The Import Car Show is Alive and Kicking with Hot Import Nights
Who the heck dropped a car show into the middle of a nightclub? An easy question to ask as Hot Import Nights kicked off it's 2015 national tour at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. With no shortage of testosterone-fueled perception overload, the show converges on every sensory faculty, and if you're into over-the-top tuned imports, friendly scantily-clad models, kickin’ car stereos, sexy and energetic go-go dancers and the many flavors of vape permeating the air, you may never want to leave...
For the past couple of decades, Hot Import Nights (HIN) has provided a nightclub atmosphere and serious work-of-art builds from all shores, competing “concours-style” in 10-25 categories for cash, prizes and notoriety.
It also has many vendors hawking wares pertaining to the latest recreational trends—in this case a growing, $multi-billion industry in E-Liquid Vaporizers. With a large promotional thrust for the hardware and flavored liquids at shows like this and clubs, e-cigarettes have already begun to outpace traditional cigarette smokers in the under-30 set.
That does not, however, limit the age groups that attend. Because of the 18-year-old to twenty-something hotties walking around promoting a sponsor or shilling pin-up posters, HIN is an attraction to what professional photographers and models refer to as "GWC" — aka, guy with camera. “I love going to these shows,” says Si, a middle-aged GWC. “After a while you see a lot of the same people and you build friendships with other photographers and models.” What does he do with the pictures? “I have a blog I put the best shots on.”
The amount of professional photography gear that is carried around at these events is staggering. Whole lighting systems, very expensive digital SLRs and lenses. It looks like a studio of mob-shooters converge when a model starts riff-posing with the cars. Few of the camera people are pros—despite the gear and gadgets, but for the most part, this is the hobbyist photo-guy’s perfect storm. The models—all recruited and hired by HIN to represent the partnering sponsors—are all too eager to pose. The flurry of Facebook posts and viral shots are all most of the photographers need for satisfaction in publishing.
For the girls themselves, this is a fun outlet. Two of the girls do the whole tour most of the others are local talent. While a few of those are actual agency represented models, most are shaking their assets for a fun outlet that pays. “This is extra money for Coachella!” exclaims HIN Go-Go dancer Aurora who is a full time cosplay actress at superheroines.com. Her friend and co-go-go dancer Gabby, has a gig as a server at a beachside bar and restaurant. “We're doing this for fun. I just wanted to be on the other side of the fence after being to shows and raves—and this pays well.” They both have boyfriends whom they claim don’t get jealous and encourage their pursuits.
One of the girls who seems an old pro at this particular gig is Jenna Lane who has been modeling for over 10 years. “Hot Import nights is more like a family to me so anytime they are within my reach, I am booked for their shows,” says the San Diego resident. Monday thru Friday, she works in finance. “This is fun for me. I love the import culture and the feedback and support is really what keeps me coming back.”
Cambria, from Newport Beach, is an agency represented full-time model and college student, studying child psychology, and doesn’t feel the ego trip associated with all the male attention: “It's a job. It certainly makes you feel good about yourself when people want to take your picture and talk. But it is just part of what I do at shows.” Cambria was on hand with a number of other girls to promote a distributer of dress-up parts and car stereos.
While the girls seem to be the models and the boys seem to be the tuners, there are a couple of crossovers. Sierra Macias, an interior designer by day in Big Bear, loves to work on Audis and Lexus: “I always am thinking of the next thing I can do to make the car personalized and mine, to make me prouder of the ownership experience.” Sierra even does her own complete vinyl wraps. “If you can learn it, it’s fairly simple to do.” Another tuner/model who goes by the name of “Miss Seductive", who wasn't modeling as much as she was showing off a complete restoration/build, including an engine swap in a 1988 Honda CRX that was literally a wreck when she got it.
The cars are pretty amazing—albeit flashy to me. Lighting, which really started in the '90s with the widespread development of LEDs, was amongst the most prevalent of upgrades on so many of these cars. Large displays for high-intensity headlights to rocker-panel mood lighting and everything in between was truly inspired.
An interesting eye-catcher was a slammed Saturn Sky roadster. The car itself, which shared a platform and components with the Pontiac Solstice,would seem a great template to launch a really cool looking sporty-car build. It’s owner, “Q” from Laguna Beach, also participates in Time Attack racing with a rodded Saturn SC2, so his builds lean toward the performance side. “I have been doing builds on cars for many years and started a car club here in Orange County,” explained the 41-year-old Nuclear Medical Technologist.
Besides the pretty girls, HIN brings in well known DJs and hip-hop artists to perform sets that set the sonic backdrop for the show. It is a loud place. Conversations are few but usually consist of yelling and “What?”. That is the nightclub aspect of this world famous car show. But to call it just “a car show” is missing the point. It remains an event that brings an urban culture to automobilia. With so many competitive shows today, this organization still gets the bodies at the gate, but must continue to fight to keep its established leadership in the category.
(The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Driving Line editorial staff.)
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