Author: paulieecic92

Week 9 – Defining JDM

The term JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) refers to the local market for domestic goods in Japan. The term was first used by corporations to differentiate between domestic and international production markets.

Within car culture, the meaning of JDM has over the past two decades evolved and morphed away from its original intended use, and now stands as a term loosely used to describe the specific Japanese-esc automotive style. JDM is nowadays a term used to describe anything from ‘stickerbombing’ cars (covering entire parts and panels of vehicles in sticker collages), to lowered vehicles, and front mounted intercoolers. While these attributes may have been derived from original Japanese styles, the term JDM presently remains in a convoluted state. In an age where the Internet has played a fundamental role in colliding popular automotive culture, and the traditional boundaries of car culture have become convoluted, does JDM still stand for JDM? What is JDM? And what defines it?

JDM was first applied in Japanese automotive to describe cars and parts manufactured by companies to a Japanese standard of quality. Products that fall under the JDM bracket are those that comply with the regulations of Japanese law, and thus are legal for use in Japanese automobiles. Applying this notion of products tailored to specific markets, parts created for American vehicles fall under the USDM banner, parts for Australia, ADM and so on.

Up until the mid-1980’s, the Japanese automotive climate was dominated by popular cars at the forefront of automotive engineering and design. These vehicles in most cases were unique to Japan, never exported to lands outside of Asia. Towards the end of the 1980, shaken laws increasingly encouraged Japanese drivers to regularly update their vehicles, and ‘grey-imports’ (cars previously registered in Japan and built to Japanese standards, but later compiled for foreign markets) became an affordable alternative to local vehicles in international markets; particularly amongst enthusiasts, who were taken by the performance of Japanese vehicles. For enthusiasts, ‘the light weight and increasing availability of low cost tuning equipment, (meant that) Japanese cars exhibit(ed) high performance at low costs in comparison to dedicated sports cars’ (Justin Fox, 2010) As the potential for these vehicles was increasingly recognised, grey-imports like the Subaru WRX STI became more commonplace on Australian roads.

Two very different Toyota AE86’s. (The owner of the ADM model has spent considerable time and money to convert his vehicle where possible to mirror the JDM version on the right)

Grey-import, JDM cars often featured parts specifically manufactured for the Japanese market. Cars of a JDM standard offered more advanced technologies and performance then the very same cars offered in international markets. For enthusiasts, installing JDM parts to locally sold cars quickly emerged as an affordable way of improving automotive performance through making use of factory parts. (To make use of factory parts is to make use of parts designed, developed and manufactured to the highest quality by the companies in which manufacture cars. JDM factory parts are highly valuable to the JDM enthusiast as they offer levels of quality assurance that most aftermarket part companies cannot offer). An example of this process is no better demonstrated than comparing factory parts from an Australian delivered Toyota Sprinter AE86 and its Japanese counterpart (above). Whilst the chassis remained the same, the Australian version of the sports back Toyota featured a lethargic 1.6lt single overhead cam, carburetted motor. Comparatively, the Japanese version of the AE86, which is now considered a cult classic amongst car enthusiasts, featured Toyota’s free revving, electronically fuel injected, Twin Cam motor, the 4AGE. The value of an Australian delivered AE86 in today’s used car market is between $3000-5000 Australia dollars. A JDM AE86 import? Upwards of $15000.

Snapped: The Tilton Interiors Mitsubishi Evolution recently competing at the 2014 World Time Attack Challenge. Japanese manufactured, but Australian developed and built, does this car fall under the JDM or ADM bracket?

 

Whilst there is little in the way of documentation of the cultural shifts within Japanese automotive culture, the nature of the current use of the JDM term is indicative of a higher, progressive evolution in Japanese car culture. The use of the term JDM raises questions about what qualifies as being described as JDM- Are performance parts for Japanese, manufactured outside of Japan considered JDM? What about cars owners who painstaking assemble domestic cars with JDM parts – are they now JDM? Are the Australian built racecars, originally manufactured by Japanese brands, that competed at the recent World Time Attack Challenge in Sydney considered JDM – or ADM?

Personally, I believe what defines JDM is that flutter of the heart you experience when driving an old Japanese car. Having driven the original AE86, there is something inquisitively special about being behind the wheel of something so Japanese – the feel, the touch. But, contrastingly, having built my own version of an AE86, based on the same chassis Toyota Corolla of the era, and a huge amount of parts taken from JDM AE86’s, I must admit there was something special about that car as well. It may not have been strictly JDM, but the accumulation of parts, made it a special car to drive.

Perhaps the best approach to JDM is summarised by Ben Schaffer of Bespoke Ventures:

“…there is no right or wrong answer for what is JDM. It will mean different things to different people. In a sense, it means the same thing as “cool” except with a cultural twist to it. Nobody can define cool, as it relates to Japanese car tuning culture, it is simply always up for debate.”
References:

Fox, J 2010, ‘What is JDM’, JDMST, forum discussion, 8/11/2010, viewed 13/10/2014, http://forum.jdmstyletuning.com/showthread.php?29606-What-is-JDM-Define-and-discuss
Schaffer, B 2013, ‘What does JDM mean in the import car scene,’ Boost Freak, 18/04/2013, viewed 13/10/2014, http://boostfreak.com/what-does-jdm-mean-in-the-import-car-scene

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Week 8 – The automotive climate of Japan: An examinational study

The experience of car ownership is one that is vastly different across the globe. From the ‘Yank Tank’ legislation in Cuba which made the purchasing and reselling of vehicles manufactured later than 1959 impossible by law, to the severe costs of car ownership in Singapore, to the open speed limits of the German Autobahn – the legislative, economic and social environments have a fundamental effect on the characteristics of national car ownership. Whilst over the last two decades, mainstream media productions such as the British Top Gear series and movies like the Fast and the Furious franchise have only intensified global automotive interests, these national environments play an absolutely dominant role in the fostering of national car culture.

As has been alluded to for much of this ethnographic study, Japanese car culture has affirmed itself as the most profuse and alluring of its type globally. With such a celebration of this automotive culture occurring every day beyond the borders of the Asian continent, one must question the type of environment that has come to foster such a culture? How can a national culture develop to a point whereby it becomes celebrated in other societies across the globe?

For the purpose of this study, this discussion will examine the Japanese automotive climate, comparing it to that of Australia’s when possible. With the general lack of conclusive comparison data, any claims made are purely based on my own ethnographic scope.

Japan Australia
Country Size (km2 ) 347 944 (21st) 7 692 024 km2 (5th)
Population 128 650 000 (10th) 23 632 100 (51st)
Median Age (years) 44.6 37.4
GDP (Billion, $USD) 4.85 1.64
Earnings per household ($USD) 25 066 31 197
Vehicles on the road 76 032 150 1 694 414
Vehicles per 1000 people 591 717
National Automotive Manufacturers 10 1
Automotive companies manufacturing within country 11 3

When examining the figures above, the geographic difference between the two nations is immediately apparent. The boarders of the Japanese nation fit snuggly within the Australian continent 22 times. Japan has the 10th largest population in the world, with a ratio of 370 people per square kilometre, whilst Australia just 4. From an automotive perspective, this means a huge amount of motorists, and a huge amount of vehicles on Japanese roads. Japan’s roads are known for being some of the most astounding pieces of engineering in the world, and with 76 million cars on the road, it is no wonder why. As well as this, eleven of the world’s leading automotive companies are Japanese. Each of these companies makes use of local production, producing in excess of eight million vehicles for Japanese roads in 2013. From an automotive climate perspective, such a strong industry has direct implications on creating a nationalistic automotive culture.

Figures indicate there are almost 6 automotive vehicles for every 10 people in Japan. Whilst Australia has a higher figure of approx. 7 cars for every 10 people, this is due to the vast size of the Australian continent. The sheer disparity between the two environments is perhaps better visualised when examining how many cars reside with each square kilometre. In Australia, there are approximately 4.5 vehicles per square kilometre; in Japan, a staggering 219. But even more staggering, is the figure revealed when examining the amount of Japanese vehicles that would reside within each square kilometre of Australia, when scaling the Japanese automotive population to that of the size of Australia. If the Japanese automotive population is scaled to the size of Australia’s size, 218 Japanese vehicles would reside within each and every Australia square kilometre; approximately 48 times greater than Australia’s current figure. Evidently, these figures indicate the colossal magnitude of the Japanese automotive population. For a country so small in terms of geographic size, Japan possess possibly the most dynamic, and tremendous automotive environment in the world.

The sheer volume of vehicles on Japanese roads perhaps is further influenced by the national automotive manufacturing sector, which is the world’s leading industry. Over 4 million new vehicles are exported from Japan to foreign markets each year. Considering this vast environment, it should come to no surprise the market saturation of vehicles available to motorists. At this time, Toyota offers 37 different cars to Japanese motorists. In contrast, Toyota Australia offers Australian motorists a total of 24. This saturation also results in a huge used car market. The amount of cars available to motorists, in combination with the strict and problematic ‘Shaken’ Japanese registration system, makes keeping cars three years and older on the road for the average Japanese motorist an expensive investment.

Keeping classic Japanese performance vehicles like this Subaru Legacy GT (Released only in sedan form, as the ‘Liberty B4’ in Australia) on Japanese roads becomes increasingly costly at the end of each ‘shaken’ period. Owners instead pass on vehicles, leaving most to be exported to foreign markets as ‘Grey Imports’.

Japan’s ‘Shaken’ is the bureaucratic system of determining the worthiness of a cars registration. Each ‘Shaken’ can cost up to ¥100 000 ( $1000 AUD), but costs associated with ensuring vehicles pass Shaken laws increase for every registration renewal, makes selling vehicles at the end of a registration period more viable for Japanese owners. Consequently, Japanese motorists are been noted for regularly updating cars maintaining ownership for approximately the first five years of their life – half of the period an American motorist maintains their ownership. Whilst the disparity of registration costs in Japan and Australia is not overly vast, considering the Japanese households earn on average 20% less than their Australian counterparts, high-registration costs are indicative of purposeful legislation to guarantee a constant high standard of automotive vehicles on Japanese roads. For the individual motorist, updating vehicles every five years, demonstrates a cultural, and financial acceptance of such policies.

As a consequence of regularly updating Japanese motorists, a burgeoning export industry has emerged whereby up to a million used Japanese vehicles are shipped to foreign shores each year. Countries like Russia and New Zealand have developed an appetite for Japanese imports as they can be compiled and registered for local roads at prices competitive with locally delivered vehicles. In markets like Australia international model imports are limited to strict intakes per financial year, as JDM vehicles often differ greatly from the cars that Japanese manufacturers build for export and vehicles derived from the same platforms built in other countries. Niche imports, such as vehicles only sold in Japan like the cult classic Toyota AE86 Trueno (below), and powerful Toyota Chaser JZX100, offer enthusiasts unique options of vehicles that are not readily unavailable in local markets. These vehicles often carry with them a higher value, derived from their specific appreciations within automotive cultural groups. Cars not originally sold in local markets but are later imported and sold are referred to as ‘grey imports’. Deregulatory motor industries, such as that in New Zealand, have seen Japanese imports flood the market and dramatically alter the shape of the local vehicle industry.

Toyota AE86 Trueno: A cult classic that can fetch up to $20 000 dollars in Australia

Whilst Japanese car enthusiasts tend to buck these ownership trends, the process of selling on late model vehicles is extremely beneficial for their behaviour. With reference to the images below, an identical Subaru Impreza is available to Japanese motorists second hand at almost a third of the price for the same model in Australia.

A comparative study reveals the resale value of a 2012 Subaru Impreza is vastly less in Japan than in Australia. These price differences are driven by Japan's 'shaken' registration and a ownership culture focused on updating the motorists vehicle.


Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 11.10.07 PM A comparative study reveals the resale value of a 2012 Subaru Impreza is vastly less in Japan than in Australia. These price differences are driven by Japan’s ‘shaken’ registration and a ownership culture focused on updating vehicles every couple of years.

Even factoring possible ‘Shaken’ costs, used cars in Japan are far less expensive than in Australia, thus making cars more affordable and as well accessible for the enthusiast. Interestingly, when examining pricing of European vehicles, it is evident European cars from brands such as the BMW or Volkswagen are more marginally more expensive within Japan than Australia. From an auto-ethnographic scope, I would argue such pricing mechanisms again reflect an attitude to maintaining update to date motoring. For the motoring enthusiast, second hand vehicles are more cost effective within Japanese markets. Consequently, Japanese automotive enthusiasts who modify domestic vehicles, such as the Nissan Silvia, Honda Civic and Toyota GT86, are encouraged by the sheer volume of vehicles available within the automotive environment. For those willing to pay ‘shaken’ costs, cars are readily available, at cheap prices. Contrastingly, Australian vehicles that generally maintain a higher value have a direct influence on the automotive enthusiast. Those discouraged by pricing are less likely to invest further in their vehicle into their vehicles, and higher purchase prices suggest the Australian motorist is less likely to change cars frequently.

As well as having a huge wealth of second hand vehicles available, the excess of cars in Japan makes automotive parts more accessible to enthusiasts. Such is the demand for specific parts, that a entire industry has emerged that specialises in stripping cars of these parts of value and selling them on to enthusiasts. Yahoo Auctions, Japan’s answer to eBay, serves as the main gateway for these transactions. The readily available nature of automotive parts drives companies to keep competitive prices, which are affordable to the average enthusiast. This affordability fuels an environment whereby the average Japanese individual can engage with their passion in modifying vehicles.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.50.51 PM

Yahoo Japan: An ocean of automotive parts enthusiasts can bid on for their car

To conclude, the colossal nature of the Japanese automotive climate has initiated a cultural environment whereby cars are such a dominant element within society. The sheer amount of cars on Japanese roads each day remains unmatched by another nation in terms of scale, and in itself has given birth to an entire industrial sector to which Japanese manufacturers lead the way. For car enthusiasts, the saturation of vehicles has seen cars progressively become a cultural icon. Japanese motoring has given birth to an automotive legacy that is individual to the Japanese nation and celebrated by car enthusiasts across the globe. Japanese car culture is self-feeding: The sheer volume of the Japanese car industry fuels an appreciation of the individual’s vehicle, which fuels a demand for high volume of vehicles and parts used by car enthusiasts.

Figures obtained from following websites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry_in_Australia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automotive_industry_in_Japan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Automobile_Manufacturers_Association

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Australia&country2=Japan

http://www.jevic.com/assets/Uploads/JAPAN-USED-VEHICLE-2013-TOP-TEN-2.pdf

Week 7 – A look at car culture

Car culture is very much about defining one’s own identity through their vehicle. Practices of modification within their own right exist as key aggregators to these cultures. At any one time, there are thousands of different styles and demographics of associated automotive cultures that are dynamic in their own way, and are the meeting points for like-minded car enthusiasts. The car, in its rawest form, is a cultural icon, a pervasive and accessible possession that is personal in a manner that few other goods are. Vehicles are “a blank canvas that allows [the] owner to paint himself in any fashion desire” (Hill, 2006). Within the banner of Japanese car culture, these sub-genres exist more clearly defined, than any other car culture from across the globe. Cars are mediums for which enthusiasts to engage subjectively with their own identity, and with the wider notions and ideas of political and social society. Cultural automotive styles such as Retro, Show, Race, Stance, and VIP by no means exist only within Japanese car culture, but it is the degree in which these cultures define themselves that sets Japanese car culture apart.

AE71 Corolla
Rebuilding a 1980’s Corolla with parts for drifting was a way of engaging with Japanese car culture, but as well, with my own identity. Driving a modified Corolla as a way of expressing my own automotive ideas.

Bozouku and Shakotan culture are two key examples of peripheral Japanese car subcultures. Similarly to the Rat Rod styles in American, and Bikie culture, which emerged in post-war American society and has since spread globally, members of these cultures exemplify behaviors and demonstrate behaviors that purposefully oppose specific notions of current cultures. For the original members of Bozouku culture, driving around at early hours of the morning revving their engines loudly and creating a ruckus was a way of pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior; a personal form of protest against the societal discourses that were valid at the time. Similarly, Kyusha has its own identity; a culture that revolves around the appreciation, and modification of timeless, vintage Japanese vehicles. Again, these decisions are direct statements about their own personal values and identities. With ‘..goods a visible part of culture’, the vehicle plays a fundamental role, as a personal, non-verbal confirmation of these beliefs. These Vehicles constitute “a pattern of meaning inherited from the recent past.. for the interpretive needs of the present”. (Douglas and Usherwood, pg. 83). Whilst these deep rooted cultural tones and sub tones are yet to emerge to such an extent within the Australia Japanese car culture, ideas of culturally constructed identity are recognizable through other distinct clues – more specifically, the cars enthusiasts choose to drive. Within the Australian automotive context, a rich racing history combined with entire generations of Australian’s brought up on the affordable, Australian family saloon underline a national cultural connection to the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. Whilst over the last two decades the influx of overseas models and manufacturers, coupled with shifting focuses of the Australian driver have come to absorb a significant portion of the market once dominated by the Australian built saloons, the Commodore and Falcon still encapsulate the principles of Australian automotive. Furthermore, with at the current time Holden offering over ten different performance variants of their Australian built Commodore, these vehicles are indicative of much of the performance-engineering ethos of the Australian automotive landscape. Whilst these Australian saloons are not directly related to this current ethnographic study, they play a fundamental role when analyzing Australian Japanese car culture. In Japan, the basis of Japanese car culture is making use of, in many cases, the ordinary Japanese car. Ignoring cult classics like the Nissan Skyline GTR and the Mitsubishi Evolution, the majority of modified Japanese cars start life at their core as ordinary transportation vehicles. In the same way the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon make up such a part of Australian culture, these cars are intrinsic to the roads of Japanese. Consequently, is becomes second nature for the Japanese enthusiast to modify a car taken from the everyday roads of Japan. Through their practices of modifications, these owners are to set themselves apart – to demonstrate an expression of their identity. By examining the popularity of foreign Japanese car cultures, such as those in Australia and Europe, the true depth of Japanese automotive influence reveals itself. In a country dominated by car traditions so deeply rooted within Australian culture (image below), the dynamic, yet peripheral Japanese car culture occupies a significant part of Australian automotive climate. For the Japanese car enthusiast within Australia, the choice to drive a Japanese vehicle; be it for looks, performance, style or unique factor, goes directly against the cultural trends and underpinnings of dominant culture within Australia. Furthermore, most enthusiasts will agree when stating that these decisions in fact are not decisions made consciously; they are not actively considered – instead, in one way or another, enthusiasts become enthralled by the ethos, the magic of these vehicles.

The original Holden Sandman was a vehicle taylored for the easy going, beach loving Australia. The Holden became a cultural icon for the working class Australian.

This theory can be recognized in countless ways across the culture, from grass-roots drift days held at local tracks, to the casually organized car cruises that occur each and every weekend through national parks and driving roads across the country. Perhaps one of the best examples is the convergence of car enthusiasts each year in October at Eastern Creek Raceway, in South West Sydney. The World Time Attack Challenge invites Japan’s best Time Attack cars to compete against the rest of the world’s best in a battle against each other and the clock. These world renown tuners, not only bring with them race cars at the forefront of their craft (JDM cult hero RE Amemiya completing a pit stop in the Eastern Creek Pitlane), but as well, an intangible explosion of Japanese car culture that has far reaching effects on the Australian automotive climate. Ignoring the hype that surrounds watching these teams operate up close and personally throughout the weekend,  one just has to take a walk through the spectator car park to witness vehicles built and driven by Australia car enthusiasts to appreciate the true effect of Japanese car culture. Whilst these cars may not exhibit the same performance prowess of the cars competing, nor be funded by deep pocketed team sponsors, these cars are parked purposefully as an expression of owners pride, and identity – these physical machines are above all else, a manifestation of culture.(McCracken, p. 65).

Douglas, M, Isherwood, B 1979, The world of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of consumption’, p. 40, 83, Routledge, London

Hill, M 2006, ‘Automotive Culture and History in the United States’, Reseach paper, Olin College, http://digitalcommons.olin.edu/ahs_capstone_2006/17

McCracken, G 1988, Culture and Consumption, Indiana University Press, p. 62-70, Bloomington

Week 6 – Early Consumption pt. 2

Following last week’s examination of Gran Turismo, one of the first examples of racing simulation on video games, I decided to delve further, back even earlier in my childhood, to memories of the distinct sounds of Hot Wheels cars on my lounge room floor and the imprints of past furniture that made the perfect imprint for roads for my cars.

I think that, whilst I can trace interactions with the four wheels even further back to racing my ride on toy up and down my grandmother’s driveway, I keep coming back to these two dollar die cast cars as my first real, conscious interaction with cars, and ultimately, car culture. At a time where I was none the wiser, each car I collected signified a developing curiosity for the automotive; their makes, their models, and their automotive styles. I more realistic, more believable the car was, the more I loved it. I hated any car that wasn’t based on a true to life model – what was the point of a car that wasn’t real? Indicative from these early choices, was how I was beginning to notice little details of each car – and subsequently, the decisions I made about what I liked and what I didn’t. Whilst at this time my parents would have none the wiser, these early interactions were teaching me an appreciation for cars, a love for these fascinating vehicles I could see on the road every day.

A car that I came to love for its dynamic paint work, and low, long stance.

The Hot Wheels 1971 Buick Riviera
A car that I came to love for its dynamic paint work, and long, sleek American body.

Last week, I spoke about how Gran Turismo played a pivotal role in educating me about cars, at a time where driving, tinkering and reading wasn’t really an option. In the same light, I think Hot Wheels and Match Box cars in the same way taught me an eye and appreciation for the automotive. Almost two decades on, I believe this appreciation was the corner stone for the development of an eye for detail, and a love of design that would in turn lead me down a career pathway in design.

The Hot Wheels 24/7
Hot Wheels taught me to recognised the distinct headlights, and and low slung body of the 24/7 was in fact an appropriation of the Rotary powered Mazda RX7

Having reflected on the role of Hot Wheels cars had played in making me a car enthusiast, I always suspected a link between these early interactions and a keen eye for detail and at times alarming desire for perfection. These thoughts were recently confirmed by Professor Becky Francis, from the Rockhampton University, who found that toys play with in the early stages of child development played a functional role in the career choices made later in life. Similarly, findings from a subsequent study of English consumers found that 60% of those who work in design specific fields enjoyed playing with building blocks and lego as children. Whilst I did play with Lego as a child, I feel these deepened interactions with diecast cars had a similar effect as to that of Lego, having taught me a scope which would ultimately come to play a huge role in my career aspirations.

Week 5- Early Consumption Pt. 1

Disclaimer:

So having struggled to come to terms with the complexity and depth of the original parameters I had set for an ethnographic study of an entire car culture, as of week five I’ve decided to take a different approach to my research. Originally, I was actively attempting to study the Australian, Japanese car culture that year year continues to grow and diversify. On a whole, automotive culture globally continues to collide with new technologies, to which we’ve seen the rise of cross-cultural patterns and trends. Whilst this study would be totally awesome, it just seems way out of my league, and way way way bigger than the parameters for this study.

Instead, I’ve decided to redefine my project, with a (hopefully) more concise and direct study: my personal journey to becoming an active car enthusiast; in particular, a Japanese car lover.

Car culture is very much about belonging to a certain group; but within these groups, individual owners find identity within their interactions between themselves and their cars. I classify myself as a Japanese car guy, yet, at this point in my life, I drive a ratty, old, lowered,  80’s era BMW. I specifically chose this car – this was a decision based on my own desires and identity. I still haunt Japanese car sites, I still have an unrequited love for Subaru’s. I still have a huge pile of Toyota parts sitting in my garage, for when I decide to build myself another very illegal Corolla. Yet I drive an old BMW. This is what I’d like to look further into. How I can come to a point in my life where I describe myself as a Japanese car lover – yet by choice not drive a Japanese car.

In addition to this, the size of these studies will mean I’ll be somewhat restricted within these 500 word blog posts. Therefore, I’ve decided to use these posts to give snapshots of what I’ve been looking into the week, with the final study to be handed in to be more in detail and conclusive discussions.

 

(Sit back, and enjoy 90’s Simulation gaming!)

This week’s study has been a focused based on my early consumption of car culture. Directly, I’ve been looking at my early interaction with Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo.

I believe Gran Turismo played a specific, educational role in my youth. Without having read books, completed assignments, or attended class, my gameplay within Gran Turismo passed on a wealth of invaluable knowledge that would become the basis of my education into Cars, and more so, Japanese cars. I remember first turning on the game, at the age 8 years old, to find no more than four Western car manufacturers available – the rest derived from the Asian continent. Thinking back now, that would have been such a weird moment – a game full of cars, that unknown to me even existed.

Questions would have instantly filled my mind:

“Nissan.. Nissan performance car?  huh? – Don’t they make 4WDs?”

“What is with those weird pop up lights? Hmmmm. I haven’t seen that before. That is different.” – I thought upon seeing a Mazda RX7.

But as anyone who played the game would know, it wasn’t too long before these strange cars were quickly capturing players hearts. The Toyota Supra, came from a company that made boring, old people cars like the Toyota Camry, quickly became known to me for its 2JZ motor, a twin turbo monster known for its amazing outright speed potential. The monster Nissan Skyline GTR, a car of myth and legend, that could pull away off the starting grid with such violence, the world would tilt under its All-Wheel-Drive drivetrain. And what became the cream of the crop, (in my eye anyways), the silky electric blue goddess perched on gold wheels – the Subaru WRX STI 22B coupe. Upon first laying eyes on it – a multitude of question fired simultaneously in my head:

What the hell was this car!?

AWD – That’s for off road vehicles right!?

A Turbo? No way! How could that help this car keep up with a big V8?

And its size – it was only little. No chance a car that size could be that quick.

Well how quickly these questions were answered. The Subaru WRX STI 22B – the original rally icon – was an animal. Once the boxer motor hit boost, the silky coupe would quickly disappear, leaving the opposition in a cloud of dust. My mind only exploded once I came to see the Subaru WRC Rally car in action in the World Rally Championship, screaming up mountain passes as the turbo fluttered like a child’s laughter. (Turn up your volume to max, sit back, and take in the ore of the pure Sti sound)  It quickly became my hero car, and still to this day, heads the list of dream cars to own!

Thinking about this now, it must be said that much of my car knowledge has been formed through my own experiences the highs and terrifying lows of being a self taught enthusiast. This drive to teach myself, the lunacy and lack of fear of pulling apart my first car with a tool collection worth a total value of $30 models much of the Japanese way of thinking. A culture pinned on modifying within your means, functionality over form, and a rough around the edges attitude to cars all follow the philosophy of Japanese car culture. I was exposed to this in my later teens, encapsulated by what I saw others doing in their own garages on online forums, and in the flesh. But, early consumption like Gran Turismo, played absolutely vital roles in the development of my identity.

 Kurt Squires’ recent study into open-ended simulation touches on this ability to generate identity within “sandbox” games, arguing these types of games posses the capacity to recruit diverse interests, forge creative problem solving, and enhance productive acts. He found within open narrative game titles,  “..players spent hours opening maps and exploring new territories; others were constantly negotiating with other civilisations. Some turned the games into a colonial simulation,  enjoying playing events and then comparing them against historical accounts…. As was made evident in the GTA series, these different play styles seemed to emerge from the players themselves, as they played the game.” (Squires, pg. 180).

Evidently, I attribute Squires findings to my own gaming behaviour. Playing Gran Turismo, allowed me a certain freedom to buy, sell, modify tune and race cars, slowly learning and gaining an understanding of their basic functions. Whilst I followed the narrative of the game, progressing through licensing and race tournaments, the freedom’s in which I was able to undertaking my own narrative within the game were fundamental in the development of my passion for cars, and as well, in the construction of my own identity.

The Granddaddy of Drift.

Within culture, small pockets of individuals continually emerge as cultural celebrities –figures who generate hype through newfound style, skills and originality. With the styles of automotive culture forever evolving and transgressing, these figures play a intrinsic role creating trends that shape the future direction of car cultures.

Whilst the digital age has played, and continues to play a role in slowly colliding different segments of car culture with each other, these individuals remain highly important characters in identifying cultures as different to each other. They are responsible for redefining the boundaries of car culture, directly enhancing the environments in which enthusiasts can interact amongst themselves and with their craft.

There remains no more significant figure in Japanese car culture than that of Keiichi Tsuchiya. Now in his late fifties, the former race car driver is part of Japanese folk law, a God to enthusiasts and the granddaddy of one of motorsports most entertaining forms, Drifting. Armed with his almost as famous Toyota AE86 Trueno, in which demands its own reputation as one of Japan’s most well balance driving machines, Keiichi exists as an immortal character in Japanese car culture.

Tsuchiya’s legend has roots back to his early racing days. Unlike other drivers of the same era, Tsuchiya developed his skills and driving flair through Illegal Street racing; driving down precariously steep and technical mountain passes in Japan. Today, this form of driving is widely recognised as ‘Touge’, and represents much of grassroots driving development car enthusiasts take part in Japan.

Tsuchiya’s skills were recognised globally in 1987 when he featured in a film demonstrating his driving skills. His drifting technique was a collision of the limits of his driving skill and the mechanical potential of his AE86, driving the car sideways through narrow corners at high speed. The film, which remains still in circulation today, is recognised as having inspired a whole generation of drivers, who actively hone their skills and build cars with the purpose of drifting.

Ultimately, Tsuchiya’s driving style created a progression of driving that has now become a significant part of car culture. Drifting, whether grassroots, or at an international level, has fostered an entire generation of enthusiasts, who’s experiences, both within drifting and within other facets of car culture have evolved universally.

Australia’s abundance of Drift events, drift coverage and drift culture are indicative of Tsuchiya’s influence on Japanese car culture. Images like that below would not be current without Tsychiya. 

 

Peripheral Media forms: Dream. Build. Drive

Whilst car culture features rarely within Australian mainstream media (aside from ‘Hoon’ related media panics), domestic and as well global car culture is littered with peripheral groups that exist away from the spotlight, but play fundamental roles in the facilitating culture. Car clubs, online forums, car meets, Facebook groups, YouTube channels all encapsulate these peripheral identities.

One of the most significant of these identities remains the weblog. Weblogs have become a highly functional and popular platform for modern creators to post entries and discussions on particular topics. Within car culture, blogging and bloggers have become an a vital part of the cultural cog, giving enthusiasts the tools to document their own processes and submit them amongst the cultural conversations that occur online, further enriching the interactions of the culture. Blogs like ‘Noriyaro’ and Nigel Petre’s ‘Engineered to Slide’ are key examples of blogs run by ordinary car lovers, who have developed diehard followings for their highly popular content and automotive stories.

 

Petre’s ‘Engineered to Slide’ blog is Australia’s most outstanding example of an automotive blog. Petre made early use of the blog to document his car activities, but quickly became a household name amongst car enthusiasts worldwide for his outrageous and spectacular, self-fabricated, custom, Toyota Hilux drift Ute. Attached to his build, his regularly updated blog documented the entire build process – the highs of nailing his first perfect weld, to the lows of constant setbacks and redesigns, and ultimately the triumph of his first competitive drive of his machine around Eastern Creek Raceway Sydney (which, ironically, ended prematurely with a broken third gear and a devastated Petre).

 

Petre’s blog, like other successful automotive blogs, encapsulates a peripheral nature, as it stands firmly on its own two feet as an alternate story telling portal, whereby the author has been able to document his own personal automotive narrative, and share amongst a worldwide community. Automotive blog’s are key aggregators to national and international car culture. From a national perspective, Petre’s ‘Engineered to Slide’ redefined the parameters of what it means to be an the Australian car enthusiast, demonstrating the potential of the ordinary human mind when armed with a love for machine and a mind driven by passion.

 

For the love of cars.

Picture this. You’re walking on the side of the road towards university having parked what feels like a state away somewhere in Keiraville. You’ve gotten up early, packed your bag full of books and a lazily made lunch for a long day ahead. It’s barely 8:30, its cold, and your hating how much more you have to walk.

As you go to cross the road, amongst all the sounds of commotion, cars, buses and the birds, amongst all that – bam! You hear it. Your head turns. Your ears stand up. That sound!

A quick head turn.. Nothing!

..

..

..and then again, you hear it. You stop. Look around. Your head racing. What is it?

And again, you hear it. Except this time its getting louder. Closer. That deep burble. That distinct noise. Like a classical music piece, this noise is so distinct, so sweet, it instantly puts a smile on your face.

 You look around. Again nothing.

…MMM, its much louder now. The noise bouncing off the trees – you look up at the roundabout, its go to be just over there. AND IT’S COMING THIS WAY!

Wait for it…

Wait…

Bam! There it is!

As it downshifts, you hear the turbo wiz its own crescendo as the exhaust lets out an aggressive purr. The boost builds as the driver throws it into second; heads right through the roundabout and floors it up the street. 

In a second it flashes by you.

And then it’s gone. Yet you’re still standing there. On the street. Your feet have long stopped walking. Your body fixated on the glint of colour of what was the car that just pasted you. You’ve got a smile from ear to ear.

That’s what happens to me on a daily basis. At uni, around town. It can happen anywhere, anytime. Just when you doing something important and nothing can break your concentration, it happens.

That’s what its like to be a car guy. For this DIGC330 project, I’m super stoked to say this is what I’ll be researching. I want to look into my own passion for cars, and similarly passions shared by car guys around Australia. Particularly, I want to examine Australian car culture, and the direct and indirect relationship it has come to have with the most culturally developed car culture in the world- Japanese car culture.

To be honest, I can’t recall my first experience with Japanese cars. My dad is definitely a lover of cars, so his influence definitely translated itself on to me during my childhood. But what’s different about me and dad is, my love for getting dirty. He loves the look of cars, the hard work that goes into them, the personal craftsmanship an owner leaves on their machine. He loves his Subaru WRX STI, but he loves leaving his mechanic to the do all the dirty work.

That’s where we are different. I love getting stuck in. Breaking things. Throwing things. Making mistakes. Working in the light. Working in the dark. Working in the sun. Working in the rain. Hating my car. Ignoring it for a week. Ignoring it for a week or two. Hating how much I’ll have to work to buy this, or pay for that. Fixing it. Finally getting the courage to jump back in. And falling back in love with it by the time I’ve reached the top of my street all over again.

And that’s what it’s all about. The love of it. That love for everything to do with cars. Magazines, blogs, videos, car games, photos, posters, long drives, track days, drift days, heading to the race track to watch your favourite series, car meets, hangouts, BBQs, car discussions, helping out friends, arguing about which brand you’d buy, why I did this, why’d you do that. That’s what car guys do. 

Most people don’t understand it. “You spent how much on that new steering wheel?” “You went for a drive for no reason? – Why?” “Why is it so loud?” “Why is it so low?” “I swear it spends more time in your garage then actually drivable”

But that’s what makes it so great. It’s a mutual love for machines, shared between mates; shared amongst complete strangers. Not everyone’s tastes are the same. Not everyone’s favourite car is the same. Not everyone’s love for cars is the same. But it’s about that love. That common ground. And it’s something others wont understand. Can’t. 

My research will aim to explore these car cultures and they’re direction relationships with Japanese car culture. At this stage it’ll be a series of digital sources on Prezi and WordPress– feature articles, academic writing, interviews, short videos, documenting car culture within Australia and its links to Japanese car culture. This research may provide others with information to better understand the culture, but primarily aims to create a current documentation of this dynamic culture within Australia.