Confession time: I used to be really into Import Cars and the tuning scene. My high school years coincided with the rise of The Fast and the Furious franchise, and having already been pre-disposed to loving Japanese cars, it was natural that I’d gravitate towards this niche.
Rather than the winged-and-decaled tuner show cars, I was more of a “Sport Compact Car” guy, interested in performance vehicles rather than stereos and bodykits. But every now and then, I’d pick up Super Street magazine. Not only did their coverage of domestic Japanese tuner shops and tuner cars far exceed SCC, but they also ran a sporadic series entitled “Back In The Day”, that featured interviews and archival photographs of the import car scene from as far back as the late 1970’s.
For someone who thought that the tuner scene began with the advent of the EG Civic (not really, just that was my frame of reference), it was immensely satisfying reading about the early days of modifying Toyota 22R and Datsun L-Series engines when there was next to no knowledge about modifying anything but domestic V8 engines. Reading about the early days of modified Japanese cars made me able to better relate to the enthusiasm that my parents’ generation felt for American Graffiti. As unlikely as it is, I would love to see a movie or a book that explores this era in America’s automotive history.
Sadly, most of my tuner magazines were discarded over the years, and all I have left are a few clippings from the Back In The Day Series. I have managed to find exactly one article archived online, and wanted to share it with you all. The series has no morphed into profiling vintage Japanese cars that have been modified in a contemporary style. What a shame it is that such an extensive history is inaccessible on the web.
By the way. if anyone has an extensive archive of Sport Compact Car back issues, email me, derek at ttac dot com