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26 Jul 2016

Japanese Car Culture 2016



Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis

After a year of planning, organising and hard work on July 10 the recently opened “Titanic Exhibition Centre” in Belfast opened its doors for the first “Japanese Car Culture” automotive show; it was the first and only indoor car show exclusive to Japanese car manufacturers. Despite the depressing Irish weather hundreds of cars turned up on Sunday morning with more than 3000 spectators walking through the exhibition centre doors. It was a real eye-opener, showcasing how big and popular the Japanese Car Culture really is here in the north and south of Ireland.

However, how much do we really know about the Japanese car culture? Well one thing is for sure: please don’t associate it with a 17 year old in a “max powered out” Honda Civic or a country lad in his Twin Cam, and most certainly not the Altezza Donegal Rally Hooligan. Times have moved on! However, having been fed nothing but “Germans” and “Stance” over the past few years, I believe people could have forgotten about the true Japanese car heritage and culture.
It was amazing to see that the “2016 Japanese Car Culture” confirmed the Japanese car scene in NI is still very much alive, up to date and stronger than it ever has been. It was one of the best shows to hit these shores showcasing some of the most insane car builds present here in Northern Ireland, ROI and UK.

It seems that the recent years in the worldwide car scene were mostly dominated by the VAG (Volkwsagen/Audi Group) and “dub” scene, and whilst I enjoy seeing any cars I missed the JDM scene a lot. And it seemed I was not the only. I grew up in the era of “Fast and Furious”, “Need For Speed Underground” and Japanese car magazines; therefore, having a show dedicated to Japanese Cars right at my doorstep was a dream come true.

Having a pretty good understanding of how to organise a successful show the guys behind the "JCC2016" stuck to the most important rule of them all - less is more… The key is not to overcomplicate. With the fundamental ingredient: quality over quantity the guys managed to secure and fill one of the largest indoor arenas in Northern Ireland with absolutely top notch quality cars, traders and DJs; they even managed to accommodate an RC drift track in the venue.

Talking of traders that were present: Pete and Co. from "PMG Autocare"  demonstrated the power of detailing. The work he does is truly amazing and if your car ever needs some "lovin'" that you can't offer, check him out.

"Blackwater Graphics" brought along not 1 but 3 beautiful Hondas they had just done a make over on, owned by Peter, Tom and Gaetano. Whilst typically I wouldn't be a fan of stickered cars, the JDM style liveries done by Andrew looked amazing.

Other traders included "ILOVEBASS", "Block 51", "Kleen Freaks" and others.

Furthermore, the show extended to outdoors where caterers and cars were filling up the space from the moment the gates opened; however, the constant downpours meant the cars outside got overlooked by many, but trust me the quality outdoors was nearly as impressive as it was indoors. Hopefully next year the weather will be kinder to us as it will open the opportunities to even larger show and more enjoyable atmosphere. 

Since it was the first of its kind, there might be a few things that could be improved for next year, but lack of atmosphere is really what we couldn't complain about in JCC 2016. There was plenty to do and see!

As for the cars in the show...the ultimate paintwork or shiny wheels are certainly not the priority for many Japanese car owners; the odd battle bruises and cable ties just add to the character.

As one entered the show they were already greeted by two amazing vehicles - the classic Celica and Mitsubishi Lancer, both dating back 25+ years. It is cars like these we want to associate the Japanese car culture!

It was amazing to see so many rare cars, even rarer parts on them. One of the most eye catching cars for me was the amazing mk.11 Toyota Crown Estate. The 170-series was launched in 1999 and has been one of the most beautiful JDM estates ever made. Finished with tasteful mods and pearl black murdered out paint job, it certainly would have made the top 10 of the best for me.

Whilst on the subject of JDM classics - Sarah’s PS13 is undoubtedly one of the cleanest and most desirable Silvias in Ireland; unsurprisingly she managed to snatch the “Best Female Owned” trophy. The Silvia has recently returned to the classic factory spec look and is a treat to any show she brings it to. 

Barry’s insane supercharged EP3 recently received a full make over, going back to a more subtle look. And whilst the car is still not finished and road legal, Barry made sure it hit the show floor and transported the Civic Type-R on a back of a lorry. And rightly so, the car won a Top 10 trophy.
When it came to engineering and power, the show was spoilt for it, as typically the Japanese car owners care more for the power than the looks. “Best Engineering” title went to the amazing Nissan Micra owned by a Scotsman. This amazing machine is punching more than 400hp and was driven over from Scotland. Amazing car if you ask me.

“The rarest” car title was handed to the little Nissan Pao. With only 51,000 units ever sold it was rare even whilst being produced between 1989-1991. The funky Japanese city car combines the looks of Citroen C2, classic Mini and Fiat 500. I love it.

Chris invited a few more of his friends under the AE86 world banner and boy the stand was amazing. And whilst having a lot of similar cars on the show looks bad on the paper, it actually worked out a treat in real, as every single one of the Hachi Rokus on display was unique. I am going to be biased here, but I am yet to see a better AE86 on these shores than Chris’s silver Hachi Roku.

There were so many amazing vehicles at the show, from Andrew's 1000+hp GTR to 400+hp 1hatchbacks, Zoe's stance Subaru, stylish FD2 etc. I certainly would struggle to chose my favourites. Everybody had put so much effort in their cars, they were all amazing in their ways.

Double trouble… From the moment you walked into the show there was a clear show winner – the most iconic Japanese car ever built – the Nissan GTR R34. To make it more mind-blowing, there were two of them. Both finished in superb colours – red and blue, running the same wheels and silly power under the hood; choosing one between them would be near impossible; however, the judges did and … blue GTR managed to reel in the car of the show amongst the best wheels.

Overall - this was a show where running skinny jeans and lanyards was not mandatory, there was no diffing or “Buckfast” consumption competitions, neither did I smell herbal substances in every corner of the car park, could that mean people had finally learnt to enjoy a show for what it is – great banter with mates whilst sharing the passion for Japanese Cars (or any cars for that matter)?! An Indoor Japanese Car show is exactly what was needed, and please JCC - don’t over-complicate things. Keep it simple, keep it basic. The formula worked. See you next year!


Top 10
Toyota Starlet Turbo
Nissan Silvia S15
Subaru Impreza
Honda Civic Turbo
Toyota Corolla AE86
Nissan 300ZX
Nissan S14 Drift Car
Nissan Skyline GTR R34
Toyota Celica GT4

Female Owner – Nissan PS13
Rarest Car – Nissan Pao
Best Engineering – Nissan Micra
Best Engine Bay – Toyota Levin
Best Wheels – Nissan GTR R34
Car of the Show – Nissan GTR R34



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