The Anaheim Angels (of Los Angeles) parking lot is about to get destroyed!  That is, actually, the plan as the 6th Annual Auto Enthusiast Day preps to descend upon the centrally located Southern California venue.  The Nitto Tires sponsored event brings together car lovers from all genres but includes exhibitions of drifting and off-road (but in this case on-parking-lot) truck jumping.  We had a talk with Nitto Tires, Marketing Manager, Harry Kong about the upcoming event that’s free for you to attend, free to display your vehicle and even free for vendors to participate.  Hear all the details in this iDriveSoCal Podcast.


***Transcript***

Recorded June 18, 2018, Cypress, CA

Harry Kong: Once a year, we’re going to have to ruin your parking lot, but it’s going to be a really bad ass for car show. The whole concept of Auto Enthusiasts Day is really to bring automotive festival to passionate car enthusiasts together. It’s very family-friendly event. Whether they drive an import, or a domestic car truck, or muscle car, we wanted to create an avenue where they can all hang out and enjoy what they have to offer.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here. And today, I am at … We are, since you’re listening … Thank you for listening as always. We are at Nitto Tires in Cypress, California. And we are joined by Harry Kong, who is the Marketing Manager for Nitto Tires. And today’s topic is Nitto Tires Auto Enthusiast Day, which is a big event. It’s going to be happening in just a couple of weeks, the sixth annual. And it’s going to be happening down at Angel Stadium in the parking lot, right?

Harry Kong: Correct.

Tom Smith: Harry, thanks for joining me. So, the event is, as I mentioned, looking at the videos online, I think, two things. One, I swear that I can smell burnt rubber because there’s a lot of drifting exhibitions and whatnot. And two, I wonder, geez, what premium do you guys have to pay Angel Stadium in order to leave tire tracks all over the parking lot like that?

Harry Kong: To your point, the Angel Stadium, we thought, was the ideal location.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Harry Kong: It’s the centro.

Tom Smith: Geographically, yeah.

Harry Kong: Correct. And also, we do sponsor the team. So-

Tom Smith: Oh okay.

Harry Kong: As part of that, we’re like, hey, you know…

Tom Smith: Sure.

Harry Kong: … once a year, we’re going to have to ruin your parking lot, but it’s going to be a really bad ass for car show.

Tom Smith: And they’re like, “Just keep that sponsorship coming, guys.”

Harry Kong: Yeah, correct, correct. Yeah, we basically repave a third or fourth of their parking lot every year.

Tom Smith: Is that right?

Harry Kong: Yeah. It’s a sticky rubber on the northeast side.

Tom Smith: Yeah. Yeah, makes sense. So, iDriveSoCal is pretty mainstream from a perspective of, you know, we touch on everything. We’re enthusiasts about everything, but not everybody is dialed into the big drifting scene. And I know that’s not exclusively what you guys do, but let’s talk a little bit about what is happening at the show and what’s the big draw. I mean, obviously, you see the drifting, and that’s pretty cool to see. But what else is happening there that draws so many people each year?

Harry Kong: Sure. Like I said, the whole concept of Auto Enthusiasts Day is really to bring automotive festival to passionate car enthusiasts together. You know, it’s very family-friendly event. You know, one big thing for us is that, you know, we want to make the event free, free to attend, free to have a booth as well.

Tom Smith: Yup.

Harry Kong: Just to, you know, gather these enthusiasts to just a one location. Whether they drive an import, or a domestic car truck, or muscle car, we wanted to create an avenue where they can all hang out and enjoy what they have to offer.

Tom Smith: So, kind of Nitto’s one big annual cars and coffee spectacular?

Harry Kong: Exactly. And, you know, one thing unique that we wanted to do is not just build a car show where just a bunch of cars attend, but also the manufacturers. You know, they make parts for these vehicles too. We wanted to create a place where, you know, they can see what parts are coming out for their vehicle, as well as maybe other chassis they might be interested in, or other builds that they can get ideas from.

Tom Smith: So, now, that bleeds into the niche. So, everybody knows, and we’ll give you guys a plug, obviously, Nitto Tires, they make tires for all cars, whether it’s a consumer sedan coupe, whatnot. or a light truck, or certainly the performance stuff, which you see in the videos, and you’ll see on demonstration if you go to the event down in Angel Stadium. And when is the event? We’ll drop that date a couple of times.

Harry Kong: The event’s on June 30th from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Tom Smith: June 30th, 12:00 the 7:00. Okay. So, the drifting is a big part of that?

Harry Kong: Mm-hmm.

Tom Smith: Okay. And me, personally, I’m an enthusiast. I’m a generalist enthusiast. And I know some people are like, “Hey, I’m really big on the tuner thing,” or “I’m really big on the drifting thing. I’m really big on the off-road thing.” And tell me a little bit about, is drifting and tuner kind of the same, one in the same, or are they separate? Is one a sub-division of another? Tell me a little bit about that niche.

Harry Kong: Sure. The drifting side, it started with the tuner phase, I would say.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: It’s a sport that was started in Japan and kind of made its way over here. And, you know, we do sponsor the Formula Drift Series in the US.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: And that’s one of the most competitive drifting cities in the world. From there, I think, there’s … You know, it’s a very spectator sport, in my opinion. It’s very exciting to watch, very dynamic. And the skill level set that these guys bring is just, you know, something you don’t see in most motor sports.

Tom Smith: You know, I got to interrupt you real quick right there because I mentioned looking at these videos, and I saw you guys seemed to have a three-man team of drivers that drift in unison, and it looks like artistry. It looks like a little ballet of some sort. I mean, it’s quite beautiful to see. I mean. burning tires, rubber everywhere, smoke, and whatnot. But, I mean, that’s going to take some skill to pull that off.

Harry Kong: Yeah. You know, these guys have been driving for years together. And, you know, even in the competition setting when these cars are really dialed in and race prepped, these guys are expected to be tire-to-tire, inches from each other, you know, going through walls around 100 miles an hour. So, when we’re doing demos like these, you know, it’s a lot easier on the driver. We’re creative. We can drive closer tandems. And, you know, there’s full trust within these drivers of how … You know, we call it proximity, how close the cars are to each other.

Tom Smith: Right, right.

Harry Kong: We also do, you know,trust going to the opposite sides. You know, we trust these guys to know their line into it and create a very good show for the fans.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, I mean, this is like the equivalent to the Blue Angels Air Show, but on the ground at Angel Stadium with drift cars.

Harry Kong: Correct.

Tom Smith: A lot of burning rubber?

Harry Kong: Mm-hmm.

Tom Smith: And I am just curious and, I think, a lot of other people are too. I grew up in in a small town in Northern Illinois and couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. I know that’s something that maybe is a little bit different for kids these days. But as soon as I got my driver’s license, I couldn’t wait to get a car that had enough horsepower and torque to be able to break the rear tires free, so that I could do doughnuts and slide the car sideways.

Harry Kong: Yup.

Tom Smith: Now, that is essentially … I mean, the passion for doing that, that is such a fun thing to do, right?

Harry Kong: Oh yeah.

Tom Smith: There’s nothing like doing that.

Harry Kong: Hitting the rev limiter and you see smoke everywhere.

Tom Smith: Yeah. It’s just … It’s-

Harry Kong: It’s adrenaline up, and it’s exciting.

Tom Smith: Yeah, it’s just fine, right? I mean, you’re ruining tires, whatever. So, essentially, that’s where drifting came from. So, I mean, people got so passionate about that.

Harry Kong: There’s different theories. The one I’ve heard was it actually started with the road racing because of the technique that they used to get through a corner quicker than doing a leap braking.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: So, I wouldn’t say that such a case now. I think, drifting is counterintuitive of-

Tom Smith: I would think so too.

Harry Kong: I guess, during that era, when it was kind of discovered-

Tom Smith: Sure.

Harry Kong: … that was the case that helped them win.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: And then, he said, you know, it’s kind of a fun thing to do and just kept doing it. Eventually, you know, it lead to what it is today.

Tom Smith: Right. So, now, here’s another thing about drifting and its connection to tuner cars is that most of the tuner cars that are that are souped up for drifting start off as front-wheel drive cars, right?

Harry Kong: No, no, no, no.

Tom Smith: No?

Harry Kong: Rear-wheel drive.

Tom Smith: I mean, I know it has to be a rear-wheel drive, but like a tuner, say, you know, like a Honda Civic is a big one, right?

Harry Kong: Mm-hmm.

Tom Smith: I mean, that car comes off the assembly line as a front-wheel drive car.

Harry Kong: Correct,

Tom Smith: And it needs to be modified in order be. So, with that in mind and knowing that it started in Japan, how did the … And maybe I’m asking a question that you don’t really know the answer to. If so, I apologize. But how did it start in Japan where it seemed front-wheel drive cars really started flooding the American markets? It seems counterintuitive.

Harry Kong: Most cars do start as a rear-wheel drive car. It’s very rare cases that there are front-wheel drive cars.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, my perception is wrong?

Harry Kong: Correct.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: And there’s a few cars in the FD series. SRS front-wheel drives that were converted.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: But, you know, the popular chassis would be like the Nissan S-Chassis, like 240sx.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: It comes as a rear-wheel drive.

Tom Smith: And that’s a rear-wheel drive?

Harry Kong: Correct or Hachi-Roku or AE86 Toyota Corolla, they have rear-wheel drive versions.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, these aren’t necessarily brand new cars that are rolling off the assembly lines that are the primary drift cars?

Harry Kong: Correct.

Tom Smith: It’s older vehicles in many case.

Harry Kong: Because you want something that’s affordable, balanced, easy to modify, and lightweight.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: So, that’s where … You know, that’s where that vehicle was the ideal choice to start with. And then, from there, you know, they can move up to larger, more powerful vehicles like the Nissan 350, 370z, Ford Mustang, you know, Camaros.

Tom Smith: Well, yeah. The Mustang, Camaro, I mean, those seem like the obvious choices, as long as you get one with an engine in it.

Harry Kong: Right, right.

Tom Smith: I can’t believe they even make them with whatever.

Harry Kong: Yeah.

Tom Smith: A small engine Mustang or a small engine Camaro, I don’t get the concept. So, what vehicles right now are the big ones for drifting that are newer, or are there any that are coming off assembly lines right now that are big for drifting?

Harry Kong: Newer, that’s going to be the question. I’d say if you just wanna go have fun, just brush and slide around, you know, there’s being E36 chassis. You know, it’s an older chassis, but it’s still very easy to find.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: Ford Mustangs are good to just tinker around with. You know, rear-wheel drive, live axle, very easy to start learning with.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: It just kind of depends on your budget and comfort level.

Tom Smith: That was going to be the thing, start learning. And it’s like, “I’m going to learn how to slide sideways and burn through tires.” Number one, that’s got to be great for the Nitto business, right? “Hey, we sell tires. By the way, this sport does burn through them like crazy.”

Harry Kong: Right.

Tom Smith: That’s a good thing to get behind, I think, if I’m Nitto, right? So, the majority the vehicles that are good for it are vehicles that are … I mean, it’s got to be taxing on the car as well.

Harry Kong: Correct, car change-

Tom Smith: So, you don’t certainly want to take your daily driver and say, “Hey, I’m going to take this drifting on the weekends.”

Harry Kong: Correct. Like I said, it just depends how much you trash the vehicle. You know, one of our Formula drifter drivers, Vaughn Gittin Jr., yes, use cars that’s used for demos, as well as like demo competition vehicles.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: You know, I’ve seen these things go through hell and back, and still stay in one piece. But, you know, he really maintains, make sure that they’re all always in top shape. But then, there’s vehicle owners that don’t necessarily maintain their cars very well or over-push the boundaries of the vehicle, and that’s where they run into mechanical issues or, you know, vehicle failures.

Tom Smith: Gotcha. Now, I know there’s a lot more going other than drifting, but I’m fascinated by it. And you’re the most expert in the realm that I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk to on mic. So, thanks for answering all my drifting questions. So, if I want to get into the drifting game, I get whatever older model car, planned to not have it as my daily driver. It’s a hobby. Planned to have a monthly budget for my Nitto Tires-

Harry Kong: Right.

Tom Smith: … that I’m going to burn through.

Harry Kong: Safety equipment, don’t ever want to forget that.

Tom Smith: Right, right.

Harry Kong: Helmet. So, the basic essentials, you’ll still need, just like if you’re going to go to a track day.

Tom Smith: And that’s my next question, where do I go do this if I don’t want to get arrested in the Costco parking lot, you know, in the overnight hours? You know, we’re in Southern California. I’m sure there’s somebody that does this.

Harry Kong: I believe Streets of Willow do throw a couple of events out throughout the year.

Tom Smith: Who?

Harry Kong: Streets of Willow.

Tom Smith: Streets, oh Okay. They have races there as well, right?

Harry Kong: Yeah, there’s open track days, but there’s also drift sessions where you take your car out and-

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: You know, they’ll even have instructors out there if you pay extra.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: Irwindale Speedway sometimes have … I think, they always got Irwindale Thursday drift nights-

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: … where you can go out and play different-

Tom Smith: So, there’s places.

Harry Kong: Exactly. There’s places to do it the right time and the right place.

Tom Smith: All right. And please, if you’re listening to the podcast, and it’s something you’re going to do, please go do it in the right time and the right place. Part of iDriveSoCal is safety. I mean, we do podcast with CHP, and anything from child safety seats, to distracted driving, and whatnot. So, please, everybody, be safe. Drifting is a lot of fun. It looks like a lot of fun, but please be safe. Don’t be doing the street racing and hurting yourself or hurting others.

Harry Kong: Just to throw another word of caution, you know. And, you know, there’s a reason why we always say, you know, keep it on track. Besides the obvious danger, you know, you’re just doing it in public streets, but there’s also, you know, unfamiliar. You don’t know what the pavement is like.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Harry Kong: You don’t know where there’s potholes. You don’t know whether there’s other dangers. You know, at the track, these are closed off. This prevents, you know, bad accidents from happening.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Harry Kong: But, you know, when you’re on public, you just don’t know.

Tom Smith: Right.

Harry Kong: So, that, to me, is the biggest danger is what you don’t know where it could happen.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah. So, what else is happening at Auto Enthusiast Day, which, again, is Saturday June 30th from, you said, noon to 7:00?

Harry Kong: Correct.

Tom Smith: Okay. At Angel Stadium in the parking lot.

Harry Kong: So, we’ll have a car meet area. It’s one of our popular items that we do. It’s going to be a thousand vehicle spaces. Car enthusiasts are allowed to go in and out as they please. They don’t have to stay in the car show for seven whole hours.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, my sweet 19 … I don’t know if this is the year, but my sweet 1981 Yugo, I can pull on. I’m just making it up, by the way.

Harry Kong: Yup.

Tom Smith: You know Yugo though, right?

Harry Kong: No.

Tom Smith: Oh really?

Harry Kong: It is before my time.

Tom Smith: Oh man, yeah. Yugo is … I don’t think it was ’81, mid ’80s. That’s something to Google, but anyway. So, I have a car, I want to come, and I can just … I don’t need to preregister. I can just show up with my car?

Harry Kong: You can just show up, as long as you pay the parking fee because, technically, it is a parking spot, but there will be dedicated lot just for car enthusiasts-

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: … versus the general parking.

Tom Smith: And are you guys going to try and categorize it, like put all the X, Y, Zs here, and the A, B, Cs over there or?

Harry Kong: We felt that, you know, we want it kind of be like a melting pot of vehicles.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: So, it’s just a free for all. Just park. If you want to park with your crew, you can do that, or you just want to park solo. You know, no judgments as long as there’s space.

Tom Smith: Okay. And what’s the scene like? Are people like tailgating, like barbecuing, or do you have a vendors out there?

Harry Kong: Last year-

Tom Smith: What?

Harry Kong: Last year was the first year we opened the car meet section. And, you know, people brought easy up test. They barbecued out there, just hang out, check other people’s rides.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: Once they’re done with that, you know, like I said, just they were able to enter the show. And like I said, the show’s free.

Tom Smith: Right.

Harry Kong: So, they can just kind of go in and out as they please. And once you entered the show, there’s 120 vendors, everything from off-road, parts manufacturers, to turbo companies, to wheel manufacturers, to-

Tom Smith: Everything that serves that niche.

Harry Kong: Everything for everyone will be there.

Tom Smith: Okay. All right. Excellent. And as far as the demonstrations, I know that we talked a lot about drifting, obviously, but I also saw some trucks, and I saw some trucks that were drifting, but I also saw a truck jump once or twice. Is that going to be happening this year?

Harry Kong: Yeah, yeah. We’ll have … I think we’re, actually, going to have two ramps this year. We have a more aggressive ramp and the ramop you saw last year.

Tom Smith: All right.

Harry Kong: We should have one a bit taller. We should be able to do some, you know, further launches.

Tom Smith: So, is this setup like the demonstrations will be going every so often, every couple of hours, or whatnot?

Harry Kong: I believe every hour and a half to two hours, we’ll be throwing a demo.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: It will go in two sessions, one with the drifters, and then one with the off-road guys.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Harry Kong: And then, the off-road, like I say, I think, the drifting got to them too because they’re able to paraslide their whole open wheel trophy trucks.

Tom Smith: It’s just fun, man.

Harry Kong: Right, and still hop, you know. That’s what the drifters can’t do. They can’t jump on the ramp.

Tom Smith: Right.

Harry Kong: But, I mean, these guys are surging them, and doing all-wheel drive, you know, drifts. It’s all open wheels, so just tire smoke plummeting everywhere.

Tom Smith: Right. And you guys being Nitto selling tires, you’re like, “Yeah, burn the tires. It doesn’t matter. Whatever truck you got, whatever car you got, burn the tires.”

Harry Kong: Just for them or you can do tire servicing. So, we even change the tires on site. So, you have to look for that.

Tom Smith: Oh, okay. Cool. And any special deals on tires on Auto Enthusiast Day?

Harry Kong: There’ll be the used tires autograph from drivers of people on them.

Tom Smith: All right. Well, there you go. I used to have a tire swing back in the day, years ago. But, again, that’s in Northern Illinois. All right. Excellent. Well, hey, Harry Kong, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining. Is there anything else before we wrap it up that we should note about the sixth annual Auto Enthusiast Day, which is coming up, again, June 30th, noon to 7:00 at Angel Stadium parking lot.

Harry Kong: Just want to remind everyone, it’s a free show. So, you know, there’s no reason not to come out.

Tom Smith: Right.

Harry Kong: Yeah, we’re just ready for a blast. It’s going to be 25,000 people, you know, that are just going to have a great time. So, I think my last thing I want to know is, you know, if you could come out and would like to get your ride along too, so you can get first-hand experience on it.

Tom Smith: Oh, me, a ride along?

Harry Kong: Mm-hmm.

Tom Smith: Okay. Thank you, Harry. I appreciate that. My colleague, the Professor, Mr. Clinton Quan, will definitely be with me. I may have him go. I may go, and I’m not sure. But if I go, I always try to give those things. If I go, we’re going to need to both go, if you can pull that off.

Harry Kong: Don’t worry. I’ll throw-

Tom Smith: Not together, of course.

Harry Kong: No, no. I’ll throw him in the draift car or in the truck?

Tom Smith: Okay. We’ll work it out. Well, hey, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Harry Kong: Not a problem.

Tom Smith: And looking forward to the event. For iDriveSoCal, I am Tom Smith. Thank you as always for listening.