Import Alliance 2011
Import Alliance Summer Meet, I feel like those words have now become synonymous for a good time. This year’s attendance had topped every year before with roughly 10,500 people. This was my 3rd year back and probably one of my most memorable. After last year’s fiasco of having my car stranded on the side of the freeway after Kentucky roads decided to take a chunk out of my transmission, I decided this year to go for the comfortable cruise down in a stock BMW 740iL with A/C on blast the whole time. The cruise down from Columbus, OH to Lebanon, TN is always a great way to start things out, even when most cars do get separated. I can honestly say that this year, for me, was more about hanging out with friends I rarely get to see and just having a good time. The cars were just an extra bonus.
See, once you go your first year you may be a little stand-offish not knowing anyone and being overwhelmed by the size of the event, but the more you go, the more you realize that no matter what you drive, no matter what kind of person you are, you will end up making some new friends. We got into Lebanon on Friday evening and after getting checked in at the hotel we all decided to hang out in the parking lots, along with most of the other people, and just watch as other cars rolled in. We went and grabbed some food and then my friend Joe wanted to see if some of us wanted to head over to the infamous La Quinta hotel. It is known for being the big party hotel. I never stopped by in the years past, so this year I decided to see what it was all about. We made the drive over and right when I pulled in I could tell why it has become known as the party hotel. There were no parking spots, people were flooded in the parking lot and there were people on the balconies of their rooms screaming out things. I finally found a spot and then began to walk around and see what cars showed up this year. I could tell, just from the parking lot, that there were going to be some really nice cars showing up this year. My friend Joe and I then managed to find the guys from S3 Magazine and as we were talking with them we see and hear the fire alarms going off inside the hotel. Everyone came rushing out of the hotel and about 5 minutes later a fire truck showed up. I don’t think there was really any kind of emergency and you could tell the cops circling the hotel and the guys in the fire truck were not happy. We then decided to head back to the hotel before things really got out of hand. I called it a night and headed up to my room to get ready for the early morning ahead of me.
Now, I knew from the years past that you have to get to the track really early unless you want to wait in the ridiculously long line and get a really crappy parking spot. I wasn’t looking to do either and I figured being there by 7 would be fine. I was wrong. By the time I got there at 7 the line was already out to the road, and let me tell you, that is a really long distance from the actual entrance. I waited patiently in line waiting for them to start letting people in at 8:30. Once that finally happened you still have a decent wait until you get to the front. Luckily it was a decent morning so things seemed to go faster. I finally got into the show and decided to go watch some of the drifting that was already taking place and wait for all the cars to show up. That is another thing I like about this event is that they have other things going on so you don’t feel like you just have to walk around and look at cars the entire time. As more cars started showing up I realized how big this year’s meet was going to be and that my feet probably were going to hate me at the end of the day. This year the cars started getting parked on the track a lot earlier than last year. When all was said and done the entire in-track area was filled and there were cars around 3/4 of the track itself, top and bottom.
I started to finally make my way around and spotted some amazing cars and builds. A few of the cars that really caught my eye were Nick Weir’s K20 swapped VW Rabbit truck, Joe Maguschak’s near spotless shaved and tucked blue Honda Civic coupe, Mike Burroughs’ BMW 2800CS, and a dark green Nissan 240SX S14 parked in the CCW area with a Super Made Instant Gentleman kit. As I made my way around in the now blistering hear and my A.D.D. mentality started kicking in, I realized there was no way I was going to see everything. I then made my way back to the main area and finally got the chance to talk with people. I can’t say it enough; Import Alliance is one of those events where it really all comes down to being surrounded with like minded people. It is the realization that it is not a car show, it is a meet, and everyone, even the vendors, are in it for the same reason as you. I will say the one thing I don’t like, but is very understandable with the Tennessee heat, is that a lot of cars and people leave around the afternoon. You almost get the feeling that you have barely spent any time there when you really have spent 5+ hours there which is in all reality is a decent amount of time. So as the people start heading back to their hotels to get ready for the nights debauchery, I decide to make my way back to mine. I spent some time relaxing and getting things ready for later that night. Saturday night is for most, the main party night. Some people will head back to the meet the next morning, so people will head home, but either way they are going to have a good time before they do so. I am not saying you have to have a drink or party to have a good time here either. I didn’t drink anything but my gallon jugs of Arizona tea and water but still had an amazing time because of the atmosphere of it all. Saturday night is one of the main highlights of my trip, not only because of some of the stuff one of my friends was yelling, but because it really is the night I normally make new friends. Most of the hotels in Lebanon are within walking distance so people migrate from hotel party to hotel party just to see what each one has to offer. After having some good times I decided to get some sleep for the next day.
Sunday came and I got a little later of a start than the morning before but I knew it wouldn’t be a big deal since a lot of people were probably still passed out from the night before. I got breakfast and made my way to the track. Sunday is the day where you don’t know what to expect. Normally people may stop by for an hour or so and then make their way back home. Sunday is the day where it is much easier to get decent pictures of cars though because there are less people. It really is just a day to relax and not worry about much else other than hanging out with friends. It definitely has a much more laid back feel, probably because a lot people are still hung over. As it was time to head back to Ohio, I left with some sadness knowing I am heading back to my daily routine. If nothing else Import Alliance is like a vacation from your normal routine. Getting to hang out with people who don’t think you’re strange for dumping ridiculous amounts of time and money into cars. Getting to meet new people. Getting to see cars you have been watching the progress on for so long. I said it last year, and I will say it again this year, if you are into cars at all and have the opportunity to go to Import Alliance, even just once, you would be making a mistake if you didn’t. I want to end things by giving a big thanks to Don Napier and everyone else that makes this event what it is every year. I know it can’t be an easy task anymore because of the size of the event at this point, so thank you for all the hard work and money you put into making it happen.
Photography by Kevin Kauffman