According to Victoria Namkung's literate, if somewhat dry, 2001
article, "Reinventing the Wheel: Import Car Racing and Asian American
Youth in Orange County, California", import car racing is a
"reconstruction of a cultural form." That is, import car racing is a
direct descendant of the "muscle car" street racing culture of the
`60s through `80s, which is itself a descendent of the
cruising/hot-rodding/drag racing culture of the `40s and `50s.
Southern California has always been associated with the car culture,
and not surprisingly, import car racing has its roots there, too.
According to Namkung, import car racing started gaining attention in
the Southern California media in the early `90s. Predominantly
involving Asian-American males at its start, import car racing
differed from other, earlier California car cultures such as muscle
cars and "low riders" because its participants focused on sub-compact,
import cars to modify.
Namkung claims that, "... it is estimated that at least 50 percent of
Orange County import racers are Asian American males." As well as
Namkung, several articles I read cited Orange County as the home of
"the import car racing craze." The city of Irvine has become such a
locus of import car racing that UC Irvine, is sometimes jokingly
referred to as "The University of Civics and Integras."
It's probably important to note at this point that there at least two
different types of import car racing, sanctioned, legal races, and the
illegal drag racing that is portrayed in "The Fast and the Furious."
Of course, as long as there have been hot cars and young males,
there's been illegal drag racing. I can remember bringing my Mustang
down to a particular street in San Pedro, CA, every Saturday
night/Sunday morning in the early `70s... but don't tell my Mom. "The
Fast and the Furious" was based on a May 1998 article by Ken Li in
"Vibe Magazine" titled "Racer X." (in fact, one of the working titles
for TF&F was "Racer X". While I couldn't find a copy of Li's article
online, you might enjoy reading about the *real* Racer X at...
...and there's also an interesting article about the souped-up '99
Nissan Maxima SE that I think you'll enjoy at...
Some other links that I recommend
Victoria Namkung's"Reinventing the Wheel: Import Car Racing and Asian
American Youth in Orange County, California"
Street Racing at John Hopkins University
Illegal car racing in Southern California
The Import Tuner Web site
Will TF&F Inspire Illegal Drag Racing (link to Google cache)
Search Strategy: "import car racing" history; "import car racing"
"fast and the furious"; import car racing tuners history