“Japfest, Baby!” The immortal words from Craig’s mouth as he rolls past my window on the way to Japfest 2016 last year. This was the first big RAD outing of show season last year, and one of the most hilarious events we’ve done as a group.
This year marks my third Japfest, and the second with RAD. Last year we camped, and though that in itself was some of the most idiotic fun we’ve ever had, the morning after meant most of the actual show day was wasted in a hangover. To avoid that this year, we decided to stay at our friends’ new place about a half hour away from the show itself and cruise in in the morning. Have an easy night, get some good sleep without Civics revving at 1am and have a chilled out day.
After finding out whether or not the MX-5 could get off my drive (yes, just), we began the journey down to Oxfordshire
After an hour and a half on the road, we arrived at Alex’s place and immediately set about doing what every bunch of petrolheads do before a show: Last minute prep. Craig started polishing cars, Cal got to work filming and the rest of us tried desperately to rebuild the CRX that was meant to be on track in the morning.
New aerocatches needed to go on to hold the bonnet down, the rear hatch needed the spoiler reattaching, the exhaust needed re-hanging and after all that, the car needed to be test driven after a long stint on stands.
Predictably, this meant we were working far longer into the night than we expected, and ended up drinking far more than we expected.
So much for a chill and early night! By 1am the car was ready to go, and we could finally get some sleep.
Morning came and after a quick stop for petrol, we made our way over to Silverstone.
The journey itself took a little longer than expected as we got held up by a Supra and an S15 that were determined to do 25 miles an hour the entire way there. I certainly found a deep irony in being held up by two of the most iconic Japanese performance cars of all time…
Entry into the show was surprisingly quick and painless, with very little of the huge tailbacks I’ve become used to for these kind of events. The cars were split in two directions to reduce congestion, and our group was sent through the tunnels, much to the appreciation of everyone in it. It didn’t come out on the video, but just behind us there was an RX7 giving it the full rev-limiter burnout treatment… nice!
As every year, Japfest itself was huge, spanning most of the areas around Silverstone with rows upon rows of Japanese gorgeousness.
So we set about to find out what was out there! Fair warning: I’m extremely finicky, and car shows can be the worst possible place for this. There’s a lot of passion out there, but at the same time a lot of things that are half-arsed in the name of attention/getting it done. For example, there was a particular R32 we saw on the day with fake aerocatches badly stuck half into the bonnet, and an enormous DMAX vent with the bonnet still intact underneath… There’s also a lot of modification that seems to be done in the vein of “being different” without any attention to detail. I feel I should point out that I love the work people put into their cars, but I can’t help but comment on the things that I feel could be done better, or aren’t to my taste. Nobody should ever take this personally, it’s my drive for perfection that does it, alongside a loud mind!
The first car we saw was one that myself and Cal literally sprinted over to. Anyone else who spent their childhoods playing Gran Turismo will recognise this iconic GT-R, and this fantastically made replica was awesome to see!
This 300ZX in particular caught my eye as well. The Rat/Madmax/Steampunk look is getting pretty popular these days, but nothing I’ve ever seen has done it quite this well. There were so many little handmade details on this car that really made me smile, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Mad Max films! Props to the owner, the work on this thing was absolutely immense.
Another thing that’s become really popular in the last few years is the Rocket Bunny kits and styles based on them. They’ve been around a while but now the builds using them are really starting to take off, and the kit is becoming a staple of car shows everywhere. This famous R32, for example, that’s regularly seen hammering around drift tracks across the country.
It’s good as well starting to see people doing things a little differently with them. When the kit first came out it was so fresh and so captivating that the builds almost become played out instantly. Everyone who got one just wanted it on, as is, with the bolt on look. I’m not saying this is a bad look (I love it!) but there was no variety, as the kit itself dominated everything. Now though, people are starting to play around with it. I’ve seen quite a few smoothed-in versions, as below, being done, and it really looks awesome!
One thing that always bugged me, though, is the front bumpers on V2-era kits. When they moved to the inset running lights. Some, like this S15 work pretty well, but most of them for me don’t quite do it. They tuck the front of the car under and give it more of that classic racecar look, which is exactly what a lot of people love! Not me though, I preferred the more wild V1 kit from the first iteration, and I’m interested to see what people will start doing with the front bumpers on these kits. Hopefully by next year we’ll start seeing Rocket Bunny kits being used as part of a complete look, not just as the entire look itself!
RX-7s were also incredibly popular this year, and we saw more here than I think any show I’ve been to before!
This clean FD was a perfect example, with an absolutely timeless look of stock body and black splitters all round. One of my favourite looks for my favourite dorito-machine.
This Mil-grey Rex as well was stealing much attention, wearing the aforementioned Rocket Bunny guise. this is one of the most popular FDs in the country right now, though I’m really not sure what’s up with that front fitment…? The rear sits perfectly but the front tuck ruins the whole look for me unfortunately.
We also bumped into Adam’s awesome little FCrarri down the bottom end. I’m never entirely sure what team Adam’s a part of, as he runs everywhere with everyone, and is a regular face at the country’s most popular drift days. This car gets used HARD on track at this height, and despite being powered by a turbocharged B6ZE, still manages to sound exactly like an RX should! I love this car.
Chassis mount BGWs are another staple that’s becoming more and more common as the market takes off. Battle Aero, Garage Star etc. are becoming easier to get hold of, and that badass look is starting to appear everywhere. Unfortunately, most of them are flimsy as hell, and if you ever see me near one you can be sure I’m about to poke the thing. This is another one of those things that bugs me, it’s just poor design really. If you’re going to effort of bolting a wing wider than the car directly into the chassis, AS TRACK MACHINES DO TO MINIMISE ANY FLEX, it wobbling around completely ruins the whole idea. I think that’s the definition of RICE isn’t it? Race Inspired Cosmetic Enchancement. The car below was actually the only one I poked all day that was solid, so props to the owner! The RX-7 diffuser sat underneath completed the look and made this car stand out for me.
The show and shine area this year was pretty poor, with very few of the cars making me feel anything but “meh”. Good old Mr. Ralhan’s clean MK2.5 was easily the best car in the area, and the attention to detail all over the car is a really refreshing thing to see. It’s not built FOR shows, but to show off his character, and it does so well.
This decked Nissan PAO was another treat for me. I absolutely adore silly Kei cars, as I’m sure a lot of us do, and it’s awesome to see a few of the classics done this way.
Elsewhere there were some pretty awesome little gems knocking around. This MR2, for example, looked absolutely awesome. Sporting the ALL BLACK ERRYTHANG look, it pulls off the imposing but sleek muscular shark look these things do so well.
I also spotted Carl Fidler’s little S14 tucked away in the back, looking fantastic in its new colour. This thing is nutty, running somewhere north of 400hp last I checked and built for the express purpose of crashing into his friends on track.
VIP was also out in force at Japfest this year, with more Luxo-barges than I think I’ve ever seen before. This style is suddenly taking off here in the UK, and the previously worthless Jap 4 doors are becoming the new hit thing.
Hopefully they aren’t stupid money by the time I can afford one as I’ve always had a hankering for a GS or a Chaser! Craig’s got his heart set on a Soarer or LS400 too, and Cal is keen on a GS. Keep your eyes peeled for the RAD crew in these three one day…
The Slippywheels boys were stealing hearts over at the main show area, doing what they’ve always done best, hardparking 😉 It’s no secret that these guys get a lot of stick in the drift world, but they freely admit that they’re style-whores that are making their way in drifting, and the commitment they have to it is fantastic! One of the pillars of UK Low style right now, and some of the soundest guys to chat to in the pits. Shaw’s Onevia is looking a little sorry for itself below after a hard knock with the wall at Pod. Hasn’t stopped them pushing these beautifully prepared cars, and themselvse, hard though!
Also there were a few more cars that caught my eye. This Lexus is one I’ve seen before, and is one of the coolest ISes out there for SURE.
Next, we headed up to Luffield corner to check out what the drifters had to offer. These guys steal the show every year, and I have no doubt are a huge contributor to the exponential rise in popularity of drifting in the past few years (whether or not you think that’s a good thing…)
We’ve a few friends in this grid, and Danny Grundy in particular did not disappoint! He ran away with the BDC Pro-Am championship last year after advancing from Drift Cup only the year before, and is kicking up a real storm in the Pro Championship too. Danny is one of those drivers that always sends it 110%, whether or not it’s a competition day or not, he’ll put that car on the line for the fans! Matt Carter (the door hunter), another staple of Japfest is seen here sticking on Danny’s door. Carter was pulling off some absolutely ridiculous backwards entries through the day.
My driver of the day, though, has to be Mark Lappage, below. His manji entries all day were fantastic, crazy aggressive and impossibly precise!
During the last drift Session, I was sat in the pitlane waiting to head out on track, so here’s a clip of some of the action from about as close as you could possibly have been! Sorry about the chatter behind me, Civic owners were doing what Civic owners do best and chatting utter shit about their cars.
Speaking of track, remember that CRX we were up silly late finishing? Well, 3.40pm was the second track session for it, and after a gentle start in the morning Alex was in full attack mode. Check out the video below! This is what the inside of a stripped out, 330bhp turbocharged CR-X looks like.
Now, of course, it’d be rude not to cover our native stand! Always one of the biggest stands each year, it’s easy to see how popular these little MX5s are, and the variety of builds is awesome! The 5s were out in force this year and the stand looked fantastic. We didn’t spend a lot of time around here I’m afraid, so I didn’t get a huge chance to look around.
It was awesome though to see some of the cars from the forums and facebook pages that float round so much in the flesh! Here’s that awesome mk2.5 bumper NA, alongside Mr. Crashcoft’s battered drifter.
Fraser’s sadly now sold MK1 was sat pride of place at the front, though I’m not too sure about the fake side canards and stock exhaust 😛
Two of my favourite Mk1s made it onto the featured area too. Chris’ Purple Monster is looking crazier and crazier every year, and the detail his puts into this car is what makes it a true show and shine staple.
And let’s not forget Elin’s suuuuuuuper clean classically styled NA. In the MX-5 world, as in any car scene, it’s easy to grab attention and ‘be different’ by picking a loud colour and just going bigger and wilder than everyone else, but I think there’s really something to be said for a subtle, clean look. This car is easily one of the best for that, commanding respect without screaming in your face.
So that was Japfest 2017! It was a hectic day, and I didn’t get anywhere near enough time to wander round and see everything I’d wanted, but it was a good day out overall. The variety of cars was good, and there were some real gems tucked in the paddocks, but far too much to see to find them!
So it’s goodbye from me, and goodbye from the Slipwheel guys below. Expect another silly Japfest video soon, and roll on Japfest 2!