EVENT: Taste Of Japan 2019

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Every once in a while there is an event that just comes out of left field and just blows you away. It seems that this is becoming increasingly rare in our age of constant updates and the hype-train clearance sale that I apparently missed but there was one event that blew me away beyond anything else that I experienced in Minnesota in 2019, that was Taste Of Japan at United Noodles.

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Taste of Japan was extremely late in the year and was held as an open house for an Asian grocery store called United Noodles. The location of the show itself was a small uneven loading bay in the back of a warehouse where the cars were jammed so tight that you could barely walk between them. A first time show in an overcrowded tiny lot is a recipe for failure. Refreshingly Taste of Japan was exciting and flavorful, the Street Lust team brought us to Flavortown. This show was unlike anything else I had ever seen before and it couldn’t have been any better.

R32 GTR Equips Far

It is refreshing to have new events that are more than just sweaty parking lot gatherings, Taste of Japan was one of the rare events that had an electric feeling behind it, the expectations were nil and the show was just as good as the Phở at the deli. That aforementioned Phở had at least a 20 person line for the entirety of the show, if you’re in Minneapolis, you have to check it out.

Red Honda CRX

The selection of the cars was honestly better curated than HIN was and it was first come first serve. Cars like Alex Nelson’s AF5 CRX were exactly what Taste of Japan was about, quality, not quantity. His car may not seem like much to the layman but the Mugen CF-48s with aerodiscs and the only set of Yokohama Advan HF Type-D rubber in the country set it apart from the rest of the vintage Honda crowd in Minnesota and Alex is slowly building up a collection of Mugen parts for this rare little Honda.

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Toulong’s Levin is by far the best AE86 in Minnesota and honestly it is world class. Across the board it ticks all the boxes. Rare parts, attention to detail, fitment, everything is well executed, there are some small touches that Toulong plans to address over winter but this is overall one of the best AE86 builds of 2019. During our coverage of JCCS, I tried to find a car at the show that was more complete than this car and I found myself at a loss, this is my favorite AE86 in the world right now.

Black Mk3 Supra

A clean Mk III Supra always blows me away since these cars were considered disposable for ages. However the slick black paint, modern wheels and JZ swap make a strong argument that the Mk III Supra is a very capable chassis after all. While Mark IV Supras are busy pushing or exceeding the six figure mark for sale price, you can still get the worlds best Mk III for under $30,000, for now at least.

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Say what you will about modern steering wheels, I have never seen a modern Tacoma steering wheel in a classic Toyota until now but it seems to fit rather well. It all flows with the interior’s sharp edges and the materials even match up.

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This EG Civic threw me through a loop, it wasn’t a USDM model, it had an odd paint color and a strange collection of options. It is in fact a mega rare Forest Edition Civic. These were European market exclusive run of 250 cars based off the existing Silverstone edition Civic meaning that it came equipped with the 90 HP D15B2 engine, 14 inch wheels and a single piece spoiler on the back. The biggest difference between this is the color, Forest Green, and the production badge. The owners modifications include a Spoon exhaust, Desmond Regamaster wheels, B16 engine and an Abbey Road Company Intake. EG Civics in this condition aren’t a regular occurrence anymore and it’s always a treat to see one in the flesh.

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Here is a close up of the production sticker off of that Forest Edition Civic, the font might be one of the most 90’s fonts I have ever seen. At first glance I thought it was something that the owner made but it was too weird of a sticker for even the foremost hipster to come up with. It’s a rare thing when a Honda stumps me but I love it when it happens.

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Josh from Drive Cartel finally had the clutch back in his car after spending half the year driving around in his Escalade. That’s a good thing because his Golf is one of the best Volkswagens in Minnesota and could hold it’s own nationally.

Hubert Tulazon Sienna1

Hubert Tulazon arrived late to the party with his Sienna complete with City Kruiser body kit and bespoke wheels. It’s one thing to build a car that shuts down a car show, it’s another thing when you do that in a minivan then drive home with a trunk full of groceries.

Red Celica

The A40 generation Celica is always slept on as a generation, yes the pre-facelift cars looked tragic but these later model coupes look downright great. The owner of this car has had it for years and he rarely brings it out but when it does show up, it’s hard to get people away from it.

Riko Integra Spoon

Riko’s Spoon Integra is one of the best DC chassis Integras that I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but as a whole. This car is batting 1000 and Riko only has plans for improvement with it. The car is a Spoon catalog car with expert quality fit and finish.

Toyota Pickup

This is absolutely the best Toyota Pickup in Minnesota. No rust, solid front axle, tubular rear bumper. This truck represents everything that we love about the old Toyota pickup truck and is what everyone driving a CUV is aspiring to own.

Gold MX83 Cressida

Not knowing the Street Lust team, I was rather surprised when I saw more MX83 Cressidas at Taste of Japan than I had previously seen in any event in my life. Unbeknownst to me, Street Lust was actually ending the show with a drift demo and further unbeknownst to me, this drift demo was completely planned.

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While they we’re setting up, I’m standing with Brian Jannusch saying “this looks like a profoundly dumbass idea.” Of course, everything was permitted and approved with the land owner of the building. There is something to be said about appearing as if you don’t actually know what you’re doing but being fully prepared and professional. Street Lust kept the drift expo low key and even some of the drifters didn’t know it was going down.

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Hiep was eating ramen when he got the phone call that there was drifting so he jumped in his car as fast as he could. Hiep absolutely killed it, especially given that he only picked up drifting at the end of 2018. It’s exciting to watch his skill develop in real time.

Here is a video of Hiep drifting with another friend of mine, Kurt Thomas. Both have developed their skill drastically in 2019 and I am excited to see where they can take it.

The end of the show came with a surprise Kyle Nelson burnout in his S10 with a Gen V Chevy small block. There was no question that, this was the best burnout in Minnesota during 2019. I had to get a video instead of just a picture so enjoy.

R33 GTR

Samer’s R33 is going to round us out for this show. 2019 was a stellar year for the Minnesota car scene. I am endlessly proud that I live in such a great community. What Minnesota achieves is proof that the car community in America is stronger than anyone else says. We are not a dying breed, our community is continuing to grow and is healthier than ever.

EVENT: Cars and Craft July 2019

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It seems like August happened in the blink of an eye, and the same thing with July for that matter. Every year it feels like there is more stuff happening, making it harder to squeeze car shows in between it all. Car shows have an opportunity cost just to attend and its even more of an opportunity cost to actual have your car in the event. In Minnesota, our car season is fleeting, we get only half of the year to experience it so everything is more crammed together into a 5 month window. There is so much happening at once, you would think that Minnesota would experience an over saturation effect.

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Over saturation can make everything become an overwhelming cacophony. The Chronicles had a really good description of the mindset of people from the SoCal car scene, a notoriously over saturated car community, it is a bit of a longer rear but here is the link if you’re keen on reading it. In the article Joey talks about how they have such over saturation in their car community that everything becomes bland and you take it for granted. I can’t help to mutter “must be nice” to myself while I slide towards my annual September neurotic state which leads directly into a micro-midlife crisis for a good portion of October.

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The whole point of the Chronicles monologue is about how over saturation creates a rat race where too many people latch onto the current trend and rush their builds. They care more about getting seen at shows more than they care about the quality of their build. Instead of building something that is meant to last, like this hot rod.

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If you look at the car community in Minnesota, as a community we don’t really have any of the over saturation that California has. Going back to my own Kübler-Ross model of grieving for the car season, we have just over half of the year where we aren’t being bombarded with events. In California, where people are slapping shoddy work together to try to keep up with the Joneses, Winter gives us plenty of time to sit in the garage with a wrench and a pile of parts.

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Then after 7 months of not having car things to do, we get out enjoy even the small shows like Cars & Craft more than other regions ever could. As we’ve said time and again, this is the best monthly series in the midwest and it never fails to disappoint. So we’re going to spotlight some of the cars that caught our eye back in July. There is always a new twist at Cars & Craft, for July, it was Lowriders as Uso Twin Cities brought out a solid selection of cars.

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If you’re new to Lowriders, Uso is one of the largest clubs in North America with over 30 chapters. They’re celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and, in that quarter century of lowriding, they’ve been crowned Club of the Year by Lowrider magazine several times, broken down stereotypes and reset the bar for quality time and again. There was a period in the mid-2000s where you couldn’t pick up a single Lowrider magazine without seeing at least one Uso car featured between the covers.

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Back in the 1990s, lowriding had developed a name for being synonymous with gangsters but the community has worked hard to completely expunge themselves of that stereotype. Lowriding is an art form that extends far beyond what we normally imagine, you can find lowrider bicycles, motorcycles, pedal cars, wagons and even strollers. Even if you look within lowrider cars alone, there are plenty of styles that the style’s roots touch. Bombas, minitrucks, euro lowriders are all well known and you can extend slabs and donks into the same family tree as well.

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The lowrider community has always had it’s own allure since its origins with pachucos in the 1940s. Since the 1990’s when it hit it’s mainstream popularity peak, lowriders have become the trump card of car shows, it’s almost impossible to compete with a well executed lowrider. In the last few years, lowriders have been catching a second wind as well with even more hype behind them and this is one of the most exciting times in the last 20 years to be following the community.

SW20 MR2 Red

Another trend catching a second wind, but doesn’t have anywhere near the same cachet as lowriders are body kit builds. I’ve been seeing more rumblings of big body kit cars making a come back. To be honest, this SW20 MR2 actually pulls its Veilside C-I body kit off rather well. I don’t think things like the Black Widow CRX kits will ever come back, but the higher quality ones that accent the factory bodywork do give me a nostalgic feeling. It reminds me of being in middle school and slipping a Modified Magazine inside of my Algebra textbook. My teacher always wondered why I loved math so much but never did well in the class.

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If body kits aren’t your thing, Doku’s Integra might be a bit more palatable. His car is a much more functional build with Kosei K1s, carbon fiber fenders and a high revving NA B-series build. Originally built for more illicit forms of motorsport, the car looks exceptional. Usually cars built for long trips to Mexico look like hell but Doku breaks the mold in that way.

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Alex Nelson was showing off his newly acquired set of Mugen CF-48s for his EC1 CRX. They were clad in 25 year old Yokohama A-008Rs, one of Yokohama’s highest performance tires of the mid-1990’s. While it’s cool to see those, they’re a bit of a relic so he is currently waiting on a set of JDM Yokohama Advan HF Type-Ds. If you’re not an old school tire nerd, Yokohama just started reproduction of their original Advan street performance tire a couple of years ago but they’re only sold in Japan currently.

Red EM1 Si

Another really good Honda at the show was Sean’s EM1, which has been around in Minnesota for a while. At first glance the car looks rather plain but when you look up close, you find all the extensive work that has gone into the car. It has been one of the better Honda show cars in terms of build execution and overall cleanliness for years now and Sean has had it for what must be the better part of a decade at this point. It looks like Sean has added a very meaty front tire setup, so maybe he has plans for some track time as well.

Datsun Z S30 Front

I honestly have no idea who owns this 280Z. It looks like it is still a work in progress but it already is looking excellent. The fiberglass air dam looks great and the paint is an older respray but it holds its luster well. Hopefully the owner has some exciting plans for it. This would break necks with a refinished front bumper and some Watanabes.

Infiniti Q45 Front

John Krueger never disappoints with his VIP builds. His Infiniti Q45 is a very traditional style and very well executed. He doesn’t bring his car out to everything and isn’t trying to prove anything either, he just builds cars for himself. He has an incredible eye for detail, note the reworked wheel arches and how they seamlessly blend into the doors and front bumper. This is a build that you could easily dismiss if you don’t know what you’re looking for and that might well be it’s best quality.

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Yeng from Kateng brought out this really cool Honda CB200 that he apparently owns. I’ve never seen it around before but it is a really good cafe racer build and it’s tiny displacement engine has an exhaust note that is akin to that of an extremely angry moped. Everyone builds big engine bikes but the smaller ones, I think, are a lot more exciting because you just never see them and, when well put together, they create quite the ruckus.

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Before I close out, I always do a few shots in the spectator lot just to toy with the settings I want to use during the show. This Element SC was pretty interesting. We don’t see too many Elements being built, but the big toaster is one of the few crossovers that can be cool if done right. It is also one of the few crossovers that you can get with a manual transmission and AWD.

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In California, so many people seem to be complaining about something or worried about some trite issue almost constantly, but in Minnesota, that just doesn’t really happen. Joey from the Chronicles nailed it, when he said that people are too busy trying to make a brand out of themselves. The differentiating factor that Minnesotans have, has something to do with the camaraderie that we have. We know that were all in the same boat and we’re living in the “wrong state” for our lifestyles.

Toyota Celisor Night

Minnesota is far from the wrong state to be a car enthusiast, we do more than just fine and when everyone else losing their minds, we are thriving. The perspective gained when comparing how we operate as a whole to how other states operate is profound. When everyone else is in a rat race, we’re just out having a good time and loving cars the way we were intended to, with friends, family, food and good beer. Our community is excellent and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.