Discussion>>the State Of Tuning, 2011

So, what exactly is going on in the world of tuning? That's just we have set out to find with out latest discussion piece.

We've gathered a few personalities who are well-versed in tuning trends and the scene as a whole. We've asked them their thoughts on the highs and lows of today's tuning market, the spread of knock-off parts, stance, drifting, time attack, the future, and a lot more.

The participants we've rounded up include John Naderi, former Super Street Magazine editor and current big wig at Global Time Attack.

Mark Arcenal doesn't need much of introduction. Fatlace, Hellaflush, Slammed Society- these are household names among this crowd.

Our friend Peter Tarach also jumped in, bringing his experience as the editor of Modified Magazine.

Lastly, we wanted to add a "Speedhunters" voice to the discussion, so I've contributed with my two cents.

There's a lot to talk about, so let's get started.

Speedhunters: It’s the year 2011 and the automotive tuning world is in a state of change. What is your overall view of the global tuning scene at the moment? Is it growing? Is it in decline? Has it matured?

Peter: These days I find it more and more difficult to get a grasp of where the tuning scene is at, whether it’s growing, shrinking, or stagnant. I think it comes down to how you perceive it. If you’re my age ( early 30’s) then you’ve seen the scene shrink from its hey day in the early 2000’s. Before the big Fast and Furious movies came along, the scene was full of legitimate gear heads, building and racing cars for the love of it. Then the F&F era exploded and despite injecting a lot of money into the industry, those movies brought tuning and modifying cars to the mainstream. All of a sudden everyone had a big wing, neon lights, and a body kit on their car. That’s when it turned ugly and a lot of the legitimate enthusiasts left or parked their cars. When the F&F fad became dated and lost popularity, the market began to shrink. For me, that’s been a good thing. It’s brought the scene back to its core audience, the true enthusiasts, no more band wagon jumpers. So in a way, yes the market has shrunk but it has done so in a good way.

Mark: My personal view of todays tuning scene has definitely evolved from when I first started tuning in the 90's, but as for the past 5 years, tuning hasn't really evolved. If we're talking Japan then tuning has definitely declined but dressing up has grown. Gone are the days of crazy tuned motors as it was very absent at the last Autosalon. Even Osaka's Auto Messe was half full when usually its full of tuned cars. More people are just dressing their cars up and adjusting to the decline in economy.

Nads: As much as it pains me to say it the tuning industry is a shadow of its former self. Media, as well as the traffic and advertisers are way down, as are the variety of events. Even TAS, the pinnacle of all “tuning” shows is down in terms of exhibitors and attendance. But as this market continues to evolve I think we will see a cyclical resurgence in certain niche segments within the tuner space of certain appealing trends as BBS mesh wheels for instance. Let’s just hope for more of the former and hopefully less of highlighter comebacks (I’m looking at you, Matt Powers – JK, JK, I heart you and your Mattley Crue).

Mike: While the traditional tuning industry might be hurting at the moment as far as sales and product development goes, I have noticed an increase in high quality, serious builds from around the world. Even if you can't order it from a catalog, people are going out to their garages and making it happen. It also seems that we are seeing more cross-pollination between the traditional tuner market and other automotive scenes, be it Hot Rodding, motorsport, or something else. That's a good thing.

Speedhunters: Recently we’ve seen a number of big names fall as a result of the changing market – particularly in regards to Japanese companies. What do you think the primary cause of this is? Is it the soft economy and poor exchange rate? A change in consumer tastes? Loss of sales due to knock off parts makers? Something else?

Peter: I think all those factors have contributed to the fall of the big Japanese companies. The fact is that due to the poor economy there are far fewer people with dispensable incomes that spend big money on aftermarket products, especially premium priced JDM parts. Then add the growing ease of producing cheap/knock-off parts in China and an influx of consumers who care less about quality and more about price and you have the situation we are facing today.

I’ve also heard that there’s a very strong push for being green and eco friendly in Japan, where modifying your car is looked down upon and against the norm. I’m sure that hasn’t helped the Japanese manufacturers much. Look at the top car manufacturers in Japan, most of them are building cars that are all about gas mileage and emissions versus being performance oriented. This must trickle down to the JDM aftermarket.

Mark: As long as the Japanese Yen continues to be strong, nobody except the wealthy can afford to continue and buy these parts. The parts that are for specific applications, that is. It's also the reason why Japanese Brands now manufacture and have opened shop in China. It's cheaper for them to run and manufacture and since it's to their standard. Nothing changes but production costs because manufacturing in Japan has also become very costly. Also, being a distributor and a wholesaler isn't how it used to be with so many online retailers cutting each other to make the smallest margins. So many distributors and wholesalers have stopped importing these products.

Nads: This is a direct result of the shrinkage in our market (maybe we were all in the pool). Less teenagers are getting their licenses than ever before – a phenomena first identified in Japan. Less new drivers mean less of an audience. And while I can go off on an old man rant about how this is due to cell phones and the Internet making it easier to socialize without being in the same place I won’t (but I will tell you kids to STAY OFF MY LAWN!)

Mike: The combination of a poor economy, and a shift towards fuel effciency are a double blow to the tuning market across the world. The strong yen has hurt profits of all Japanese companies, especially ones that deal in luxury and hobby items like tuning parts. These are always the first things that people cut out of their budget when times get tough. Still, there are lots of people in Japan who live and breathe for cars, and the market will survive – even if we never return to the glory days of the '90s and '00s.

Speedhunters: Speaking of knock offs. This is always a hot topic among our commenters. How big of a threat do you think cheap knock offs and replicas pose to the industry as a whole?

Peter: Working in the magazine business, I deal with this issue more than I’d like. No matter which side you take, the truth is knock offs and counterfeits have hurt this industry in a big way. Less and less companies want to innovate in this market because of fear of having their products being copied and if you look at the track record of consumers these days, they are willing to buy whatever is cheapest despite the lackluster quality or fitment issues associated with knock off parts. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. The best way to fight the problem is with awareness. As a consumer, think long and hard before buying a knock off product. What you may be saving initially will more than likely cost you in the future. It’s no secret that cheap parts don’t last as long, or that they need to be modified to work or fit (which costs money). Plus, think of the company that spent the time and money to actually design the product. That should count for something.

Mark: I think cheap knock offs definitely hurt name brands and is a threat, but brand name wheel manufacturers have hit back and have dropped a lot of wheels to go head to head with these knock off companies. Manufacturing in China has helped brand name companies battle knock offs by knocking off their own high end wheel and creating a similar wheel in cast. Why buy a knockoff brand when you can buy a name brand at a price close to the knockoff price?

Nads: While knockoffs obviously don’t help sales what is it they say about imitation? Look at a company like Louis Vuitton – probably one of the most counterfeited brands in the world (yes, even more than HKS). This brand piracy doesn’t stop LV from posting up $7 billion in annual sales. Although it could be argued that the knockoff syndrome is more of a commentary on the sorry state of our dear tuner consumer. Defend authenticity! I learned that from JDMEGO.

Mike: Most of us aren't rich, and who doesn't want to save money? But the way I see it, tuning is a hobby. Are knock off companies doing anything to further the hobby? No. The purchases we make for our cars are emotional, and it's hard to feel good about settling for a cheap replica part. At the same time, quality and affordability ARE achievable in the same product. Look at the Enkei RPF1 wheel for example, it's extremely light, it's high quality, and it doesn't break the bank. Perhaps other companies can find this balance to fight back at the knock offs?

The fitment and stance movement is another topic that always results in heated debate. Is it here to stay? Will people continue to push the boundaries of crazy offsets and wild camber in the name of one-upping each other and internet fame?  Will functional setups become the new thing? A happy medium in between maybe?

Peter: The stance movement is a love-hate ordeal for me. I love it when cars are low and have properly flush wheels but I absolutely hate it when wheels are poking out far beyond the fender (that is beat to hell to make them fit) or if the offset is so ridiculous that the inner lip is practically touching the ground. To me, the aggressive wheel trend is here to stay. People will always want to fill out the fenders and go for that race car look but slamming a car with ridiculously stretched tires that cant make it out of your driveway for the sake of posting photos on the internet is a fad that I’ll be happy to see gone. It doesn’t take much skill slamming a ride and bashing fenders to fit big wheels and tires. Doing so while maintaining a clean look is where the skill lies in my books.

Mark: In 2004, Hellaflush was about looks and how it worked well with our drift cars. It's definitely taken a life on its own and people have definitely pushed the boundaries, but if you look back in history people have always looked down at anything new. There will always be groups that like the more functional side of things and there will always be groups that live for super crazy oni camber. It's just a style of tuning, but it has to be done right. No Mickey Mouse sh*t.

Nads: I would hardly call it a movement since this flushness is a fad. Nothing more. Nothing less. Like Lambo doors or Supra taillight conversions. And much like those mods history will probably not be kind to these cars when we look back on them (see parachute pants and stunna shades for reference). However, I don’t see why there are so many stance haters. These cars are slammed to look good not improve performance. And while it’s not my style I can appreciate a solid stance. One element that will remain is that of the poke and stretch technique. It started with the lowriders and later the mini truckers of the eighties and it will live on long after Hella Flush hella fades. I’ve always favored function over form and it would be nice to see people use these performance mods in the manner in which they’re intended. 

Mike: I'm pretty amazed at just how fast the fitment thing blew up. In just a few years it's gone from a select few to almost being the standard. I don't think that the "sunken battleship" look is ever going to come back, but I can't see the "how low and wide can you go?" thing lasting a whole lot longer. An aggressive stance can look great for sure, but I think a good car should be known for more than just its wheel offsets and ride height.

Speedhunters:  Time Attack originally began as a battle for bragging rights between tuning shops in Japan. Today’s time attack cars are faster than ever, but some think that the large budget teams have pushed the sport too far from its roots. What are your thoughts on this and what’s in store for the future of Time Attack?

Peter: Time Attack has never really risen to what I consider a major motorsport. It has tried to become prime time in the US but has yet to do so. The problem is, from a live spectator perspective it’s boring to watch. There are no crashes, no passing, no last minute finish line battles, it’s all about the clock. Because of that, you’ll never see a massive influx of big budgeted teams competing. The big players that are in Time Attack are in it for the bragging rights and to be the best. Their cars are hardly taking away from the sport, despite the level of modifications done. If anything, they are great platforms for the grassroots guys to get ideas from and use on their cars.

Mark: Time Attack, just like Drag Racing, will be won with the most money. Money = R&D and without it you're slower than the rest.

Nads: Now this is a debate that’s been raging for years. It all began with the HKS Track Attack Altezza (TRB-01) that crushed the Tsukuba record by some two seconds in 2000 with a 55.8 (and reduced the entire TA tuner field to hack status). Because of its sequential gearbox and cantilever suspension the Altezza was deemed too hot for time attack and the public outcry prompted HKS to quietly mothball the $300,000 project after only one outing. Today, some purists may find the Garage Revolution RX-7 and WORLD Racing’s AWD tC too wild but these cars are only pushing the pre-conceived boundaries of our acceptance. There still remain many “unlimited” class cars such as the Scorch S15 and GST Motorsports Impreza that strongly maintain the tuner ethos while still running world-class times. Evolution is a necessary part of any motorsport and without it you’re left with stagnation and complacency.

Mike: I don't think Time Attack was ever meant to be a big time specator sport. It was meant to be a battle between tuners for bragging rights and to prove their products. Whether you are driving your car tor the track, or showing up with a NASCAR style transporter and support crew, the premise is the same. The only thing that worries is me is the lack of competitors these days. There's really only a handful of top level teams out there.You can build a car that is fast as hell, but if there's no one to compete against, where's the motivation?

Speedhunters: Drifting. Like Time Attack, drifting is a sport that’s much different today than when it started.  What are your thoughts on the current state of drifting at both the pro and grassroots levels?

Peter: Drifting brings the excitement and carnage that can make it a top-tier motorsport in the US. There’s a great grassroots movement all over the country, which will only help the sport grow as more and more people get into it. If drifting can grow in a poor economy then it’s got a great future when things improve.

Mark: On the pro side having a V8 in all cars in the series has leveled the playing field. Look at this year for example, almost all cars are running V8s and the guys with the less budget are going for it. Why wouldn't they though? They really have nothing to lose and are fighting for a top spot on a paying team. I think also having the new tire rule has helped the slower cars out and I'm very glad they did it. It's not like previous years when you knew who were going to make the top 8 every event. I think the V8 is American and it was eventually going to be the norm cause there were American cars in the series. Grassroots on the other hand is where it's at. Lots more groups have started their own events and tracks like Infineon Raceway have even started their own weekly drift series.  It isn't about winning a trophy, its about chilling with your friends and perfecting your line. Soul drifting if you will.

Nads: I’m a JDM weenie but I don’t have anything against the invasion of the Eights (Forsberg’s Titan’d Z and Dai’s NASCAR’d S13 do make the gray hairs on the back of my neck stand on end). But for my money I prefer the engine notes of Ueo’s Revolver 4AG, Tezuka’s Bee*R’d RB (with anti-lag!) or even the shriek of Mad Mike’s Bad Bull’d  “26B” just to name a few un-V8s. Drifting, if it can even be defined as such, is a motorsport unlike any other on Earth with nothing more – save a speed gun – to determine a winner than a panel of judges. Why not impress them with the frenetic style and compressed fury of the engines we’ve all grown to love! I wrote of evolution in terms of time attack and drifting is no different. In today’s torque-laden FD field drivers who could have had a V8 will struggle to keep pace. And I do understand how difficult it is to wring 600 reliable horses from an SR compared to the relative ease of achieving the same with an LS. The bottom line is that V8s may be good for drifting but not the tuner market as a whole.

Mike: Pro drifting today is more competitive than ever. I know of lot of people think that Formula D has strayed too far from the roots of drifting, but if you compare today's tandem battles to ones from 2005 or 2006, the progression is immense. The driving is insane, and I think that's what fans want to see more than anything else. When it comes to grassroots, it's all about fun and there will always be people out there simply to enjoy themselves. I love a slammed, gangster looking drift car as much as anyone else, but to expect that to carry over into the ultra-competitive world of pro drifting is pretty unrealistic at this point.

Speedhunters: What about the cars? The performance offerings from Japan have become stagnant recently with the iconic Honda Civic being removed from the Japanese market and thus the hands of JDM tuners, the uncertain future of the Lancer Evo, and the overall move towards green cars. Will Japanese car fans move on to European, Korean, and American models? Will they reinvest in older cars that can’t be had in today’s market?

Peter: We are headed into uncertain times with the Japanese auto manufacturers in terms of them building performance oriented automobiles. Once again, I blame the ailing economy on this. With less consumers being able to splurge on sports cars, the need to have fuel efficient vehicles has become a priority and the Japanese OEM’s seem to be leading that front. That’s not to say that they can’t build fast, fun, exciting and fuel efficient cars. I just don’t think they see a need for it right now. The Germans are doing a great job filling the void, even American cars, like the new Mustang are very capable. But if you are a true Japanese sports car fan it's hard to make the jump to those vehicles considering how good the Japanese cars are bang for the buck.

After visiting Tokyo Autosalon earlier this year I noticed it isn't about high horsepower, like you mentioned. It's all about going green and cosmetically tuning your cars. Wheels, Body, Suspension was the primary focus while tuning was left alone.

Nads: I would love to see our tuner movement shift to accept new platforms. In terms of Euros there’s the MINI (although more campy than cool) and the Fiat 500 is intriguing. Ken Block is single-handedly forcing us to take notice of the Focus and I’ve been hearing some positively tasty tuner rumors about Chevy’s new Sonic (dare I say groundbreaking). And because I’m an old fool I am partial to the old school. The Honda heads are hot for the EG hatch as of late and So Cal shows like TORC and JCCS further support the strength of this scene.

Mike: While it can be disappointing as car enthusiast to see this huge shift towards eco-friendly cars, it's not all bad news. Carmakers around the world are planning to introduce lighter cars and turbochargers to increase efficiency – both of these things can mean great fun to tuners. Also, there will always be those who live for the classics – whether your definition classic means a 1999 Civic or a Datsun 510.

Speedhunters: There is one beacon of light when it comes to Japanese cars and that’s the Toyota/Subaru FR coupe. If priced right, this car has the potential to reinvigorate the tuning scene. What are your thoughts about this car?

Peter: This is the car that will make or break our market. If it’s a success then other manufacturers will take note and follow Toyota/Subaru’s lead in building light, sporty, RWD sports cars.
Based on what I have seen and read, the FR-S will deliver what most of us have been waiting for. A nimble, light, RWD sports car, with lots of aftermarket potential. It’s been a long time since we have had a car such as this available to us and I am hoping the market embraces it with open arms.

I think it'll be priced fair and definitely below a new 370Z so there might be a chance to ignite a new group of tuners. I think the car has a lot of potential.

Nads: You hit it on the head in regards to pricing. Toyota’s been out of this game for far too long (and no, the current Scion lineup most definitely does not count) and with an EJ-based mill the Subie tuners will have a jump on R&D. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the FR platform. Hello, drifters! The big question is, will an LS fit? Ha! JK, LOL and all that.

Mike: Unless Toyota/Subaru seriously mess up this car before it hits dealers, I can't see it being anytihng but a smashing success. Like Peter says, if this car does succeed it will send the message to other car makers to get going on their own projects (cough new Silvia cough). This car can't come out soon enough.

Speedhunters: So, what’s next? Is there a certain tuning style or movement that you see gaining momentum? What will the tuning world look like two or three years from now?

Peter: To me, the tuning scene will continue to evolve but with less emphasis on hardcore modifications. ECU tuning and bolt-on’s will become the predominant performance modifications whereas stance and unique wheels will be the focus for simple exterior modifications.  Because of the reduced popularity in tuning cars, the police will loosen up on enforcing regulations and give us some breathing room to do as we please with the way we modify our rides…wishful thinking right? The next five years will be a pivotal time for the modified car
market. With cars becoming more and more integrated into their
electronics systems and the green movement surging forward, we are left
with fewer new platforms to modify. Will this mean we turn towards older
vehicles as our go-to cars and become the next ‘Hod Rod’ generation or
will cars like the new Scion FR-S be a smashing hit and OEM’s will begin
building the kinds of vehicles we want to modify for years to come?

Mark: Japanese & European classic car tuning will get hot & Time attack will be on television and Valentino Rossi will be in WRC kicking ass.

Nads: Put down the glow sticks and turn on the lights because the age of the mega show is over. I think the niche shows like the Eibach Meet and Wekfest have huge potential (but doesn’t that go against everything they stand for?). And what about the east coast’s Honda Day? 10,000-plus H-car fanatics – how’s that for momentum? On the motorsport side Formula Drift is going strong although the mass exodus of Tanner, Rhys and Samuel – and their collective sponsors – doesn’t bode well the series should continue to flourish. Time attack is growing into a strong halo sport for the tuner market as well as a compelling entry point into W2W racing. Drag racing is even coming back on a grassroots level. And what is this we hear about Rado v. Gardella v. Bergenholtz at E-town later this year? Now there’s a yummy bowl of rice with awesome sauce. I also like how the tuner market is turning to alternative venues like the standing mile, land speed racing and Pikes Peak (and big ups to you Speedhunters for opening our eyes to these events). With all due apologies to the that guy with pink DA Integra complete with combat kit the tuner market will live to rice another day just not in same old way.

Mike: The tuning scene might not be what it once was, but it's not all doom and gloom. There's lots of good out there still – whether it's new automotive technology, the reintroduction of the affordable FR coupe, awesome grassroots builds, or the continued revival of classics. People will also begin to realize that cars like the Civic and S13 aren't as disposable as we once thought, leading to more high quality, tasteful cars out there. I think there's still plenty to look forward to.

That wraps it up.

Big thanks to Peter, Mark and Nads for taking part in this.

-Mike Garrett



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I feel that some of the coolest stuff has yet to be discovered. Guys with the next cool thing, next thing you copy, next ridiculous idea you see, these rides may not be owned by the ones on the web sprayin pics all over forums and blogs... This means we have to dig deeper to find them, be more creative in the hunt.

The TRUE underground never died and never will.


Great article! well done :)


Now this debate was fun to read.


AGood convo.

Think members of the press need to define what is and is not a "knock off"

I see them speaking on that matter but as said japanese companies are moving their ship the chinese manufactures also.

Is this a matter of quality? Or a matter of name?

Cause some of the supporters of sh, source interlink, gta, and the fatlace brands could be regarded ask knockoffs because they use the R&D of other companies to make replica (but quality) products?

Do I take less pride in my ride if I by seibon and not voltex? Or s2 instead of toda?

Drift Scene wise why does the V8 always have to be a comp only product for drifting? What if its acutally a good, cheap alternative for streetcars that want to be well rounded? Don't like when people keep making it out to be this big budget thing (LS swaps are sucessful because their cheap!)

Totally agree on the views of Time Attack and it needing more comp but I think that will rebound once the markets rebound. And shops can afford big project cars to show their capabilities.

New Car wise? Did/Have we forgot alternative fun cars outside of Japan?

Can we see some media support of the D.I. V6 offerings from ford and chevy?

Or the many things hyundai is and has been doing?

Sorry but I'm not with a scene when it comes to my dollars I am for producers who lisen to me and give me products I want!

Heavy fd civics?

Hybrid Powerd CRZs?

Overpriced, underpowered toyotas?

Fuel milage based on a "Trend" known as hybrids (that aren't as economical, or eco friendly as the scene makes them out to be) are not products me as consumer wants and I'm not gonna reward them. And you as consumers who are evidently not happy about these said products should stop giving publicity and

Trying to make it seem good.... be angry at what is happening, your a consumer not a conformer!


Please change the friggin title......TUNING is actually about ecu's, timing curves, maping,etc. This began rice before it even got started.



Actually there is a lot more on a car than just the Ecu that is tunable, such as suspension, aero, gear ratios, and the drivetrain itself. So lets not be an ass just to be an ass.


In regards to the outbreak of crazy offsets and camber and whether or not they're going to expand even more in the car scene, I find that the whole point of doing such things is to do something outrageously different. I, personally, have never ridden nor driven a vehicle with a negative camber, but I cannot imagine the ride being that great. How's the turning radius on a vehicle with such camber getting in the way? The stiff suspension that usually comes with it can't possibly be defined as comfortable either.

The ideal of doing something outrageous will always stay, but such things that can only be adjusted so much will eventually be scrapped. Evolving technology will push it out of the way for something more suitable.


Hey great discussion. I think whatever happens tuners will be tuners, whether or not there is a global scene with massive following or guys are just doing it quietly with a group of mates, car modifications will keep on going as long as cars are around and the passion will continue.

As someone who isnt american I appreciate that america provides a lot of coverage and advancement in the tuning world and I hope that it is continued in the future. Keep it up guys


"Grassroots on the other hand is where it's at."

amen. the last and only place where drifting is truly kept fun.


good write up.

just some of my observations:

-hybrid tuning wasn't mentioned: i think honda is on to something with supercharging the CRZ and i wouldn't be surprised to see a performance/tuning aftermarket develop for hybrid platforms

-classic jap. and euro cars: i think mark was right on with this one. i've been attending classic car shows for a good number of years and for the longest time they were nothing but domestics, but in the last couple of years it seems like there are increasingly more jap. and euro classics--early 240z, 510's, 2002's, mercedes, etc..


Great discussion you guys. but my whole thing is something i have noticed with drifting. Once Backwards Entry surfaced to the heyes of pro drifters it seems to be the main points draw or show stopper in competitions. what if this technique/ maneuver takes over? where will it take the sport? will it go from a trick to a necessity?


I think this article is proof of how useless these discussions are.

10 years ago, the stance movement didn't exist, JDM cars in North America were next to non-existent, drifting didn't exist in North America; all of these have changed and grown the tuning market to a degree that I don't think any one person can truly comprehend.

While these people may comment you're not seeing obnoxious builds any more, maybe that's a good thing? Read any major car forum and styling/build threads pop up literally every minute with some new take and a huge load of creativity. Tuning is certainly more grassroots and I for one am happy of that fact.


Good debate, I enjoyed reading it. I agree in a lot of points.


"Will this mean we turn towards older vehicles as our go-to cars and become the next ‘Hod Rod’ generation"

I vote this. But I think we should avoid molesting and hacking up the bodies beyond the point of no-return.


Tuners will be going back to basics. New cars, with simple executions. Lightweight FRs with good gearboxes, and tunability.


I think you guys are going to be very happy with the Scion FR-S although I still can't quite put my finger on what happened with the Genesis Coupe. Anyway, it was said before and it can't be said better; those of us that go a day or so without eating or stay at home and work on cars instead of going out and drinking will always be here. The industry will change directions but that happens all the time, it's part of the fun to adjust to ever-changing trends and push limits no matter whats in the way.


So to summarize, since the beginning there was the Go crowd and the Show crowd. The Show crowd rice-boys used to be entertaining clowns with lambo doors, under glow, blue led washer nozzles and fart-can exhausts. They knew they were slow, they knew they didn't have any HP, they knew their stereos were heavier than their 1.6L engines, and they knew their Shogun bodykits were worse for the car aerodynamically, not better... they knew they wanted Show rather than go.

It took a decade for them to die-off, but then a new rice-boy appeared. But this new breed of rice-boy was strange. They no-longer believed their "fashion" detracted from performance, they in-fact believed their ways were superior to the Go crowd. The new rice-boy was no longer an entertaining jester; he is an Evil-Rotten-Ronnie-MoFo who was always angry. He swears at anyone who doesn't like so-called "proper-stance". He hates cars that have functional suspension and tuning, because he actually believes they are doing it wrong. Anyone who does not chant "Hella-Flush" is an infedel. He denounces anyone who refuses to damage their car intentionally by dragging it on the road. The new rice-boy believes he is a dorifto-king-jdm-purist, yet defends his knock-off body kit and knock-off china wheels with equal insanity.

It is a dark time in the tuning world; where the inmates are running the asylum...but all is not lost. Soon as with all fads, the hella flusher will be hella gone.


There is no question that the market has hit a long flat low spot in the tuning lifecycle. And i think that with regard to the Japanese companies, they did not really do anything about the knockoff's when it became the elephant in the room. Instead, i believe that they really thought the brand recognition would keep them safe. And that, combined with exchange rate, and economic shifts created a huge migration to knockoffs.

In regard to innovation, and new products... my small business has only been emboldened to push forward. We are dropping local jobbers that did our welding and water jetting at "2005 prices" and we are doing our own welding, and adding a new cnc mill this fall in order to speed up mold making and lower mold costs for us. While wings have been our core product since 2008, we will be introducing lower cost products next year to meet the needs of our US and international customers. With no bank funding or line of credit whatsoever, Kognition continues to reinvest it's profit for the future. This is a period in time when a business owner has to decide to be in it for the long haul (and it will rebound), or throw in the towel. I refuse to acknowledge doom and gloom.


Is it just me or do we see more cars with rotas and fake parts rocking Hella Flush stickers?

Maybe its hype trains like them that need to tone it down a few notches and stop whoring out our scene for a quick buck.

hella sick of this hellahype shiz!


Although tuning in the early days are more specifically toward computer upgrade, ie. ecu ,etc. As the term evolved with time, its now mostly known as performance upgrade which include modification and styling. Hobby to some. So, there is no need for a fuss about the term as we all know what we're talking about here.

In my opinion, there are few factors that determine the tuning scene. Global economy is inevitable. Costly premium original parts made it hard for most people to carry on with such expensive hobby. Furthermore, OEM parts now are equally as good as aftermarket parts. Factory made is already as sick as hell, one good example is the R35 GTR. It was born a monster. What else you want it to be? God?

As for knock-off parts, all I can say is that, it took 2 persons to tango. We can write and talk as much about it, without action, its still gonna be the same.


The cost of rent or a mortgage get in the way for so many of my friends. Its as if the economy/society/way of thinking has been led into this direction of earning just enough to pay all bills and have a tiny bit extra. Unless you have a good paying job, or simply work your ass off, you can never afford to go much further than buying that rolling shell and maybe saving up to buy your wheels. So many project cars go up for sale every month from an owner whom has simply lost interest while the parts he/she did manage to buy collected dust.


@ Mike Garrett: " and the automotive tuning world is in a state of change"......you meant "the automotive tuning world is in deep sh!t", that's what you meant.

This It's partially due to the fact that a bunch of people in the industry STILL worship Chinese knock off (let's beat on the dead horse some more),

Those folks preach about how bad the knock off are for the industry, THEN they advertise it on their magazines. How hypocrit is that? Companies like Seibon, Mishimoto, Megan Racing.....the list is long.

Those folks that work in the industry even use Chinese knock off on their ride.....WTF?

You wanna talk smack about Chinese knock off? Then don't fvcking adverstise it, don't give them ground to grow, and turn down their offer.

If you are fine with the Chinese knock off, then by all means, praise their sh!tty quality, but don't complain if this industry is suffering.

If an American-based company manufactures its parts in China just to save a buck or two, and rip off their clientele with sh!tty quality, you CAN'T tell me that BECAUSE the company is based in US, that the quality is just fine, that is BS ! You know who you are, so stop faking the funk folks, grow some balls and stop buying Chinese crap, for the sake of this industry.

If you can't afford the real deal, then save some more until you've got the money for the genuine product, as simple as that.


"the progression is immense. The driving is insane, and I think that's what fans want to see more than anything else."

when defending the state of pro drifting in America, everyone sounds like a broken record. progression is all they can talk about, just expecting people to believe it's a good thing. increasing commercialization? overcompetition? less variety? one-sided contests? yeah we should all ride THAT bandwagon... the reason things are "progressing" as they are is only because it brings in more fans and higher profit for sponsors and drivers and the FD corporation. if there were American counterparts to Keiichi Tsuchiya and Daijiro Inada they would've left this game years ago.


"Will this mean we turn towards older vehicles as our go-to cars and become the next ‘Hod Rod’ generation or will cars like the new Scion FR-S be a smashing hit and OEM’s will begin building the kinds of vehicles we want to modify for years to come?"

i say the former


"The bottom line is that V8s may be good for drifting but not the tuner market as a whole."

he should've included 'mark my words.' because there's good reason to...


I for performance tuning to continue to grow it has to provide incentives for the hobbyist and younger kids who don't have the budget. Its hard for 20 - 30 to plunk out $4 + per gallon to get teens in return. I think tuners have to look at conversion kits with alternative fuels. Imagine running a F20C on CNG which is a higher octane which in-turns helps the high compression of the F20. I think tuners have to push the forefront, can't expect better results without trying something new. My reason for suggesting fuel conversion to alternative fuels CNG, ethanol, LPG, they still work with combustion engine, but are so much cheaper $1.00/ gallon (after all the conversion) with fuel prices like kids can get enthusiastic about building a performance car, because he can afford to run it. I'm 20 year old in NYC and my friends and I use to work on cars and then cruise but gas so expensive can't really afford to just cruise around any more


I finally had time to read this article all the way through.. The "scene" or "culture" is on a downfall and that has been evident for years. I'm sure Mr. Tarach knows this by how many magazines he doesn't sell. The global economy is probably the number one factor in why the tuning market has been on such a decline. People don't have the money to spend to buy the parts they really want, plain and simple. Do you really think the guy that has to settle for some Rota Grids wouldn't rather have some TE37's instead? Those same people probably can't save the few thousand dollars for said TE37's because it'd take such a long time to do so. People buy cheap knock off stuff because it's so much more attainable than the genuine item. And fake parts aren't even a new thing in this industry. Back in these "hey days" old people like Naderi speak of, 90% of the "invader" and "combat" kits on 90% of the cars in the scene weren't genuine Veilside kits. That was nearly ten years ago. Back then no one cared. now that the industry is flooded with fake parts, everyone gets up in arms over fake stuff.

The slammed/fitted fad isn't a fad. It's been going on for years all over the world. Like all things, it has simply evolved into something far different than it was originally intended for. Kind of like drifting. I doubt when Mark Arcenal coined the term "Hella Flush", he had wheels poking two inches from the fenders in mind. The lips of wheels should be flush with the fender, and tuck under the fender during compression kids! I always thought modding a car was about self expression, and having fun. I think the confusion today is, instead of people dressing up their car to their own tastes and style, they build their cars completely around the premise that it must meet the tastes of everyone else. End rant.


Knock off's lol - let me cry for volk because they made a wheel 15 years ago that isnt very strong for actual race use and have despite putting no more time into it kept the pricing many times the cost of other wheels even multiple the cost of other forged wheels. Oh and then theres the fun of trying to order from there us distributor mackin - 6-9 weeks of waiting just because. Is Enkei crying right now over rpf1 sales - probably not.

As far as other parts look at the ASM catalog - 2 thousand dollars for fiberglass fenders, 10,000 dollars for a toda dry sump oil pan for the s2000 - that's what I payed for my s2000 - 800 dollars for a dry carbon business card holder - sorry but these companies have priced themselves outta the game.

BTW since were talking about knockoffs - it's called a patent and if your product isnt unique enough to warrant at least that then you really can't complain when people copy it.

And it's not like the tuning companies do themselves much favors by making statement after unproven statement and expecting us just to buy it.


loved the wright up! awesome read.


I think the future of drifting is going to be everybody in V8's doing backward entrys every time. Thanks Formula D you suck.......... I hope they put down some rules to limit the cars way back down in the future after the shit gets boring to watch


I think that tuning as a whole has hit a whole new level. What people dont understand is all these shops HKS, GReddy etc.. were started in some dudes garage when he decided to make his own parts because no one made what he wanted or it was to expensive. In an economy like this where companies are falling and people have less money, yes some people buy knock off parts, but the real core of enthusiast start leaning how to fabricate there own parts. Im seeing this all over the place people are breaking out the welders and grinders more than ever before. This is what starts the cycle all over again. I think the tuning community has lost its popular look now and has returned to more of a grass roots based group of people which I think is awesome. Stance is just the new show but as least about nice wheels and suspension as opposed to loud exhaust and clear tail lights.Stance is show, and show will always be around. Drifting will take the tuning community to the next level when it comes to the go side. The grassroots movement in drifting is exploding and every small town in the US is holding events from the west to east coast. Its fun to watch, fun to do, and pretty cheap, which is the perfect combo for a sport to move up. The FR-S wont be are savior but it will be a start in the right direction. Car companies lost the idea that simple is good, toyota used to be the master of that, it will be great to see them bring that back now that honda has fell out of the scene. I disagree with the doom and gloom, I think its stonger than ever, theres a whole lot more love going around now that the rice boys have moved on. You have to have a strong core to base a community off of, and i think today its stronger than ever.


We can all agreed that it more about the looks then racing the cars...because of hellaflush ...drifting has taken over the scene because who care how the car looks....it about bringing that love back ..I mean drag will Always be there in the east coast but it get boring going stright all the time .....the tuning world going through it moments like hip hop ...tight pants vs bagging pants ....drift or drag.. pick your platform


Knock-offs are killing the industry like nobodies business, its funny when shunters says its a problem but we've seen post that say rock'em for the track its fine, hellaflush saying if its milimeters away from the fender its alright, magazines with replica adds but the thing about replicas is the price is closer to home. We need YOU GUYS the ones who have an audience to help make the crowds realize knockoffs are doing more damage than we know, when big companies like greddy,work,rays wheels, hks, blitz are putting $$$$$ in there own products all it takes is for godspeed,xxr,rota,freddy and more just need to buy one and copy every detail the cheapest way they can to sell it helluva alot lower prices which will grab the bigger audience.


Also if you didn't know mapping goes into suspension and differential category as well, just saying. Guess since this is shunters i thought of nfs first and thought mainstream.


probably one of the best speedhunters articles to date, however I will say I find the way you speak of the FR-S kind of ironic. Saying its success or failure will shape some major decisions in the future in terms of what we may see as consumers... I don't think that is the case. Your position seems to completely negate the fact mazda has been been producing what is arguably one of the best and at the very least most successful rear wheel drive sports cars in history for over 20 years. If that is not a track record of success for other manufacturers to build on what makes you think some new toyota will suddenly change the game?


super low cars will always be in. and flush will always be in now.


I think that in order for the "tuning" industry to survive and even flourish, NA needs to start taking the same stance as the rest of the world market. We're still segmented as Japanese, Import, Domestic, Euro. This only further fragments the market and as the market shrinks, companies are stretched to invest R&D and marketing to each of these niches. Like the rest of the world, there needs to be an appreciation for cars in general, and nod to the renaissance perspective that we can all appreciate tuning and having in our stable various makes an models.

The truth is, that powertrains are going to only get more exciting. Within 10 years almost 75% of new cars sold will be turbocharged. Although they will have smaller displacement, they will be fun to play with. Imagine that, you don't have to buy a turbo kit. But these cars will not be your JDM variety, it will start with domestic marques. So, the tuner market needs to keep an open mind, and this includes the consumers.

On the R&D end, it is no longer financially feasible to devote R&D to the requirements of the performance aftermarket. The value of any technology ends up having to pander to the lowest common denominator. It is better, at least in our company, to develop product/technology that has a high volume application and then trickle down some flavor of it to the aftermarket. So, even for tuner companies, the tuner market is becoming a hobby.


This conversation is not about tuning. It's about Japanese cars and JDM-tuning in USA. In Europe we never stopped tuning our Fords, Opels and Beemers. Tuning just never became mainstream here, although there was the time of the ricers just like in US, but the real tuning scene was there all along and continues to be there. There will be countless amount of crazy powered Cossie-Fords and turboed BMWs in the future just like there has been in the past. The biggest difference between tuning in here and your idea of tuning is that we don't just buy bolt-on-big-brand-JDM stuff, but we get a hold of a huge turbo, fabricate some headers, buy a used Scania-truck's intercooler and beat the hell out of the car on a race track. I understand that you are Americans, but if you are talking about the state of tuning in general, you can't just discuss about it from the SoCal view only. There's a world out there. Open your eyes. And by the way, Rossi will never kick any ass in WRC apart his own... and maybe Ken Block's, but who wouldn't.


Hard to take Peter and Nads stance on knockoff companies seriously when it is their magazine industry that helps promote those companies. I mean, I know they gotta get money somehow to stay afloat, but still, it's like bitching about how horrible your job is but doing nothing to change the situation. Either actually do something to help promote the companies that are doing good in the industry or just shut up and accept that you help shady companies sell their knockoffs. Don't pretend to be a good guy when you're not.


Knockoffs are everywhere and everyone is using them. From the hammer in your toolbox to the dishes in your kitchen, we are all guilty of having these products in our lives but theres a double standard for me. I justify it with design. A radiator can be made how many different ways? 2 or 3? There's hardly any artistic design that goes into it. With wheels however, its 90% about the design. When a company knocks it off its much more of a crime then it is with a piece of pipe or aluminum box.

Whats worse is that companies like Rota dont even try to make their own designs, at least some of the other off brands are trying to design their own wheels. Companies like Rota, Varrostein, etc. continues to say screw you, we'll just steal your design and that to me makes them the worst offenders of all.


@ Flash:

You are funny man ! thanks for posting it...lol


Patents are worthless when you have Governements suporting the counterfeiting of legitimate products.

Yeah I said it!



I agree with people faking the funk and us not fully defining what a knockoff or replica item is.

But I also want to ask a question that few want to ask. is chinese quality (which is not = to JDM) that bad really?

Especially in a world were people are not using these parts what their really for (Compititon Motorosports)! If all you want is looks does it matter if your cf-fiberglass hood or lip is from japan or china? NO.

The majority of the scene right now in the. $4gal, cant find a job if your young, bad economy is. Focusing on being a lot more conservative. Performance modding is down. Meets where people actually do things is down. Motorsport activities is down. And that's directly related. To. The economy.

And in. Time we have made many knockoff items acceptable. Because that's what the. Economy dictates.

As far. As blaming this for. The death of jdm. That's bull...

Japan Never produced any Of their items in a way that. Production Was beyond what the japanese economy could support. Thats why half the products are so rare and hard to get in the US, japan is smart and always knew and still knows that the american tuning mindset will not allow a sucessful japanese dominated tuning scene.

Now anybody want to talk about the real. Tuning issue in. Japan? Just like our. Issue is based on our economical issues. So it japans!

The country is freakin old. there is not enough young people to support the tuning market that existed there for the past 30 years. Furthrmore the people that. Are there have other concerns beyond tuning. Like the fact gas is 10 us dollars there. And they. Have a public trans system that is the best in the world.

Their economy is not very strong. And expect to see a decline of the scene. This is why japans is not even making sports cars for the region.


Ok the big new challenge will ttle involve power SOURCES. gas versus electric. That much is clear fellas. Who will be able to make light weight batteries and who'll be able to afford running an old gas burner is something we'll definitely see on the horizon. Word. Thanks for the awesome overview as ever boys. This is the best site on the internet fo sho


We need to stop being negative towards each other. Divisiveness is what's killing our hobby. Making people feel unwelcome because of a difference in taste is ridiculous. Everyone else in the world views lambo doors, donks, JDM, and crazy offset as the same thing, modified cars, despite the owners feeling otherwise. Why would I go to your event/forum/show/blog if you're going to ridicule/insult me? The 90's and 00's were fun because EVERYONE came to the events. Stop hating and simply say, "It's not my style but I appreciate the effort."


I think the next big thing will be electric cars. The next generation have the basic IT/electrical knowledge to be able to work on them themselves. ECUs/gas/turbo engines are getting to complex to work on, meaning its getting harder and more expensive to mod.


where was the picture of the white datsun @ in n out taken, looks like the in n out local to me


not sure why everyone hates "knock-off" wheels so bad. they're inexpensive, they look great, they come in good sizes... and i've seen just as many "real" wheels break as i have knock-offs. unless you hit a curb at 60mph, your wheels won't magically shatter.


Im actullly really not that woried about the state of our scene.I grew up in the fast&furious age and liked the show but i never really got into it ive always been into hard core engine tunning and makeing something totally differnt like crazy engine swaps/conversion's and just plan breaking all bounderis I am very much a fan of the wholle stance crowd but it has to be functional.but i hate the whole performance/stacne war i mean yes i want my car to be fast but i dont want a race to drive everyday. I love a nice 1000+hp car but do u really need that much power everday?? Id much rather have a moderitly tuned evox


I wish the for the fr-s to be successful to the point that other manufacturers envy it's possible greatness.. Then comes a new wave of cars similar to it like what mike coughed out, a new silvia (an improved and facelifted s15 or rather an s16..). I'm in my last year of college and probably when I get a job, I'd get me an s15 and venture into tuning. I just wish this next 5 years will be kind to hopeful tuners like me...


@ jaydub:

I tell you why knock off ruin this industry: Those shady companies are taking SOMEONE ELSE idea and use it as theirs !!!

Now, imagine YOURSELF, owner of a company, you have invested tons of money, sacrifice YOUR time, forced YOUR employees to work EXTRA hours to come up with something original and innovative, (this is called R&D BTW).

Now you are ready to release the new product on the market, confident that it will sell because there's nothing like that out there, it's original and you have tested the product 1 million times.

Some fvcking sleazy d*ck takes your idea (read, steals it) and uses it as its own.

How do you feel about that? You just got raped in the a$$.

In order to design new wheels (or ANY parts that perform flawlessly), you need solid engineers that know how to use CAD and many other softwares.

An example is Cosworth. Why Cosworth products are expensive? Because they are proven, and behind each product there's a SOLID engineer that knows what he's doing, what's what you pay for.

Guess what? Engineers don't get payed peanuts at the end of the month. It cost money to develop solid products that last.


I think all and all people are afraid of change. People get comfortable and when something new comes out it throws them out of their comfortability. But change isn't bad, it's moving forward. Tuning in itself is a love/hate thing, but there is so many different variations of it that you can just pick your posion, Do your own thing and love it. Don't be afraid either.


this was so awesome to read. ur remarks made me smile, frown, nod my head and face palm so many times lol. great write up!


I like how mark skirts the "knockoff" issue. Probably because the scene he helped create is the most famous for using knockoffs. boo to you sir.


It's quite refreshing to see Hondas being acknowledged as a (huge) part of the American tuning scene and that original Civics/Integras ('88-01) are to become the future classics... I mean don't hate - we're here to stay, and for a very long time, Speaking of fuel mileage, it's one of those things that are on our side. Basic bolt-ons does wonders on a Honda - you free up some of the hp (you know how Hondas are underrated from the factory... kinda like GT-Rs, hehe) and get some MPG while you're at it. Best of all, all while being street legal in California.


Here in Australia, we are seeing a similar decline in the automotive tuning scene in terms of Japanese tuning. Going away are the old days of mega shows and coverage, which has begun with the fall of the Autosalon show series and Autosalon Magazine, as well as Drift Australia a few years back. Even so, small time events for the most enthused are still very alive, however, the appeal to the mass market and a more general audience is slowing down. I'm sad to see this aspect go, but tuning is still strong here.


Knock-offs come with a price, sometimes more significant than just the part itself. If functionality isn't there, then you just spent money on crap, irrespective of savings. But the main thing is that knock-off companies don't spend any money on product development. They not only don't know, but for the most part, don't care how anything works. Real brands perform R&D and continue to improve their products, even looking out for guys that purchased older generation product. Shame on the companies that keep releasing the same product dressed up in a different color, that does nothing for the art. Knock off companies will mostly copy only one rev of a given product, after that, you're always buying old technology and old functionality.


Believe it or not, we actually have HYUNDAI to thank for ANY hope of possible resurrection of the affordable RWD sports car. They realized that the current young generation fed off the last bits of that era and needed that in a market that was stagnant and called for change. Because of the Genesis (and I believe Rhys Millen as well), Toyota was able to get the message that something needed to change, and that was the influx of boring, economical "politically correct" FWD cars with a bunch of computers and engines so hard to work on you couldn't dream of doing it yourself. So give a toast for Hyundai, cause they sent the message loud and clear, raking in record profits that made other companies turn their attention to where all that money was coming from. But not to be misled, now that the ball is in a MAJOR corporation's court (Toyota has been a top manufacturer for YEARS, compared to Hyundai suddenly blasting from under the radar only a couple years ago) the FR-S IS THE END-ALL-BE-ALL for sporty affordable RWD cars on the import side. Nissan released the GT-R, a much coveted name-brand, but it didn't make an impact because as cheap as it was compared to its competitors it was still nowhere near affordable. Even the new EVO is north of $40K for a fully-packaged one, and the Eclipse has been dead for years now, since the end of the GSX. If Toyota smashes with the FR-S, others WILL take notice and it will only be a matter of time until we start hearing confirmed rumors about Mazda's new RX-7, Nissan's new Silvia/240SX, and maybe even Honda bringing back the Prelude powered by a K20 in a RWD package, to offset the S2000's mighty F20c, and mighty high price. Although if Honda gets back in the game I forsee their attempt being slightly over-priced than the others. So basically, EVERYTHING rides on Scion's success marketing the FR-S. They've got our attention, now what they need to do is continue to put it in our faces. The new tC Release Series is starting to sway some of the action, and more people need to know about the FR-S. If it fails, we're stuck with a DEAD Japanese market that considers a CR-Z hybrid as theri version of a sports car and more letdowns like an Altima coupe with no SE-R option or even AWD, and a bunch of domestic pony cars running around...which isn't all bad but if the domestics are gonna run the game then we're gonna need the Fiesta and Focus RS over here pronto, along with some new innovation from Chevy and Dodge to bring us something fresh. So hope for the best, people!


Great and insightful article! Thanks.


Great and insightful article! Thanks.


I come back to this article all the time eand enjoy reading it