Way back before "The Fast and The Furious 1" brought the import tuner scene into the mainstream limelight there was a more legitimate side of the Import Tuner Scene, a side that consisted of three major car shows : The Tokyo Auto Salon, SEMA and Hot Import Nights. Hot Import Nights was and still is unique in that of the three in that it has always been about the tuner culture, more so than automotive companies trying to entice future customers. Hot Import Nights is more-or-less, part rave party and part car show; that odd combination is perhaps what makes it so fantastic. This formula has kept Hot Import Nights successful for over a decade now. The latest round of Hot Import Nights came to Orlando Florida this past weekend and I have to say it was like stepping back in time just a little bit.
In 2002 while I filming Apotheosis (a documentary about the rising import scene) I attended Hot Import Nights LA, probably during H.I.N.'s highest point. There were so many cars that the entire convention center and the court yard were filled to capacity. Nearby dozens of tuners were endlessly circling the streets waiting for a vacancy on the show floor. I also remember a two hour wait to get in to the convention center and a line that stretched as far as the eye could see. Every Japanese car you could ever want to see was at that show and many of them modified mechanically and visually to the highest levels. To this day I can still remember how amazing that show was and how hyped I was after filming there.
Arriving at the Central Florida Raceway on Saturday I once again found myself in a line of cars waiting to get in. I was encouraged to see a large turn out. The sides of the road filled with questionably parked cars including everything from the popular Scion FR-S, to Hellaflush Civics.
Once through the parking gate I unloaded my camera and lights and right away started the hunt. Half the fun of these shows is to see what automotive goodness is hanging out in the parking lot.
My wanderings lead me onto the access road to the drift track as drivers prepped and tuned for Sundays W Drift America event.
From there I made my way down the main stretch to take in the main entries. Hidden in the modern tuning goodness was a great set of vintage Mazda RX4's in the mix.
Of course from there there was everything from decked out Genesis Coupes
Of course there were many examples of the ever popular 350Z both in the show and on the track.
Hot Import Nights would not be complete without the Go Go Dancers.
As the sun set and lights fired up the real charm of Hot Import Nights comes into effect. The coolness factor of a car show goes up noticeably under the night sky, especially on a race track. Perhaps it's that subconscious connection between car culture and late night cruising and racing that makes one feel at home.
Speaking of feeling at home, if you have been following my blog for a while you know that I have pretty much been focused on coverage of the exotic car scene down here in the Sunshine State. So one may ask after shooting so many flavors of Bugatti Veyron how does one get excited about a JDM racer? Well let me put it this way, I'm not biased (I love all automobiles) and I got my start in the tuner scene.
... I can look at any tuner displaying at Hot Import Nights and know what it's like to make a car part of your persona. I quickly remember all the weekends turning a wrench on my MR2 Turbo in the garage, the endless hours of detailing and prepping for a show.
Tuner cars are fun as hell and beyond that through the years I have met some super cool people in and through the tuner scene. Though the scene has changed a bunch through the years I still see people with the same passion for cars that existed a decade ago (likely since the dawn of the automobile). I left this show totally pumped, and impressed with the enthusiasm of it's crowd.
Hey, if Hot Import Nights can still make me feel this way after all these years about the Japanese tuner scene then I say it's organizers are doing a great job. That's all I got to say. Thanks for reading, I'll shut up now and just leave you with some more images from the show.