Top Rank Importers Open House: October 13, 2019

I’ve known the gang at Top Rank Importers for a very long time and we recently reconnected at the SPOCOM show in Anaheim. Dating back to the days of Motorex in Gardena, CA – which had afforded me the opportunity to play with R32, R33 and R34 iterations of the Nissan GT-R (and shoot two prints ads. a “fashion” feature in Super Street magazine featuring the well known “Blackbird” R34) – these guys love cars. And started the Top Rank business in earnest to bring various Japanese cars into the US market LEGALLY (I won’t get into the fine details about the challenges of making a car legal in California vs. the rest of the United States, for example).

But I digress. Doors were opened to the public to take a peek at the vast selection of GTRs, Supras and many other RHD Japanese gems. I found a new favorite of mine in the Mitsubish Delica Star wagon – the looks of an old school Japanese minivan combined with 4WD and turbocharged diesel engine.. and in stock at Top Rank.

If you’re hankering for your next RHD build or just curious about the importation process, give the Top Rank team a call. I’m sure they’ll do their best to answer your questions.

Top Rank International Vehicle Importers
5595 Corporate Way
Cypress, CA 90630
(844) 523-2233

Hot Import Nights: Los Angeles (March 30, 2019)

In what I can describe as a flashback moment, Chris and i decided to visit the first Hot Import Nights of the year. Not to date myself, but I was at the original HIN way back in the day, shot many iterations of this show – HIN, Hot Import Daze, Import Revolution – and so on. Glad to see that there are still some souls passionate about upgrading their car game from the very basic bolt-ons to full engine swaps.

Chris shot some video but you’ll have to wait a bit for that. In the meantime, enjoy the photos below!

Cheap Thrills: Valentine 1 Radar-Laser Detector



Okay, perhaps the word “cheap” doesn’t necessarily apply to the Valentine 1 radar & laser detector from the get go. At $399, it’s certainly not cheap and many of you may ask, “Why should I spend $400 for a radar detector?” Sure, there are cheaper alternatives available on the market. Sure, you could spend those 400 George Washingtons elsewhere. Personally speaking, I discovered the Valentine 1 literally paid for itself on our recent trip to Sonoma with the 2010 Nissan GT-R – yes, there really couldn’t have been a better vehicle with which to test the V1.

As with all radar / laser detectors, you want to be alerted as early as possible so that you have sufficient time to slow down and avoid getting ticketed. The Valentine passes this test with all A’s. On one particular flat stretch of the 5 freeway from LA to SF, it started buzzing with a specific tone alerting us to the presence of a radar gun. With only 1 light lit up on the strength meter, we knew the California Highway Police officer was a distance away, but slowed down to a manageable 70mph. As more lights on the strength meter lit up, we knew we getting closer. Sure enough, about 2 miles down the road from where the V1 initially set off, there was  a CHP squad car by the side of the road, already having pulled someone over for speeding. The same type of scenario played itself out 6 additional times during our trip to the Sonoma Indy race. Each time, the Valentine V1 alerted us ahead of time of an impending speeding ticket and saved us from some costly financial penalties as well as potential points on our driving records.

Okay, you are probably asking yourself yet another question – “Sure, the V1 is great but other radar detectors can probably save me from tickets as well without spending $400.” Yes, that’s a fair question to ask on the surface, but another awesome feature of the V1 is the set of directional arrows that provides what Valentine calls “situational awareness.” The directional arrows tell you exactly where the radar / laser source is located so that you can react accordingly. No other radar / laser detector offers this functionality – since it’s patented by Valentine – and it’s well worth the price premium you pay over its competitors.

Combining effective functionality, clean design and “situational awareness” directional arrows, the Valentine V1 is a great safeguard against costly speeding tickets. Simply put, it just plain works and anything that sheds marketing BS and delivers 100% of its promises is a must in our book.


Valentine Research
Customer Service
10280 Alliance Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242
(800) 331-3030

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Cheap Thrills: Turtle Wax ICE Wheel Cleaner

I have to admit that one of the biggest reasons why I hold off washing my car is cleaning the wheels. As I am sure many of you will agree, it really is a pain in the butt, especially if the wheels have an intricate design with all those nooks and crannies that hide / hold brake dust and grime like no other. And when they are some pricey wheels like the Volk CE-28N wheels on the in-house Evo IX MR, you don’t want to use a cheap product that may scratch or damage such expensive wheels.

While visiting the local Pep Boys, I noticed a new wheel cleaning product from Turtle Wax – ICE Wheel & Tire Cleaner. With a solution in a spray bottle and a detachable wheel brush, it looked like a worthy product to check out. I had been looking for a soft wheel brush that could fit within and between the spokes of the CE-28Ns without banging things up. Of special concern was finding a brush that could fit into the center section of the wheel, where the Rays lugnuts are quite recessed for any ordinary wheel brush to fit. The ICE brushhead looked like it could do the job.

In practice, the product works really well. Pulling the trigger produces a foamy spray, which do a great job of clinging to the wheel surface, pulling off much of the brake dust and grime. And the brushhead is very effective in doing final clean up duties on the wheels, especially handy for the tight confines at the center of the wheels, where lugnuts tend to hide / mask surrounding contamination. Compared to the old way of cleaning wheels – with a microfiber towel and solution – using the ICE system definitely cut down on wheel cleaning time. So much so that I may actually clean them on a regular basis rather than waiting for the wheels become so dirty that they look like bronze anodized wheels from all the accumulated dirt and brake dust!

I do have a question and a comment for the folks at Turtle Wax, however. How safe is the solution for the sensitive clearcoats on aftermarket wheels? And I would recommend coating the brush handle area with a thin layer of rubber so that the plastic handle that could mar or scratch the wheel being cleaned. Will have to wait to see what the folks at Turtle Wax have to say.

P.S. – all of our “Cheap Thrills’ product reviews are unendorsed, honest-to-goodness evaluations; we pay for the product ourselves and try it out; whether it’s stellar or just plain sucks, we’ll definitely you know!


Turtle Wax, Inc.
P.O. Box 247
Westmont, IL 60559-0247
1-800-Turtle Wax

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Cheap Thrills: Denso Iridium Spark Plugs

Denso Iridium Spark Plug After 15,000 Miles

With this feature, we launch a new category of editorial on “Cheap Thrills.” These aren’t the kind of thrills that will likely get you arrested and thrown in the slammer. Rather, these are small, affordable upgrades you can perform on your car to achieve better performance, realiability and / or driving experience.

Reportedly invented by Edmond Berger in 1839, spark plugs are the often-overlooked component of an engine. Most people don’t give a second thought to replacing them, relegating this rather simple maintenance item to their dealer or local mechanic during a “tune up” (newer vehicles really don’t need “tune ups” per se). But checking and replacing your vehicle’s spark plugs at regular intervals can pay dividends.

Our in-house Mitsubishi Evolution IX MR came equipped with NGK Iridium spark plugs from the factory. Compared to spark plugs with a conventional copper center electrode, iridium spark plugs – due to the high temperature nature of iridium – allow the use of a smaller center electrode, which will not melt or corrode away. When you combine this increased level of durability and the more efficient spark afforded by iridium, these spark plugs will provide more efficient combustion translating into performance and economy gains. Indeed, the advantages iridium spark plugs permit are ideal for high performance applications like the turbocharged 4G63 engine in the Evo IX.

At 15,000 miles on the odometer, the NGK’s were swapped for Denso Iridium spark plugs. Although the Mitsubishi service manual advises a longer change interval, we were pleased by the results. Immediately, idle smoothed out and engine response was improved. Now with 30,000 miles on the odometer, we checked out the Denso Iridium plugs previously installed. The plugs looked almost new, the center electrode showing no signs of any corrosion or melting. And idle and engine response is still excellent.

While we can certainly continue to use the plugs, we figured as long as they were out, we’d install a fresh set. Sure, iridium plugs do cost more than standard copper or platinum plugs, but the performance and efficiency advantages they offer more than justify the extra cost in our opinion. Even if your pocketbook does not permit spending upward of $25 per plug, regularly checking and replacing your vehicle’s spark plugs will enhance the vehicle ownership and driving experience.


Denso Sales California, Inc.
3900 Via Oro Avenue
Long Beach CA 90815
(888) 96-DENSO

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