Fans of JDM literature will be well familiar with Option Magazine. It’s a monthly “tuner” magazine, with cool feature cars and tech articles. Perhaps the biggest aftermarket tuning magazine in Japan, it has been in business since the late 1970s. And in the past decade and a half, has branched out into videos and DVDs. Option was a key factor in starting and nurturing the drift scene in Japan in the early 90s and it remains a highly influential force in the JDM tuner scene today.
One of the really cool, and completely unexpected surprises lately is that Option has been releasing “The Legend of Option”, which are magazines which feature articles from their early days. They’re not just reprints but new articles that look back at the old times. Many articles have sidebars where famous tuners or racing drivers are interviewed about the old days. This is priceless stuff (I just wish I could read Japanese!
They are up to Vol 3 at the moment, which covers the early 90’s. Vol 2 covers the mid to late 80s and Vol 1 (which holds most interest for us) covers the late 70s to the early 80s.
The articles cover a little of everything, from tuner demo car battles on a banked oval, to old feature cars, magazine feature car buildups (how about a twin engined, AWD Honda City) to crazy stuff like entering the Cannonball Run in the USA. There are also retrospectives on street drag racing and highway racing from back in the day, showing before-and-after pics on where it all used to happen and what it looks like now. Needless to say, what was a long deserted country road in 1979 may now have a shopping mall right next to it!
They also reprint some old advertisements and product reviews too, which are a lot of fun.
The page on the right is an old street racing “circuit” on the freeways
For some people these magazines will be a trip down memory lane (just put on some early Spandau Ballet on the stereo and rub some hair gel onto your scalp for the full effect) but if you were born too late to have lived thru this stuff first hand then this is the second best thing!
Tuner car top speed challenge!
Check out those 1982 wheels! Chunky….and is that a Ferrari Daytona conversion on that CRX?
Street racing….1979 JDM style (no, Tokyo Drift didn’t quite get it right)
HKS M300 Supra demo car. It hit 301km/h in 1983, and had 600hp punching out of a twin T04B turbo 5M-GE, with a blow thru triple Weber carb induction. Now that’s rockin it Old School.
Here’s Vol 2 and…
Mainstream Japan is not normally very “nostalgic” and so this is definitely an interesting development. In the past 5-6 years, performance has definitely started to take a back seat and the JDM scene has very noticeably shifted to non-performance tuning. The movement is called “wagonist” which basically describes the average gearhead, who might have been a drifter or street racer, but is now in his mid 30s, is married and has kids.
So while it may have been an overboosted turbo sports car in 1995, the (usually single) garage will now house something like a Kei car or an MPV like a Honda Odyssey. Tuner shops in Japan report that sales of hardcore performance gear have dropped off sharply (compared to 10yrs ago) but business is very brisk in things like big VIP wheels, super-slam suspension kits and bodykits for MPVs. They say that they are forced to adapt to the changing market or close down (as many tuners brands and shops have).
Young people in Japan don’t seem to be as interested in cars, so the industry has had to change in order to follow the evolving tastes of an ageing clientele. Eco-consciousness is also highly fashionable in Japan today too, and so your typical hyper tuned, gas guzzling, flame belching sports car is becoming something that is quite frowned upon. And in the past few years, the establishment has pretty much closed down illegal street activities like drift and drag, which are now “extinct” (in the words of a Japanese friend).
So is Option Magazine casting a long, wistful look at the good old days when every JDM manufacturer offered cool, powerful sports cars and the Japanese police looked the other way while you were having fun? Yes, I absolutely think so.
Does it mean that there may be a resurgence in interest in nostalgic cars in Japan as enthusiasts look to the past? Well….I certainly hope so.