Ireland’s love affair with Japanese cars is no secret. For over two decades, the country has been importing some of the best JDM models ever built.
Ireland shares the same side of the road and car as the Japanese, which is obviously a huge benefit when compared to left-hand drive and countries which drive on the right, but at a guess I would think that the popularity of Japanese cars likely comes from the Irish’s love of rallying. Once early Imprezas, Evos and Celicas were imported, people then started to look for other performance bargains from the Land of the Rising Sun. Type R Hondas, turbo Toyota Starlets, and AE86s flooded the country in the early 2000s.
There might not be any bargains left in 2019, but that hasn’t stopped the Irish’s love for JDM. If you needed any proof, you only had to attend JapFest Mondello Park 2019.
The rain came down hard the night before the event, and when morning dawned on the Mondello Park circuit – where the finest European drifters would also be competing in the 2019 European Drift Championship final – it hadn’t subsided.
Irish folk aren’t afraid of getting wet though, and while pro drifters practised their wall initiations before qualifying, crowds of people began to flood the JapFest side of the event.
Even in the queue at the entry gate, which extended a long way back from 8:00am, I began noticing some legends of the Japanese domestic market.
As the European Drift Championship final was in full swing and I wanted to catch a lot of the action, my stroll through the parking area was fast-paced. I snapped what I liked, and only stopped for a few seconds if something special or interesting caught my eye.
Like this 1993 Nissan Sunny truck. The long-bed pickup was purchased at a Japanese auction in the beginning of 2018, and then exported to Ireland. Its simple but effective look has been brought together with arch flares, air suspension, and a perfect set of three-piece Target Keystone Racing Hayashi Street wheels. It turned out that this little Sunny was later named ‘Car of the Show’.
Not too far away I spotted this VIP-styled Toyota Aristo (Lexus GS300) on mammoth 13-inch wide rims. I wasn’t able to find the owner for a chat, but from what I’ve understand it’s on static suspension with a single-turbo-converted 2JZ under the bonnet.
Adrian Walsh’s yellow Toyota Corolla Levin notchback was showcased for two days in the paddock, attracting a lot of attention. This Hachiroku is one of my all-time favorite AE86 builds; I’m just disappointment I’ve never seen it in action.
I recognized this red car straight away, but can you? This was the first time I had ever seen a Mitsubishi FTO in person.
The Irish really do cherish Japanese cars and the culture that surrounds them, which I guess is why drifting is as big as it is in this country. When you import S-chassis, Mark II Toyotas and Hachirokus in numbers, it’s impossible not to start sliding them around the track at some point.
It’s hard to know who supports the JapFest Mondello Park movement more – the organizers by providing the venue for the meet, or the JDM buffs who attended in their thousands on a rainy Sunday. Despite the challenging conditions, this was probably the best organized car show I have ever been to – something only made better by the cars in attendance.