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: Japanese Classic Car Show 2019 Part 1

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This was the fifteenth year of the Japanese Classic Car Show in 2019, fifteen years is an extremely long time for a car show series to be held for consistently. If we think about it, 15 years ago NOPI was still happening, Wek’Fest still had a few years before it even came into existence and Hot Import Nights was where the cool kids were being seen at. Needless to say, the timeframe that Japanese Classic Car Show has been happening for usually encompasses the entire lifespan of most shows, Japanese Classic Car Show (hereby abbreviated as JCCS) has a handful of traits to make it enduring but the two that make it special are it’s quality and its position as the cornerstone of the Japanese classic car community.

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Throughout it’s existence, JCCS has been at the forefront of the Japanese classic car community. While the collector community is more than fans of just one show, this show represents the heart and soul of the culture. While JCCS is at the forefront, it’s still relatively small. Comparing to another show that is a major part of it’s respective culture, traversing this show is not the massive multiple day odyssey that you get with Back to the 50’s. You don’t feel compelled to buy a Japanese Nostalgic Car so you can actually make through the entire show, you feel compelled because you genuinely want one. Where some shows like BTT50’s are big for the sake of being big, JCCS is surprisingly small but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality.

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Japanese Classic Car Show’s true beauty resides in where it falls on the scale of exclusivity. No, it’s not BTT50’s where literally anything produced prior to 1964.5 is let in but it also lacks the excessive exclusivity found at Concours D’Elegance where tickets are $300 and cars get denied because the stitching on the seats is incorrect. Cars like this survivor Datsun 411 are given the respect they deserve after being kept original for 50 years but a lowered AE86 isn’t chastised for being modified.

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The closest that JCCS gets to Concours particular is the eligibility of the cars. Historically, JCCS has had a rolling 25 year rule matching the United States car importation law. When JCCS started, 15 years ago, plastic bumper imports were barely on the cusp of being allowed into the show but as time has moved on, the cars have gotten newer and newer. The inclusion of newer cars has taken some time to get used to but fears of the chrome bumpers being pushed out were unfounded. What was once a show of early Japanese oddities now has made space for the golden age of Japanese cars without losing its soul.

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Originally, JCCS had a separate show called JCCS Neo-Classics, but with the closure of the Toyota Headquarters in Torrance, CA, they had to find a way to merge the two shows. The merger meant that, eventually, JCCS had to leave its long time home of Queen Mary Beach for it’s current location across the bay. While it was briefly lived, the Neo-Classics show was a great way to ease plastic bumper cars into the larger JCCS community and also allowed the series to test the waters of more modern vehicles like this Racing Beat RX7 convertible.

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These newer vehicles also represent the time where Japan went from being seen as just an entire country of austerity purchases, and wrongfully thought as keeping up with the world, to a time where they objectively dominated the world. In decades prior the Japanese models had to be sold to us but, by the 1980’s, the world had to be counter offered away from Japanese cars. The 1980’s saw the Japanese brands not only dominate the middle class’s driveways but by the end of the decade, they were coming for the European luxury brands.

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The inclusion of plastic bumper cars has also been important for the community as a lot of those cars are some of the fastest appreciating collector cars in the world right now. With that sudden appreciation, a lot of attention is being paid to the trends at JCCS so the larger car community can see what people are doing with these early and golden age Japanese collectors.

Mazda 626 Coupe

As people are coming through for the RX7s and 240Zs, some are discovering the other gems that people don’t talk about. For every two well known cars, something like this Mazda 626 Coupe was at the show. It is never a bad thing when cars that were once looked over as just another semi-sporty RWD Coupe get their moment in the spot light for what they are.

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If you’re like most people in the world and you’re coming to see the more well known JNCs like Datsuns, AE86s and Celicas, then you had nothing to fear. Datsun Z cars easily outnumbered any other single make, not model but literally entire make. There was easily a Z car for every Honda, Toyota or other Datsun, Mitsubishi was outnumbered five to one and, for the Subaru to Z-car ratio, it was easily a dozen to one.

Green 240Z 2+2 Front

While Z cars were a dime a dozen at the show, one would assume the best Z-car in the show would be the rarest and most desirable. However, easily the best Z in the whole show was also the “least desirable” for collectability, being not only the emissions strangled 260Z but a 2+2 at that.  Luis Rivera went out of his way to hunt down a 2+2 for the project. His build with it’s molded metal fender flares, a 240Z two-seater front end and a profound split pea soup green combined into what might be my favorite Z-car build in recent years. The car easily stole the show for the Z-car class.

280Z 2+2 big mike

Two of the most authoritative connoisseurs of green cars, Jana and Big Mike from the Think Bigger Project both agree that this car is unbelievable. According to Mike, Luis wanted to build a S30 that would stand out from the crowd and we can rest assured that he has done so. Builds like this are something that can make you think differently about a platform as a whole.

Datsun S30 2+2 Light Reading.jpg

With the prices of S30s going through the roof, the often unloved long boy 2+2 is suddenly becoming all the more desirable. The 2+2s are a bit of a commitment though, every panel of the vehicle is different from the two seaters and they are often in far worse condition due to the relative undesirability as a collector so the chances of being underwater with a restoration is nearly guaranteed. That being said, can you really put a price on the extra cargo space for when you want to bring along some light reading?

Calsonic R31

Another chassis that was often considered undesirable was the R31 Skyline GTS-R. It is true that it did pale in comparison to the R32 GT-R but we have to remember, back in it’s day, the R31 was neigh untouchable and many consider it entirely worthy of the GT-R badging that Nissan was coy to apply without absolute confidence. It also was the first Skyline to sport the iconic blue Calsonic livery that we see replicated on this R31 coupe. Today R31s demand equal to and in some cases more money than it’s younger R32 brethren.

Toyota Mark II Corona Coupe

If you’re completely at odds as to what this is, you aren’t alone. It is actually a RT114 Toyota Corona Coupe, namely a RHD model. The Corona was Toyota’s first compact car sold in America and it eventually moved up market when the Corolla arrived before eventually being replaced in our market with the Camry in 1983. While the Celica was the Toyota sports car of the 1970s, the Corona Coupe occupied an awkward space as their GT model replacing the yet even more rare Carina. It was powered by the venerable Toyota R20, known best as a truck engine reliable beyond reproach and all Coronas that were sold in America were exclusively RWD. Unfortunately like the Mazda 626 and 260Z 2+2, the RT114 Coronas were rare and never got their proper respect stateside. Frankly every generation of Corona gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield and should be worth a hell of a lot more than they currently are.

Moon Hiace.jpg

Speaking of not getting any respect stateside, there were several Japanese imported Toyota Hiaces. These have always been the ultimate in Japanese vanning, I absolutely believe that if these were imported to America in the 70’s and 80’s, they would have eaten Volkswagen’s lunch.

Moon Hiace Interior.jpg

Just look how plush that interior is! If you compared this to a Volkswagen Vanagon from the late 80s, this would obliterate in in any comparison test. The van pictured is very clearly a high spec with the rear sunroofs and doilies on the seats. A keen eye will also see how pristine this is in that it even has the Pre-Delivery plastic on the pillars still.

umm what

One might ask why Japan never brought these to America and it is a valid question. However when you look at the marketing of the special editions, it begins to make sense. In Japan it was common to put a small paragraph on the side of cars in awkwardly translated English, needless to say this slogan kept me from sleeping the following night.

Starlet Lineup.jpg

There is so much to say about JCCS, honestly it is a prime example of why everyone loves the SoCal car community. It isn’t that their cars are objectively better but their great cars are in such abundance that their shows are world class. A lot of shows can take a tip from JCCS because of how well it balances exclusivity, styles and ages. I can’t possibly cover every car in the show that was worthy of looking at in a single post, honestly, I would have to start an Instagram page of just JCCS cars to do that. What I can do is give you a second post with more of the cars, until then welcome back to The Carbitrage.

EVENT: Cars and Craft July 2019

Focus Roll In.jpg

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.

Gen X Civic Si.jpg

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.

Ford Model T.jpg

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.

Evo 8.jpg

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.

Black G Body Lowrider.jpg

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.

Uso Plaque1.jpg

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.

Lowrider Stroller.jpg

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.

62 Impala Lowrider.jpg

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.

Doku Integra.jpg

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.

Mugen CF48s.jpg

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: Cars and Crafts June 2019

Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

R32 Front Night1.jpg

Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

S13 Parking.jpg

The only issue is that as the show went on, people began to taper off and Drive Cartel had to scramble to fill holes in the lot. Of course this wasn’t something that Drive Cartel could have planned for and they handled it really well. If this show was held at a massive location, like Canterbury, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue because 5-10 cars leaving out of 200 cars really isn’t a big deal, at a show of 40 cars or so, then it is suddenly 25% of the show that has left. Drive Cartel does a wonderful job of replenishing cars but they can only plan for so much. There ends up being half a dozen spots open in the show while cars like this S13 are still rolling into spectator parking.

AE110 Corolla Side1.jpg

There were tons of cars that could have used those spots and many of them did. In a brief stroll to get my tripod, I spotted a really well built TRD kitted T230 Celica, Wa Lee’s unbelievable CE1 Accord, just about every Evo 8-9 in the state and probably the coolest E110 Corolla I’ve ever seen in my life. Most of these cars weren’t perfect but some were totally worthy of sitting in the main show and, although Drive Cartel was able to track down a few of the owners, most of these just sat in spectator parking until the end of the show.

Genesis Orange.jpg

With the exception of people leaving so early, the show was excellent. Somehow Drive Cartel is able to get unique cars to come out of the woodwork, the regulars were there but there were also some builds I had never even seen. Those regulars to the Cars and Craft series had some pretty noticeable improvements as well. That’s the unique thing about the midwest versus places like the west coast, we get these massive changes to cars where as in California, you might see a different lip, then a different set of wheels and it just seems like watching paint dry.

Tony Yang EF1

A perfect example of this is Tony Yang, one of the admins over at the MNEF club, who has one of my favorite cars in Minnesota. His EF sedan build has been a slow build over the last few seasons, but I honestly prefer that over these cars that are assembled over a winter, come out and kill it for one or maybe two seasons before disappearing off the face of the Earth. For 2019 Tony has added clear tails, a paint matched center garnish and some really mean Work Meister S1 2-piece wheels that really set his car over the top. Maybe a 5 speed swap with a B17, or something goofy like that, will be next.

R32 Front1.jpg

Brian Jannusch of Top Rank, another Drive Cartel regular, brought out his latest R32 GT-R for sale. A rare halogen headlamp equipped model with an R34 engine swap. The R34 RB26DETT may put out the same amount of power as the R32’s original RB26DETT did, but it does so in a much more reliable and consistent manner. More importantly, it was equipped with a set of hyper rare TE37 wheels with a rose gold finish, naturally Jana lost her mind when she saw this. With what seems like half of the R32 GTRs ever made already in the United States, unique variants like this are what is needed to set the cars apart.

White EG Front.jpg

This EG Civic was one of my favorite builds on this chassis in Minnesota in a while. It’s a simple build as it takes the standard Honda formula with a gutted interior, JDM bits and an engine swap but it puts them together into an excellent package. EGs used to be swarm meets like mosquitoes in Minnesota but after 30 years of rust and theft, what were once thought disposable are now fetching nearly the price they were sold for when new. It is good to see them at shows though, there hasn’t been a subcompact that nailed it this well since the 96-00 generation Civic was discontinued.

Leyland Clubman.jpg

Speaking of cool subcompacts, this Leyland Mini Clubman was a great example of one of the rarest Mini variants. Complete with Lucas electronics and the 1969 facelifted front end, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the little car. These cars are a rabbit hole of interesting variants, maybe we will talk about them in a future article.

Lil Red Express1.jpg

There were a lot more American cars in show this time than usual, a couple of donk Camaros and Mustangs were in the show for its entirety. The coolest American car, and likely coolest car outright, wasn’t even a car, rather it was this Dodge Lil’ Red Express truck. Fun fact, this was actually the fastest American vehicle from 0-100 MPH when it was for sale in 1978. Dodge took the muscle car formula and put it into a truck since there was an emissions loophole that didn’t force catalytic converters and EGR systems onto trucks back then.

Grand National Front.jpg

Keeping on the topic of fast American cars, this Grand National was at the show. It looks like just about every Grand National ever made but this one used to be one of the quicker street cars back in the day, I’m glad to see that it’s still around. Of course here at Carbitrage we would never condone street racing, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

S30 V81

Last year I spotted this S30 at Cars and Crafts but I wasn’t able to get any reasonable pictures of it due to a consistent 14 person mob around it. I usually hate V8 swapped S30s but the Mad Max bug catcher, twin carb setup and HUGE old school roots supercharger make this look like something that could have been in that first Mad Max movie, which is shorthand for absolutely positively rad. It also has that 70s muscle car rake to it with raised letter tires on some steel oval track wheels which really drive the whole look of the build home.

Blakes NA Miata BRG2

Blake Hummelgard’s Miata came out with a few small improvements this year, it didn’t really need anything except he finally got a color matched hardtop. This car is a great example of how to build a Miata. It’s purposeful but with enough flare that it doesn’t blend in with the other 1,000,000 Miatas on the road.

BMW2002

This SR20 swapped BMW 2002 has been around for a few years now, it’s cool to see it shows catering more to the import community. It seems like for the first few years, the only place that I would see it was at muscle car shows like Street Nationals at the State Fair Grounds. The 2002 is up there for one of my favorite European chassis of all time.

NA Rocket Bunny1.jpg

John Krueger and his husband Patrick now have twin Miatas, while Patrick has a Rocket Bunny widebody on his, John is rocking a seriously cool old school Bomex kit. John and Patrick have always built some really cool cars and I’m excited to see this Miata as John builds it. Part of me wishes we could fast forward like 5 years until early 2000s bodykits make a full comeback but I also want to start perusing Craigslist to find still intact kits and start hording them for when they go up in value.

VIP GS400.jpg

This VIP Lexus GS400 doesn’t have the best picture ever taken, I have to apologize for that, but when I first saw it during the daytime I didn’t think it had anything fresh done to it. Then at night, I took a closer look and noticed that I was sorely mistaken.

GS400 Headliner.jpg

Look at that headliner! LED lights embedded in the headliner to look like a night sky. Usually I think VIP cars are a bit much and yet all too cookie cutter at the same time, then I see something like this and have to throw my hands in the air and say that I was wrong. I wonder if this is based off any actual night sky star map, where is Neil DeGrasse Tyson when I need him?

Nissan Laurel.jpg

Drive Cartel continues to have the best shows in the state of Minnesota, everything they manage to produce is world class quality and could compete with anything you find in California, Chicago or down south. If you haven’t had a chance to go to Cars and Crafts, you’re missing out, check out the next show July 6th at Saint Paul Brewing.

 

 

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