Hot Import Nights 2012 Pomona: Where Clubbing & Cars Collide at Nightshift

Hot Import Nights 2012

Not too long ago, I popped Need for Speed: Underground, one of my very first racing games, into my Gamecube just for kicks. Having considered myself to be a car enthusiast for a number of years now, I was curious to see how far the tuning scene had come. I really wish I had some screenshots to show you just how much my own interpretation of “cool” has changed. My entire stable of Underground cars rocked wild metallic paint jobs, tear/stripe vinyls, neon, and planet-sized chrome wheels.

My lasting impression of Hot Import Nights was that the cars that turned up were all somewhat like my virtual Underground garage – most show, little go. I fully expected to see some Lambo doors on cars that weren’t Lamborghini’s and maybe even hear the distinctive plume of nitrous purging. How things have changed. HIN has matured and grown up in time with our scene and even with the closure of Irwindale Speedway, the show had to go on.

Before I had even walked onto the show floor, I knew HIN was going to be a good time. After hastily turning into a spot, I realized that I had parked myself next to a legend. A car that had made its name running and winning against the Italian might of screaming Ferrari’s. 

Hot Import Nights 2012

By now, the story of the Ford GT is well known. Enraged by Enzo Ferrari’s last minute closure of their deal, Henry Ford II commanded his engineers and racing division to create a machine that would blow Ferrari away at Le Mans. And blow Ferrari away the GT40 did, winning the 24Hrs. of Le Mans four years straight from 1966 to 1969.

With bodywork heavily inspired by the legendary GT40, the GT is bigger, wider, and taller than its racing ancestor. Production began in 2003 with power delivered by a midship-mounted, supercharged 5.4L V8, capable of lighting up the GT’s massive rear tires from 0-60 in roughly 3.5 seconds. 

Hot Import Nights 2012

The GT is an uncommon masterpiece and seeing one on the roads is rare enough as it is. Seeing one at HIN, a show dedicated to imports and the tuning car scene, was even more unexpected. While I was supposed to just park and help out the rest of the team with booth setup, I couldn’t resist doing an extensive walkaround of the car.

I even had the pleasure of meeting Roger, the owner of the GT and a former mechanic. While his son had entered his modified EVO into the show, Roger had brought the GT along just for others to appreciate some of Ford’s racing heritage.

Hot Import Nights 2012

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask and Roger was generous enough to even let me sit in the car. After taking off my shoes, I sat down in the GT’s drilled seats and found new meaning to the phrase “sit down” (I could only imagine how close my rear was to the ground). After getting over the sheer thrill of being able to sit in a GT, I took survey of my surroundings.

Rightfully so, the GT’s only transmission option is a 6-speed manual gearbox. The brushed aluminum shifter ball is a beautiful thing to hold and the various dashboard switches are somehow incredibly exciting to use. I also may be a sucker for engine push-start buttons…

Hot Import Nights 2012

But the cherries on top of the GT were the twin signatures by none other than Steve Saleen:  one signature on the rear chassis member and the second on the passenger dash. Most people wouldn’t mind stopping there, but Roger is still on the lookout for some guy named Caroll Shelby…

Hot Import Nights 2012

I finally decided to stop ogling the GT and turned around to watch the roll-in. A number of Import Fashion’s machinery had just passed by and you can just see John’s FD in the background in front of the silver S2K. I was also fortunate enough to catch Mike Mao’s NSX and a black NISMO 350Z.

Hot Import Nights 2012

An uncommon choice amongst tuners, the sixth-generation Celica is an underappreciated model even when compared to Honda’s Prelude. However, thanks to the rally legend that was the ST205, I love these cars. If the call of the MR2 had not been so strong, I would have definitely picked up a late 90’s GT.

Note that I had STILL not reached the main show floor at this point in time, let alone passed the main gate. Honestly, I could have written my entire coverage outside, but duty calls. While there was some confusion as to the location of the Sub5zero booth, we eventually got it figured out and lined up the striking KaPu Motortrends Z33 for an impromptu shoot.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Highlighted against some of the massive stage lights and some background fog, the 350Z had dramatic presence and proved quite challenging to shoot just right. 

Hot Import Nights 2012

I stood around for a while trying to find the right angles and settings to draw attention to both the dark weave of the carbon fiber and the shouty yellow paint. Little did I know that the Z would just be the tip of my shooting challenges.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Imagine playing “Chubby Bunny” with this turbocharger and squirrels… Actually don’t. That’s awful. Forget I ever said that.

Hot Import Nights 2012

If the turbo looks familiar it should. Charlemagne’s S2K’s titanium exhaust setup is second to none (there’s a better shot of the exhaust in my Night Import: Collaboration post). The whole build really is “S2KRA C” as the license plate would have you believe.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Juice box Zeus? Scion can do whatever it wants with its advertising, but the RS 7.0 tC High Voltage is definitely a looker. While the original car was a bit too soft in shape, I really like how the second generation has hardened up, especially with the rear taillights. I wonder why there haven’t been more modified examples.

Hot Import Nights 2012

To be honest, I’ve started getting a little tired of the S2K. As both the AP1 and AP2 have started becoming more affordable, enthusiasts have been picking them up left and right. Don’t get me wrong, the car is a fantastic platform with 50/50 weight distribution and comes stock with one of the best inline-4 engines ever.

Hot Import Nights 2012

However, it’s taking more and more extreme S2K builds to stop me in my tracks. Call it sacrilege if you want, but for me, the S2K is on its way to becoming cliché, much like the Honda Civic scene of the 90’s. On top of that, I feel like a lot of S2K’s become “catalogue cars”. If you have something to say about this, feel free to post on our facebook page as I’m genuinely interested in discussing this.

Hot Import Nights 2012

And then a titanium exhaust just makes everything better all over again.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Rack rack city on a 1st gen RSX.

Hot Import Nights 2012

I love BMX bikes. Durable, compact, and infinitely customizable, there’s no wrong way to ride BMX.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Perhaps the biggest surprise of HIN was the absolutely enormous BMW presence. I’m used to seeing any number of ultimate driving machines spread out at shows, but there were rows upon rows of Bavarian machinery. The LTBMW meet was even going on at the same time, meaning that there was little to no spillover from event to event.

Hot Import Nights 2012

You would think I was exaggerating about this, but I’m really not. There were more angel eyes, custom roundels, and carbon fiber kidneys than I could visually process so I stepped away for a while to shoot something a little more Italian-blooded.

Hot Import Nights 2012

The Italians (especially Lamborghini) are very good at channeling the spirit of their brand through their machinery. The now defunct Murcielago is a perfect example of this brand connection, the purest embodiment of what Lamborghini stands for.

Hot Import Nights 2012

I always wondered about Lamborghini’s design process. I feel like the design team is heavily encouraged to get really angry right before working on their next project – because even from the rear, the Murcielago means serious business.

Hot Import Nights 2012

And from the front most people would prefer to just get out of the way. But if I can get you to take your eyes off the white Italian bat for a moment, draw your attention to the little (by comparison) exhaust in the left-hand corner…

Hot Import Nights 2012

Ruck ruck city! I’ll stop, but this is a fine example of how much the Ruckus scene has exploded in the past few years. The base platform is almost laughable, but given the bare-bones nature of the scooter, the Ruckus is almost an unlimited canvas for modification. If you’re in the SoCal area, check out the Alpinestars Ruckus event!

Hot Import Nights 2012

S2K loaded up with some rare ARC goodies. This picture actually made me step back for a second and remind myself just how long Honda’s F-series engine is… still amazed that they achieved 50/50 distribution.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Walking along the show floor, I bumped into another car that I had seen on the interwebs countless times – and only on the interwebs. Allow me to introduce you to Peter Tadros’ Toyota Yaris. On custom steelies. It may also be extremely orange.

I first saw this car over on Just Stance and was really happy to see that somebody was doing something with a Yaris other than just driving it. There are unique touches all over the car and you can get a glimpse of the custom-painted hood in the shot above.

 Given its recent ad campaigns, Toyota would like to have you believe that the Yaris is just a car. Evidently, Peter would disagree. More impressively, he’s even taken the maddeningly orange Yaris out to the battleground of the track (sans steelies of course). Just a car? Maybe not.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Oh hoh hoh yes. The legendary MKIV Supra, quite potentially my all-time favorite car. Running the equally legendary 2JZGTE engine, the last generation Supra is more familiar and comfortable with ridiculous horsepower figures than most imports will ever dream of attaining. Thanks to The Fast and the Furious, this was the car that got me into the whole tuning scene in the first place.

Hot Import Nights 2012

Enough about me. This Supra was running the big single turbo conversion on the 2JZ, a common replacement for the smaller, sequential, stock twin-turbo setup. In my excitement of seeing an MKIV Supra, a rare bird these days, I genuinely forgot to ask about power figures. However, given the size of the turbo (big for any other car, maybe average to above average size on a Supra) and going from other Supra’s I’ve read about and studied, I’d conservatively estimate the car is running well over 600whp.

Sitting pretty right next to the Supra was a fairly standard looking Ferrari 360. Definitely more than I can afford pal. For now.

Ferrari’s have come and go, but in my opinion, the 360 is one of the most beautiful. The lines are simple, striking, and come together so cleanly. The proportions are classic sports car and the engine is in the right place. I just don’t care that newer Ferrari’s are faster, more sophisticated, or more exclusive. Give me the 360. 

Two wheels bad? How could somebody say that to a Ducati’s face?

Look there it is again! An NSX next to an FD! That’s three for the record! If anyone wants to take over under bets on this for the rest of the year, I’m all game.

John’s infamous FD on one of two custom size TE37 SL’s in the country. Did I mention it was next to an NSX?

Stark contrast in-between FD’s at the Import Fashion and High End line-up. This FD owner seemed to be drinking from the “make-all-the-parts-shiny” flavor Kool-Aid. 

That Top Secret Supra widebody… I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s a great kit (with great kits come great costs too), but the headlight conversion really has me struggling. Anybody have any strong opinions on this?

This was the first of my many unsuccessful attempts at trying to find another angle of the TS kit that justifiably makes the Supra look poor. Minus the headlights. Maybe it’s that trademark TS gold that’s causing some bias. How TS figured out how to make gold more subtle I’ll never know.

We running a little rich there buddy? Could use a nice little carbon fibre exhaust shield right there…

Even if you’ve never heard of these guys, you’ve definitely seen the work of DonLyson Auto Concepts. Unless you live under a rock. The shop responsible for countless feature cars in the likes of Modified, Super Street, PAS, automundo and more, brought out an exemplary JCW Cooper and 930.

Your opinion is moot here. The spoiler on the Cooper was effing legit.

Four-spoke wheel designs are incredibly polarizing and mind-numbingly difficult to pull off. I can count on one hand, one finger actually, the number of aftermarket four-spokes and that’s the TSW Trackstar 4. Somehow JCW manages to make it work on the Cooper.

I avoid using emoticons whenever possible, but with this shot, I’ll make an exception. :O I honestly could not believe the degree of transformation DonLyson had applied to the 930’s engine. I wouldn’t even bother with a trunk.

I wish I could tell you more about the 930, but I don’t think there are words descriptive enough.

After snapping off an obligatory shot of Armand’s SW20, I realized I had made a number of rounds around the show floor and decided to remind myself what the outdoors felt like. Walking into the night, I came across a number of Low N’ Slow rides and even an assortment of EVOs from PVR Motorsports, but something more uncommon caught my eye-

At a quick glance, I thought I had found myself an old Celica Supra. A closer inspection under the harsh generator lights revealed a decidedly different car: a Mitsubishi Starion. Produced from ’82 to ’89, the Starion was the first of the Japanese turbocharged performance cars to utilize electronic fuel injection. Unbeknownst to many enthusiasts, the little Starion has an ample endurance racing pedigree and the AWD version even attained a fair amount of success in the WRC.

These cars are far away from an every day sight on the roads and even at shows. I’m delighted I was able to see one first-hand. Observing the bulging fenders, I’m assuming I even had the privilege of seeing the higher-performance, widebody “Fatty” Starion model.

It only took me a few hours, but I finally found where all the Subaru’s were hiding. And when I say all the Subies, I mean all two of them. What happened with the turnout Subies?

I really don’t get this fascination with Domo – and Domo was absolutely EVERYWHERE at HIN. Both the blob-eye and the hawk-eye were running Hella horns and squishing different versions of little Domokun. Somebody needs to explain this to me before I just assume it’s something along the lines of the “zomg so JDM” mentality.

Every time you stance, God kills a Domo?

You know, I used to really want an EP3. That column-mounted shifter was just ridiculous enough to be cool. The Si even took regular fuel, had massive amounts of space, and looked unassuming for its performance orientation. I tried to convince my parents that it was a regular Civic. Of course, that was all before I even had the slightest notion of how to drive a stick shift. Not to mention I wasn’t even old enough to drive.

Considering the number of lights all over the show, I thought I’d mess around with some long-exposure shots and see if I could get something cool…

By now, the awards ceremony was going on and the show floor was mostly empty. Time for my final dash around and I came back to this black FD running on black SSR SP1s. Hopefully I can pick one of these rotary machines up before our planet runs out of fossilized dino juice. Definitely see daily driver potential.

For being such an underrated model stateside, the TSX is fairly popular in Europe as the Accord. Of course, over there, they also get the Accord Euro R with the K20, 6-speed gearbox, and 220hp, but so what else is new in the car world.

I first saw some of John Mueller’s handiwork on an episode of BMI's American Touge. A decorated former road racer, Mueller and his company, Muellerized, focus on drawing the most performance out of Mitsubishi chassis’. I haven’t looked too in-depth into their product line-up yet, but if they’re cranking more out of the EVO X, my hat’s off to them because dealing with all of Mitsubishi's acronyms is not an easy task.

Pick your car, pick your forum, and pick your scene. Did I forget anything else?

Hot Import Nights 2012

HIN was a challenge, there's no doubt about that. I can't tell you how many shots I had ruined because another person's flash decided to go off just as my shutter closed. I can't tell you how many times I sat still in funny positions with the viewfinder jammed into my eye waiting for a light from wherever to change color and/or direction. I can't even tell you how expensive a hot dog or cotton candy was. 

What I can tell you is that from one car enthusiast to another, the time and effort we put in is always worth it when we're doing something we love.

Celebrate the Fast Life. S5Z and HIN 2012.

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