Jimmy Oakes

Jimmy Oakes

Words and Photography: Jonny Smith

People have always tried to chase fame. Going back people will do all kinds of things to gain that 15 minutes of fame and try to make a quick buck. With this it's always easy to forget that there are many people out there doing much better for the world but we never know their name in the mainstream.

With today, that 15 minutes of fame has been made more accessible due to the huge rise in social media. From the great days of Vine, the thousands of Instagram influencers, Twitch streamers and the term 'Youtuber', anyone can start their own channel, upload videos and maybe make some money. Honestly that's a great thing, but also can it be a bad one?

If you go on any one of these sites, thousands of people are uploading content daily. So much content is out there now, I'm sure many of you could agree we're spoilt for choice, but once again is this a good or bad thing? Quality over quantity? Even if we take a look at just the car community, the more I dived into the car world of YouTube, the more people I discovered. So the question is, with so much choice out there how can you stand out and make it successful?

5 years ago, Jimmy uploaded a video to a brand new channel. It wasn't anything serious, just him and a friend, RJay @rjay_az working on the current car build and documenting it as they went along. If you go back and watch that video and then his most recent ones, you can understand how Jimmy has made the YouTube thing such a great success. From the opening minute of his first video you can already gauge what kind of person he is, just a humble, genuine guy. Not trying to play a character or anything, just being himself on camera and that hasn't changed. Jimmy has worked out a fine art of making sure the content he produces is to a high standard, but in way where he enjoys every moment of the process. Vlogging and filming whilst you're building a car, well many cars in Jimmy's case, can be a long, tedious job which many times carries on into the early hours. This is where Jimmy's dedication comes in, not just on the cars but his channel. There's no half cuts, no filler, just quality content and that's impressive for a man who uploads 3 times a week. 

To get into Jimmy's car journey and how that started out, we have to back up quite a bit. Jimmy, like many car people, and especially drifters, he came from an obsession in the BMX and Skateboard community. He worked at a local bike shop and that's how he met Brian @bbrroocoollii a guy who owned a MK3 Golf and they became good friends. This gave Jimmy a heavy Volkswagen influence from the start. His first car was actually a Saturn SC2 '92 which he got for free off his stepdad. Jimmy saved up for a long time for a second car and purchased a MK4 Jetta which Brian helped him build with simple mods of wheels and coilovers. This then upgraded for a MK4 GLI Jetta, getting the same treatment as the Jetta before. Jimmy loved that car but after some time got a bit sick of it so sold it and bought the Red Z32, and the YouTube journey started. 

I first met Jimmy back in 2018. Garrett is a good friend of Jimmys from the BMX days, so the evening after I had shot Garrett's Jetta Coupe (read here) We headed over to see Jimmy and some friends at his now old shop. I'll be honest, I had no idea who he was till that day and this is what I mean with how do you get discovered in a sea of constant creators. I'd not taken much notice to the US drift scene so I was none the wiser. Looking back now at other photos, without realising it I had taken photos of Jimmy's 13 from the Lock City drift event at Staggered which I also attended in 2018.

Whilst I was visiting for a second time in 2019, I grabbed my camera and wandered around the new garage Jimmy had recently moved into. I took more of a nose at the cars he's built/building. The old shop would look tiny compared to the new one, so it was nice to have space to walk around and take decent photos. 

First up, the main piece was the car currently the main focus of being built. The "Cherry Hatch" 240. A bone stock auto single cam 'Barn Find'. The work started with the deepest clean inside and out of the car. It was in a sorry state sat in a yard for a good number of years. Jimmy heard it was up for sale and couldn't let it sit any longer. Saving a Hatch? 

The 13 hatch was always a dream car to own, one that took attention once Jimmy got into Japanese cars. The build was moving along very quickly getting it ready to enjoy it for the end of the 2019 East Coast drift season. A 5 lug conversion had just been installed. This means it could have that 'glow up' and actually have cool wheels fit. These turned out to be some SSR Minervas that need splitting. As these are wheels from Japan, they needed the welds cut to split them, and this was achieved in a questionable but cleaver way.

An SR20 was installed with a Greedy Exhaust. If you didn't know Jimmy is quite the SR20 wizard, so this was of no surprise. 

Inside a pair of Brides replaced the stock seats. A Nardi wheel with a Blitz horn button and some AEM gauges. These are held into the vents by a piece made by a buddy Zak, pineapples are a theme in this garage. A Link G4plus ECU controls everything and just makes life with the engine so much more accessible and easier to live with, be that tuning or just trying to find a fault. 

Some beautiful, new old stock from Nissan made their way over from Japan. A set of Kouki/Type X rear lights and a front Type X bumper and all the genuine fittings, bolts and trim pieces too. 

The car that started this all is the OG Red Z32. The first Japanese car Jimmy owned. LS1 swapped, it's a solid and fun car that was worked on for many years. Project cars are never finished, but this is one that Jimmy is happy where it's at and is able to enjoy it for what it is. 

The Z taught Jimmy and others a lot about cars and that has helped him with the many builds that have been taken on by the group. 

Unfortunately, I didn't really look at the Black Z32 in the shop. Looking back I wish I had. This is a RHD imported model. The dustiest of them all. Jimmy loves his SR20s, he loves his Z's, so the car being SR20 swapped was always on his mind and something he wanted to build and it eventually came to fruition. From going back and watching the videos on this build series, it has turned out beautiful even if it wasn't an easy build. 

This series really shows off how good Jimmy is. The videos are not only fun to watch, but he has such a great way of explaining what work is being carried out, that all his videos have an educational side to them which is great as a viewer.

Another car that is halfway through a complete rebuilt and upgrade is the 1JZ s13. The main girl, the first full on drift car, one that was built to be driven hard to learn and improve on drifting with as much seat time. It originally had an SR20, but got a 1JZ dropped in during the build. It has been the first car Jimmy has used to compete in, and this is where he realised it needs more work. 

It's going to be widened and set up with more grip in mind. The car was very mid built when I was there so enjoy some early build photos. It's a series I need to watch, ready for when I see it next and do a proper feature.  

The E30 4 door. An enjoyable car to drive and slide. After hanging out at the garage for a while Jimmy actually gave me the keys to this and let me have my first experience of a LHD manual car. It is strange to start with but you'd be surprised how quickly you adapt to changing gear with your right hand. Maybe next time I'll just take a RHD manual car though. Massive thanks to Jimmy for letting me have some fun in it. 

Inside is such a comfortable place to sit. The Bride buckets keep you firmly in place and the wooden Nardi has that period correct feel. Just like the Cherry Hatch, some fantastic custom vents have been 3D printed to hold the AEM gauges. 

At the time, I visited it was the best drift car to fill the gap whilst Jimmy was taking the time to upgrade the 13. Unfortunately, during a Lock City drift event in early 2020 it got hit pretty hard on the front and rear right hand side, bending the frame. No rando tando people. A truly heart-breaking day and video to watch, but knowing Jimmy's attitude to everything, the time came for it to be fixed and rebuilt better than before. 

With help from a guy called Sean and his body shop in the area the frame and front end got pulled straight again. No more banana bends and kinks. This was probably the most fascinating videos I've watched so far on Jimmy's channel. Something I've never been exposed to I guess. Watch Part 1 and Part 2 here. 

Since then the E30 got put back together but with many upgrades. An M3 S52 heart has been installed with some IBTs bolted on. I do feel this is my favourite car in Jimmy's fleet as of my visit. That is strange as I'm not mad about BMWs and that Jimmy has filled the rest of the shop with Japanese metal. Even the other BMW in the room is 'Japanese'.

Well, finally from the cars that I took photos of is the RHD Japanese import E36. For the East Coast of the USA, this is definitely an oddball car. Jimmy couldn't pass up the price of this E36. With how similar they are to the S chassis, where parts are in abundance everywhere and they're super cheap to build, adding the fact it was RHD sold it to Jimmy hard. It's come along way from the first trip from New York back to Connecticut. 

In this state we see it in, Jimmy actually had sold the M52 Supercharged engine and running gear out of the car. The dream engine would be a S54, maybe even turbo'd, so that will be great to see. The interior and body work need some addressing which is on the cards.

One of many sticker that can never leave this car. 

I've sat on these photos for quite some time, so much time in fact, Jimmy and his friends have bought, built, created many more cars since my visit. A RWD KA24T Civic Coupe with 240 running gear, poor spec R33, an S15, few Kei trucks, Brian's E46 had an LS3 dropped in, field find S14 which eventually received a K swap. Josh's Corrado finally ran, 4 door ew32, dream Supra Mk4 bought and sold and much more.

I can't put into words how much content Jimmy has produced, even in just the past two years, so I highly recommend heading over to his channel and watching him carry on his insane YouTube journey.

Jimmy has surrounded himself with fantastic friends. His entire philosophy is "Fun with Friends" and the many videos prove that. They all help each other out and use each other strengths to create a small group that excel together. With this the channel has grown strong and organically over the past 5 years and that's something to celebrate!

I had planned to visit CT in September of 2020 to cover one of the Lock City drift events, meet Jimmy and the gang again. Unfortunately Covid ruined that plan and traveling which left me very deflated. But the time will come that I get to head back over the pond. Whenever that is, I'll bring you as much extra content from Jimmy's fleet as physically and mentally possible.

Until then, next week we'll meet Zak and Dave the owner of Buzigear.

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