10 Surprising Facts About the Import Control Scene

Car tuning culture has a long history and means a lot to many people. Depending on who you ask, his origins are a heartland between America, Germany and Japan. Since the invention of the automobile, people have always repaired their cars with aftermarket parts to improve them and perform better than what they left at the factory. But this practice became more radical and later became a cultural movement. From the hot American stick and wagon races of the 1930s to the famous body races from Germany and the illegal mountain races in Japan called “tog”.



After the oil crisis of the ’70s killed the muscle car, there were a few domestic performance champions, and they were largely unconvincing. The new wave of cheaper Japanese sports cars Making its way in the United States in the 1980s, it outperformed its domestic competitors. Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, and Mazdas are quickly becoming available in abundance and can be obtained very cheaply. It was also easy to work with and convert them into small pocket missiles. Young people can now afford to build fast, fun and economical cars, thus giving birth to the import-control subculture. Here are ten surprising facts about the import tuning scene.

10 Born in Southern California

Southern California has been the home of auto modification among youngsters since the hot days of the 1950s. Since Gardena from this region has the largest population of Japanese Americans in North America, it is not surprising that Japanese cars that took first place in the early 1980s gained popularity. The presence of original Japanese parts sellers encouraged the modification, and import racing venues and street meet-ups soon sprung up.

The standard of living here was higher than in other parts of America. According to Craig Lieberman, they were more receptive to buying Japanese cars and had more Supras, RX7s and NSXs on their streets and car showrooms than anywhere else in the country.

RELATED: 10 Japanese Cars With Almost Unlimited Tuning Possibilities

9 Dominated by JDM cars

Import control includes all types of imported vehicles, including those from Europe. Import racing in the 1960s, also born in Southern California, included modified European cars such as the VW Beetle, Austin A40, and Ford Pop. So Europe contributed incredible tuner-friendly cars like the BMW 3 Series, Porsche 911, Mercedes AMG and VW Golf. However, JDM cars dominated the import tuner scene.

Japanese cars were more practical and affordable, while their German counterparts were already performance-oriented and expensive objects. Children cannot buy a Mercedes AMG or a Porsche 911.

8 Lots of reputable import tuner shops

Auto and body repair shops that existed from the early to mid-1990s played a big role in fueling the culture. The teenage sons of shopkeepers realized that they could improve the performance of Japanese cars by adding some modifications. They had the money, the ability, and the knowledge to do that and they chose this route over throwing a lot of money on American muscle cars that they couldn’t modify. With the increasing popularity of this practice, enthusiastic new import tuner stores have grown and grown into reputable stores.

Most stores have built authority and street credit by specializing in a few models. For example, SP Engineering built GT-Rs RX-7s and Supras, Jotech Motorsports worked on Supras, and Jotech Motorsports built the world’s fastest Honda Civic in 1999. Unfortunately, few famous shops survive today.

7 The Golden Age – late 1990s to early 21st century

Street racing was already popular in the ’90s across the USA and was all about bragging rights with modified Civics and Integras. But the popularity has grown exponentially and exploded with the release of the first Fast and Furious movie in 2001.

By 1999, multiple tuner car events were happening every weekend throughout the year. Also, the annual SEMA Show dedicated more display space to tuners, and auto manufacturers added them to their booths. There were more than six tuner-exclusive event series such as Battle of the Imports, Hot Import Nights, NIRA, NOPI, Import Showoff and Extreme Autofest.

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6 Hundreds of car companies make great auto tuner parts

With the growth in popularity of synthesis came an insatiable demand for parts. As a result, hundreds of car companies have appeared that make great spare parts for tuners. By 1999, Japanese companies such as HKS, Trust and Apex Integration had set up distribution facilities in the USA.

Also, many auto parts distributors who previously specialized in selling auto repair jobs like PepBoys and Autozone have started stocking tuner accessories.

Cars came first, followed by modifications that became prevalent, then magazines. At the time, the fascination with magazines was high. Their page count was significant and varied across genres and popularity. With the increase in popularity, the pages of the tuner magazine grew from 60 to 80 pages per issue.

By the year 2000, there were countless import tuner magazines producing issues with more than 200 pages and were more than all pages in local tuner magazines. There were many magazines, each aimed at popularizing a certain niche. But soon the advent of the Internet and tuner sites gradually eliminated them.

4 Fast and Furious Effect

Some people mistakenly assume that the Fast and Furious franchise triggered import tuning. The scene predates the 1997 Grand-Turismo racing game, which also introduced many young gear heads into training and came much earlier than the F&F. Culture had already enjoyed its first golden age before the first movie came out in 2001. But we can’t deny that movies have had an enormous impact in driving the cultural mainstream.

It made the scene very popular and excited everyone to prepare their cars. Several kids attached windshields and sticky notes to the hood of the CRX after watching the movies.

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3 Expansion became unsustainable by 2008

With the rapid growth of the import tuner market, world domination seemed inevitable, but it wasn’t. The market shrank after the US went into recession in 2007. This affected the tuning hobby as many industries took a hit and people’s incomes were lower, making the expansion unsustainable.

Manufacturers caught on in the mid-2000s and started producing cars with good stock performance. There were fewer tuner companies, so there were fewer parts and accessories available, and new cars were no longer tuner-friendly.

2 Affected by cheap interviews

One downside to the increase in popularity was the entry of greedy manufacturers who spammed online stores like eBay with fake performance parts. New tuners who didn’t mind faking it until they made it chose these inexpensive parts over well-built ones.

These parts were cosmetically similar to the original but at a third price and were of poor quality. However, bargain shoppers have gone in their favour – and this has taken a toll on the real part makers, causing many of them to go out of business.

RELATED: These 10 Japanese Stores That Build The Toughest Hondas

1 Shadow of its glory days


The import tuner scene is not dead, but one could argue that he died a spiritual death and changed dramatically. It is a shadow of its former glory. Most magazines are dead along with their fellow print media companies, with only a handful like Speedhunters and Honda Tuning remaining online while keeping the import tuner lights on.

The tuning enthusiasts who made culture popular are now much older, and their tastes have changed. They can now buy Porsche and BMW cars. Also, their hobbies may have diversified into other types of tuning such as the restoration of classic cars.

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