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.


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.



UFO rotor capturing cow

The Lamborghini Urus has 17.32″ brakes, currently a world record. Yes, this is not only an absolutely preposterous brake size but is also a marvel of modern engineering. This isn’t the first time a VAG product pushed the boundries of brake tech though and it certainly won’t be the last. While the Urus has a relatively tame but massive brake design, VAG has delved deep in the avant garde of the braking world.


What may be their peak of avant garde? The outer limit’s of VAG’s avant garde brake designs might be the Audi 200 20V Quattro’s front brake design which was originally designed for their S-class fighting V8 Quattro. Nicknamed the UFO rotor, the design was officially called an internal brake caliper and was produced by ATE. It was a standard disc brake system that had been inverted to have the caliper located inside of the diameter of the brake rotor. So, what on earth caused Audi to design this ridiculous looking brake rotor? Braking performance.

1988 Chevrolet corvette_convertible

When Audi was developing the V8 Quattro in the late 80’s, the 17″ wheels were just about the biggest wheels you could find on a production car and even then they were few and far between. Brake rotors realistically couldn’t get far past 12″ on even the highest performance cars, the 1987 Porsche 911 came with at most an 11.1″ brake rotor which is just shy of the size of the standard brake rotor on a modern Mini Cooper. Audi wasn’t willing to put a 17″ wheel with a rock hard sidewall on their cars so they looked for a solution to their quagmire they had put themselves into. The solution was a thicker rotor that could absorb more heat and that heat absorption leads us to Audi’s UFO brake.

UFO Rotor Breakdown

By placing the brake rotor inside the brake that allows that few inches of extra space to be used for more brake rotor surface area. To make this happen Audi had to make a huge wrap around hub that extends from the center of the steering knuckle to the outer edge of the brake rotor. Conveniently, this also allows the brakes to effectively have a larger heat sink that extends beyond the contact patch of the pad and fills the area up to the wheel with extra material that can absorb heat.


After ATE and Audi finished prototyping the design, Audi was able to fit a 12.2″ brake rotor behind a 15″ wheel with less than 3″ of space not dedicated to brake rotor diameter. The modern Lamborghini Urus has to run a massive 21″ wheel to fit those 17″ dinner plate rotors with twice as much space dedicated to the caliper and not allowing additional heat absorption.1988 audi_v8_1
Audi was able to prove the world wrong and fit a 12″ brake behind a 15″ wheel and answered a question that nobody was asking, but was it all worth it? Well, yes actually. The Audi V8 Quattro was able to stop from 60 MPH in 120 feet during it’s 1989 Motorweek review, for comparison the Lexus LS400 did it is 121 feet the next year and that was with every bit of Toyota’s vast R&D department behind it. Surely, this technology was going to change how we design brakes forever.


It did until it didn’t. While the UFO rotor made it onto the 200 Quattro, V8 Quattro and Ur S4, by 1995 brake and tire technology had advanced to make this design unnecessary. With larger wheels becoming more commonplace and lower profile tires becoming more acceptable, Audi was able to increase the size of the wheels it was fitting cars with and reverted to standard rotor designs.


Audi could have continued to utilize this design but it wasn’t without it’s issues. The biggest issue for Audi was the cost to make these. With a standard brake rotor, one size can fit multiple models across several makes, a cast for a specific diameter and hub size could be made and the PCD can be drilled to exact specifications with minimal tooling changes. With this completely different design, that wasn’t possible. Audi was responsible for the brunt of the entire cost of ATEs production for these rotors. What cost Audi an exorbitant price to make was reflected to parts costs to retail customers, while a standard brake rotor could be had for around $100 over the counter at a dealership, these were a whopping $550.


Additionally, the UFO rotors were effective but didn’t hold up well in the real world because they were very susceptible to warping. The warping wouldn’t occur during spirited driving but became a massive issue in daily use. A quick stop and holding on the brake, as one does at a stop light, would cause the rotor to develop a hot spot because half of the rotor would cool faster than the other half. As metal expands when it is warm the rotor would bend slightly where it was cooling faster, thus creating an uneven braking surface and a vibration while braking. This was extremely common and it’s almost impossible to convince owners to change their driving habits from what they were used to doing.


In a 1995 TSB, Audi advised that production was ending and, after the stock was gone, that cars be converted to standard rotors if the customer wanted official VAG parts. That was the end of the Audi UFO rotor and today the old stock is becoming harder and harder to find. Unless someone is absolutely a purist about preserving their old Audi, it’s very hard to justify keeping these strange brakes. The cars that came with these rotors are on the cusp of becoming collectible and are considered just another old car to a lot of owners. Most people with these brakes on their cars are either living with warped rotors or biting the bullet and doing the conversion. Occasionally sites like ECS Tuning offer a small stock of NOS rotors but it is rare and you’re more likely to find some being sold on the private market.


Unfortunately that’s just the cost of reinventing the wheel. It was a noble effort but a technology lost to time. The automobile world’s greatest innovators rarely see any profit from their innovation. The most innovative companies in automobile history have ended in failure. Bugatti, Citroen, Dusenberg, Bricklin, DeLorean, the list is endless. Companies like VAG and Tesla are only able to operate the way they do because of a massive amount of investment. We often give VAG a hard time here at Carbitrage because of some of their practices but we’re always willing to give credit where it is due and this is absolutely worth noting.

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