Feature: The Women of JDM Chicago

Breaking the Stereotype

JDM Chicago features some of the girls in the local scene.

Words: Ginash George
Photos: Brad Sillars

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From L-R: Ariana, Jenna, Emily, Angela, & Tanya

Once in a great while, you will notice a sweet ride at your local car meet. On an even rarer occurrence you’ll notice a pretty girl standing next to the car. Your assumption is usually, “she’s probably the owner’s girlfriend.”  When you find out find out the “girlfriend” is actually the owner, your world is blown apart. Why is this? Well, in a male-dominated scene, female tuners and enthusiasts are a rare breed. Just do a Google search and tell me what you find. The results usually include “import models,” “hot bikini girls on cars,” etc. What I present you today is the opposite of the stereotype: five girls who years ago traded away their Barbies for Tonka trucks. Could this be the new revolution? We can only hope…

Emily Harris has always been a fan of the Nissan Z. Can you blame her? With two other Z’s in her family, it was only a matter of time before she picked up her own. As a struggling college student, Emily needed a reliable car that would spend more time on the street than in a shop. What she found 3 years ago was exactly what she was looking for:  a clean 1986 300ZX Turbo. Although Emily’s Z31 is bone-stock, modifying cars is somewhat of a tradition in the Harris household. It’s only a matter of time before the mod bug bites. “Some people appreciate the classic look and others give me heat for not modifying it. Hopefully next summer the Z will come back with some noticeable changes both inside and out.” Considering Emily’s unique sense of style and background, we are eagerly waiting to see this car’s transformation in the upcoming years.

Ariana Reyes is a self-diagnosed track junkie.  While the cool kids in high school debated on which prom dress to wear, Ariana preferred debating car builds with her gear-headed friends instead. Eventually this interest manifested into a 2003 Mazda Protégé. Although the Mazda still has sentimental value to Ariana, she was outgrowing the car and needed something more practical with more mod potential.  So after months of research, Ariana decided upon the legendary Evo to be her next toy. “I had my heart set on the Evo because I knew how easily and fairly cheaply the engine can be modded for big gains.”

As she looked for deals, Ariana’s husband surprised her by finding a pristine 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR in Michigan. Rally Red also matched the hubby’s Z quite well. Ariana has only had this car for a few months, but it has already been to the track and had some nice performance orientated goodies. She decided to pick up some Eibach sport springs to improve the looks and handling. The springs provide a raked look with a 1.2″ drop in front and 1.0″ in Rear.  Volk RE30’s were also purchased in an aggressive 19″ x 10″ all-around application, wrapped in Nitto NT-05’s. The Injen cold air intake gives the Evo some extra pep and aggressive growl at throttle. Take a look in the rear and you’ll notice two nice Recaro Baby seats. Even her kids travel in style. Future plans include, AMS intercooler, downpipe, catback exhaust, an AMS tune, and coilovers.

Tanya Smith is definitely not your average girl. First of all, most of her seat time has been on manual transmission cars. Secondly, how many girls do you know own a boosted 350Z and some dope flashy stickers to boot?  Tanya’s interest in cars started in high school. During her senior year, she picked up a Nissan 350Z Track Edition. The track model was already equipped with Brembo brakes and lightweight forged wheels by Rays. Functionally speaking, one can argue that her car was already perfect from the factory.  Good luck trying to convince Tanya. After picking up the Z, Tanya found herself on various car forums and blogs. She knew the 350Z had good aftermarket support and wanted to give it a personal touch. Tanya admits some of her car modifications were purchased on a whim. For example, her impulsivity led to a Vortech Supercharger. With over 350 ponies at the wheels, the stock clutch didn’t last very long. An Exedy Twin Plate clutch was purchased as a replacement in addition to some brake upgrades to stop the car at a moment’s notice. Handling and stance was improved with Challenge’s fully adjustable coilover system. We all know a girl loves shoes, so DPE Aristo 3 piece forged wheels (19×10 +22 & 19×10.5+18) provided extra glitz that the stock Rays couldn’t. While many 350Z owners often find themselves going overboard with modifications, Tanya isn’t one of them. There is not much else that can be done with her Z. It has an almost eerie balance. There may be a color change in the future or perhaps the car will be retired altogether for an entirely new project. But whatever the case, we look forward to seeing more from Tanya.

Jenna Vanderhoof picked up her Scion tC almost out of desperation. In 2006 her 1993 Toyota Paseo was on its last leg. She needed a suitable replacement that was reliable and fun. So on her 19th birthday, Jenna left Schaumburg Toyota with the only manual Scion tC on the lot, a Nautical Blue tC.

After two years of ownership, Jenna thought it was time to take her tC to the next level. Considering that Jenna did not know too much about cars, she used her savvy internet skills and came across the Scion community. She was amazed at what people across the country were doing and this increased her interest even more. Jenna eventually ended up joining a Scion car club which further solidified her newfound interest in car modification. Currently the car has a couple of nice bolt on performance modifications such as Greddy Exhaust and Injen CAI. Her list of aesthetic mods perfectly fit the tC’s purpose as a daily driver and show car. She jokingly says “I guess you’d call it all show & no go.” She would like to eventually turbo the tC, but for now she is perfectly happy with the direction the car has taken.

When Angela Yen walked into a Honda dealership in 2004 she was approached by a salesman who gave her a stare down and thought, “Hmmm… I think I can get this girl  into a fully Loaded Accord.” Before the salesman had time to spit his game, Angela excitedly asked if he had any S2000’s in stock. The salesman was taken off guard and asked “what color?” Being the spontaneous person that Angela is, she simply responded “Surprise me.” Five year’s later, Angela still drives that ultra rare Grand Prix White S2k.

Angela’s story really began at 14. She fell in love with motor sports and bikes in particular.  “I had set my mind into buying a beater car and a bike.  As years passed more of my friends passed away in motorcycle accidents, so I became afraid of riding.” Angela then shifted her interest to cars and has never looked back.

Angela’s S2k is one of the nicer cars you will see in the Chicagoland area.  It has a mean presence, and carefully selected NA parts that will force any S2K an enthusiast to give it a double take. The car currently sits on BBS LM’s with Falken 452’s. Considering the car is a daily driver, you really have to respect the aggressive drop of the car with her fully adjustable  Stance GR+ Coilovers. A Spoon Tower Bar adds some rigidity to the frame, while an upgraded Mishimoto Radiator keeps the motor extra cool in the summer. Other modifications include Berks testpipes, Invidia V1 Exhaust, APR cf mirrors, Mugen Shift Knob,  and some other misc. goodies. In the future; Angela hopes to pick up a set of Mugen MF10’s, complete an engine wire tuck, an ASM front bumper, and some ARC products. Angela told us her friends and her are not going out as much in order to save up for fall shopping. Angela grinned and said she is doing the same, but in her own way.

-jdm chicago

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