QotW: Will the sport compact style make a nostalgic comeback?

Ah, the late-90s. You know the style: retina searing paint, aftermarket roll call down the door, a wing that could double as a dining surface, unpainted carbon fiber proudly on display, Kanji that looked like the default font from a Chinese diner’s takeout box, and Hyper Combat body kit with enough cavities to trigger trypophobia. It was a massive cultural swell that spawned a million cold air intakes, angerd old hot rodders to no end, and launched a pretty mediocre movie franchise.

Recently, our Senior Midwest Editor Ryan Senensky and I were debating whether this style would even come back into fashion. I, who was well past drinking age during the “Rice Rocket” era, believe that while people might have nostalgia for the cars, the cars, the Wings West body kits would remain firmly in the past. Ryan, who was in his formative car discovery years when all this was taking place, said it would “absolutely, one hundred percent comeback.” We need you to settle the debate:

Will the sport compact style make a nostalgic comeback?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What car must be saved before they’re all gone?

Banpei said it was the unexceptional cars like the V20 Camry or Mazda 121, and even himself attempted to rescue a Toyota Carina SG Jeune AA60. CH9 SiR thought it might be the pre-Lexus luxury sedans like the Mazda Persona or hatchbacks like his own Toyota Starlet Canvas Top. Max believes it to be sporty front-drivers like the Mazda MX-6 or Nissan NX2000. Resident Isuzu fan Nakazoto wanted to preserve a very specific car — an Isuzu Bellel — but has had no luck yet. Sam, on the other hand, thinks it should be the Mitsubishi Chariot. This week, it was our fellow readers that helped secure Han‘s answer as the best:

In my opinion, a car goes extinct when there is no longer a following for them. There is a quote by Banksy, “I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time”. Substitute “stop breathing” with “stop firing” when referring to JNCs. I like to think of it as this, “When the last example of a car dies, it is only truly dead when people stop caring”. If people cared hard enough, any car can be ressurected. Hell, you can practically build first-generation Mustags from the ground up with mail order parts. So, to answer your question: I don’t know, I’ve never heard of it. And, that’s why it must be saved.

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25 Responses to QotW: Will the sport compact style make a nostalgic comeback?

  1. BlitzPig says:

    God I hope not.

  2. Clay Yeatman says:

    Coffee can exhaust tip: pro or con?

  3. Nigel says:

    Neon under side skirts/steps. It will more than likely return.

  4. Milo Weeks says:

    Don’t call it a comeback, the style hasn’t really gone away, but refined itself slightly. While reading the QotW brief, I kept thinking to myself, “People still do these today, just with newer and much more expensive cars as a base.” The slower growth of the early sport compact style boomed and busted seemingly overnight from media popularity and subsequent manufacturing support. A surplus of cheap, fun vehicles were hastily fitted with flashy, ill-fitting, and poorly thought-out bolt-on, adhesive, and home-made mods. It probably won’t be back as we knew it, but re-hashed like many other trends. Maybe deko-supotsuka?

  5. speedie says:

    It will absolutely 100% return. Nostalgia is a powerful force and rears its “remember me” head when people feel they are missing something from their youth. The future retros will not be gasoline powered however. They will be electric powered niche vehicles that are sought after by those who want to make a personal statement. I can hear it now: “Yeah I get transported to and from work by an autonomous vehicle, but look at what I drive for personal fun”.

  6. R.I.P. Paul walker says:

    Eww keep that style on need for speed and let it die there

  7. nick says:

    It’s already making a comeback, the kids that were admiring these cars in their prime are getting a little bit of money in their pockets and looking for survivors of this era or the parts to make their spocom dreams come true. It seems every other day someone has made a new Instagram page to show off their Fast and Furious replica build or dug up pictures of a NOPI winning build that time had forgotten. If you look at drifting people are trying their best to emulate the style of the early 2000s in anyway they can. Talented artists like @dual_gt and @sad.machines are spending their time virtually putting wild body kits and liveries on cars that are 20 years newer than when the spocom era hit. There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to preserving this era run by people who are knowledgeable and can tell a genuine Bomex kit from a Duraflex replica a mile away. I can definitely see a show like Radwood but for the 90s and 2000s happening very soon, wet t-shirt contests set to The Prodigy and all.

  8. dankan says:

    The look was a straight copying of the touring car/JGTC/Speed World Challenge look of the 1990s. They wanted it to look like a race car, so they aped the race car’s visual style. And the look has changed slightly, but every hard parker rocking a Pandem/Rocket Bunny kit or trying to look like a time attack car but never actually doing a time attack itself is doing the same thing, just with a slightly updated aesthetic.

  9. F31Roger says:

    I would hope a return, but as I said on facebook, the mentality was different back then. The style was coupled with a few things too. Shops that wanted to do custom work, a thriving aftermarket industry that had so much supply and cheap hand me down Hondas (most of us had). So the industry was really focused on Hondas as it was the car people were buying and building (for the most part).

    I loved the style and ideas back then. When HIN and Import Showoff was only in California and everyone else was behind.

    You can still find some of these cars in battered condition. Once a show car, now a de-tuned, but still have the aero, banged up bodies. And of course some people have taken cared of these or have one sitting in a garage or backyard.

    I think most of us that grew up with this scene have some type of Nostalgic feeling. It was a huge push for the Import scene in general. While most were Honda/Mitsubishi, the mid 90s on down to the 70s Japanese cars started to get looked into. I had my Civics, but I got a 280z and 280zx for $300 in 2000.

    Nisei week in Little Tokyo 2001 – http://www.f31club.com/2017/04/30/nisei-week-little-tokyo-los-angeles-2001/

  10. Banpei says:

    Definitely will come back! Mighty Car Mods set the trend by restoring one Lancer coupe called 2W1STD back to it’s original roots. I think more will follow…

  11. Peter Safonov says:

    Nowadays even the lowliest Fit or Camry is covered in non-functional vents and false rear diffusers. It makes for a great distraction from how weirdly tall cars would otherwise look with their ultra-high side-impact-test-mandated Fred-Mertz beltlines, however when every car already looks like it should be sitting in the back pages of a 2001-era issue of Super Street next to Tila Nguyen (before she picked up the Tequila) it’s hard to make the case for it being a “cool” look.

  12. Erik V Stolburg says:

    Streetglow & NOPI Nats need a comeback (not serious)just not the open exhaust on your single cam non-vtec d15.

    • Anthony Langston says:

      Nopi did come back, but between the squatters and the camber gang, it officially came to an end in August. I took my 90s style kitted accord there from 2013 to 2016.

  13. Dimitry Mochkin says:

    To be fair – they already are.
    Every time you spot one of those crimes against machinery on car show coverage – be it websites or instagram, people are going crazy about “look how cool this Civic with lambo doors is”.
    Obviously not just any older “sport compact style” – only the ones that were loved and cherished as properly built works of art and managed to survive the last 20 years.
    Or is it “art”?
    To be fair – to each their own and even those cars have something to admire.

  14. Doctah Jones says:

    A facsimile of it with the rough edges polished is possible…
    Though, most people old enough to remember the progress since then will snub distasteful recreations. Think reboot rather than accurate rehash.

    For the most part, 100% period-correct depictions will be lost to the sands of time like disco and Wizard vans.

  15. Bob says:

    For the love of god, I hope not.

    But I know it will.


  16. Streetpunk64 says:

    Many of the parts will likely never be offered again. (like my strobe light up side mirrors in the box from an ad in Super Street from 2002. Or my lighted exhaust tips from APC.

    Guys are trying to replicate the style. Love it or hate it is still around and I believe there will be a few hardcore builders. Kids who grew up watching F&F never had a chance to join in. Now they are in their 20’s and want what they never had the opportunity to get.

    For me it was old custom Vans. When I was a kid you would see them all painted up with everything from Elvis to John Wayne (it was the times) In less then three years they were gone.Remember by the time I started to drive would see them in junk yards. To find an authentic build that hasn’t been left in the elements you will pay up. To find one and build from the ground will take more $$ to source the old school parts.I priced porthole windows recently new old stock for under a grand. New they were $69. That will soon be true for a rice build. I am getting ready. I have a carbon fiber hood for an EF.!

  17. Clearly you guys haven’t attended a drifting event lately. The cars that participate, predominantly Japanese RWD, continue the unpainted carbon fibre, massive wing, in your face paint and sponsors and are glorious for it. Absolute warriors engaged in car to car circuit battles where tyres are the casualty.

    I attended the International Drift Cup last Friday and Saturday at Sydney Motorsport Park and the sights, sounds and smells were an assault to the senses. Some photos here:

  18. RX626 says:

    It has already begun.
    The generation who longed for Fast and Furious as a child is trying to make that yearning a reality.
    These events are not uncommon. Even Vanning, Cal look, and Bosozoku.
    Some people ridiculed “rice”, but the Sport Compact will survive as a culture.

  19. Anthony Langston says:

    Its coming back, I’ve been in the scene since 1992, and still have the same style as back then. A kitted honda accord. Crazy airbrushed paint job and added air ride. Still s setup a themed display and everything.

  20. Jayrdee says:

    I don’t think the EXACT style will comeback, but you definitely see stronger influences as time passes by; crazy wings, paintjobs, neon, etc.

    Now its just through the lens of fender flares, wide offset wheels, sh*t tons of camber, and instagram usernames instead of “aftermarket roll calls”.

    Side note, I remember sometime after the first F&F came out (I was like, 6 years old), my dad took me to a Hot Import Nights show. I can’t remember where exactly it was, but one of the only things I remember was the chick dancing on her little platform thing. She kept trying to throw me a shirt but I was tool small to catch them.

  21. Scotty G says:

    “Rice Rocket”? I cringe every time I see a term like that on any other site. Is that really an acceptable term in the JNC world? Asking for myself, not for a friend.

  22. Richard Bartrop says:

    Of course it will. Everything come back. The ones who think it won’t are kidding themselves.

  23. crankpaul says:

    I am too old to have ever appreciated the fad being 70 years old now. However I try and allow that it exist(ed) because I WAS part of the long hair, beads, and dragging bell bottom jeans era oh so many years ago, and have watched portions of that style make periodic comebacks over the decades, as I recall my own father saying about our embracing of styles that were “hip” in his day.

    We had our “raise the back as far as you can” era, as well as the “raise the 4X4 as high as you can and then need an 8′ step ladder just to get in the cab” era. I guess the “fart can, lowered till it scrapes pebbles, graphic it all to hell” era can make a comeback as well.

    And in another 40-50 years a whole new generation will be babbling about their “in thing”. Maybe louder speakers to make sounds emulating internal combustion engine on their all electric vehicles. Maybe even aroma machine to make the smell of gasoline or engine exhaust?

  24. JT_Marlin says:

    Trends are cyclical, on average every 20 years things come back into fashion. People always want what’s rare, unobtanium etc. Has anyone checked the price of full clear taillights lately on eBay? They’re pretty pricey 🙂

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