EVENT: MNCEC's Ignition Show Part 1: Asia

MNCEC Ignition Honda Row

At the beginning of May MNCEC put on their first show of the year, aptly named Ignition. Originally it was going to be held at the US Bank Stadium ramp but due to the turn out at the Winter Ramp Meet in February it was moved to Canterbury Park. We couldn't have asked for better weather at the show and the turn out was unreal. I spent literally the entire show judging with our guest judges; Art from Grimmspeed, Dan Carey from Modern Automotive Performance and Brian Jannusch from International Vehicle Importers. With nearly 1000 cars to judge and 4 people over a course of 4 hours, we had our work set out and it took literally the entire time. Luckily we had a ton of talented photographers who were around so like we did with the Winter Ramp Meet coverage, we're going to showcase their work.

We will start our coverage of the Japanese brands at MNCEC taking a look at the cars that first drew our eye to the brands of this particular nation. While the British roadster was the counter to American muscle cars throughout the 50s and 60s by the late 70s most of their marketshare had fallen to the Japanese brands. These cars were considered disposable for the longest time but in the last 20 years they've begun to gain acceptance in the collector community. The Minnesota Japanese Nostalgic Car community in the last few years has been exploding with cars from all brands coming out of the woodwork. There were some really interesting examples including twin Dodge Colts (Mitsubishi Mirage), an EA71 Subaru GL 4WD Wagon, a RA42 Toyota Celica GT and an imported Nissan Pao. I have to give a special shout out to Miguel Masberg for letting me drive the yellow Colt for a couple of days after the show while I sorted out some clutch issues.

Without a doubt the single most unique car of the whole show was the Honda N600 kei car with a rear mounted bike engine in the back. The N600 was originally a hatchback but a handful of pickup trucks were custom made for the American market. This car, however, was a standard hatchback but the body was too far gone to save so a full custom build began. It's good to see this became something way cooler than some Ikea silverware made of it's scrap metal.

One of the earliest places of acceptance for Japanese vehicles was by the minitruck community who continues to turn them into awesome lowrider builds. Lorenzo Wade's Tacoma is a great example of a traditional minitruck with it's candy purple paint and wire wheels. There are also a pair of nearly identical beige second generation Hiluxes being built in the Twin Cities by Nouk Vang and Leo Fernandez. These are turning into some pretty cool builds, maybe one of them will get to feature status in the next year or so. I am really excited for what the Japanese Nostalgic Car community is becoming.

When people think of the Mazda community, the Miatas and RX7s are the cars that come to mind but that is only part of the picture. When Honda was beginning to back away from their performance roots in the mid-2000s, Mazda was just beginning to break away from their Ford partnership to reinvent themselves. They have gone on to make some of the best modern FWD platforms on the road today. Modern Mazda takes platforms that have no business being fun and they make them fun.

As rotary cars go, I wouldn't exactly call it Sevenstock but there were a handful in attendance. Jordan Lo made an appearance with his Veilside RX7 and a few others were there as well. Surprisingly I don't recall seeing a single FC there, just FDs and a couple of FBs. One that really caught my eye was the black FD on Work Equip 01s, at first glance I almost missed the subtle molded in wheel arches but this was definitely a car that stayed in my memory. It is very well executed.

Here is another shot of the aforementioned black FD, the more you look at it the more it pays off because you keep finding new details to it. This might end up with it's own feature soon.

While Mazda has been on the rise over the last few years, one brand that has had a fall from grace is Mitsubishi. Luckily the Minnesota Mitsubishi community hasn't given up on the brand and they were out in force. Evos, Eclipses and even a stray 9th generation Galant were in the show. Now that Evo Xs are coming down in price, there are a lot more builds happening and some are really beginning to stand out.

 

For an example of a great Evo X build look no further than this white car on Volk TE37s with a very well done engine bay. I wish I had more time to look over this car because there are a lot of small details to it. Overall at the surface it looks like a pretty simple build but sometimes less is more.

Of course MNNI was able to round up a glut of Nissan cars from stock Jukes to a bagged out FX35. As much as I dislike ex-CEO Carlos Ghosn, his penny pinching created some marvelously parts bin engineered cars which naturally will lead to a healthy aftermarket. 5 of the 6 cars above are all closely related enough to have the VQ family V6 engine as standard factory fare. The 6th of course being an S-chassis needs no introduction.

While a number of Nissans were in show, a handful of Skylines were there as well. These R33s keep showing up as they aren't 25 yet and I would be surprised if they were all Motorex cars, whatever loophole is allowing this to happen is awesome. Keep it up. The R32 is still personally my favorite of all of the modern GTRs, I love how well it's lines have aged. It seems that we still are seeing a number of stock or close to stock Skylines here stateside, which isn't too hard to imagine as it takes significantly more effort to attain than any of the other Japanese muscle cars. That being said shops like International Vehicle Importers are really helping streamline the process and we are even seeing some of these builds step up to the next level.

Moe Alvi had by far the most impressive Sykline of the day. it's looking astonishing with that VeilSide widebody kit on it. Absolutely expect a feature on this car coming up. Until then, I will leave you waiting for more on it.

Speaking of mindblowing baller widebody builds the pair of widebody GT-Rs at the Powercruise booth were outstanding. Again features will be coming on these. Just bask in their mega-wide brilliance for now.

What if I told you one of the better Toyota builds of the show was a FWD ST230 Toyota Celica? You would probably call me crazy right? Well you might be right, I mean I am sitting here writing articles in the middle of the night. Regardless of my own mental fortitude, this Celica was a very well executed build utilizing some rare TRD pieces and very exacting fit and finish, it looked like someone smuggled this car out of 2006.  Given that the aftermarket for this car never recovered from the recession, I can imagine parts were not easy to attain.

 

Toyotas from every era were in show despite having relatively small numbers. I guess what you lack in quantity, you make up for in quality? One thing I will give Toyota owners here in MN though is that a lot of them definitely use their cars, which is by no means a bad thing.

Despite no shortage of keyboard warriors bashing the GT86 platform these were by far the most popular single Toyota chassis in the show. Cars like this are a god send to people who like to modify their cars, they have a good basic platform that can be easily improved upon. I look forward to what people will do with these in the future.

The Honda camp at the show was vast, which isn't exactly news. Their older cars were awesome and were the backbone of the sport compact movement for a long time.

Today Honda is coming out of a performance malaise and are finally getting cool models again. We have a Civic Sport, a Civic Si, and a Civic Type R now, that's probably the best news from Honda in the last 15 years. We can all thank CEO Takahiro Hachigo for that, there is more detail here.

Although the newer models are getting the limelight these days, their old guard of Golden Age Hondas (1986-2001) are still coming out in numbers that can rival whole other brands at the show. Not bad for a "economy car." It seems that although EFs (88-91) and EKs (96-00) were in the show, I don't think I saw a single EG (92-95 Civic). Its surprising since if you wen't to the Unidale Mall at any time from 2003-2014, every other car was an EG. They've gone the way of the AE86, S13 and the dodo, and are nearing extinction.

One brand that is far from extinct is Subaru. They were by far the most populous of the show, even outnumbering Honda. Everything from a 1970's EA71 GL Wagon to brand new STI was in show. I do like that I could see the more vanilla models, like the Crosstrek, in show as well.

Parts bin engineering, a strong aftermarket, OEM support and a good basic platform all lend themselves to a popular car brand. Add a unique exhaust note from the boxer engine and a storied racing pedigree and it all begins to make sense why there were so many of these there.

Finally, that leaves Hyundai and Kia. They're two brands that, if you told me 10 years ago I would be writing about them, I would call you crazy. Since the recession, the Korean brands have really stepped into the forefront. While in the 1970s, the Japanese won American hearts from people who would never consider them, today the Korean brands are in the same position winning buyers who had never considered them as well.

 

While the Genesis was the first car to break through into the import community, Hyundai has followed through with other cars like the Veloster. Even today we see the odd Optima or Sonata being built for show as well. Hyundai has come a long way since the days of their Tiburon and Scoupe not making much of an impact.

The import community in Minnesota has really grown leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. We're growing out of a position of being considered a backwater for the import car community and are beginning to make inroads onto the national scene. I'm seeing fewer cars with fake parts and shoddy quality at shows and this is doing wonders for our ability to be taken seriously around the country. Let's keep it up!

Our second part of coverage of Ignition 2017 will feature Euros and American cars. Stay Tuned!