About Cameron Tunstall

Twitter@CameronGENHO. Never owned an import. I'll try to operate anything that makes loud noises. I like them big and/or boxy.

Bullshitters hate him! Learn these simple secrets to your favorite import car show.

We don’t often cover import cars. This year, we had the honor to see Hot Import Nights here in Scottsdale, AZ. I was genuinely excited for a few reasons. Not least of which was it’s venue, Westworld, where we have the absolutely massive Barrett-Jackson auction every year. I assumed this was supposed to be a big show for the import scene.

It’s too bad that it didn’t work out that way.

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The day of the show  I receive an email from one of the shows corporate staff. Unlike any other car show or event I’ve ever been to, it has a list of demands that need to be completed and submitted within a week or else I would not be eligible for media coverage next year.

I understand how a traditional shot list works to benefit the promoters, but I’ve never been held to one at an event like this. Not to mention how absurd their requests were.

The list includes making sure that we’re really putting a focus on the vendors and models (not models as in the cars, but the barely dressed attention mongers standing in front of the cars) and to be sure to portray an overall positive experience.

As you may be able to tell in the above picture, there’s really not many cars there. In fact, there were probably less imports inside this building than at the pavilions off Indian bend and the 101 just miles from the show. That was my major gripe of the evening:

There were hardly any imports.

Look at these pictures of these amazing “import” cars found at Hot Import Nights:

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Are you kidding me? I came here to see the imports I think are cool like the z31, z32, 3000gt, Starion, 1g DSMs, and anything with a turbocharged Toyota inline 6. Not Scions with fast and furious wraps and any other car that is all mouth and trousers.

When I imagined this website almost half a decade ago it was to represent the automotive counter culture. At one point in time, I’m sure the import scene was the counter culture to the rest of the performance auto world. If this show is truly representative of today’s import scene then I must say good riddance. You’re dead on your feet.

Barrett-Jackson 2016: 1970 GMC K1500

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Despite my love for trucks, I’m admittedly not well versed in their history and model differences. When it comes to GMC, I know less than I do about it’s sister brand – my favorite truck brand – Chevrolet. Now when we talk about GMC trucks 1973 or newer, it’s really a moot point: Badge engineering is in full force. To that extent I can’t believe that people still buy into that “professional grade” nonsense they shill on the TV. It’s the same truck as the Chevy with some trim differences.

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Despite my lack of knowledge, I do know some GMC fun facts. A 1960 model could be had with a GMC-specific 370ci Oldsmobile-derived v8. They also ran some Poncho v8s for a while in the 50’s.

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Long before the Internet was a prolific source for knowledge, my dad showed me my first 60 degree, 305 cubic inch GMC v6 in a dump truck he had bought at auction.

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Thanks to the Internet I found out that huge 5.0L v6 was actually the smallest one GMC made and that they even had a v12 derived from that family. And while I’m on the topic of the v6, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the plaid valve covers available on the half tons of the 60s.

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What’s the point in glossing over this history? Well its not because I’m trying to show off. I’m sure I’m not long for an email or comment regarding how little I know from a truly die hard fan who is scoffing to themselves as they read this now.

The point is that I’m still learning passively with each vehicle I see at trade shows , car shows and meet ups. This is just one reason why I’m so strongly against the current homogenized restomod approach to building an older car or truck. You take a bit of what made unique, to impress the people that can only handle things that are easy, familiar and the same as everyone else.

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This 1970 GMC may not be anything flashy with its “350 crate motor” which is probably a goodwrench v8 that’s surely slower than what it had stock. The mild 2 inch lift and automatic transmission with shift kit don’t really bring much excitement to the table either. To me, this truck in it’s current state of modification is a great period piece of when Bigfoot was new and this truck was only a decade and a half off the lot. It’s aspiring to be something the everyman couldn’t yet achieve.

What would it add to this truck if it were to become victim to the latest trends? Flared prerunner fenders, late model bucket seats and an LS motor? I feel like at that point you’re just taking away from what it was.

I guess what’s funny to me is that what I learned is so minor in compared to my view of the history of this truck. I just always assumed GMC used the same 10/20/30/40 etc sequence for designating the tonnage of their trucks that Chevy did. When I first read 1970 1500, I figured it must have been an error on the owner’s part. However, I was wrong.

Huh, learn something new every day.

Barrett-Jackson 2016: 1969 Olds F-85 W31

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So this is one of those cars where you wonder if at first it could actually be real. The seller attempted to advertise it as a Cutlass/f-85 but really that’s like calling Chevrolet’s platform twin a Chevelle/Malibu. This is an f-85, which was the name for the base model of Oldmobile’s A-body car.

To most people this is just another old muscle car. To the slightly more “initiated”, they might say it’s just another variation of the platform shared by the aforementioned Malibu, the Skylark or the Tempest. For the rest of us, the w-31 emblazoned on the fender says a little bit more.

How much more? How about 0-60 in 6.6 seconds and a factory rated 325hp, same as the 396 BBC found in the Chevelle. Look closely under the bumpers and you’ll see ram air scoops designed to shove cool outside air directly into the engine via snorkel tubes. This a design that is still found on modern cars today.

To find a combination of the base trim car with the high performance motor is really intriguing. More intriguing though is the car itself. Let your eyes be the judge.

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Barrett-Jackson 2016: 1990 Camaro IROC-Z

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This is probably the epitome of a clean third generation Camaro. One that would make a perfect weekend cruiser or daily driver. No ridiculous body or interior modifications and a bit more than stock power. If you’re into third gens as much as I am, then I know this car will appeal to you like it did to me.

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What I like about this car:
1. The wheels are stock to the car in design and conservative in size. This 20″+ trend I’ve been seeing for the last few years is awful.
2. Manual transmission. I’m assuming either a t56 or TKO unit by its 6 gear count. This era Camaro definitely shed it’s massive, straight-line missile persona developed by the second generation cars, so rowing your own gears is a requirement as far as I’m concerned.
3. 383 small block chevy. 10 years ago I might have groaned about this, but I’m just happy to see a TPI unit and not the now ubiquitous Gen III/IV small block.
4. Hard top. I love the open feeling of driving a T-Top car, but as far as structural integrity of a unibody car goes, hard top rules supreme.

What I dislike about this car:
1. The color. I’m sure I’m beating a dead horse with loving stick shifts and hating the color red, but it’s how I feel. I would have loved to see metallic green, bright yellow or even black or white. Is there space here for me to complain about painting the headlight buckets gloss black? At least they’re not body colored…
2. Air brushing. I’m not a fan of the displacement treatment on the hood, especially since it’s a 383, so it wouldn’t displace 5.7 liters. The IROC logo on the ground effects doesn’t do much for me either. On top of all that, the red/yellow combo either reminds me of McDonald’s or Hulk Hogan. No thanks.
3. Some of the body treatments are a little lame. The spoiler is nice and understated but the cowl-induction hood and shaved handles just bring me back to a 1990’s superchevy car. The flat hood is such a great design feature of this car because it accentuates how low the cowl is.
4. The TPI unit. This is conflicting because on one hand I applaud them for keeping the coolest part under the hood of some third generation Camaros. However, even with the nicest aftermarket parts, they’re probably sacrificing a bit of horsepower over a carb. I’d keep the TPI, but this detail shouldn’t go unnoticed.

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Barrett-Jackson 2016: 1963 Impala SS

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To most people my age, the 62, 63 and 64 Chevy fullsize cars are more closely associated with the rap or hip culture and low riders. However this particular Impala is pretty strong evidence to the contrary and hopefully a wake up call that the full size cars can be just as interesting as their midsized brethren when it comes to moving fast.

What I like about this car:
1. 340hp W-series big block. Nice.
2. 4-speed manual transmission, a requisite for hauling ass before drivers got lazy.
3. Paint/interior color. Blue, green and metallic. Perfectly 60s.

What I dislike about this car:
1. As much as I like any 348 or 409, this really isn’t “the” 409 that we all know from the Beach Boys’ song of the same name.
2. I feel for a top trim fullsize, the hubcaps leave a bit to be desired. From what I understand, they’re correct for the car, I just don’t care for them.

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SEMA 2015: Hedman 1972 K-20

Prepared to be amazed in my pedestrian tastes in automobiles. After being bombarded with over the top customs one after another, it’s a nice change of pace to see a beautifully restored Chevy work truck. Originally used as a work truck for Hedman Headers, this truck now sports some smart and simple changes such as a 300hp 350 cubic inch Chevy 350. No fuel injection or computer controlled nonsense here, this workhorse engine is mated to a 700r4 automatic 4 speed, giving this truck a much needed over drive. There’s not really much else to say here other than its a beautiful truck that’s shamefully not getting a lot of attention next to all the rest mod cars that occupy 90% of the floor space. Please see the picture detailing the trucks history for more interesting info about the history of the truck, Hedman headers and the Funfar family.

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SEMA 2015: 1969 AMC Javelin

This is an interesting one because it’s a 69 with 1970 body panels. It’s also interesting because it happens to be one of a handful of actual race cars here at SEMA instead of some ludicrously adorned trailer queen. According to the info provided it has a 304 AMC V8 rated at 500hp that runs through a 4 speed manual. No fancy touchscreen dash or LS motor with ITBs or any huge wheels or anodized trim peices. Because of this it may be my favorite car here.

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