The first JDM Chicago meet within city limits, the best weather we have had all week, and a couple of food trucks on site, added up for a great weekend to stroll about gawking at cars during JDM Chicago’s season open meet. JDM Chicago has been a pillar of the Japanese import car enthusiast scene in Chicagoland for many years. The hallmarks of their site; impeccable taste in vintage and/or special Japanese cars, amazing photography, and a passion for everything as it relates to not just these cars but the culture that surrounds it. It must be said, they also have one of the coolest logo’s around, which includes a phonetic spelling of Chicago in Japanese characters and the four stars of the Chicago flag, love it! JDM Chicago has also been organizing many informal meets over the years, known initially as “Friday Night Lights” events, which would eventually be held on Saturday’s and not necessarily at night. These JDM focused meets were always one of my favorites, as I have an affinity toward Japanese cars, and they always seemed to bring out some outstanding examples. This year’s season open meet was a bit different though, the location was actually within the city, on Chicago’s north side. It took place in a huge industrial lot owned by Basic Wire & Cable Co., rather than a parking lot for a mall. They had food trucks, and a couple of sponsor tents set up as well. The turn out was quite good. Being an informal meet there was a fair amount of late arrivals and cars shuffling around, but once things settled, the lot filled out nicely. The resulting effect, was a very organic car show where the collection of cars was always in flux and the landscape was ever changing. It actually made shooting the meet alot of fun, as it felt like there was always a new car or view to snap. After making the rounds, I grabbed a hot dog, bought a couple of JDM Chicago stickers (always important, spend when you can and support the folks that support your passion!), and was on my way. Here are a few of my favorite looks from the day, starting with a few cars I considered to be the highlights of the day.
The first highlight of the day, was this Suzuki Cappuccino pictured below. It is hard to imagine any other car with such a small foot print, with an enormous personality. Seeing it in person evokes smiles, I can only imagine driving it would result in endless grinning mixed with bouts of childish giggling. The Cappuccino is what is known in Japan as a Kei car. Kei cars are essentially micro machines built for negotiating dense urban areas, while keeping costs of ownership low via lowered tax and insurance costs. All Kei cars are relatively tiny compared to even what is considered compact cars today, and are powered by similarly tiny engines. The Cappuccino is powered by a small 3 cylinder engine that has been augmented with the addition of turbo that must be no larger than your closed fist. I say must be, because it was barely visible tucked in against the engine in a snug little engine bay. This swollen motorcycle engine produced about 60hp according to Suzuki, from just 657cc of displacement that is not too shabby. The advertised 0-60mph time is not especially impressive, around 8 seconds, but this car is about so much more than that. With the Cappuccino, it is more about the sensation of speed; the lightness of the chassis, the rear wheel drive, the perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the open air cockpit and the feeling of being so low to the ground. All of these add up to make the little Suzuki greater than the sum of it’s parts, to which the owner of this Cappuccino confirmed, it is a load of fun to drive.
Another stand out, was this red 5th gen Civic below. To this day, I would argue the 5th gen, or EG Civic, is simply the best looking design to ever grace the nameplate. Particularly in hatchback form, it is one of the best looking hatchback’s ever made. The owner of this particular EG, has really done an incredible job building it to where it is now. On the outside, the paint was re-done in an S2000 Formula Red. It is a subtle change from the Milano Red these Civics might have worn from the factory, but it adds an extra “pop” that you immediately notice. A set of Racing Heart wheels that fit the vintage perfectly, a more aggressive rear spoiler, small carbon fiber side mirrors and a mint condition front lip, all combine for an “OE-plus” look on the exterior. On the inside, that ethos continues, with an S2000 digital gauge cluster so seamlessly installed it looks as though it came that way new. The rear seats have been swapped with Civic Si seats sporting red stitching on black fabric, and in front sits a set of red fabric Recaro’s. Which brings us to what is under the hood, a K series swap being force-fed via a Jackson Racing supercharger. The combination is incredibly quick by any standard, the biggest challenge is traction according to the owner, but this thing rips!
The last of a dying breed provided another great point of interest, a Mitsubishi Evo X. It is a shame Mitsubishi could never really regain a foothold in the industry, and an even greater shame that the great Lancer Evo would be one of the first casualties of their struggles. The Evo X in my opinon, was the best looking version to ever grace our shores. The one pictured here, was made even better looking with several nice touches. Not the least of which is those gorgeous, golden Work Emotion wheels. The fitment is spot on, the matte finish eye catching, and the style looks almost like it could be standard equipment. If you have been paying attention, it follows the same trend of the previous two cars mentioned; subtle re-styling and harmony that I really love. The rear spoiler is really the only extreme looking element on the car, but even that is quite cohesive with the rest of the car. I also loved that it was parked in this spot, lots of space and a decent backdrop to really showcase the car in photos.
The final notable mention really struck a chord with me. Aside from drawing a huge flock of spectators upon arrival, I was drawn as well because it was a second generation RX-7. Being an owner of the same car, I naturally like to check out other FC’s that I happen upon. This FC hit’s all the right notes, it’s appearance is classic drift car attitude, something that speaks to the very nature of the JDM scene. No surprise that it drew just about the biggest crowd of onlookers, maybe only second to the lines at the food trucks! The car’s stance included a set of shiny chrome Work Equips, and a ride height that would make it challenging to clear an Oreo cookie, on it’s side. A more aggressive body kit completed the flamboyant restyling, but dressed in a clean white facade, it still felt somehow muted and subtle. Far from perfect, with some scarring along it’s front bumper, chipped fenders from aggressively tucked wheels, and a loose fitting panel or two; these imperfections only seemed to amplify the car’s charm. It is clearly not a show car, this thing gets actively drifted according to the owner, and much of the rest of the car speaks to form following function. Much of the underhood upgrades are kept relatively restrained, no 600 horsepower fire breathing beasts here. This is intentional, the owner valuing responsiveness, balance and reliability over tire shredding power. The other great thing about this car, the owner shares the experience with his toddler, sitting happily in the passenger seat.
The constant re-shuffling of cars and influx of new cars, made it a challenge to capture everything at the meet, and I am sure there are some I missed. I made my best effort, and what follows below were some more notable sights from the day. Thanks for reading!
-photos and writing: Robert Sixto