Remember 1990s tuner companies like Neuspeed, Apexi, Veilside, GReddy, AEM and Enkei? You probably recognize the names having seen them stuck on someone’s car back in the 1990s. Well, where are they now?
Everyone, at least most of you here on Oversteer, has a story from their youth involving automotive modification — some good, some bad. I got into Hondas around 1999 when I got a brand-new Civic EX right out of college. It was a "practical choice," since I was paying my own way, and the 1996 Camaro wasn’t quite that economical. It was hunter green with a 5-speed manual, the upgraded 15-inch wheels and a factory Honda spoiler. It wasn’t fast by anyone’s measure, and my best friend Doug’s (different Doug) new 2000 Honda Accord EX with the V6 gave me immediate car envy. By 2001 I had traded it for an electron blue Honda Prelude, manual of course, and kicked Doug’s butt on the D.C. beltway. It was this car that got me onto the so called "internet" and awash in car forums and local racing clubs. I dipped a toe into racing at my first autocross and never looked back.
Of course, that was also the year that "The Fast and The Furious" came out, and I was hooked.
While I never quite went down the line-your-door-with-stickers route, I was a ravenous consumer of import tuner information. I subscribed to "Sport Compact Car," naturally, because the advertisements were just as entertaining as the content. I had a running list of parts that I was looking to add at any given moment. That got me thinking about the companies that peddled that 1990s go-fast merchandise. So I took a look into some of the biggest tuner companies of my youth to see who’s still in business, who’s gone and how they evolved. Amazingly, most of them are still around!
This year marks Neuspeed’s 43rd in business, and their founder, Bill Newmann, was tuning cars way back in the 1950s. An unlikely start — but the early hot rod days are very much analogous to what we did back in the 1990s: Slow cars given a new life with tuning parts and wrenching know-how. Newmann’s company hit it big in 1975 tuning a then new Volkswagen Rabbit and Scirocco. Since then, they have made a name tuning VWs — but across the 1990s, they were known for providing parts for just about any hot import. Today they are still in the VW business, and their site boasts a focus on not just small German performance, but also Honda/Acura, FIAT and Mini — so just about any small import performance car proabably has some Neuspeed parts waiting for it.
Founded in Japan in 1992, A’PEXi was always known for moving air through engines expeditiously. They were some of the first to offer complete bolt-on exhaust kits here in the U.S. Featuring turbo, intercooler, intake and exhaust systems, A’PEXi is still around and churning out JDM-focused parts. Their current site features parts for cars ranging from 1983 to 2018, and they cover pretty much all Japanese brands, plus Mini, and even some defunct nameplates like Pontiac and Saab. And even though the main company is still pretty Japan-focused, they offer Americans lots parts, including some bits from Tom’s Racing and Lexon.
The body kit craze was in full swing in the early 1990s, and Veilside was one of the first Japanese companies to start becoming popular here in the States. You can’t get through an early "Fast and Furious" movie without seeing at least one Veilside kit. Dom’s FD RX-7, DK’s Z, Han’s crazy "Fortune" RX-7 … there were lots of Veilside kits in the foreground and background of the F&F movies. According to their website, "Veilside" stands for owner’s last name "Yokomaku": "Maku" means "Veil" and "Yoko" means "Side". Today, they’re still around and still making all kinds of body kits for JDM cars and beyond.
A company pretty much synonymous with big power was always GReddy. Like A’PEXi, they always focused on forcing as much air through the car as possible to make big power. GReddy brought the very first 50-state legal turbo kit for the 1992-1995 Honda Civic to the U.S. market. Today GReddy offers parts to make your entire car faster. They still focus on big power via turbo systems, intakes, intercoolers and exhausts, but you can also pull the trigger on suspension goodies and aero-parts.
AEM Performance Electronics was virtually standard on 1990s tuner cars — or, at least, their stickers were. The yellow three-letter logo was found on many a modified car back in the day. Years ago, they started to offer stand-alone programmable engine-management systems that allowed tuners to start doing their own in-house tuning. AEM is still plugging along, offering all kinds of geeky electronics that you can add or swap into your car to make it go faster — everything from fuel controllers to gauges, boost controllers and the aforementioned engine-management systems are ready to be added to your go-fast shopping cart.
I always remember seeing Enkei stickers on the local JDM tuner cars. Founded in 1950, Enkei has always focused solely on wheel development and production for both motorsports and street use. Enkei wheels have ended up on everything from Japanese Grand Touring Cars (JGTC) to McLaren F1 race cars, where they have been the official wheel supplier since 1995! Today, Enkei offers a full suite of wheels, from racing spec, to tuner, performance, classic and even truck and SUV options.
Like GReddy and A’PEXi, you always saw HKS stickers on some of the fastest tuner cars. Of all of these companies, HKS is the one I have purchased something from most recently, as I snagged their Drager II Axelback exhaust for the IS300 I no longer have. It was a fellow called Hiroyuki Hasegawa, founder of HKS Japan, that popularized the first aftermarket turbocharger kit. In case you were curious, it was initially built for the 240Z. Today, HKS is still cranking along providing a ton of go-fast parts. You can pretty much get any drivetrain performance part you are looking for at HKS. Boost, baby!
So, that’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular 1990s tuner companies found at Hot Import Nights — and as usual, I’m sure I missed some. Let me know what I missed in the comments and I’ll consider a second around of "where are they now."