I’ve spent a lot of time discussing all the things I don’t like about cars and tuning right now. I still think there’s more to dislike than ever before and the scene needs a change pretty badly. But amidst all the shitty trends, something has started to happen. We’re tracing back to the roots of our cars, to the origins of modern tuning. Japanese classics have always been there. They’ve occupied a small niche of our small niche, but lately that’s beginning to change. They’re beginning to grow in popularity and I think it’s fantastic.
I got to thinking about this trend and why all of a sudden? A few things came to mind about why many of us are taking a few steps backwards.
Let’s face it, the environmentalists are becoming the majority. They have many things to say about pollution and how it relates to cars. Many people believe that cars are one of the biggest contributors to “global warming”. While I think the effects of “global warming” are highly debatable and more a result of changing climates the planet has experience since the beginning of time, other’s are looking for a more concrete answer. It’s always easier for people to understand, when a term is applied to describe something. We’ve chosen to apply “global warming” to most of our unanswered questions on climate change. Al Gore believes the planet is melting and everyone will eventually die as a result of this. Given the terrible news, people need someone or something to blame. Naturally, the car was the obvious choice in taking on the burden of being known as the destroyer of the world.
Since the car is now considered “evil”, manufacturers are in a scramble to create new, energy efficient, green cars, that are better for the environment. Thus our beloved sports cars are being shelved at an alarming rate. You may not care about this. Maybe you think that all the best cars have already been built and there’s plenty to go around. Maybe you’re thinking “go head, build your hybrids, I’ve already got my STi.” Well that’s great, but here’s the thing you may not have considered. Along with the rise in fuel efficient, environmentally conscious cars, we’re seeing a major push to increase the emissions requirements for all cars. Someday, you may not even be able to get that STi on the road because it won’t jump through hoops to save the deer.
So really what we’re talking about here is the death of sports cars and possibly the death of driving as we know it. Lets be honest, in another 10-20 years time you’ll be hard pressed to find any new car with a proper manual transmission. Our kids will probably never even learn to drive stick. It’s a grim thought and a definite reality, we’re already beginning to see in current cars. With the roads full of electric cars that drive themselves and a population that doesn’t know what a manual transmission is, what will happen to the art of driving? I’ll admit, that question takes things to a bit of an extreme, but it is something to think about. Most of us can agree that Japanese cars are our favorites. It’s what brought most of us into this community in the first place. But the reality is that Japan is one of the more forward-thinking countries of the world. They’re always at the cutting edge of technology and look towards what’s next. What’s next is environmental preservation and reduced emissions. What we’ve already seen, are many of our favorite cars being scrapped for increased focus on green projects. Even the things I’ve been reading about the Evo this past weak, present a grim future for sports cars.
All of these ideas and potential realities are happening now. The wheels are in motion. So what can we do? We can enjoy the moment while we still have it. I think it’s one of the reason why classic cars have made such a comeback. They’re everything that current cars are not. They’re easy to maintain and understand. Driving them is an involved experience that allows the user to have nearly complete control over the machine. Classics can’t think for themselves, they can’t stop for you or tell you when to turn right or left. Their simplicity is also their greatest achievement.
For Californians it means being able to drive a car that doesn’t need to pass emissions testing. It means being able to run virtually limitless performance setups with no consequences. The nostalgia of driving these cars represents the very things that we all hold so sacred in our own cars. They represent the outlaw roots of tuning in Japan and how they achieved legendary status. Driving a Japanese classic ultimately represents living in the moment. Yes, the car is from the past, but the ideals with which we drive these cars couldn’t be closer to what we all cherish in the present. It’s being a true enthusiast, no strings attached.
A few years ago I realized my dream of owning an R34 GT-R, in California and driving it on the street was as good as dead. It’s basically impossible. Even if you could somehow get one on the street you’d probably make it a block or two before having to present your case to a cop. The current GT-R came along and yeah, it’s pretty nice. They look “decent” and they’re quick. But somehow they still represent where cars are going. Computers on wheels that make the tough decisions for you. With a classic though, I could still live out my dream of owning a genuine Skyline.
The original Skyline GT-R, the Hakosuka represents everything that makes Japanese classics great. Like the Silvia represents drifting, the KPGC10 represents nostalgia. Owning an actual Hakosuka is something of a rarity, but building up a 2000GT is something that’s a lot more likely and what many are doing now.
Mine would have to be red. It’s a glorious looking thing under the lights of the Daikoku parking area.
The S20 is a different sort of beast. One that, in it’s own right, is just as brilliant as the engines we all cherish in our own cars.
So despite beating the dead horse of environmental malarky we’ve all grown too accustomed to hearing, there’s a lot to savor. It’s a message to anyone who loves cars and loves driving. Just enjoy it. Spend as much time on it as possible. Buy that car of your dreams and raise hell in it. To live in the moment is the best way to live because you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone.