His yellow Acura is a centerpiece of Kosoku, one of perhaps 250 predominantly Asian American, predominantly male car clubs that have cropped up in Southern California during the last five years, providing social fabric for import street racing enthusiasts. Crews are spreading beyond Asian communities and throughout the Sun Belt, while the newfangled compact hot rods they have championed are hot from Hawaii to Florida, creating a $100-million domestic demand for custom import parts. Some dealerships, such as the Norm Reeves Honda(Honda Del Sol) Superstore in Cerritos, sell lowered, customized cars right off the showroom floor.
R.J. De Vera, a 19-year-old UCLA student, runs the club like a business, calling monthly meetings, lining up photo shoots with the car magazines and selling T-shirts with Kosoku cars imaged on the backs. Charlotte De Vera, 49, (a.k.a. "Moms") wags her finger at the 30-odd troops not to street race, but keeps her credibility with a slammed-to-the-ground, yellow-as-a-bee's-behind Honda minivan. R.J.'s half brother, Cito Cabale, 26, is a club deejay who rolls down PCH in a midnight blue '93 Toyota MR-2.
Kosoku is well-known as a "show" crew and took nearly half a dozen top trophies from the ultimate test of an import car's cosmetics, the biennial Import Show-Off in December in Del Mar. The crew's cars--mostly Honda Civics and Acura Integras but sprinkled with a Toyota here, a BMW there--are pristine and toylike, almost untouchable. Often monochrome and always wrapped with bottom-hugging, plastic "body kits," they represent the smart, sleek aesthetic of the import subculture.