GOOD VIBES ONLYText and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
JDM Car Culture 2019 - the largest indoor and outdoor Japanese car show in Ireland returned for the fourth time, and as expected bigger and better than before; a sign of of a well-planned, executed and progressing car event. The event hosted at the Eikon Exhibition centre in Lisburn, Northern Ireland on July 7 featured 2 main indoor show halls as well as an outdoor display area and trade stands; furthermore, it also hosted round 3 of the 2019 Link ECU Drift Games Nationals. There's no denying in terms of value for money JCC had a lot to offer. If anything (costs aside), I do believe the event may have benefited from an extra day, for seeing everything in a single day became mission impossible.
To an outsider cars shows may basically seem like the most pointless thing ever - a bunch of boy racers arrive at a venue, rev their engines like idiots annoying everybody and crash on the way out whilst trying to impress the 12 year old car spotters for Instagram. Sadly there are shows out there like that, attracting nothing but idiots who give a bad name to the rest of the car enthusiasts, but the truth is there is far more to it. First of all everybody needs to understand there is a major difference between a car enthusiast and a boy racer. A real car enthusiast will never act that way. A show is their way to see old friends, meet new ones, have a great enjoyable day. We build cars and memories. Our journey to a car show begins months before the show season – countless nights spent on making the car worthy of the entry, building it, testing it, cleaning it and repeating the process. A car enthusiast will spend their life looking after their car; spend a fortune to make it their own pride and joy and will be proud to bring it along to a show they believe it would be worth of attending. JCC is certainly one of those shows where a serious car enthusiast and family alike will enjoy and find themselves surrounded by the like-minded people.
JCC as the name suggests – Japanese Car Culture is a car show designed for a single geographical area automotive manufacturer market. I am glad to see the organisers yet again ware able to hold on to their strict JDM and Asian market only policy. It is inspiring, yet we all had our doubts, for we could see a lot of shows lately had given in and operated a more relaxed open door policy. Whilst the current financial situation has smothered the car scene and the spike in prices of classics has resulted into the majority of classic and sports cars being dry stored in the garages where they act as a pension fund, instead of being on roads where they were destined to be, it was nice to see that there was no shortage of spectacular cars att JCC. If you really are familiar with JDM stuff I believe you’ll agree this was an outstanding display of huge array of magnificent Japanese vehicles. And yes, as with any show there may have been a couple of cars that sneaked in somehow that shouldn’t be there, but apart from that 9/10 guys. Well done! So let’s have a look of what was it all about.
The Logan Hall may have been addressed as the main or bigger hall, but let's be honest - at no stage during the show I would have felt that any of the two halls were superior to another. The Logan hall was filled with some of the most extraordinary JDM cars from all eras and styles – bosozoku, touge, oem+, track, stance – you name it, it had it. A Honda Civic with 500hp looked equally impressive sitting beside an iconic Godzilla; everything there was unique and worthy of a closer inspection. One of the most exciting things about car shows is the fact one has the chance to go up close and personal to any of the cars and chat with the owners about them to find out more info about them.
JDM cars were the thing of the 90ies, but as you can imagine with the global financial crash a lot of the manufacturer's dulled down. Gone were the Evos, gone were the WRX STI. Of course we did get the rebirth of 86, a new GTR and Supra, as well as some others, but overall though, one needs to understand why the JDM era died a bit. It was not us, it was them. So it was phenomenal to see a hall dedicated to the elders - the cars we wish we grew up with. Classic hall featured a great variety of multiple eras taking us down the memory lane.
For those who didn't make it indoors, JCC had provided with a large outdoor display arena. I was surprised to see the numbers were not as huge as one expected; however, it is down to us, the car enthusiasts, to make sure we attend and support an event. Mind you the quality of cars outside was epic, for example this magnificent Supra.
JCC was also the host of round 3 of the 2019 Link ECU Drift Games Nationals and clearly attracted a lot of fans with it. The venue may have been a little restrictive and not ideal for the sheer amount of spectators, but that didn't stop the Drift Games from putting up another phenomenal show. Throughout the day hundreds of drifting fans never left the fence-side . I'll be honest and admit - not once did I get a chance to go and see the boys and girls in action on the day, as the day was just far too short to cover both show and the drifting simultenously.
As always the show itself gets judged; judged by people who attended, and even by ones that didn't. Let me put this straight - car shows are what you make of them. If you were bored – you were at the wrong show or with the wrong company. You didn’t think the quality was good enough – well a familiarisation with the subject should be carried out as the level of cars present was outstanding. Do you believe the entry fee was too high? Try organising one, alternatively events like cars and coffee are typically free, so it may be the better option then for you. JCC was an amazing event and every single person involved that made it happen deserves a big high five.
In the usual fashion I strictly ignored the official prize giving and awards, in favour of my own virtual awards to the selected few that deserved it the most in my books. Choosing a selected few cars amongst a few hundred magnificent examples was never going to be an easy task, and despite the best efforts it is bound to hurt somebody’s feeling. Judge of a car show is a task I wish on nobody.
So my virtual awards are as follows:
Amongst all the super clean, super modified and highly expensive cars that were present at the JCC there was one that stood out for me this year a bit more than others: the wide body Pandem-kitted Nissan Skyline R32. What from a distance looked like an ordinary stickerless drift car without a bonnet and a rather stripped and abused interior, upon closer inspection unveiled a beautifully clean paint job, great enginineering work and outstanding wheel/stance combo. The owner of this beautiful car - David, confirmed this vehicle is not afraid of daily duties and is a fast road car which makes it even more impressive. The RB25 boosted by the RB26 hybrid Garrett 3582 turbo produces 550 bhp. The Pandem kit is accompanied with some genuine GTR parts like front wings, skirts and bumpers. The R32 is equipped with stunning Work VS-XX 18” wheels coming in at massive 11.5J at the rear. It is an absolutely amazing car and deserves my virtual car of the show award in 2019.
This probably would have been the hardest category to judge considering the majority of the cars on the day were classics; however, if there had to be one that stood out more than others, I'd say it was the Toyota Celica GT 2000 Liftback. Rocking the looks of a Japanese USA American Pony the Celica GT 2000 is a beautiful car. With a nut and bolt rebuild and immaculate paint to match this car was worthy of the Best Classic of the show award for sure.
Why best Hondas? Because Honda runs through my blood, so if I’d be up to me all the trophies on the day would have went to Hondas of all sort. Anyway here are some of my favourites from the day:
Cheryl’s Blackwater Graphic Honda CRZ is a well-known car in the Northern Ireland's car scene and certainly is one of the most impressive Hondas on these shores. It is dressed in the finest shoes, equipped with the most exclusive parts and finished with a multi coloured livery making it stand out amongst the crowd.
It has become a rare sight to spot a classic car on modern roads; therefore, you can understand my excitement when I spotted this immaculate classic Honda Civic generation 3 at JCC. Having spoken to the owner he informed me the car had undergone a massive rebuild bringing it back to its former glory, and to add a bit of spice it is now running the iconic B16 engine.
They don’t make them like they used to – lightweight, small and nimble. The EG was an amazing sports hatchback back in the day and this particular example was truly impressive. With plenty of power on offer, a beautiful shaved and tucked engine bay, stripped interior, tasteful mods like Work Equip wheels and Spoon callipers it sure is a lightweight fun-machine, furthermore it also ticks all the JDM boxes of approval. It genuinely was one of my favourite cars of the show.
Honda Civic EP3
Barry’s Rotex supercharged 2002 Honda Civic EP3 is an example of how a modern day hatchback can and should be done – lightweight, supercharged with plenty of power, nimble and beautiful. Producing mouth watering 380hp this car means business. It was resprayed in Subaru red metalic paint and equipped with Mugen carbon spoiler, Seibon carbon bonnet, Sard carbon skirts, custom bumper, Mugen-styled graphics and Keys Racing wheels - it really does look stunning. On the inside it is equipped with red Bride recliners with kevlar backs, JDM red carpet, AEM gauges, Keys racing wheel and the list goes on. If there ever was a title for the best EP3 on these shores, this is it ladies and gents.
From time to time we still get a suprise car on these shores, and this was one of them. Built purely to chase speed this magnificent EK means the business and has the looks to match it. I sadly never got to see the owner to find out more, but I know for a fact I am in love with it.
Another EG that caught my eye was this "speed hunter" that seemed to have been built for one purpose only - gain smiles per miles and nothing else. In the days of "No Good Racing" in Japan the looks were not important. I really hope that all show attendees understood that, battle scars make cars prettier.
Honda Civic EF
Ian's red EF civic is truly spotless, I mean epic. Ian is a perfectionist, and I expected nothing less from him. We all know how bad these cars are for rust, so seeing one so clean, tastefully modded and with the power to match is rare.
HONDA CIVIC FERIO SiR
This magnificent four door SiR saloon aka Honda Ferio was saved from the Fast and Furious spec by a true enthusiast and returned to its former glory; the way it should be. Recently advertised for sale, it could be yours for £10k.
This is why I should never be allowed to judge a car show - I couldn’t decide between my top 5 Hondas, how could I decide between top 10 overall.
Suzuki Alto Works
Kei cars are wonderful things; they are like Pokemons of the boring world of cars. Being different is a cool thing. It is such a pity we never got them here. This 1990 Suzuki Alto Works was super clean and raised a few eyebrows and provided loads of smiles during the day for all who stopped to look at it.
Custom car and air ride installation experts "Arez Air" usualy bring along some magnificent cars to the shows they attend, JCC was no exception. The Rocket Bunn-ied Nissan 350Z really trumpted them all for me this time. The Tokyo Drift style Z is built to perfection, and apart the spoiler (personal preference) it really was a show stopper to me.
Chrisy Walsh's 13 is not a car one could miss on the road. If it's not the crazy drit kit of the Nissan Silvia that catches your attention the vivid blue paintjob most certainly will. It is a beautiful car and we're glad to see it over here for the JCC.
The best engine bay award had to go to the Honda Civic EG - clean, simple and stylish. With all the wiring looms well tucked and hidden the B series engine looked magnificent.
Whilst there were many outstanding interiors featuring beautiful bucket seats, Sake bottles, VIP curtains etc., to me the one that stood out most was the interior of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution featuring custom bride work including the rear seats.
As always Chris put up an amazing array of Hachi Rokus at his AE86 World stand showcasing various styles and colours of the Japanese iconic car. Whilst the twincams may have a bit of bad reputation in this country thanks to the felt-spec CB aerials and superlights, there was none of that sacrilege there.
We couldn't be any further away from Japan, though the JDM car following here is still as strong as it was 20 years ago, and JCC was a proof of that. Long live the wallets of all the enthusiasts to drive them, enjoy them and be able to show them to others for many years to come. It was an action packed day with loads to see and do and if all this didn't convince you it was an amazing show, it may be really isn't the show for you.