Welcome to the official website of Z.Team Yossi ZTY, a club from the San Francisco East Bay Area with a unifying interest: Import Racing. In 1996, Import Racing was a fringe lifestyle based in Los Angeles with a small but rapidly growing fan base. Z. Team Yossi was brewing in the teenage minds of the Tai Brothers, Shaun and Wilson.
What was 1996 like? Bill "I didn't inhale" Clinton was President of the United States. Michael "Air" Jordan took the Chicago Bulls to the NBA Finals. A sitcom about nothing and the minutiae of everyday life, Seinfeld, became a TV sensation. The Nintendo 64 was released to compete against the Playstation. Cassette tapes transitioned to CD mixtapes playing Oasis, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Alanis Morissette, Notorious Big, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, Ginuwine, Everything But The Girl, 2Pac's How Do U Want It and California Love. So cool but not everything was cool. For one, factory cars were very uncool. Round and soft was perceived as modern. The Ford Taurus, Mercedes E Class, Camry, and the most poignant of this styling, the Dodge Neon. US consumers voted on round headlights for the American Acura Integra, instead of the equivalent JDM Honda version with aggressive horizontal headlights. Leading enthusiasts swapped out the US front ends to the JDM for the ultimate styling upgrade. Was just geeking out on my floppy disk digital camera. Before I'd spend $8.99 every time I dropped off rolls of film for processing at the grocery store for 24-36 exposures. Curating editing on the fly as you shoot a photo, because every kodak moment or blur, cost money. Most importantly to the growth of our car club, the Internet was in its infancy, most people didn't know what the Internet was. Look up "1996 websites" and take a look at what the Lego and McDonald's websites looked like to get a feel of the period. Because Shaun and Wilson were on AOL and Wilson was fully fascinated with web design, Z.Team Yossi was the first car club on the Internet.
So what did it take to form ZTY? First, credit to those that came before, but not too far before - ZTY was inspired by Ken Miyoshi's Import Showoff and RJ DeVera's Team Kosoku. There was an already established car show circuit and numerous show teams competing in an underground SoCal street culture. It wasn't so much about the race, as it was about the show. We were in awe of their wild expression. For ZTY, it started in a San Francisco Bay Area garage on a rainy winter afternoon. Shaun had just returned home from school, his car was still wet from the rain, but under the beads of water, something was different - across the windshield in bold yellow vinyl lettering, read "YOSSI". Shaun had a German import which was rare amongst the Honda's and Acura's and other Japanese imports that were the majority of the scene. The mods were basic: Eibach springs, a dual tipped muffler with the factory suitcase pre-muffler removed. Import racing was rare enough that if you saw a modified car on the street, you could stop the owner and strike up a conversation. We were all teenagers so linking up was easy. For example, at the local community college parking lot, Wilson did just that, met Andy who was from Los Angeles, and was parking his "Silver Streak" Honda hatchback; cut springs, a safety yellow rollbar and Integra engine swap with the archetype: intake, header, exhaust. It was sitting on black steel dummies. Ironically, black wheels are what made Spoon legendary with its 5-star SW388 matte black magnesium racing rims.
Success, as we know it now, came later. Through the grapevine, Shaun and Wilson, connected with Mecca Graphics in Daly City. Everytime we met with Mark and his guys, Phil and Robbie, we were inspired with their culture: turntablism, sneakerheads, hip-hop, Graffiti art, and all that translated into their vinyl graphics wraps. Mecca was doing full vehicle wraps in JTCC and BTCC livery for $200, their 3 person staff working a half day on the car, magically transforming stock cars into race cars. We needed an official name and a logo to replace the temporary yellow "YOSSI" just a bold italicized Impact typefont from Fast Signs. It was 1997 and we were at Kinko's Copies in Santa Rosa, saw a girl cutting up random Chinese characters in paint brush calligraphy. One of the characters was Fire and it became the central feeling and logo. So we had a meeting with Mecca and gave input to Mark who was designing in illustrator realtime. We looked at different logos of Japanese culture in the Option Magazines from Japan and liked Mugen Racing. The fire and Mugen Racing silhouette became the basis of the ZTY logo. Wilson also noted that "Z" rated tires had a maximum speed capability in excess of 149 mph and incorporated that. After vectorizing the logo, we printed up windshield stickers and put them on as many cars as we could! And that was the formation of the team identity and how YOSSI became Z. Team Yossi. ZTY hit its confident stride when the Tai Brothers visited relatives in Kobe, Japan, and snuck out to the mountain for midnight bosozoku drift racing. Presenting my personal book of team photos from shows and events, every racer was impressed and welcomed car rides and video recording. Civic Type Rs, Nissan Skyline GTRs, Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs. This was the racing credibility that transformed ZTY from fans of Import Showoff to participants with our own identity. That confidence to create our legacy, consistency for success. Trophies, Girls, Car Shows, Drag Strips, Magazine Features, Performance Parts, Wheels, and Body Kit Sponsorships, videos, photos, websites, the camaraderie - we were nothing, but a group of kids "chasing the muff around," expressing ourselves and making something out of nothing.
- Z. Team Yossi founders, Shaun Tai and Wilson Tai
We want to thank Phil and the judges of Goodtimes Motorsports - those first trophies kindled the fire to keep going (!), Mark, Robbie, Phil, at Mecca Graphics, Leo at Weapon R, Montes brothers at Benen Industries, Tuning Concept editorial staff, Ken's EB Autobody in East Oakland, the product sponsors too many to list, but if you worked with us and supported us, thank you! Do you have pictures or video related to ZTY? Please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org