If people are willing to dress up as country squires, high-mannered butlers, and Maggie Smith for Downton Abbey season premieres, then why not an Initial D-themed car meet? As the most popular work of Japanese automotive fiction of all time, it’s a bit surprising that such events aren’t more commonplace. For those fortunate enough to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, last weekend saw the third annual Initial D World Meet.
For those who have been living under a rock — or if you’ve just joined us from the world of high-end auctions (Cheerio!) — Initial D is a manga (and anime) by Shuichi Shigeno, which follows the exploits of a young tofu delivery boy who is drawn in to the world of underground touge racing.
The gathering took place at the Lafayette Reservoir in the gentle hills of the east bay. The location is a beautiful recreation area with a parking lot nestled against a backdrop of water and rolling hills. In other words, it made for a pretty spot-on impression of some of the settings in the series, which took place among rural Japan’s hills and lakes.
The weather caught a lucky break from El Niño, and turnout was great. With the Toyota AE86 as the hero car of the series, it’s only natural that they were throughly represented. The parking lot in the recreation area was filled by the time we arrived.
While Initial D-themed, the meet itself was not limited to only drifting machines. Toyotas of all stripes were well-represented, benefiting from the halo effect of the star’s marque.
The vibe of the meet was relaxed and casual (though the police escort was present). Most of the cars were understandably 80s and 90s sporting machines, with organizer Alex Headley’s panda AE86, white FC, and yellow FD wearing Mazdaspeed A-spec kit and MS-02 wheels drawing a huge crowd.
However, there were a handful of chrome-bumpered JNCs ranging from a Toyota Hilux to an RA29 Celica Liftback to an A60 Celica Supra. Though such cars preceded the timeline of the series, they provided a great diversity of cars from the glory days of Japanese tuning.
The influence of Initial D — while perhaps looked down upon by those were into AE86s “before it was cool” — cannot be ignored. It is an inseparable part of Japanese car culture, and if its sway got more enthusiasts into Nihon steel of the 80s, as evidenced by the turnout at this meet, then that’s a good thing.