Alright, the title may be a bit overdramatic and I perhaps may be giving far too much attention to a movie franchise that’s harmless at best. Still, it certainly has made things very unpleasant to some people.
Really, it isn’t that I hate modified cars, for the most part I don’t care about modified cars. After all, if someone purchases a car shouldn’t he or she be able to do whatever they please with it? If that includes a faux carbon fiber hood and a spoiler that’s as big as it is useless, good for them. Make sure that the spoiler at least is tall enough not to break the back window when you open the trunk. Particularly heinous modified cars can even be a source of amusement; like the time I saw a fart can equipped Honda Civic with a broken automatic wrestling to climb a hill at 15MPH while the poor torque converter tried all the gears in a cacophony of noise and failure. But one can lament the fact that these modifications are usually not reversible and even if they are it is usually is not financially viable to do so. All of those good cars that fell victims to careless tuning and even more careless driving.
The movies themselves were…average. The first one stars the late Paul Walker as L.A.P.D officer Brian O’Conner as he goes deep undercover to investigate a series of highway heists. Along the way he encounters the seedy underground of illegal street racing and makes an unlikely acquaintance of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the leader of the gang doing the heists. The plot is actually rather straightforward as far as plots come. The Second movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious (Oh dear, they actually named it that) Decided it was to be less Bad Boys and more Miami Vice. It follows O’Conner after being kicked out of the LAPD and being chased by both them and the FBI. He decides to settle in Miami and make a living street racing until he gets caught and offered a deal. If he can help bring down notorious Drug Lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) he will get a squeaky clean criminal record.
I must’ve watched the first two movies at least a dozen times over the years, the parents absolutely loved them and found them funny. I can see why, from the silly car jargon that doesn’t make any sense (Granny shiftin’ not double clutchin’ like you should.) To the Miami police officers hacking into the cars using a grappling hook on steroids. Not to mention that if I were to take them at face value I’d have to conclude that the average tuner car comes standard with a 27 speed manual transmission. You get the sense that the people involved are not taking it particularly seriously. At least in the Latin American dub, the original English dub may perhaps add an additional slab of drama and I’ve never seen them subtitled. They must have a sort of charm too, since they have spawned a movie franchise that continues to this day and doesn’t seem to show signs of stopping seven movies later (An eighth movie is reportedly in the works).
The problems for me started not long after people around me started watching the movies. All of a sudden my friends stopped drooling over Ferraris and Porsches and filling their imagination with neon-clad Civics and Integras. Buying them, driving them, tuning them, pushing a little button on the steering wheel that would take them to warp factor five. My favorite video game franchise at the time, Need for Speed, went from racing exotics near active volcanoes to racing a ricer Sentra against other ricer Sentras in a drab gray city. Really there wasn’t anything automotive around me that wasn’t touched in some way by this new fad and to this day I don’t know exactly why it became so popular.
Was it the fact that they were much lower hanging fruit than the normal sports cars? The exponentially increased probability of owning one? I mean, my friends at school had never seen a Porsche 911 or a BMW M5 but we only need to stick our heads out of the window and watch the black Mitsubishi Eclipse that our Physics teacher drove. Suddenly you could own a car that was even better than the ones that showed up in the movies and you wouldn’t have to win the lottery to have the privilege. Even after the laws of supply and demand started to take the prices to ever more absurd heights (’87 CRX, no rust, $12,000 fixed)
Maybe it was the fact that you could personalize them. After all, isn’t one of our pursuits to be individuals? The aftermarket was ready and willing to take on the increased demand to be different, with an ever growing number of taillights, body kits, stick-on trim pieces and badging. Really you were only limited by the size of your wallet and how much you cared about your neighbors staring in disapproval. And if you really wanted to be original you could try and do it yourself with some fiberglass although that had an increased chance of failure.
Some kits ended up better than others is all I am trying to say.
Whatever the reason, the market for cars to be tuned exploded, prices of EG6 hatchback Civics, Mitsubishi Eclipses, Acura Integras, Toyota Supras and Celicas. Basically anything that could be even remotely sporty, was just hitting the bottom of the depreciation curve and could be snagged for cheap was bought and beaten within an inch of its life. A shame really since most of them were actually genuinely good cars. It also meant that you were…say…a 16 year old looking for wheels in the middle of this insanity the venn diagram between the cars you could afford and wanted and the ones that were available stock and within reach was pretty much two separate circles. I should know. On the other hand I should be thankful since we ended with something sensible, very likable and just quirky enough to pique my interest.
What if you wanted a tuned one? Well you didn’t did you? The same reasoning behind buying a car in the dullest shade of silver to not hurt resale value was held true here. Also, it increases the chance that the previous owner was a bit reckless with it. A specific example, I was driving my not-tercel the other day (The story of which would probably need a two-part COAL) and behind me there was a lowered Civic (Because it usually is) with requisite Japanese beginner driver sticker on the windshield and crappy HID conversion whose driver simply couldn’t fathom why I would drive the speed limit in a school zone. So desperate he was to get past me that he cut in the wrong lane and proceeded to leave me in a cloud of white smoke and fart can noise. A couple hundred metres later he realized there were speed bumps in the area. He slams on the brakes, drives at half-a-mile an hour over them then peels away leaving an admittedly impressive set of black lines behind. When I found him a couple of blocks away checking if he had scraped his bumper? perhaps less impressive.
Nowadays the import tuner scene has cooled down to a white dwarf car culture, that is, it still exists but it’s populated by less members that are nonetheless completely devoted to it. Donks, Stanced cars and the murdered out look have taken its place in annoying enthusiasts. As far as the movies are concerned after the second one neither me nor my family watched any of the sequels, we figured there was no way to top a Chevrolet Camaro crashing into a yacht carrying Eva Mendes wielding a double-barreled shotgun. Except perhaps committing high treason by putting an RB26 Nissan engine in a Mustang. But that seems highly unlikely.