After some frantic last minute planning, late night phone calls and a 5am start I found myself at Japfest 2011, Europe’s biggest Japanese car show. I wasn’t originally planning on going as I’d presumed it’d be like every other car show…how wrong I was!
With over 3000 club cars on display, a tuner car display and constant track action there was almost too much to see before the 5pm finish! I tried my best to visit as many of the club stands as possible and also get some decent on-track shots so I’ve decided to split this write-up into sections based on manufacturer.
To put it simply, there were Hondas everywhere! With club stands from various Civic, Integra, Del Sol, S2000 and even NSX owners clubs and forums there were hundreds of Hondas in various guises to look at. It was good to see that while some owners had gone for a stance/fitment look with their cars, the majority seemed to have focused on handling and usability.
A healthy number of Hondas saw action on the Castle Combe circuit during the day, treating the crowd to a VTEC soundtrack. Vince Knight in his K20 powered EK Civic definitely caused a bit of a stir on track as he was seen passing cars that had a lot more power under the bonnet, but they just couldn’t match the nimbleness of the little Civic. Fast Jap Cars also organised a track session that mostly comprised of EK9 Civics and DC2 Integras, a refreshing sight after seeing quite a number of Type-Rs stripped of their track day pedigree in favour of sump-scraping lows, wide wheels and lots of camber.
Considering how few models of Mazdas modifiers tend to drive there was a surprisingly high turnout of cars from the rotary-favouring manufacturer. Mx-5s were in abundance, again with a healthy dose of stanced and track based examples on display.
The turnout from the Rx-8 owners club was absolutely staggering, and at a couple of points during the day there was solely Rx-8s negotiating the high speed circuit, showing that most of these cars were modified to go as fast as they looked.
My favourite Mazda owners club was of course the Rotary Club, where the club stand was filled with FC and FD Rx-7s. Without a doubt the Rx-7 is one of the most beautifully shaped cars ever made and to see so many in one place was definitely a fantastic experience. There were a couple of FDs present on the track, with the most prominent being Dragon Performance’s British Drift Championship car (that was used in the drifting demonstration runs) and also their Time Attack car, which was mesmerising to watch as it negotiated the traffic of daily drivers.
The Toyota presence was a strong one with some truly fantastic cars on display. There were stands for MR2s, MRSs and Celicas but obviously it was the absolutely huge Supra stand that received the majority of my attention. It was mind-boggling to think how much collective horsepower there must have been on this stand alone, with cars ranging from the completely standard to the extreme wide-bodied powerhouses. The thing that struck me the most about the stand (and the Rx-7 and NSX ones as well) was the average age of the owners. Far from a bunch of wealthy boy racers, the majority appeared to be middle-aged family men living the dream and owning what was once their dream car(s). I must admit it seemed a bit strange to watch a wide-bodied Supra being driven off the stand by a middle-aged man with his wife and children in tow but I guess that just proves that the Japanese modifying scene isn’t just made up of arrogant boy racers like the mainstream media would have you believe.
There were also a few other impressive Toyotas present that didn’t have stands of their own, namely a trio of AE86s and a gorgeous Chaser, although the Starlet stand was huge! I’ve always been intrigued by Starlets as their 1.3 turbocharged engine seems to have so much potential, maybe one day I’ll have to look at getting my hands on one…
As predicted, the Nissan stands were full to the brim with hyper-power Skylines and Nissan S-body drift cars, but who can complain about that!? The Skyline owners club stand contained some truly jaw dropping cars, with my favourite being a 580bhp Midnight Purple R34 V-Spec, a dream car if I’ve ever seen one. The SX owners club stand was huge and provided plenty of S body Nissans to ogle. There were numerous strawberry-face (S15) front-end conversions present on S13s and S14s which just added to the awesome variety of cars on display.
One stand that did take me by surprise was the owners club for the Nissan Cube, a car I definitely didn’t expect to have such a big following! The Z car owners club was also a jaw-dropping sight thanks in part to the large number of classic 240Zs that had made an appearance.
Obviously I’ve missed out quite a few manufacturers but due to the time restraints of the day I wasn’t able to give them as much attention as I’d have liked! The numerous Subaru stands were mightily impressive and filled with some superb Imprezas, along with the Mitsubishi stands that had some jaw dropping Evos on display.
Another manufacturer that also caught my eye was Suzuki, thanks in part to the huge Swift owners club that had some fabulous little cars present. I’ve never really given the Swift much thought in the past but after seeing those on the club stand I was really impressed with their tuning potential and the creativeness of their owners.
Throughout the day the track was closed to regular drivers and a number of pro drifters were let loose to do some display driving. All of the usual British Drift Championship championship contenders were present in a variety of cars, from Skylines, rear wheel drive converted Imprezas and the usual Nissan S-bodys. The Dragon Performance FD Rx-7 was by far the most fun to watch as it repeatedly got some insane angles going into the corners, all while treating the massive crowd to its distinctive rotary soundtrack.
Overall Japfest was quite probably the best car show I’ve ever been to. While the tuner cars on display were all very impressive, the most appealing part of the day was seeing the 3000-odd cars that belonged to everyday people on the club stands and being thrashed round the track. Seeing what has been done by people who don’t have botomless pockets is very inspirational and shows that it is still possible to live with a modified car in these days of ever-rising fuel and tax prices.