Some of us settled for boredom during our pandemic-induced lockdowns, but others used the quiet time to think, plan and build. A group of South Australian Japanese car enthusiasts fell squarely into the latter category, and the result was a new event for the local scene.
After successful events in 2021 and 2022, JDM Speed returned for 2023, bigger and better. This time around, I made the trip down from New South Wales to check it out.
The JDM Speed team have taken inspiration from Adelaide’s much-loved All Japan Day, but rather than emulating what is already one of Australia’s largest and greatest static car shows dedicated to Japanese makes and models, this one happens at – and on – the track.
But not just any track – Australia’s newest and arguably finest racing facility, The Bend Motorsport Park.
On arrival at the expansive venue in Tailem Bend, just an hour’s drive from Adelaide’s cityscape, I was immediately impressed.
Honestly, this place is closest thing you could imagine to whatever ‘car city’ your child self promised you’d build when you were a grown up. I can’t think of any way to describe it other than a multi-million dollar automotive playground.
The Bend probably deserves its own story some time, but today it’s all about JDM Speed.
Melodies Of Momentum: The Sounds Of Our People
As I mentioned, this is a dynamic event as opposed to a purely static one. Because while admiring a well-built car when it’s parked up is cool – and JDM Speed allows you to do this too – motion, sound and smell takes them to another level.
What is better than spending all day looking at a polished RB26 or 2JZ? Hearing these Japanese legends roar and seeing them put their power to the ground.
The variety was huge, providing a real spectacle when the track came alive.
From high-powered Nissan GT-Rs and Mitsubishi Evos to humble-yet-plucky Honda Civics, everyone was united by their love of Japanese cars.
The sight of kei cars zipping around the circuit was particularly delightful, and a reminder that fun isn’t always measured in horsepower.
The event wasn’t without its share of drama, though. The intermediate sessions in the afternoon were abruptly halted by an engine bay fire in a Subaru Impreza WRX – a stark reminder of the inherent risks that come with pushing cars hard, even when it’s just for kicks. Thankfully, no one was hurt but, still, the sight of a car gutted by a fire at a social gathering was heart-wrenching.
Despite the incident spirits remained high, and when the track reopened the high-RPM soundtrack returned.
For owners keen to dip their toes, well… tyres onto the tarmac without the pressure or risks of racing, a number of relaxed cruise sessions were organised throughout the day.
Not only was it a bit of fun for the drivers, but the rolling circus proved to be a hit with spectators. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a Daihatsu Hijet cutting laps on an international-spec circuit?
Fast, Furious & Shiny: The JDM Car Showdown
If the circuit action was the beating heart of JDM Speed, then the show and shine was unquestionably its soul.
This Autech 260RS Stagea was the unlikely shining star here, its boxy lines, classy mods and flawless paintwork earning it the coveted ‘Best of Show’ award.
If pressed to choose a personal favourite though, it would have to be this Toyota Cressida.
A rare gem these days even in stock form, ‘V8TZA’ has been completely transformed – an impressive feat considering the lack of off-the-shelf parts available. The amount of custom fabrication work invested in this project is truly inspiring.
Just a stone’s throw away from the show, the more relaxed cars and coffee arena proved to be a treasure trove of automotive jewels. Sponsored by Boss Coffee, this laid-back setting added an authentic JDM touch to the day.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed this aspect of JDM Speed as much as the main show.
I spent a bit of time looking over SecondStrike’s chopped-up Corolla wagon. I can’t wait to see this drift build running walls and clipping apexes at some point in the future.
After initially rolling my eyes when I figured out the DJ had assembled the ultimate Fast & Furious playlist to pump through The Bend’s PA system, I will admit that nostalgia did lend itself to the light-hearted and playful vibe across the show. Huge portable screens around the venue also provided a top-notch live-stream of the action, both on the main circuit and in the drift arena.
Speaking of drift…
Tokyo Tailem Bend Drift
What would a JDM-centric event be without it? Fortunately, South Australia’s drift scene was happy to get involved.
High-speed entries and tight battles were fought out on the venue’s newly completed dedicated drift track, while the more fun side of the sport was represented with expression sessions on the large skid pan.
The drift competition drew an array of both fresh and skilled drivers from far and wide. Paint was swapped from beat-up old taxis and powered-up econoboxes, right through to competition-spec drift machines.
The roughest-looking machines demonstrated some of the event’s most remarkable car control, a reminder of drift culture’s roots.
Sunset Salute: Echoes Of JDM’s Furious Finale
With circuit racing, drifting, multiple car shows, music and great vibes, JDM Speed had it all. The weather cooperated perfectly too, providing a welcome respite from the region’s recent cold snap.
JDM Speed may not have been the largest, or fastest event on my calendar, but it doesn’t need to be. All it needs to do is stay true to its vision of bringing the South Australia Japanese car community closer and having fun in the process.
It’s true – if you build it, they will come. JDM Speed wasn’t just an event, it was a celebration of everything we cherish about Japanese car culture, distilled into a single day.