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Moparman
Moparman Reader
10/12/10 9:57 p.m.

Dave Wallens asks this question in the current edition of GRM. He correctly note that the people who were into the scene have grown up. While that is true, there are other factors.

One factor was mentioned a few weeks ago on another thread. The thread mentioned that cars of the late 80s and early 90s may have been the best cars for enthusiasts as they had the right mix of technology and simplicity. I.E. Fuel injection without OBD II and lighter weight.

Another factor is that as these enthusiasts matured the came realize that many of their mods were pointless or counterproductive. Once the news got out the scene began to wither.

As for Dave's observation that the number of ST cars has fallen. I have experienced the same. In my SCCA region (NEPA) it was not uncommon to see fields of 10 or 15 cars at our regional events of 40 cars. Now we are lucky to have five ST cars and maybe two or three STS cars. Street Mod however has exploded as every 20 to 25 year old have apparently found ways to afford new or slightly used WRX's, STI's and Evos. This past weekend saw two Neon's, two Civics, an Omni GLH, a Daytona C/S and a four-door Cobalt make up the entire front-wheel-drive contingent this past Sunday. Only the Civics and the Omni ran in ST.

Enthusiasts have definitely gone upscale. We had, I think, four 3-series and a 1-series. We had more Subies than I can remember (probably about 8) and two evos. Three Mustangs, two C5 Vettes and a Factory Five rounded out the field.

Think about it. What fun, light and affordable compacts are available that can be modded cheaply to performance levels achieved 10 or 15 years ago. Today's cars are heavier and option laden. If that is de rigeur enthusiasts will by larger, more powerful cars which can deliver acceptable performance with all the weight and gadgetry.

Why not simply buy old Hondas, VWs and old mini Mopars? Try to find rust free and unhacked examples in some parts of the country. The after market is also beginning to dry up. Without new hot hatches (or similar) the sport compact scene could be dead.

SyntheticBlinkerFluid
SyntheticBlinkerFluid New Reader
10/12/10 10:27 p.m.

I'm young enough, that when you say sport compact scene I automatically think EG Civics, 2nd Gen Eclipses, and Integra GSRs.

I think the market IMO has gone to the show circuit. Its no longer who can turbo what motor and how much power you can squeeze out of a N/A B18 Honda motor, but how much stereo equipment and flat screens you can stick in an EVO VIII.

I definitely don't see as many rice rockets out there that I would have seen 8 years ago, but what I do see is a bunch of punks in nice cars (Like STi's and EVO's) weaving through traffic doin 20 over.

All I know is when I start talking about my SA22 Rx-7, they still don't know that they made them in 1980 - without turbos.

cxhb
cxhb HalfDork
10/12/10 10:31 p.m.

Shame, Drifting, and "The Scene"...

The biggest factor of change here in SWOH has been drifting. Once drifting became the big thing everyone realized that FWD isn't that great. I still have my Civic, but its more or less because I cant afford to change things up to a different car because of college (no time, NO money...). Once this happened "The Scene" didnt want anything to do with FWD. FWD people around here arent really even taken seriously. Its just not the "cool" thing to do/have...

Of course there are still some people in "The Scene" who have Hondas, Neons and VW's but they are pretty much ignored or just arent into cars to drive them (JDM show crap). Its like a starting point. You get FWD, you have your fun, then you move onto RWD or AWD and have more fun. But thats where the "growing up" comes into play as well. AWD cars and for that matter modern RWD cars arent cheap.

Most modern cars (hot hatches/equivalents to yester-years FWD econobox race cars) arent easy to modify either. CRAMMED engine bays, crazy amounts of sensory equipment just waiting to throw a multitude of check engine lights at you for even staring at an intake wrong...

Marty!
Marty! Dork
10/12/10 10:45 p.m.

Whatever Happened to The Sport Compact Scene you say?

I think Japan ran out of JDM parts to export here.

cxhb
cxhb HalfDork
10/12/10 10:57 p.m.

The more I think about this the more I think it also kind of depends on how people go about doing things in general. The more frugal among us will buy up older Hondas and VWs and the like... I personally dont get bent out of shape being among the slower cars at an event... though I wish I wasnt, but thats another story... Its the driving that keeps me interested.

The sport compact scene may as well be dead... But the driving continues. And as long as there are people out there who want drive on the cheap, or college students like me that want to keep consumables at a minimum it will live on. The sport compact days gave us many easy to work on cars that a gazillion parts were made for, making the parts easier to find. So even though its dead, dying, or not going anywhere... The frugal benefit from it.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/12/10 11:32 p.m.

Honestly... I don't know.. but I think money had a lot to do with it.

I turn 40 today.. and yet, my newest car is 14 years old (and looks it, unfortunatly.. but I am working on that) Today's kids all seem to drive much newer and more expensive cars. One group I hang around with sometimes is full of 20 somethings with 5 year old VWs that have more money spent in mods than I have in my cars. Where these "kids" get this kind of fundage, I will never know.

rwdsport
rwdsport New Reader
10/12/10 11:34 p.m.

I think the key is in the question. Sport Compact SCENE. A huge influx in the 90s early 00s were from the Sport Compact Scene/Lifestyle crowd. The same that also got inspired by the fast and the furious fad... And it was just that, another passing fad for the masses and party people. The core enthusiasts were always present and now that the fad people are fading the sport has gone back to being more legitimate and quiet. Grassroots if you will. Hell I got pulled in by Gran Turismo 2 and The Fast and the Furious. Its funny how I though turbos, nitrous and skylines were gods gift to earth.

Mind you there are still people who are in the looks business, and there is nothing wrong with that. Its the "rat rod" guys of our generation. I believe there were 2 main groups, the core crowd and the influx of movie and "lifetstyle" inspired crowd. The core guys have always been hardcore and more quiet. These are the track guys, the more functional guys who do not get swayed. So our core group have stayed the same, what happened to the lifestyle crowd?

Well I believe at least half of them simply realised the party is over, and quickly went on to the next big thing, whatever the hell that is...

Some of them stayed in the show game, which has adapted mind you. I believe there are two subsets of this. Ironically function is the new form. This you will see from the guys with a lot of money who still want to do nothing but go to shows. This leads to the gutted STi's clad as track monsters. Big boost that has never seen anything but a highway, rollcages and lowered beyond being useful on double adjustables that have never been dialed in. These cars look like serious racecars from a distance, until you see the car has no wheel travel, and too much negative camber to have a meaningful contact patch. Then we have the other half, they broke into the hellflush, mega negative camber, fatlace crowd. Super hipster, super cool. Not useful though. Anyone remember the strong VIP push just last year? That was a quick fad that I believe came and went.

Ofcourse some people discovered drifting, autocross, and the super hip time attack. So basically we have the guys that discovered some form of motorsport and have been assimilated by that. In fact, that is why I believe so many magazines have recently faded away recently. They could not brake away from just covering show cars. Listing a basic theme and continuing throughout a couple pages of listing car parts with pretty pictures. With access to internet and the show scene decreasing, they did not realise that people were interested in more than just the same car part lists disguised as a story. Get this: people were interested in developing their driving skills. With the access to the internet, dyno graphs, videos and writeups, a magazine had to go above the basics. They had to provide interesting stories, dynoes, tests. I dont care how rare these 10,000$ JDM shocks are. What do those shocks really do? How do I adjust them? Shock dyno?. Enthusiasts now wanted more than the basics: they wanted meaningful information that was not easily accessible. Answers to tests they could not perform at home.

And that is what happened to the scene. That is why GRM will never falter like the Import Tuning Lifestyle Magazines.

As for me? I sold my blow off'd porsche 911 orange Turbo Miata (terminator bodykit, wing and all ;) ). I now drive a 2008 Honda Civic Si. Modifications: seat time, seat time, seat time, a set of hoosiers and RE01Rs, HP+ for street, HT10s for track, Motul lifefluids and brakeducts. Have not touched the engine or suspension. Next planned mod: data aquisition, a suit and a senior race license (in progress).

And yes, the answer was and always will be a miata

modernbeat
modernbeat HalfDork
10/12/10 11:36 p.m.
SyntheticBlinkerFluid wrote: I'm young enough, that when you say sport compact scene I automatically think EG Civics, 2nd Gen Eclipses, and Integra GSRs.

I'm old enough that when you say sport-compact I immediately think "import" and Datsun 240Z, VW A1 GTi, '79-'85 Mazda RX-7, European Ford Capri, Datsun 2000 roadster, Alfa GTV, etc...

kb58
kb58 Reader
10/12/10 11:39 p.m.
mad_machine wrote: Honestly... I don't know.. but I think money had a lot to do with it....

I know a guy who had a speed shop that was BIG during "that time." He said that it all started dying back in 2000 when the dot-com money-for-nothing gravytrain imploded.

The market's still there, just not nearly as large, and as of late, the economy has sent another shot into the industry, though not just imports - any non-necessary large purchase for that matter. I think a lot of us are keeping our heads down, though some of us are still building crazy cars... cough.

That said... the last trackday event I was at was a real eye-opener. Gone were 10-20 yr old cars that the owner personally built, now it seems to be mostly new stuff, and not cheap, like Evos, 500 hp STis, Z06s, WTF? As was said above, I can't figure out where people find the money, or rather, somehow decide that it's okay to spend 70% of your income on a track car, instead of 15% like before. I guess it's just the way it is.

MCarp22
MCarp22 Reader
10/12/10 11:43 p.m.

The fast and the furious was not the inspiration for the sport compact scene, but rather the point at which it jumped the shark.

mad_machine
mad_machine GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/12/10 11:51 p.m.

I have managed to avoid those sorry movies...

cxhb
cxhb HalfDork
10/13/10 12:03 a.m.
kb58 wrote:
mad_machine wrote: Honestly... I don't know.. but I think money had a lot to do with it....
I know a guy who had a speed shop that was BIG during "that time." He said that it all started dying back in 2000 when the dot-com money-for-nothing gravytrain imploded. The market's still there, just not nearly as large, and as of late, the economy has sent another shot into the industry, though not just imports - any non-necessary large purchase for that matter. I think a lot of us are keeping our heads down, though some of us are still building crazy cars... cough. That said... the last trackday event I was at was a real eye-opener. Gone were 10-20 yr old cars that the owner personally built, now it seems to be mostly new stuff, and not cheap, like Evos, 500 hp STis, Z06s, WTF? As was said above, I can't figure out where people find the money, or rather, somehow decide that it's okay to spend 70% of your income on a track car, instead of 15% like before. I guess it's just the way it is.

A startling trend in people who cant manage their money. People always say I'm cheap. I say I'm smart, I dont HAVE TO HAVE the latest greatest crap... The fastest car, the coolest new phone... I know a lot of people around here that have some of the newer cooler stuff either have mommy and daddys money, or live with their parents and work like hell to afford their cooler faster newer cars.

Ironically, some of the BEST drivers I know, drive 86 corollas, CRXs (but he also owns an S2000 of course...), or old Galant vr4s...

GTwannaB
GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand Reader
10/13/10 12:37 a.m.

It does seem as though things have gone upscale. I was surprised last year when I autocrossed my 12 yr old Nissan that I was the only person there with a crappy car. Everyone else had brand new cars or $60K Porsches.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
10/13/10 6:27 a.m.

I've even noticed it just driving around, particularly the Hondas.

I used to not be able to drive a block around here without seeing an extremely clean well-done boosted Honda of some kind. Or a K-swapped EG hatch with ITBs, or a CTR-Converted EK hatch. They were EVERYWHERE.

Now they're gone. Replaced by Subies driven by jackbags.

I don't know what happened.

Klayfish
Klayfish Reader
10/13/10 6:52 a.m.

I don't think there's one answer to this one. Times change, people change, trends change. One of the reasons could also be that it became "passe". Everyone who was under the age of 25 had one...or went to Pep Boys to try to make one our of their hand-me-down '85 Cavalier. Once it became the norm for that crowd, they wanted to break out and be different, so they tried to move on to something else. And/or as was pointed out earlier, they grew up. As they grew up, they got better jobs, and could afford the used STIs or Evos, etc...

I can't say I miss the days of seeing a car with more stickers on it than horsepower and a 4' wing put on the trunk using Elmers glue.

4cylndrfury
4cylndrfury SuperDork
10/13/10 7:28 a.m.

Im with 93celica, the SWOH scene used to be dominated by Civics...DOMINATED. Most were turdball crapcans (and not the good kind) with ill fitting bodykits and horrid paint. It was obvious that they were trying to fit that lifestyle look on a fixed budget. Now the look is intentional - all the d0rifto-y0!1 cars are also illmatched and dumped with zomfgcamber and mismatched paint, but theres a weird intentionality to it....kinda like that rusted hood look with the hellaflush kids.

I think the natural progression though for us class of 2k kids is that we're now still on a budget, but interested in "doing it the right way". None of my old scenster buddies that used to hard park eg hatches (I never owned one ) at the white castle still own that car...cuz it was hacked to death. Most of us who still care now own the answer, or an unmolested hatch, or a 96 2.5RS, or a vr6 etc that have been done right. The difference is that the rest of those guys now have left the automotive culture all together. One of my best friends who had a 13 second Integra and a boosted prelude in highschool, now works from home and has a bone stock benz for schmoozing clients...he doesnt care about 0-60 times or a lightened valvetrain. I think most of the guys my age ~30 who still turn wrenches are into functionality and cleanliness over underbody-neons and carbon fiber spoilers if only because now we appreciate the go more than the show.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
10/13/10 7:52 a.m.
4cylndrfury wrote: Im with 93celica, the SWOH scene used to be dominated by Civics...DOMINATED. Most were turdball crapcans (and not the good kind) with ill fitting bodykits and horrid paint. It was obvious that they were trying to fit that lifestyle look on a fixed budget. Now the look is intentional - all the d0rifto-y0!1 cars are also illmatched and dumped with zomfgcamber and mismatched paint, but theres a weird intentionality to it....kinda like that rusted hood look with the hellaflush kids. I think the natural progression though for us class of 2k kids is that we're now still on a budget, but interested in "doing it the right way". None of my old scenster buddies that used to hard park eg hatches (I never owned one ) at the white castle still own that car...cuz it was hacked to death. Most of us who still care now own the answer, or an unmolested hatch, or a 96 2.5RS, or a vr6 etc that have been done right. The difference is that the rest of those guys now have left the automotive culture all together. One of my best friends who had a 13 second Integra and a boosted prelude in highschool, now works from home and has a bone stock benz for schmoozing clients...he doesnt care about 0-60 times or a lightened valvetrain. I think most of the guys my age ~30 who still turn wrenches are into functionality and cleanliness over underbody-neons and carbon fiber spoilers if only because now we appreciate the go more than the show.

Ding ding.

I wasn't even necessarily speaking to the "Honda Rice Movement," though. Here in Indy, we used to have dozens and dozens of clean, tastefully done, fast as all hell Hondas of every variety. I swear that 95% of them disappeared in a matter of less than 2 years. There was nothing gradual about it. Two years ago we could fill a parking lot every friday and saturday night with them, and if you were into the "JDM YO!" thing, you could go down there for some eye candy, see some beautiful turbo setups, nice cages, clean interiors, and even though Hondas haven't been my "thing" for years now, they were really something to look at. These kids cared about these cars.

If you go to the same lot now... you see some redneck trucks, some riced out POS hondas, a few clean subies, few Evos, and some Herrafrush VWs. Add them all together, and you're STILL only getting half of the volume that the nice Hondas used to generate, ALONE.

It's also pretty sad when i show up, and am instantly MOBBED by people wanting to see my car. Let's be honest. It's a beater.

And i've seen the huge die-out of ST as well. We had 3 ST cars at the autox on Sunday i think.

njansenv
njansenv HalfDork
10/13/10 8:01 a.m.

I was thinking about this last night: in fact, I read the column just before I left to pick up the Subaru.

A few things: I had an SRT swapped ACR neon. While it was brutally quick, it was crude, and I spent WAY more building it than I got selling it. I then went to a stock motor(ish) neon with an "auto-x" setup suspension that beat me up pretty badly as a daily driver. Then I drove an M3. For less than I "invested" in a "crapcan", I got better performance, way more comfort, and the car had already completely depreciated. I was sold. Still am.
I think that the "tuner" crowd has largely realized that bolt-ons usually result in big spending for relatively little gain. Those bolt-ons used to be the bread and butter for much of the aftermarket...including the magazines.

Finally: I think the "hardcore" guys stayed the course. You know, the ones who were always more interested in the performance side of things. The few "tuner" cars I see these days are either: 1) abandoned projects from a foregone era driven by someone who simply can't afford to fix it or 2)SUPER clean, "sleeper" style builds with light wheels, near-R-compounds, subtle exhausts etc

The real beauty of the "collapse" of the Sport Compact scene? Cars that the previous owner spend 1000's on are now pennies to the dollar. Swapped Civics (for example) present a terrific bargain if done properly.
Incidentally, I think I took advantage of this when I purchased the STI swapped legacy last night: the previous owner really bought into the scene (was, in fact, a moderator on a few Subie forums), spent 1000's having a shop install all the latest stuff (at the time), and then largely drove it sedately on the street. It'll make a killer auto-xer: and I couldn't duplicate it for 3x what I paid for it if I did the work myself. There's also a glut of used aftermarket parts that keep the price down.

As to the new cars that youth own today: 1) Easy Credit 2) Living at home w/screwed up priorities 3) The fear that used cars are money pits (see: 1000's spent paying someone to modify old Civics. )

Schmidlap
Schmidlap Reader
10/13/10 9:06 a.m.
rwdsport wrote: ... And it was just that, another passing fad for the masses and party people...

This is what I think it was too. Remember 12" tall wheels that were 8" wide and stuck out 6" past the body? Remember when people converted from two perfectly good windshield wipers to one wiper that didn't clean the whole windshield and would sit in upright in the middle of the windshield when turned off? Remember when everyone had clear taillights? Remember when everyone had underbody neons? Remember when everyone replaced their windshield washer nozzles with ones that had LEDs? Remember when all of these fads died about a year after they started? It was inevitable that the people who kept chasing all of these automotive fads would get tired of it and ditch their cars and move on to the next fad.

Bob

EricM
EricM Dork
10/13/10 9:10 a.m.

I think it is because they got cars they could afford, and then realized they don't make any real power/handle well. SO when they got more money they moved on to things that do make real power/handle well.

that is just a guess though, I have not done any research.

EricM
EricM Dork
10/13/10 9:14 a.m.

Actually the more I think about it the more it is just plan 'ol money

The only people in the Scene now are those with money, and lots of it. So you will see only expensive cars. No longer can you get a $1000 car and spend another $3000 on it, you need that $4000 to make rent....

Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson HalfDork
10/13/10 9:16 a.m.

Way back up the thread the drop off in ST and STS cars was noted, along with an increase in Street Mod cars was mentioned. I think this is a perception thing. With the top Nationals contenders dropping $5k+ on shocks to be competitive, people are (incorrectly) believing that they have to do the same so they get discouraged and find somewhere else to play. I think people are moving to SM figuring they'll have fun with some bolt ons, just like SM was 10+ years ago before it got supper spendy and people got frightened off. I think it's all cyclical and ST/S will come back again and at some point SM will drop off again. I do think ST is hurt by the fact that one of the most competitive cars is over 20 years old so the supply line is almost dry though.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt Dork
10/13/10 9:47 a.m.

While part of it was a fad, I think one thing that's siphoned off enthusiasts from Hondas and sent them elsewhere has been the supply of Hondas drying up. Even the guys who were into Hondas for building serious performance cars have had a harder time and fewer reasons for staying with Hondas. For some reason, while the sixth generation Civic went over OK, it seems Honda lost the enthusiast crowd with the seventh generation Civic. I haven't driven one, so I'm not sure if it's something with the way these cars run in stock trim, or if they just seemed to be too difficult to tune or modify.

So the Honda crowd has mostly been working with fourth to sixth generation Civics. And it looks as if nearly all of those have either been cut up for project cars or driven into the ground at this point. Ever tried to find a clean, near-stock example of a fifth generation Civic Si hatch? The more desirable versions of the Civic and Integra now command such high prices if you find one in good shape that you could get a (non M3) E36 BMW in comparable condition for less. Or a C4 Corvette.

At this point, Hondas have fallen off the list of top performance bargains, just because it's getting to be difficult to find ones in good shape at a good price. We're at a point where a more "upscale" car actually makes more financial sense than a Civic.

Keith
Keith GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/13/10 10:10 a.m.

I think it's simply a reflection of what cars were selling well 5-10 years ago. In 2000, a 1993 Civic was 7 years old - sorry, I never was cool enough to know the chassis codes. Most of the cars being tuned were about that age, because they're still new enough to be easy to find and have depreciated nicely.

So what was a big deal 5-10 years ago? The rally specials. Subaru and Mitsubishi were raining very high performance cars on the US. So that's what we're seeing now.

I have seen an interesting trend at Flyin' Miata, though. 9 years ago, customers would send their cars here to get a turbo kit installed, with perhaps a few supporting modifications. The big ticket was a "catalog install", which meant a full exhaust, turbo, suspension and sometimes brakes. That would often take a full week!

Then we started to see more comprehensive orders. Cars would come in for a built motor, and sometimes get the turbo kit and everything else at the same time. The cars being shipped here were becoming bigger and bigger projects and much faster. Where we very rarely had a complete teardown and rebuild in the early noughties, now we always have one or two in the shop. They'll be here for months as we address pretty much every system in the car. It's an interesting change and not something we've done intentionally. That's not taking the full V8 builds into account, they're a new market.

nderwater
nderwater HalfDork
10/13/10 10:13 a.m.

I loved the late 90's/early 00's car scene, but with a wife and kid I have different priorities now and my car budget has been slashed. The crappy economy hasn't helped any either. All our cars are ten years or more old and I spend my cash maintaining them, not modding or racing them.

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