Craig Seidel had this great idea. In his early 40s, this fan and collector of Japanese Domestic Market vehicles sold his business in South Dakota and invested in real estate in Las Vegas. So why not share his automotive passion with his new hometown and all the people who visit Vegas to see the shows or to attend the conventions?
So, during the week of the 2019 SEMA Show, Seidel did a soft launch of RentJDM. Though off The Strip, RentJDM is almost next door to Las Vegas’ new enclosed professional football stadium and, someday, concert venue.
RentJDM was designed to offer right-hand-drive JDM vehicles as rentals. Want to turn heads as you cruise The Strip? What better way than in a right-hand-drive JDM?
The new company also would serve as a dealership for JDM cars (working with Toprank, a California-based JDM importer) and as a museum for cars from Seidel’s and others’ collections.
Great idea, indeed.
And then came the coronavirus, and the people who came to Las Vegas for shows and conventions stopping coming. Faced with higher-than-normal insurance costs because of the cars’ rarity and renters’ lack of experience with their right-hand driver placement, Seidel realized it was time to shift gears.
So he has. Though still called RentJDM, the rental business has been put on hold, but sales continue and the museum-style display is terrific, even spectacular thanks not only to the vehicles but to the work of several local Las Vegas artists who painted huge murals on the tall walls.
Adding to the experience are a video-game arcade — Seidel notes that he and his generation first encountered JDM cars through video games — and several authentic Japanese vending machines, complete with their unique array of beverages and snacks, including a wasabi-flavored ginger ale. Those machines only take yen, but you can exchange dollars for yen at the RentJDM welcome desk.
Though he’d encountered JDM cars through teenage video games, it was at an autocross event that Seidel became hooked on the cars. He was competing in his 1996 Dodge Intrepid but it was a modified Nissan 240SX that captured his attention. Seidel bought his own 240SX, a 1989 model, did an engine swap for more power, and started drifting and drag racing.
“I got into imports, and drifting and drag racing,” Seidel remembered. “From there it was all downhill.”
Of course, he had to have a Nissan Skyline GT-R, and at one point had six of them, driving them frequently, including on charity road rallies all around the country.
From a dealership standpoint, Seidel said buyers tend to be middle aged, people who were exposed to the cars by video games and then had that passion rekindled by the Fast and Furious movies. Recently, he said, with more cars available in the US to be seen and touched, and available at a variety of price points, he’s seeing more people in their 20s.
“There’s a whole new expression of the JDM culture in society,” he said.
Seidel hopes the pandemic subsides soon and that people will be able to experience that culture not only by visiting his museum but by taking the wheel for a special driving experience, whether on The Strip or up Mount Charleston or along the Lake Mead lakeshore.
By the way, when it was renting cars, customers were and someday again will be asked to watch a video before driving. The video’s title is a delightful play on The Fast and The Furious. The video’s title: The Safe and The Serious.