Toys R' Us, New York City. If you've seen happiness on a kid's face walking through any other toy store, think again. A little boy ran through the revolving front doors leaving his parents behind, completely ignored the staff photographers trying to get his picture because all he wanted do is indulge himself in the infinite treasures and rarities that lay before him. Giant Lego sculptures, a mini Ferris-Wheel, a real life looking T-Rex that moved around, and a life size Barbie house (hey, just because he was at a toy store doesn't mean he can't check out the chicks in the Barbie section)! Even if he couldn't buy anything, this was one happy kid. Maybe you were so lucky in your childhood and that may have been you, but my first time going there was when I was 22 years old so unfortunately I never got to be that kid.
This past Saturday, I could almost imagine it though. Walking through that plain black front door of Elite Imports Ltd in North East Philadelphia, I immediately felt the drool running down my chin. Being an enthusiast of all makes, this place was like a gold mine. The showroom was full. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a bunch of seats neatly organized on the floor, mostly Bride and Recaro. Look to your left and you have a rack of coilovers, some of which I have never seen, nor even thought about ever seeing in real life. A few pairs of Silvia headlamps and some JDM spoilers accented the setup pretty well. Look behind you and the combination of aftermarket and JDM OE steering wheels lined the top of the drywall like Christmas lights while some more suspension related components covered the rest of the wall. Residing in the glass casing straight ahead there was oil/radiator caps, various gauges, boost controllers, and piggyback ECU's galore. And this was all before I even stepped foot in the warehouse.
Nick Dalessio, owner, took me through the door into the main attraction and what I saw from then on was like a dream. Everything was so clean and organized I just couldn't believe it. With a whole 24,000 sq. ft. at his disposal he had a Toyota Section, Honda Section, Nissan Section, and even a Misc. section for those other makes. Brakes, lighting, wheels, suspension, rears, doors, clusters, glass, bumpers, and MORE seats all divided up in their own dedicated spots. As we walked around the shop discussing things from school to automotive forums, something caught my eye in particular. It was a genuine EF8 glass top roof in pristine condition with immaculate headliner. Talk about rarity... I can't remember the last time I've even seen one online without at least one crack! Front clips were stacked on giant shelves, one on top of the other, just waiting to be plucked by the massive forklift to have its contents put to use by some lucky enthusiast. Looking at the motors around the shop, in a clip or not, it was as if the engine had only been used for a couple short trips around town then shipped right over here. No leaks or stains anywhere to be seen on any of them. Being a technician at Honda, that kind of stuff in particular stands out to me.
With all of this product at his disposal, you must wonder 'does he provide the service too?' Well the answer to that question is quite simple: damn right he does! Back in 2001 is when the chaos started. Nick started his business called 'Impulse' selling parts and shortly thereafter decided to install them for customers as well. The time eventually came where he found himself so overwhelmed with JDM engine swaps and sourcing Japanese parts, something had to be done. Instead of trying to rely on other unpredictable importers, Dalessio took matters into his own hands and started doing the importing himself. That's when he renamed the business 'Elite Imports Int.' and made the transfer from his puny 3500 sq. ft. facility to the 24,000 sq. ft. JDM parts mansion. He's no fool though; to make sure his overseas purchases are top notch Nick flies out to Japan to inspect the product first hand before it ships off in the containers. So you can be sure you're getting the highest of quality when you go to Elite.
"This place is good right now, but not nearly where I want it", Nick tells me. Honestly though, I really wonder how much better it could get? He's got just about anything you could possibly need for your JDM obsession and if he doesn't have it, you're damn sure he'll do what he can to find it for you. Elite isn't named the largest importer on the east coast for no reason! So my suggestion if you're on the right coast, get your lazy ass off the computer and go check out this shop because even if you can't buy anything, I guarantee you'll be one happy
To find out more about Elite JDM, you can contact them at 1-888-RARE-JDM or visit their website at www.elitejdm.com