Volk Wheels

Let’s go back in time… to the late 90’s.

I was a kid. And the kid-version of me would trade in my chores for a trip to the local hobby store. It was my favorite place to go, as I was heavily into trains the first 6-7 years of my life. There was one shop in particular that was my very favorite… a locally-owned hobby store that carried all of the brands I cared about. Lionel, Thomas the Tank, etc… it was like heaven-on-earth to me as a child. I still vividly remember how magical it felt walking through those doors.

But growing older, my hobby shifted towards the automotive field.

By my tweens, the trips to the hobby store turned into trips to high-end dealerships like Motorcars of Atlanta (which used to be the Bimmer Store). I would typically leave the dealerships with some token to remember the trip – a Ferrari flag or a Lamborghini calendar. By my teenage years, it had evolved into attending car shows all over the southeast: Import Alliance, Slammedenuff, and Cars & Coffee’s.

Fast forward to today…

And I still get the same sensation of happiness from being around cars & car people as I did with those trains when I was young. The places and material things might have changed throughout the years, but those feelings of excitement & obsession are still the same from as long back as I can remember.

JDM Supra

JDM MK4 Supra

RHD Supra

And for the past almost-decade of my life…

JDM car-culture has been a big part of who I am: Friends running businesses based around obscure Japanese imports, other friends buying those obscure cars and modding them out… the list goes on. So, where do you go when you develop a strong love for JDM cars and need to get your fix? You go see John at Prentice Performance Imports.

Prentice

Fairlady ZJDM Z32

John Prentice was introduced to me a couple years ago by a mutual friend…

At the time, I had no first-hand idea of the scale of his operations. But when John invited me to come over and take photos of his inventory, I couldn’t say no. A few weeks later, I made the trek down to Orlando from my home in Chattanooga, TN. The thought was, “It’ll be a few cool cars, we’ll have fun and it’ll make for a good story.” But I was completely unprepared for what was hiding behind that shop door.

RHD NSX

JDM NSX

When John opened the door & turned on the lights…

I quickly realized this was not just a couple Skylines or RX-7’s. As the lights buzzed into life, I noticed that the entire warehouse was packed with JDM goodness from front to back. All I could do in that moment was just stand there dumbfounded with goosebumps… trying to figure out just what I was looking at. And where to start.

It was very much a “kid in a candy store” moment if ever there was one.

In that moment, I was back in that hobby store, surrounded by my favorite things on earth. John kindly snapped me out of my hypnosis, and proceeded to show me around the cars one by one… each with its own special story. After my tour of the cars, we decided to pull out a couple of very special cars: a track focused R32 Skyline and a drift spec Toyota Cresta.

prentice performance

v-spec R32 skyline

R32 Nissan Skyline

The R32 Skyline is John’s track day car…

Yes, it is a true V-Spec car. This R32 has a mostly stock RB26 motor, but it’s very well balanced, as the car has been on a fairly rigorous diet. Missing interior panels, racing seat, lexan windows, and a carbon fiber roof help lighten the load. The car also has a wider stance & better handling thanks to its wide body kit… allowing for much wider tires compared to a stock-body car.

The Toyota Cresta came from Japan already equipped with a plethora of JDM goodies…

Under the hood lies a masterpiece of an engine: an HKS-supercharged 1JZ! Inside the cabin, the dashboard seemed like it was half taken up with gauges, displaying things from oil pressure to lateral G’s. Very cool ride!

Autozam AZ-1

AlitaliaAZ1

John Prentice left me to my own devices for a while…

And I immediately gravitated towards an Autozam AZ-1 in disguise. Wearing a traditional Lancia inspired Alitalia livery and an apparent 1-off Madhouse body kit, this was truly the most special AZ-1 I had ever seen. Side Note: for anyone over 6ft tall looking to purchase an AZ-1… have fun trying to not slam the door on your head. I’m 6’2” and it is an incredibly tight squeeze.

imported JDM FD RX7

Moving towards the back, there was not 1, but 4 FD RX-7’s…

There was a white one with a big turbo, and a maroon one that looked ready to go, but the one that really caught my eye was a multicolored FD. That particular RX-7 had all the makings of a well-used track car: mismatched paint, mismatched wheels, anime graphics, loads of RE-Amemiya graphics and parts scattered around the car. This car really had a character from every angle.

Beside the JDM vehicles, there was John’s personal vehicle…

A 700hp, 855ftlb, Renntech-tuned Mercedes CL65 AMG (sorry no good photo). But resting just a few cars behind it, was a different kind of AMG-tuned car… a Mitsubishi?! Before AMG went full-time Mercedes in 1999, they helped fine-tune engines like the one found in this particular jet black Galant VR4, which is one of about 500 known to exist in the wild. There was also a second VR4 in John’s possession which was in immaculate condition.

Calsonic R32 Skyline

Wall-to-wall, Prentice Performance was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.

John’s collection of rare, quirky, and obscure JDM cars is definitely something you don’t see every day. I left Prentice Performance Imports feeling like I had been transported to another dimension… and I didn’t want to come back to reality lol. It’s definitely an experience I’ll never forget. If you-re serious about wanting to shop for a JDM car, or just have questions, give John Prentice a shout on Facebook Messenger. And/or give his IG page a follow to see what new cars come through dealership.

Photos & story by Ben Battles – @battles.digital

This is from Issue 57 of S3 Magazine. Please subscribe, and get a free t-shirt!

Import Alliance car show