EVENT: Taste Of Japan 2019

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Every once in a while there is an event that just comes out of left field and just blows you away. It seems that this is becoming increasingly rare in our age of constant updates and the hype-train clearance sale that I apparently missed but there was one event that blew me away beyond anything else that I experienced in Minnesota in 2019, that was Taste Of Japan at United Noodles.

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Taste of Japan was extremely late in the year and was held as an open house for an Asian grocery store called United Noodles. The location of the show itself was a small uneven loading bay in the back of a warehouse where the cars were jammed so tight that you could barely walk between them. A first time show in an overcrowded tiny lot is a recipe for failure. Refreshingly Taste of Japan was exciting and flavorful, the Street Lust team brought us to Flavortown. This show was unlike anything else I had ever seen before and it couldn’t have been any better.

R32 GTR Equips Far

It is refreshing to have new events that are more than just sweaty parking lot gatherings, Taste of Japan was one of the rare events that had an electric feeling behind it, the expectations were nil and the show was just as good as the Phở at the deli. That aforementioned Phở had at least a 20 person line for the entirety of the show, if you’re in Minneapolis, you have to check it out.

Red Honda CRX

The selection of the cars was honestly better curated than HIN was and it was first come first serve. Cars like Alex Nelson’s AF5 CRX were exactly what Taste of Japan was about, quality, not quantity. His car may not seem like much to the layman but the Mugen CF-48s with aerodiscs and the only set of Yokohama Advan HF Type-D rubber in the country set it apart from the rest of the vintage Honda crowd in Minnesota and Alex is slowly building up a collection of Mugen parts for this rare little Honda.

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Toulong’s Levin is by far the best AE86 in Minnesota and honestly it is world class. Across the board it ticks all the boxes. Rare parts, attention to detail, fitment, everything is well executed, there are some small touches that Toulong plans to address over winter but this is overall one of the best AE86 builds of 2019. During our coverage of JCCS, I tried to find a car at the show that was more complete than this car and I found myself at a loss, this is my favorite AE86 in the world right now.

Black Mk3 Supra

A clean Mk III Supra always blows me away since these cars were considered disposable for ages. However the slick black paint, modern wheels and JZ swap make a strong argument that the Mk III Supra is a very capable chassis after all. While Mark IV Supras are busy pushing or exceeding the six figure mark for sale price, you can still get the worlds best Mk III for under $30,000, for now at least.

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Say what you will about modern steering wheels, I have never seen a modern Tacoma steering wheel in a classic Toyota until now but it seems to fit rather well. It all flows with the interior’s sharp edges and the materials even match up.

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This EG Civic threw me through a loop, it wasn’t a USDM model, it had an odd paint color and a strange collection of options. It is in fact a mega rare Forest Edition Civic. These were European market exclusive run of 250 cars based off the existing Silverstone edition Civic meaning that it came equipped with the 90 HP D15B2 engine, 14 inch wheels and a single piece spoiler on the back. The biggest difference between this is the color, Forest Green, and the production badge. The owners modifications include a Spoon exhaust, Desmond Regamaster wheels, B16 engine and an Abbey Road Company Intake. EG Civics in this condition aren’t a regular occurrence anymore and it’s always a treat to see one in the flesh.

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Here is a close up of the production sticker off of that Forest Edition Civic, the font might be one of the most 90’s fonts I have ever seen. At first glance I thought it was something that the owner made but it was too weird of a sticker for even the foremost hipster to come up with. It’s a rare thing when a Honda stumps me but I love it when it happens.

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Josh from Drive Cartel finally had the clutch back in his car after spending half the year driving around in his Escalade. That’s a good thing because his Golf is one of the best Volkswagens in Minnesota and could hold it’s own nationally.

Hubert Tulazon Sienna1

Hubert Tulazon arrived late to the party with his Sienna complete with City Kruiser body kit and bespoke wheels. It’s one thing to build a car that shuts down a car show, it’s another thing when you do that in a minivan then drive home with a trunk full of groceries.

Red Celica

The A40 generation Celica is always slept on as a generation, yes the pre-facelift cars looked tragic but these later model coupes look downright great. The owner of this car has had it for years and he rarely brings it out but when it does show up, it’s hard to get people away from it.

Riko Integra Spoon

Riko’s Spoon Integra is one of the best DC chassis Integras that I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but as a whole. This car is batting 1000 and Riko only has plans for improvement with it. The car is a Spoon catalog car with expert quality fit and finish.

Toyota Pickup

This is absolutely the best Toyota Pickup in Minnesota. No rust, solid front axle, tubular rear bumper. This truck represents everything that we love about the old Toyota pickup truck and is what everyone driving a CUV is aspiring to own.

Gold MX83 Cressida

Not knowing the Street Lust team, I was rather surprised when I saw more MX83 Cressidas at Taste of Japan than I had previously seen in any event in my life. Unbeknownst to me, Street Lust was actually ending the show with a drift demo and further unbeknownst to me, this drift demo was completely planned.

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While they we’re setting up, I’m standing with Brian Jannusch saying “this looks like a profoundly dumbass idea.” Of course, everything was permitted and approved with the land owner of the building. There is something to be said about appearing as if you don’t actually know what you’re doing but being fully prepared and professional. Street Lust kept the drift expo low key and even some of the drifters didn’t know it was going down.

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Hiep was eating ramen when he got the phone call that there was drifting so he jumped in his car as fast as he could. Hiep absolutely killed it, especially given that he only picked up drifting at the end of 2018. It’s exciting to watch his skill develop in real time.

Here is a video of Hiep drifting with another friend of mine, Kurt Thomas. Both have developed their skill drastically in 2019 and I am excited to see where they can take it.

The end of the show came with a surprise Kyle Nelson burnout in his S10 with a Gen V Chevy small block. There was no question that, this was the best burnout in Minnesota during 2019. I had to get a video instead of just a picture so enjoy.

R33 GTR

Samer’s R33 is going to round us out for this show. 2019 was a stellar year for the Minnesota car scene. I am endlessly proud that I live in such a great community. What Minnesota achieves is proof that the car community in America is stronger than anyone else says. We are not a dying breed, our community is continuing to grow and is healthier than ever.

EVENT: Japanese Classic Car Show 2019 Part 2

Datsun 510 Front

In part 1 we discussed how JCCS is a prime example of balancing exclusivity and size. The cars are just as important though, the selection of classic Japanese cars at JCCS is second to none. There have been fears that Toyota’s pull out from the California automotive world would be detrimental for the show. While Toyota’s rare gems from it’s collection were missed, as we will see, the term detrimental is relative. The show was still like no other, with or without Toyota’s official presence.

Wild Cards Starlet

To start that off, I have for you Tommy Dolormente’s KP61 Toyota Starlet. With a curb weight of barely a ton soaking wet with a portly driver, rear wheel drive and a staggeringly high manual transmission take rate, this is possibly one of the greatest hatchbacks ever produced. The only reason this car is not on the tip of every car enthusiasts tongue is their survival rate, which is akin to that of Northern White Rhino. That being said, if you can find a good KP61 Starlet, they’re absolutely amazing vehicles and can deliver more fun with under 100 HP than most cars can do with 300 HP today. Even the smallest power increase can turn one of these cars into quite the pocket rocket.

Green DA Integra

Anthony Keuth’s Jasper Green Metallic DA9 Integra with a factory optional front lip and 16″ Mugen M7s is a timeless look. Technically, aside from the suspension work, everything you see on this car is an OEM part or a dealer optional part. The final piece that I want to point out is the color, Jasper Green Metallic, which is all too often forgotten about in lieu of the much more well known Aztec Green Pearl but is just as fantastic of a green hue.

Beige Tercel

This Tercel owned by Edgar Briones has won best in show at shows across California and the owner competes in speed, distance, time classic car road rallies with it. While the car doesn’t have the pedigree of a Supra or an MR2 or, for that matter, even the pedigree of a Toyota Paseo, the originality of this Tercel is it’s charm. Edgar bought the car from the family of a grandma that drove it barely 10,000 miles and kept it meticulously original. The car represents possibly the most unloved Toyota chassis but is still able to turn more heads than the hot boy AE86 across the walkway from it.

blue corolla

This 1980 Toyota Corolla owned by Patrick De Lein is a rare example of one of my favorite generations of Corolla, the AE71 Liftback, modified in period correct kit. While a show worthy AE86 with under 100,000 miles would demand well over $15,000, an E71 in equivalent condition might be able to touch the $10,000 mark if it was exceptionally well equipped and in a rare color. Given their mechanical similarity, if you’re in the market for an AE86, you might be better off just going with an AE71.

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Speaking of AE86s though, Janet Fujimoto’s red GT-S on SSR Longchamps is quite possibly the best example of a USDM AE86 in the wild. With only minimal modifications, it stays true to the original appeal of the AE86. There is a completely misguided urban legend that they’re overpowered sleeper monster cars, instantly great drift cars and cure cancer. While they are rather great, they’re more like an E30, just a very well balanced car that, while slow, are very responsive and make you a better driver. While some may disagree on what the actual value of a perfect AE86 should be, we can all agree that they are much more than just the sum of their parts.

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This Honda Life Step Van looks like it is the result of some tilt shift camera trickery to make it look smaller than it’s surroundings but it really is this small. The van looks perfectly proportionate sitting on very small SSR Meshes, in fact they’re only 10″ in diameter. Despite the diminutive size of the kei van, I can fit in it with ample headroom. The van even has a manual transmission, the awesome per square inch of this beige van is off the charts.

Datsun 510 Side

The Datsun 510 that has the honor of being the featured picture on this post is handily the best 510 build I have seen in person. The S.E.V. Marchal headlamps are a bonus but the build quality across the rest of the car is untouchable. Coated in a wonderful green hue and rolling on RS Watanabes, the car is a crash course in how to build a late 60’s import car tastefully for a timeless appeal. It doesn’t need a crazy wide body kit or a wing attached to the bumper mounts, just attention to detail and some rare additions.

Mango Levin

Although a lot more over the top than the 510, this TE37 Toyota Corolla on TOSCO wheels is just as timeless. The classic Japanese car look of tiny wide wheels, bright colors and overfenders began to gain popularity in the 80s with builds like these. Although, this has more than a few JDM touches that were largely unavailable back then, you could just as well visualize this cruising with Minitrucks as you could visualize it carving canyon roads across town.RA21 Celica Blue

Next to the TE37 Corolla was one of the most properly built RA21 Celicas I’ve seen in quite some while. Nicknamed the Daruma Celica for its similarity to a Japanese Daruma doll, the first generation Celica has always had one of the most drastic changes in appearance when switching from the USDM rubber-baby-buggy bumpers to the JDM “banana” bumpers. Naturally this car sports the JDM bumpers with an aftermarket front air dam and for extra cool points, this particular car has a rare OEM acrylic aero nose.

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The wheels of JCCS are a sight to behold and the aforementioned Celica does not disappoint with a set of 14″ Techno Phantoms at each corner. In an era where Honda Civics come with 20″ wheels, seeing a 195/55R14 tire brings me joy. There isn’t much better in life than a tire/wheel combo that looks great and can take a pothole without rearranging the driver’s spine.

LHD Kenmeri Skyline

While this Kenmeri Skyline has fake wheels on it and some questionable engine bay dress up bits, there is a lot of wild stuff happening on it. First off, it is a narrow body car without the wheel arches so the curve in the bodyline over the rear wheel well to the tail light, called the surf line, is fully available to behold. I honestly wish people would keep their Skylines narrow bodied because the surf line is one of my favorite features of classic Skylines. Also note that the car is left hand drive, this Skyline is actually a middle eastern Nissan Skyline 240Y GT and is possibly one of the rarest Nissan models in the world today as their survival rate was tragically low.

Datsun B210

This Datsun B210 blew away not only Jana, Big Mike and I but the judges as well as the car went away with a trophy of its own. While not as drastic as the Daruma Celica this generation of Datsun B210 had it’s own metamorphasis once modified even slightly. Once the bumpers are removed and the right wheel fitment is achieved, the Datsun B210 looks downright wonderful. Its a shame that these eventually evolved into the Nissan Versa we know today.

Gentsuki House Bosozoku Moped

As Japanese classic cars move further into the mainstream, styles that are better known in Japan are expanding onto our shores. The bosozoku style of Japanese motorcycles has finally hit our shores with it’s sky high Takeyari exhaust pipes, extended fairings and wild paint schemes. What’s more is that the niche style of bosozoku scooters has made its way here and it had done so in a way that’s even bigger than the bosozoku motorcycle style is in America.

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The appeal of these scooters is much more broad than just the Japanese classic car community, their low entry price and vast aftermarket has become an entry point for many millennials and Gen-Zer’s into car/bike culture that otherwise cannot afford the entry price. This trend combats the hypothesis that millennials don’t care about cars anymore, when most do express some interest in cars but can barely afford to pay their student loans, much less modify a second car. With total prices for builds below $3,000, a bosozoku scooter is an attainable entry point for many that otherwise would not be able to enjoy our culture.

Greddy EF Civic Hatchback

What was once the cheap entry point into car culture fifteen years ago, the golden age Honda Civic, is now becoming more of an investment than a fun hobby. With that, build quality is better now than ever before. Currently Kenji from GReddy has arguably the best EF Honda Civic in the world right now. Not only has it been immortalized as a Hot Wheels car, but it serves as a greatest hits of the best parts produced for the chassis.

Greddy EF Civic Hatchback Engine

The exterior sports an SiR front end, SSR EX-C wheels, JDM fenders and a GReddy liveried stripe down the side. Under the hood the B18C1 engine has been built to produce 1,000 HP but only makes a fraction of that for street use and reliability. The fitment of the full sized radiator and and old school GReddy GS-R turbo manifold is made possible thanks to a smaller GReddy T518Z turbocharger off a 86/BRZ turbo kit. This combination of parts and detail is without a doubt the best EF Civic build in the world.

60 rampaging horses

While GReddy Kenji’s Civic is an absolutely bonkers powerhouse, this Datsun 1200 pickup is the complete opposite. With 60 HP as advertised, it proves that you don’t need a massive V8 to get the job done. Rather, you need only about 60 HP… or at least it makes a convincing argument for double digit horsepower.

red datsun pickup

Getting back to the roots of JCCS and what I love about it is this Datsun 1200. Japan has made no shortage of truly amazing vehicles, for every GT-R, Supra or STI, there exists a Tercel, Maxima or Datsun pickup. The community doesn’t just laugh them off like most other communities do with their people’s cars, they truly appreciate them en masse. Its not like other communities where only one or two people’s cars get recognized because they ended up with a racing pedigree, with Japanese cars, they consistently get the respect they deserve.

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Sure, there is something truly comical about about seeing the 60 HP Datsun 1200 Pickup right after seeing literal rows of Z-cars and Celicas. That humor isn’t at the expense of the humble peoples truck though, it’s directed at the people who don’t get it. There was once a time where cars like this lift back Celica was once viewed as quaint and the community remembers that. Perhaps that’s why classic Japanese car enthusiasts are so open minded because while they’re en vogue now, it wasn’t very long ago where a Civic got laughed at the same way that a Mirage gets a laugh today.

EVENT: Cars and Craft July 2019

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It seems like August happened in the blink of an eye, and the same thing with July for that matter. Every year it feels like there is more stuff happening, making it harder to squeeze car shows in between it all. Car shows have an opportunity cost just to attend and its even more of an opportunity cost to actual have your car in the event. In Minnesota, our car season is fleeting, we get only half of the year to experience it so everything is more crammed together into a 5 month window. There is so much happening at once, you would think that Minnesota would experience an over saturation effect.

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Over saturation can make everything become an overwhelming cacophony. The Chronicles had a really good description of the mindset of people from the SoCal car scene, a notoriously over saturated car community, it is a bit of a longer rear but here is the link if you’re keen on reading it. In the article Joey talks about how they have such over saturation in their car community that everything becomes bland and you take it for granted. I can’t help to mutter “must be nice” to myself while I slide towards my annual September neurotic state which leads directly into a micro-midlife crisis for a good portion of October.

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The whole point of the Chronicles monologue is about how over saturation creates a rat race where too many people latch onto the current trend and rush their builds. They care more about getting seen at shows more than they care about the quality of their build. Instead of building something that is meant to last, like this hot rod.

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If you look at the car community in Minnesota, as a community we don’t really have any of the over saturation that California has. Going back to my own Kübler-Ross model of grieving for the car season, we have just over half of the year where we aren’t being bombarded with events. In California, where people are slapping shoddy work together to try to keep up with the Joneses, Winter gives us plenty of time to sit in the garage with a wrench and a pile of parts.

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Then after 7 months of not having car things to do, we get out enjoy even the small shows like Cars & Craft more than other regions ever could. As we’ve said time and again, this is the best monthly series in the midwest and it never fails to disappoint. So we’re going to spotlight some of the cars that caught our eye back in July. There is always a new twist at Cars & Craft, for July, it was Lowriders as Uso Twin Cities brought out a solid selection of cars.

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If you’re new to Lowriders, Uso is one of the largest clubs in North America with over 30 chapters. They’re celebrating their 25th anniversary this year and, in that quarter century of lowriding, they’ve been crowned Club of the Year by Lowrider magazine several times, broken down stereotypes and reset the bar for quality time and again. There was a period in the mid-2000s where you couldn’t pick up a single Lowrider magazine without seeing at least one Uso car featured between the covers.

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Back in the 1990s, lowriding had developed a name for being synonymous with gangsters but the community has worked hard to completely expunge themselves of that stereotype. Lowriding is an art form that extends far beyond what we normally imagine, you can find lowrider bicycles, motorcycles, pedal cars, wagons and even strollers. Even if you look within lowrider cars alone, there are plenty of styles that the style’s roots touch. Bombas, minitrucks, euro lowriders are all well known and you can extend slabs and donks into the same family tree as well.

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The lowrider community has always had it’s own allure since its origins with pachucos in the 1940s. Since the 1990’s when it hit it’s mainstream popularity peak, lowriders have become the trump card of car shows, it’s almost impossible to compete with a well executed lowrider. In the last few years, lowriders have been catching a second wind as well with even more hype behind them and this is one of the most exciting times in the last 20 years to be following the community.

SW20 MR2 Red

Another trend catching a second wind, but doesn’t have anywhere near the same cachet as lowriders are body kit builds. I’ve been seeing more rumblings of big body kit cars making a come back. To be honest, this SW20 MR2 actually pulls its Veilside C-I body kit off rather well. I don’t think things like the Black Widow CRX kits will ever come back, but the higher quality ones that accent the factory bodywork do give me a nostalgic feeling. It reminds me of being in middle school and slipping a Modified Magazine inside of my Algebra textbook. My teacher always wondered why I loved math so much but never did well in the class.

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If body kits aren’t your thing, Doku’s Integra might be a bit more palatable. His car is a much more functional build with Kosei K1s, carbon fiber fenders and a high revving NA B-series build. Originally built for more illicit forms of motorsport, the car looks exceptional. Usually cars built for long trips to Mexico look like hell but Doku breaks the mold in that way.

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Alex Nelson was showing off his newly acquired set of Mugen CF-48s for his EC1 CRX. They were clad in 25 year old Yokohama A-008Rs, one of Yokohama’s highest performance tires of the mid-1990’s. While it’s cool to see those, they’re a bit of a relic so he is currently waiting on a set of JDM Yokohama Advan HF Type-Ds. If you’re not an old school tire nerd, Yokohama just started reproduction of their original Advan street performance tire a couple of years ago but they’re only sold in Japan currently.

Red EM1 Si

Another really good Honda at the show was Sean’s EM1, which has been around in Minnesota for a while. At first glance the car looks rather plain but when you look up close, you find all the extensive work that has gone into the car. It has been one of the better Honda show cars in terms of build execution and overall cleanliness for years now and Sean has had it for what must be the better part of a decade at this point. It looks like Sean has added a very meaty front tire setup, so maybe he has plans for some track time as well.

Datsun Z S30 Front

I honestly have no idea who owns this 280Z. It looks like it is still a work in progress but it already is looking excellent. The fiberglass air dam looks great and the paint is an older respray but it holds its luster well. Hopefully the owner has some exciting plans for it. This would break necks with a refinished front bumper and some Watanabes.

Infiniti Q45 Front

John Krueger never disappoints with his VIP builds. His Infiniti Q45 is a very traditional style and very well executed. He doesn’t bring his car out to everything and isn’t trying to prove anything either, he just builds cars for himself. He has an incredible eye for detail, note the reworked wheel arches and how they seamlessly blend into the doors and front bumper. This is a build that you could easily dismiss if you don’t know what you’re looking for and that might well be it’s best quality.

CB200.jpg

Yeng from Kateng brought out this really cool Honda CB200 that he apparently owns. I’ve never seen it around before but it is a really good cafe racer build and it’s tiny displacement engine has an exhaust note that is akin to that of an extremely angry moped. Everyone builds big engine bikes but the smaller ones, I think, are a lot more exciting because you just never see them and, when well put together, they create quite the ruckus.

Green Element.jpg

Before I close out, I always do a few shots in the spectator lot just to toy with the settings I want to use during the show. This Element SC was pretty interesting. We don’t see too many Elements being built, but the big toaster is one of the few crossovers that can be cool if done right. It is also one of the few crossovers that you can get with a manual transmission and AWD.

Kimmys Mugen Civic Si.jpg

In California, so many people seem to be complaining about something or worried about some trite issue almost constantly, but in Minnesota, that just doesn’t really happen. Joey from the Chronicles nailed it, when he said that people are too busy trying to make a brand out of themselves. The differentiating factor that Minnesotans have, has something to do with the camaraderie that we have. We know that were all in the same boat and we’re living in the “wrong state” for our lifestyles.

Toyota Celisor Night

Minnesota is far from the wrong state to be a car enthusiast, we do more than just fine and when everyone else losing their minds, we are thriving. The perspective gained when comparing how we operate as a whole to how other states operate is profound. When everyone else is in a rat race, we’re just out having a good time and loving cars the way we were intended to, with friends, family, food and good beer. Our community is excellent and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

EVENT: Under The Crazy Moon 2019

Testarossa Exit.jpg

If you’ve ever listened to just about any episode of the Carbitrage podcast, you might have noticed that there is a “super secret Wheels of Italy meet” that happens at Pazzaluna in St. Paul as celebration the restaurant’s birthday, the name of the event is Under the Crazy Moon. This event is, without a doubt, the best event of the year in the world.

Ferrari 348.jpg

What makes it the best event though? Much like InterMarque, it is a combination of everything coming together perfectly on behalf of the event organizer. It is a combination of the location, the laid back atmosphere and, least of all, the cars. It is even more impressive because, instead of being a weekend show where it is much easier to organize things, it’s all done on a weekday. It is the perfect reprise from sitting behind a computer and wincing whenever the phone rings.

Moto Guzzi.jpg

This year was off year for the show, but if Under The Crazy Moon can still retain this level of quality on a bad day, it just goes to show that they’re definitely doing something right. The issue with the show wasn’t even the fault of the organizer, rather it was a combination of the weather being dodgy and the city digging a 3 foot deep trench on the main road used for the event.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Track Car.jpg

The organizer of the show creatively worked around this issue and instead of it’s normal L-shaped two street layout, they opted for a two and a half street layout creating a T-shape. This actually worked out really well and I hope they continue with the extra street extension in future showings. It allows the patio of Pazzaluna to become enveloped by the show, making for the dining experience of any italophile’s dreams, and makes foot traffic much more manageable, no more having to tip toe between a parked Countach and a DeTomaso Pantera on it’s way out.

Fiat 500.jpg

The cars themselves were wonderful, unfortunately, a lot of the really cool stuff stayed away due to the threat of severe weather. I don’t blame them because PDR on a Ferrari 250 GTO LWB would be a nightmare. That being said, everything else was in show. It was a large swath of Italia from Fiat 500s to Lamborghini Aventadors.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

One of the cars that really drew my eye was this Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. The Alfa Romeo Twin Cam is in the running for one of the most beautiful 4-cylinder engines ever produced. That aesthetic beauty expands to the rest of the car and, much like a Datsun 510, it is a lot more than just a pretty face because these were among the first sports sedans ever made. Prior to cars like these you could get a 2-seater sports car or a family sedan. These however, they combined the best of both worlds and laid the groundwork for most car enthusiast’s favorite cars.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Engine.jpg

Here is that aforementioned Alfa Twin Cam engine. It is an 8 valve DOHC engine that was in production from 1954 until 1994 in various form factors. This was a pioneering engine that brought 4 cylinders from being simple power mills in production cars to being something worthy of the word sporty. With this engine, race car technology made its way into the hands of the average Joe, or rather Giuseppe. Technology like aluminum metallurgy, a centralized spark plug location, hemispherical combustion chambers, a wide valve angle and 5-main bearings, were almost exclusively seen on cars like the Ferrari 500 Mondial in the mid-1950s when this engine was designed. This was an absolutely groundbreaking engine and it makes sense why it was produced for 40 years.

Mondial front

On the other end of exciting family cars is a Ferrari Mondial. Other than the 400i, I can’t think of another Ferrari that is as universally unloved as this car. It doesn’t really make sense either because a Mondial is just a Ferrari 308 in 2+2 form factor. Unlike the 2+2 Z-cars, or really any 2+2 outside of a Supra, the Mondial actually pulls off the shape and actually has some design cues that are very much its own. Maybe it was never loved because Don Johnson, David Hasselhoff or Tom Selleck never drove them.

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This massive grille across the front of the car is a prime example of a Mondial only design. Sure, it’s not an Testarossa and it’s definitely not a F40. It’s not even Magnum P.I.’s car either, which is the cheapest of the desirable 80’s Ferraris. But, importantly, the Mondial is about 25% cheaper than Magnum P.I.’s 308. Can you honestly say that you’re getting 25% less car for the dollar? It’s 2+2 form factor also gives the perspective owner some ammo for convincing their significant other to let them get a Ferrari. “But honey, look, it’s a 2+2! We can bring the kids or your parents!” Just be sure to gloss over the rear seat comfort and maintenance costs of course.

Fiat 124 Abarth.jpg

If maintenance costs aren’t your thing, then most Italian cars probably aren’t either, but there are some outliers, and this is a prime example, the criminally underrated Fiata (Fiat 124). It has the grown up and exciting feeling you get from an Italian sports car but with the bulletproof reliability of a Miata coupled with Fiat’s Multiair 1.4L engine. I don’t understand everyone’s gripe with the turbo lag either, first off, it is barely noticeable and second off, isn’t the Porsche 930 Turbo desired because of it’s turbo lag? These are a bargain of a buy, ludicrously fun, and I really can’t stress enough how awesomely reliable the Multiair engine is.

Ferrari 308 Front.jpg

The majority of the show had some of the best that Italy has to offer. This Ferrari 308 is a prime example. It has 240 horsepower roughly and isn’t the greatest at everything but it doesn’t need to. When you see a 308, it draws your eye, it gets you excited. That’s something that a lot of the modern Ferraris are lacking. Modern Ferraris are also lacking the ability to look great when paired with a mustache and Hawaiian shirt.

Ferrari 308 Doorhandle.jpg

When I was looking a bit more closely at the 308 I noticed something that I absolutely love about it. To be fair, I love everything about it but I discovered that it has the best door handle I’ve ever seen. It’s a simple loop and is a rare curve on the angular car, it is just painfully Italian. I never realized that I had never looked at the door handle of a 308 until this show and I am really glad that I did because it makes me feel like my life is complete now. Little design cues like this are why people are in love with Italian cars, it is such an easily overlooked piece and is perfectly designed. You could bet yourself that if this was an American car, they would have just slapped a door handle off of a econobox onto it and called it a day.

Fiat 850 Spider.jpg

That’s not to say that econoboxes are bad things. This Fiat 850 Spider is a variant of Fiat’s 850 series compact cars, which were the final evolution of the Fiat 500s and 600s. So, this little roadster is based on a car that was an econobox before the term ever existed. I never took a good look at these assuming they were just early Fiat 124s until very recently and I was completely wrong thinking there wasn’t much to them.

Fiat 850 Spider engine.jpg

The 850 Spider is actually a really cool car and it is completely separate from the 124. It has the tiniest rear mounted water cooled inline-4. Well not literally the tiniest but the 846 cc engine was barely longer than my forearm and it’s radiator placement is interesting to say the least, I am really curious how it get’s it’s airflow. There may be a “What’s The Deal With…” article about this car once I learn more.

Alfa Romeo Milano.jpg

I am baffled as to why this particular Alfa Romeo Milano isn’t famous across the world. It is such a well sorted build and it feels like it has been around forever. The owner of this car built it with the attention to detail and quality that you usually see a Mk2 GTI or a Supra and those cars are significantly easier to build. The owner of this car could have simply owned a Milano and been good with calling it a day because it both existed and ran but he has taken it to the next level.

Milano Engine.jpg

Even the engine bay is fabulously detailed, there is nary an oil splash or stripped bolt on the car. Saying “I can’t find a replacement part” is no longer an excuse because building a Milano to this level is like doing a build with hard mode on, then getting a 100% completion rate. It makes me feel self conscious about my cars, I need to step my game up, This was without a doubt my favorite car of the show, in fact this is on my short list of favorite car in Minnesota.

Black Testarossa.jpg

The beauty of Under The Crazy Moon is that it would be a completely average show at Monterey Car Week but, instead of just being another show happening at Car Week, it stands to be much better on it’s own. It is an example of things being great in context, it is the equivalent of finding a wonderful restaurant in a small town that you expected to be just Cracker Barrels and Waffle Houses.

Fiat Rear.jpg

It is also important to note that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t pretend that every Italian car is a derivative of the F40, it acknowledges that cars like the Maserati Bi-Turbo, Fiat X1/9 and Lancia Gamma exist and that is very important. Nothing ruins a community like taking yourself too seriously, there’s a reason that Italian cars, Radwood and Japanese classics are en vogue while other things are on the decline. Enjoy yourself, have a laugh and meet great people, that’s the joy of Under The Crazy Moon.

 

EVENT: Modest – Premium Automotive Showcase

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Modest Lineup.jpg

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Lineup with GTR

This might have been the physically hottest show I’ve been to in a while, it was over 90 degrees with a dew point of over 70. That doesn’t sound that bad if you don’t know what a dew point is but take my word for it, it was steamy. If the dew point is in the 70’s, that’s more humid than it is in the Lacondon Jungle in Central America this time of year. Like Ricardo Tubbs from Miami Vice said “I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds.”

BRZ Front

Regardless of how hot it was, Drive Cartel was able to keep things comfortable. The show was in the same location but moved to underneath the Highway 52 bridge and they bumped the show time back a few hours, so it started once the heat began to die down and we could avoid the worst of it. Another thoughtful gesture was that they had free Monster energy drinks and water available. I truly appreciated the pre-planning on behalf of Drive Cartel, they had planned the details of the show months before it was held. A lot of other shows overlook thinking of those details, or try to monetize keeping people comfortable, Drive Cartel though, they just want you to enjoy their efforts.

E30 Coupe

This year I was invited back as a judge for the show, which I was proud to do, and I have seen improvements in most of the builds. Unfortunately, judging took up all of my time at the show so we have a guest photographer, Tyson Noel. If you’re a regular to Carbitrage, you likely recognize his name because we always are talking about his Subaru. We will begin to host more guest photographers as we grow because I am limited by my corporeal shell to only exist in one place at one time and, more importantly, I want to show off the talents of other photographers in the state.

B Series EG

When I was judging last year I spent a lot more time docking points for people who had fairly major issues such as poor quality vinyl wraps, exposed zipties and generally a lot of corner cutting. This year, I saw far less of that, instead the most common thing I docked points for was poor quality preparation. If I’m nitpicking down to that level, it’s a pretty good thing. Some cars, like this white EG Civic, were prepped perfectly w

Mazdaspeed 3.jpg

If you’re not familiar with the show, Modest is limited to about 100 spots and is billed as the 100 best import cars in the state of Minnesota. While it might not be the absolute 100 best cars because I can rattle off a handful that should have been in the show but weren’t able to come for one reason or another, it was still a very good cross section of the best that Minnesota has to offer.

AE110 Corolla

While some cars are clad with huge widebody kits, other cars, like Toumoua’s AE110 Corolla are so creative that they’re in a class of their own. We’ve talked about this car before but this is likely one of the coolest builds of this chassis in the country. It blends several different styles with a few little JDM twists to make something that flows together on a car that just doesn’t show up at shows like this. Fun fact, that JDM license plate is actually accurate for the vehicle tax bracket this Corolla would qualify for in Japan.

Jetta Brown

Other cars like this Jetta didn’t try to blend styles on an obscure chassis, instead they tried to accent the factory bodywork for a clean OEM+ look. I really like the color matched tint on the tail lights. It’s not pictured but the air tank setup used a distressed wood floor that matched the wheels and really tied the whole look together, there were a half dozen other cars with distressed wood floors in the rear that didn’t pull it off nearly as well. I can appreciate how the VAG community seems to be able to make anything that Volkswagen throws onto a showfloor into something unique.

Hieps S13

Hiep’s S13 Silvia ate a wall at a track day last year, which was a major bummer and yanked the entire front end off of the car. Instead of sulking and letting the car fall into ruin, Hiep took his lemons and made a very good batch of lemonade. The front end getting knocked off allowed him to go a little crazy with a massive light bar and a body kit. Having just finished wet sanding the body of the car literally an hour before the show, Hiep tossed the bodykit on and drove it there. You can’t see it very well in the photo but Hiep’s carbon fiber hood has a thin layer of candy red paint on it, color matching it to the rest of the car.

Lexus Widebody

This Lexus IS took home trophies at both Modest and MNCEC’s Minneapolis Mile. I think that the hydrodip under the hood is a bit much but overall, it is a really great build. If you get a chance to see it, it’s very well put together. All of the bodywork flows together with even panel gaps and the paint matching is second to none.

Rocket Bunny S13

The low quality duplicate bodykits and ridiculous no name oversized kits that you could get for a fraction of the price of the real thing was what killed the big bodykit trend. Hopefully our widebody craze doesn’t have to worry about that since the vast majority of us are more interested in build quality over build quantity than we were 20 years ago. Having the most ridiculous car isn’t a necessary win these days and that’s a good thing.

Supra

The key to trends not getting stale is not over-saturating the world with it. One trend that won’t ever go out of style is speed because unlike the look of a car, you can always find a new way to go fast or just make a bigger number. This Mk.4 Supra is a great example of a car where power comes first. It is sporting a single large turbo, front mount intercooler, a bevy of supporting modifications and a very clean execution. Its nice to see that, while these cars creep up to $200,000, that people are still tinkering with them.

Tonys EF

Also creeping up in price, but not nearly on the level of the blue chip Japanese muscle cars of the 90s, are the 1988-2000 Honda Civics. Tony’s EF sedan is likely the best example of its chassis in the state of Minnesota. These Civics hold a soft spot in my heart, especially the EF generation, and its really awesome to see them built on such a high level.

R35 Carbon Fiber

Also on the topic of high end builds, I have never seen this much carbon fiber on a car, nearly this whole R35 GTR is covered in Carbon Fiber. I love it’s afterburner style exhaust tips. This isn’t a wrap either, it is all actual carbon fiber. While Carbon Fiber everything isn’t really my thing, I can still appreciate the effort that it took to do this conversion.

G37S Front.jpg

Overall it’s really nice to see how much Minnesota is improving. 4 years ago, if you had told me that the car culture would be as great as it is here, I would have thought you were crazy because we were doing good but it was all rather stagnant. We have advanced so much in even that short of a period of time.

Audi and wheels

I keep hearing all of these rumors that car culture is waning around the country but I don’t see that happening, not here, not in Chicago or even in California. Yes it has its ebbs and flows, a decade ago the recession was crippling, but I don’t think that car enthusiasts are going anywhere. Things just change, new generations bring new ideas and you just have to be open to it. Pre-war preservationists thought the world was ending when kustoms and hot rods came around in the 50s, then the muscle car purists thought that in the 70s when Toyota dominated everything and it still happens today.

kids cars

People are still making great cars, hosting great shows and advancing the culture. The kids are still excited by cool cars and I think that we’re in a great spot as a community. To the people who think that car culture is dying, that’s just not true. In 50 years, there will still be cool stuff being built, you just have to keep an open mind. Here’s to a great Modest 2019 and to the future of not only Drive Cartel but the Minnesota car community as a whole.