JNC THEATER: A review of Velocity’s JDM Legends

The premiere of JDM Legends on Velocity Channel premiere is old news by this point, but as a watcher of many automotive-themed TV shows I wanted to sit down and actually think about how I feel about the program. As the first TV series centering around classic Japanese cars, it is a watershed moment for our community. Other programs have included bits about Japanese cars and classic car YouTube channels review them, but often it’s in a condescending tone. Statements like, “The 2000GT is really good, it’s like a Japanese E-Type,” get thrown around, as if Japanese cars needed the comparison.

Going into JDM Legends, I had absolutely zero expectations. I wasn’t sure if I should be prepared for West Coast Choppers 2: JDM Boogaloo, complete with manufactured drama and royalty-free dad rock, or an hour of phoned-in pandering to Datsun enthusiasts. As I sat down for the premiere Tuesday night, I was prepared for a train wreck.

What I saw was anything but. For a solid hour, there was nary a reference to an SBC, possibly a record for Velocity. In our interview with shop head Eric Bizek, he mentioned that the producers wanted to be “a fly on the wall” and not interfere with their operations. It’s clear that the producers kept to their word, and the 240Z they built was up to the exacting quality that JDM Legends has become known for over the years.

The Z was for a customer who originally intended to build it in his garage before things got out of hand. I won’t go into details about what they had to fix as that would blow the episode’s plot, but it was refreshing to see the shop not have  to adhere to some bogus deadline to build drama.

Episode 01 didn’t just consist of the 240Z. They also highlighted a previous S30  build to give less informed viewers some background on why this car is so sought after. Also included was a fantastic segment on basic service performed on an AE86 Corolla Levin imported for a customer.

The segment proved informative and provided insight as to why a humble Corolla is so important to our generation. They were honest about the car, and explained why someone would go as far as to import a Japanese version of a car sold in America.

That last aspect is arguably the most important part of the show. Educating the general public about Japanese nostalgic cars is paramount to their long term survival. Japanese cars are still relatively inexpensive classics, but there is a persistent tendency to treat them as novelties, and this stems almost entirely from a lack of education. A show like JDM Legends and its unique delivery of the material is good for the community, in addition to being entertaining.

It was a good start to the series, and Velocity wisely followed it with another Z build on a show called Goblin Works Garage. Since I was already sitting down (my favorite activity) I gave it a shot.

Goblin Works Garage also built an S30, a somewhat less desirable 280Z, in a style self-described as “street racer.” Under normal circumstances this would have been a great TV show build since they retained the L28 and simply added a set of carbs, but the over-the-top aesthetic result made me appreciate just how well done JDM Legends‘ Z was.

My final verdict is that I feel good about the show, and think that Eric and Josh are doing a great job representing JNC culture. Sure, the part where the coolant line on the welder broke and the producer decided to make that the tension point seemed like a grasp at straws, but I would rather complain about that than something like this. I know I’ll be sitting down with a beer and some paneer pakora to watch the next episode.

Images courtesy of JDM Legends.

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16 Responses to JNC THEATER: A review of Velocity’s JDM Legends

  1. Khoua said:

    Good to know. I gotta find where to watch it now. Heard positive things about it. Glad they’re not going the ‘drama/reality tv’ route!

    • xs10shl said:

      There was plenty of drama! I was on the edge of my seat during the leak down test, and- OMG! OMG! The sixth cylinder might be bad, and I had to wait a whole commercial break to discover that it was actually a problem with the setup. And then when the customer came to pick the car up and – OMG! They aren’t home! But wait! The door is opening! Are they home after all?? Another commercial break worth of suspense.

      I’m sure all that is done in the editing room, which is all part of packaging the show. I’ll take that so long as the rest of the content and substance remains a part of the presentation. Loved the SSS, and wish there was a little more in that. And What I absolutely loved is the geeky aspects of fitting gauges and Overfenders. I could watch stuff like that all day.

  2. Eric P said:

    Yeah these guys seem to cool and mellow for drama tv like nearly every shop shows.Good for them, to stay true to their selves.

  3. Tim Eull said:

    I’m streaming it on MotorTrend on Demand. Great start. Eric and Josh sweat the details, which I appreciate.

  4. bryan kitsune said:

    I’ve been streaming on MotorTrend On Demand as well with the Free Trial. Might keep it at $5/month, since there’s also racing coverage, etc. included.

    I’ve been enjoying the show…there are a few times it seems producers try to make a bigger deal out of some things to get a cliffhanger or just add drama, but that’s the nature of TV in general and still not remotely as bad as on other shows. All things considered I think it’s off to a great start, and I was eagerly waiting for episode 3 after I’d watched the first 2.

    If only I could afford to buy the Celica they have for sale…

  5. Hugh Nelson said:

    Love the format. This like shows like Bitchen Rides where there is not a deadline. Or I need to male triple profit with a small budget make or great. I watch shows likw this for the cars amd a proper build. The information given about said vehicle is what I like.
    Josh has been talkative on social media amd is a pleasure to chat with . elfrom anyone I have heard chat with him. And as they say. They are not actors. More Carle guys caught on camera. Which make this so much more enjoyable.

  6. Eric said:

    Thank you Ryan for the honest review. From the onset of the show we always knew there would be some blowback when doing something like this but at the end of the day the opinion that truly mattered to us is that of the JNC community. Others may never get it and that’s okay because that’s a big part of the reason we got into Japanese cars in the first place.

    There will always be some compromise when doing a show like this for a network that has to please a large audience and not just the ones in the community closest related to it. That being said I really appreciate that the production company and the Velocity network were open to our idea of having a more drama free, process based program and hopefully that shows through in the final product. You absolutely hit the nail on the head with the lack of “royalty free dad rock” and that was one of my biggest concerns as well.

    We will never be able to please everyone but hopefully at the end of the day people can appreciate the love and respect we have for these cars and the culture that surrounds them and hopefully that shows in the cars we restore.

    Thanks again and we can’t wait for the JCCS episode, we hope you enjoy it!

    • Ryan said:

      I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one of Aki’s Bluebirds show up in Episode 2!!

      Have you ever had a chance to go and visit his workshop in Matsuyama in person?

  7. Ernie Balcueva said:

    Excellent write up. I missed the first episode, so I have to go back and watch it On Demand, thanks for not spoiling it. I enjoy the show for all the reasons you stated. I’ll add that I am so glad that a car show about Japanese cars is long overdue. I live in the Detroit area and rarely get to see good examples of JDM cars in person. Everyone here is into American Muscle or German luxury.

    • Eddie Valiant said:

      Into American Muscle and German luxury, huh.

      Don’t you mean they’re really just into trading their cars in every three years (for the American makes) or dropping them like hot potatoes before the first major service (German ones)?

      By the way, the “something like this” link to the OCC clip made me wish they egged those guys on more. It would’ve been nice to see Junior pull Senior’s arms out of his sockets like an angry Wookiee.

  8. mahatma jeeves said:

    i had a hunch that the show would help to elevate the value of my 1 owner ae-86. i got a call promising to show up with 10k the other day,but the guy didn’t show up. he convinced me to raise the price though.

  9. Joe said:

    Will they ever show other cars than Nissans? There are a lot of interesting JDM cars out there.

  10. Len said:

    Just watched the second episode. Great! Thanks for skipping the cliche personality clashes, artificial deadline drama and gratuitous bleeped vulgarity. These guys seem to be true professionals and true enthusiasts. This will surely replace Wheeler Dealers as my favorite Velocity show. Lots of other shows for domestic iron. This is the new fave for us fans of Classic Japanese cars.

    Hoping they get into Hondas as well.

  11. Len said:

    Perhaps add some pricing:
    Acquisition in Japan & landed cost in US, cost (yes, including labor!) Letting us know what might be possible to us without the connections.

  12. Mark Newton-John said:

    I’m wondering if they would resurrect my original TE27 SR5. Needs some major frame work, but I’ve seen ancient Porsches in way worse condition rebuilt…

  13. Mark Newton-John said:

    280Zs were the best version of the original Z-car, it was the 260Z that was crap (thus the 280Z). There was a reason that it didn’t last very long. Think original 2.7 Porsche motors. That’s why they made the 3.0 SC engine.

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