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.