How I Got Started
I’m often asked how I got involved with the franchise. I’d like to say that I had been working towards a goal of landing a career in the motion picture industry, or that I knew somebody who got me that big break, but none of that would be true.
In the simplest of terms, my involvement came from blind, dumb, luck. In fact, other than briefly majoring in Film and Television in college, I had long since given up on that dream of even being in show business.
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that I’ve been a passionate car guy from a very early age. Like many teens of the era, by bedroom wall was adorned with pictures of Porsches and Lamborghinis. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I would someday own cars like the ones that distracted me from my studies. I had been bitten by the bug.
By 1997, I was a die-hard American car guy. I was all about the big V8s and forced induction was a dream that my pocketbook couldn’t really afford. That all changed one day in 1998 when I lined up against a stock-looking, 1995 Toyota Supra. The Supra left me like I was standing still and while I knew about these cars, I hadn’t aspired to own one until that moment. I immediately sold my Mustang and started shopping for my own Supra.
You don’t always recognize the life-changing moments as they happen. In this instance, I did.
For those who don’t know what the hype is all about, the Supra was unique for its time. With twin turbos, a six speed transmission and a 3.0 liter engine, this car was the stuff of legends in Japan. In the US, it largely took a back seat to cars like the Corvette, but those who were in the know, knew. When modified, these cars can make 1000+ horsepower without the
need to get into the engine’s internals. It was David in a world of Goliaths.
In short, there were many other Supras probably more deserving of a starring role in the movie, but this car had one unique attribute: it was in the right place at the right time and so was I.
The fateful day came in March of 2000. It started like any other Saturday morning. I headed up to an Import Showoff event in Manhattan Beach, Calif. where I parked my car with the 250 or so others that participated in the show. I spent the next several hours making sure no one put their grubby fingers on it and talking to friends and colleagues. At the time, Import Showoff was like any other car show, be it a Super Chevy show or a Corvettes at Carlisle show, except it was open only to tuner cars.
As my day at the car show progressed, an older gentleman (even older than me) approached me and started a casual conversation about my Supra. I was accustomed to being asked thousands of questions about the car so this discussion didn’t seem even remotely unusual. The conversation concluded with pleasantries and the gentleman went on his way.
After a couple of weeks, I received a phone call at my desk from a gentleman who saw the print advertisement for our NIRA racing series. He identified himself as David Marder, who was the Picture Car Captain for Universal at the time. It turns out he was the same gentleman with whom I spent time at the car show.
The ad to which he was referring to was an ad for NIRA, the National Import Racing Association. I was Executive Director of this professional, tuner-exclusive, nationwide drag racing series. Names like Steph Papadakis, Craig Paisley, Chris Rado, Lisa Kubo and Abel Ibarra were perennial participants. The series was an extension of Super Street magazine.
The ad featured a picture of my Supra and David called because he was curious as to whether or not I could give him some insights into the tuner car culture. David was also most eager to find out where he could get a car like the one featured in the ad. I of course mentioned that I just happened to own that particular car. David’s ears perked up and we agreed to meet for lunch at Delmonico’s at Beverly Wilshire. It was at this meeting that David handed me $100 cash and a copy of a script entitled “Redline,” and asked me to read it at my earliest convenience. I was asked to offer my thoughts and suggestions. I tossed the script into my briefcase to save it for browsing during my upcoming cross-continental flight and two days later, as the flight reached a safe cruising altitude, I cracked open the script.
From there, I embarked on an adventure that would change my life forever – and the lives of many millions of people.