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Motoring Contributions

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

JTurn Special: JapFest 2013 Review

I always intended that JTurn shouldn't subscribe to one particular car school or culture but I am aware that so far there is a definite, if accidental, JDM flavour. With that in mind, here is the review of JapFest 2013...

Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire played host to the annual meeting of automotive minds raised racing for The Clubman Cup and chasing their International-A License, otherwise known as the Gran Turismo generation. Whilst the tracks were fictional (on the original game anyway), the cars are very much a reality.

I drove down as part of a 3 car Jap convoy consisting of my MR2 Turbo, an S14 Nissan 200SX and an EP3 Civic Type-R. Perhaps unfairly, I have already made the decision that my next car should be equipped with a large, naturally aspirated engine - which probably isn't the safest mind set to approach the turbo-heavy world of Japanese performance cars with.

As expected, most of the cars resembled something you would find on the grid for the "Tuned Car" event on Gran Turismo. The scene is still broadly mired in sub-£10k territory, despite the recent emergence of cars like the Toyota GT-86 (or Subaru BRZ) and Nissan GT-R. This is perhaps unsurprising in a segment that (arguably) enjoyed its heyday 15 years ago and was always famous for offering maximum bang-for-buck when compared to snootier European rivals.

What was surprising was the amount of money that had been lavished upon many of these relatively cheap and cheerful vehicles. Flavour of the month for the many K20A VTEC engines present was the £2k+ Jackson Racing Supercharger kit - representing a serious investment on a car that probably only cost somewhere between £3 and 10k to buy. This is a more extreme example, but anybody who has ever priced up a project car will know that costs can quickly spiral even if you mete out your budget over a wider area. Recaro seats, engine swaps and tailpipes you can get your arm up are all expensive and unfathomable modifications to an OEM+ kind of guy like myself.

I would describe myself as "over" a lot of the cars exhibited. I might have gone weak at the knees for a Mk IV Supra or Impreza Turbo in 1999, but in 2013 they look crass and ostentatious as a candidate to be parked in my driveway as opposed to my memory card.

There were a few personal highlights, such as the 1.0L 3 cylinder turbo Daihatsu Charade GTti section (cone filter attached directly to compressor housing anybody?), a turquoise CRX VTEC with original interior that a grown man really shouldn't have got so excited about and the NSX club adding a touch of class to proceedings.

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I surprised myself by how much I liked the white JDM Integra DC5s - especially after trudging through what felt like thousands of Type-R Hondas - and have also come away slightly obsessed with the Mazda6 MPS. Although mainly FWD despite the AWD capability and still an I4 Turbo, they're excellent value at the moment and something I'm seriously considering as a more restrained alternative to most of the other Japanese performance 4-doors (Mazda saloons seem to have got under my skin a little recently).

I can't see myself attending again next year - most of the cars and mods on show probably haven't changed much in the last 10 years and are unlikely to do so in the next 12 months, unless the GT-86 (and BRZ) signal the dawn of a new age of Japanese sports cars. Having said that, maybe it makes more sense to view it as an enjoyable day where the only thing that matters is driving cars and walking around looking at them, rather than seeing anything new.

The event was well organised (stories of huge queues last year didn't really materialise this time around), the people friendly and undoubtedly passionate.

Despite being an enthusiast, I still spend most of my journeys driving to work and it was refreshing to focus entirely on appreciating, at first my own car, and then many others - even if I'm not a 100% subscriber to the scene surrounding my current choice of vehicle.

Coming soon; an article with some reasons not to buy an NSX to redress the balance...sort of.

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Puma passes MOT despite struggle

28th June

MR2 Turbo in France

31st March

Further money "invested"

27th January

Lack of options in the snow

6th January 2013

'90s reigns as I introduce the current JT Fleet