong, this Top Secret tow hook is not something you see on every car roaming the streets. It is quite rare (and beautiful), but I think it is safe to say that I was just as excited when I received this package to see my name on the envelope next to the Top Secret address and the handwritten Japanese. It may sound peculiar to someone looking in from outside of the JDM fraternity - and I have come to the conclusion that there is no good way to explain it, but there is just something special about knowing that this Top Secret craftsmanship came right from Japan to my door and will, in due time, be on my car. I will be saving the envelope...
The disparaging e-mail response I recently received from JIC-Magic started me down the path of contemplation as to the future of JDM culture in the United States.
Where is it heading?
As much as I would like to believe the idyllic notion that true tuning enthusiasm is at the core of all involved in this industry, I would be naïve to suggest that the almighty dollar is not the primary motivation of some. Enter the knock-off and replica companies. In Speedhunters' The State of Tuning, 2011, Editor of Modified Peter Tarach touches upon the negative effect knock-offs and replicas have had on the tuning industry. I think his response is worthy of re-post.
No matter which side you take, the truth is knock offs and counterfeits have hurt this industry in a big way. Less and less companies want to innovate in this market because of fear of having their products being copied and if you look at the track record of consumers these days, they are willing to buy whatever is cheapest despite the lackluster quality or fitment issues associated with knock off parts. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. The best way to fight the problem is with awareness. As a consumer, think long and hard before buying a knock off product. What you may be saving initially will more than likely cost you in the future. It’s no secret that cheap parts don’t last as long, or that they need to be modified to work or fit (which costs money). Plus, think of the company that spent the time and money to actually design the product. That should count for something.
One of my early posts posed the question Why Do We Modify? The query was focused more toward those who quite simply do not "get" the interest or understand the passion and the addiction of those devoted to the tuning culture. As of late, my question seems to be focused more on those who modify. And why.
Is it the easily attainable e-praise that drives people to modify? And, consequently, to cut corners? ("Features" don't demand too much in the way of quality, craftsmanship, and/or originality these days. Perpetuating the notion that it is okay to sport fake parts because you'll earn a feature anyway does not do much to support the true innovators of the tuning world. Sadly, this can be seen quite clearly on Speedhunters' own site: CAR SPOTLIGHT>>JB-TUNING NISSAN SILVIA)
Is "modding" a cyberspace phenomena? Has the Internet given rise and power to the replica/knock-off trends? ("Sick ride, bro! That's not a Top Secret body kit? Can you PM me the specs on those Varrstoen wheels and let me know where I can get that kit?")
Do people modify for any other reason than to satisfy themselves? Is it actually possible to proudly adorn one's car with a fake or knock-off part; one whose design is stolen? Does the praise from strangers outweigh one's own knowledge that a corner was cut?
I know this topic is widely discussed as of late, but I am not "in" with all the personalities of the tuning world. I am not known. I do not socialize with industry insiders. As I wrote in my very first post of this blog, I consider myself, simply, a rather sincerely devoted enthusiast. Thus, I refuse to take short-cuts. In basic terms, I love this stuff. I love it for the right reasons. I love the parts - the quality, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail, the rarity. I love the process. The build. I love the feeling of content satisfaction with every successful execution of new modification, but I also love the insatiate feeling of desiring more.
I have made some good friends and established some great relationships - with both people involved in the industry and fellow enthusiasts; relationships for which I am grateful. At the end of the day, however, I am building my car for my enjoyment. I am not building my car for the purpose of attaining acclaim or renown. I am not building my car for forum members whom I have never met. I am not building my car for the compliments I receive at shows or meets. I am not building my car to please anyone. I am not building my car to impress anyone. I am building my car for me. Yesterday I put over two hundred and fifty miles on the car. Driving with no particular destination. Driving to drive. Driving to experience the car into which I have devoted so much time and effort. Driving simply because I felt like it...
I do not think I can grow tired of watching this Best Motoring video from 2009 documenting what happens when the people at Amuse get their hands on a R35. Keiichi Tsuchiya is shown testing the Amuse GT-R Phantom at Tsukuba.
Slap some different wheels on this R35 (Advan RZ-DF's possibly?) and it's good to go. I love this car.
An individual modifying with JDM parts must possess and maintain a certain special composure and a unique, patient fortitude.
As I anxiously await the aero components ordered roughly two months ago to arrive stateside, I have been attempting to get my exhaust system completed. The Amuse R-Titan system is now connected to a decent-quality custom y-pipe, the stock catalytic converters, and the stock headers. I was expecting a Tanabe Y-pipe to arrive alongside the Amuse, but, through uncertain error, I received the wrong pipe. (I ended up selling this pipe to a fellow enthusiast. He is quite happy with his new mid-pipe.)
Still without a Y-pipe, however, I have been trying to assess my options and track down the best pipe available for my application. With limited options, I got to thinking back to my Z33 days. I recall with fondness the quality of my JIC Magic Y-pipe. I knew that JIC had made a pipe for the G37 at one point, but I had heard it was discontinued some time ago. With nothing to lose, I e-mailed JIC to see if there was any way to get my hands on one of these pipes. The sad and disheartening response I received is posted below.
Item is discontinue...
we do not export anymore problem is US$ is cheap now. anything we import from Japan
we don't make money anymore and china product is so cheap.
we are going to production all coilover in USA.
Thus, I am still searching for a Y-pipe to mate with my Amuse exhaust system and MXP double-resonated test pipes. In the meantime, however, I can admire the quality welds of my JIC Z33 y-pipe.
"People in Japan will be willing to pay double or triple what the part would normally cost just based on the sheer craftsmanship and quality of the part. I think that says something about the culture in general. It's a view that I share, where it's not always, to me, about bottom-line pricing or bang-for-the-buck, the most power... I think there's a definite value in quality and craftsmanship. And attention to detail."
- Eric Bizek, JDM Legends
A very cool video from Depth of Speed highlighting the passion, dedication, and devotion of Eric Bizek of JDM Legends. Check it out on the JDM Legends Blog.
JDMphasis saw its 10,000th hit today - a drop in the bucket compared to some of the more well-known blogs out there, but, nonetheless, I would like to say THANK YOU to all the followers of the blog and everyone who has taken an interest in this site. It means a lot to me...
One of my favorite shots of the G in one of its previous stages. (November 2010)
Combing automotive forums, I see many posts with little to no knowledge behind them. As I have said before, forums are riddled with misguided, poorly educated "enthusiasts" with strange agendas. Believe it or not, I respect the opinions of others, even if they do not run parallel to my own. People are free to modify their cars however they please with the parts of their choice. However, I would be lying if I said that it does not bother me when, occasionally, I read the opinions of close-minded people who are contemptuously attempting to cause a stir. It only bothers me because those slightly less educated individuals reading may actually believe the mis-information being expelled.
I have nothing against the popular wheel company, Vossen. Their representatives post regularly on the forums and, in turn, Vossen has developed quite a following in the G community. Thus, Volk versus Vossen is a somewhat common debate among some G owners. To me, however, there is no debating which is the superior wheel. It should not even be up for discussion. Reading the conflicting viewpoints and opinions in a particular thread of an owner looking for help deciding between wheels made by each of these companies proved somewhat comical. I only chose to respond when I read the comment of a member who emerged as the lone irritant of this thread for more than 400 replies. He referred to Volk Racing wheels as resembling "$100 eBay rims" and cars featuring Volk wheels as "rice rockets."
I probably should not have paid this obtuse troll any regard, but I couldn't help it...
"Rice Rocket" is a slang/derogatory term for a Japanese motorcycle; not a car. If you mean "rice" in terms of its pejorative colloquial use in regards to poorly executed auto modifications, you could not be more wrong. Volk Racing is the furthest thing from "rice" when it comes to modifying a car. As for the argument about appearance, looks are subjective. What appeals to one person might be considered "ugly" by another's standards. So that argument, to me, is just... well, dumb.
As for the performance/quality, Rays Engineering's forging processes and safety standards are second to none. They are constantly improving and setting standards for others to imitate. Yes, their base lies in racing and the motorsports culture, as evidenced by the fact that Rays features wheels in F-1 (Formula 1 Championship), WTCC (Worldwide Touring Car Championship), North American ALMS (American Le Mans Series), the Japanese Super GT Championship, and many other major competitions and races worldwide. (And, for the record, the majority of these cars have to buy their own wheels - there are not too many 'freebies' or sponsorships.) Furthermore, the same R&D that goes into the Rays wheels that compete in these races, goes into the wheels that are featured on the cars in the street, the same cars owned by members of this forum. (Of course, the few featuring the authentic parts.)
I don't know about others, but I had never even heard of Vossen before I joined this forum.
I am in no way suggesting that Vossen wheels are poor quality, but, bluntly, Volk is on a completely different level. I think people are so enraptured by Vossen because every day on this forum a new thread is posted by Vossen with great photo shoots featuring new cars and awesome photography. There is no debating, Vossen has a great marketing department. They pay to advertise their wheels on this site and, by all means, they're doing it right. A ton of G's on here are sporting Vossen wheels. The fact that the OP is even debating going to Vossen is a tribute to the work they are doing.
Vossen has only been around for five years. In due time, who knows? Maybe they could, some day, be on the same level as Rays Engineering and Volk Racing. That's an admirable goal. Do not get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to Vossen whatsoever, but Volk is one of the best wheels in the world. Period. I think any representative from Vossen should/would be honored to be mentioned in the same conversation/debate as Volk Racing.