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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

EVENT: Back to the 80’s 2019

The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows.

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I went to the first Back to the 80’s back when they were hosting it up in Blaine. It was pretty cool to see the show happen but, good lord, you don’t realize how far away Blaine is from Minneapolis until you sit in traffic for an hour and a half in a CRX without AC just to go walk around in a hot parking lot for the rest of the day. It was a sign of things to come though, the organizers had more passion for that show than I’ve seen in most other shows.

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Fast forward to 2019, the show is now in Burnsville, still a third ring suburb but much easier to reach. The word has gotten out and the sponsors have been coming out of the woodwork, the organization has improved drastically and the show itself has exploded in size.

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Going to the show for the first time in years, I was worried about it being another parking lot show. That being said, it didn’t feel like it was in a parking lot. Of course, it was cloudy, which did help but I didn’t feel like I was walking across the entire Earth to get from one end to the other end. I could walk from Shane’s Celica to the food trucks, effectively across the show, and I wasn’t looking off into the horizon to find something worth looking at.

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The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows. This Ford EXP is a prefect example, I had never seen one in the flesh until this show. Apparently the owner owns a dozen of these, the majority are parts cars to support the runners, and as the owner of an obscure 80’s car, I feel his pain.

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Cars like this Pontiac Tojan were there, speaking of weird things that you just don’t see. The Tojan was supposed to be a Ferrari fighter based off of the F-Body platform with a heavily modified TPI V8, vastly improved handling and Gotti wheels. Unfortunately given that the Pontiac name didn’t have the cachet of the Ferrari name, less than 150 were produced. There might be a day when the Tojan just explodes in value, remember Duesenbergs were once totally forgotten too.

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Next to the Tojan was my personal favorite car of the show. The world’s cleanest V20 generation Toyota Camry. This car was never intended to be preserved, it’s shocking to see one in this good of condition. The V20 Camry holds a place in my heart, not only was it the first car I learned to do spark plugs on but its actually a really cool car when you start to look into them. I actually did an in depth history of this car for Japanese Nostalgic Car a couple of years ago, you can find the link here.

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Talking to the owner of it, he said that it was actually an eBay buy. The car had an insane reserve price, so the current owner PM’ed the seller to drop the price a bit, after some back and forth it became his and for a much more reasonable price. While I still am confused as to why this was preserved to such a level, I couldn’t be any happier about the results and his buying process was totally within the spirit of Carbitrage. Our friend of the show that I was walking aroung with, Darren Brooke, described the car as “profoundly beige” and that it was the “essence of the color beige.”

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One more insanely rare car goes back to GM, or rather Suzuki, for one of the coolest cars I’ve known about but never expected to actually see in real life, The Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. This is a 3 cylinder captive imported Suzuki Cultus featured a turbocharger and possibly the smallest intercooler I’ve ever seen in my life.

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Here is a picture of said intercooler with Josh Stowell’s hand for scale, like I said, comically small. With the 8 psi of additional boost and a large dollop of torque steer, the Sprint Turbo reached 70 HP and a shockingly fast 8.1 second 0-60 time. For reference, thats faster than the last years of the C3 Corvette, the AW11 MR2 non-supercharged and even an E30 325i.

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Anyway, this car went through a complete engine out restoration and is likely the best Chevrolet Sprint in existence. If I recall correctly, the owner’s efforts resulted in a first place finish for the Captive Import category of the show.

Grand National Stage 2

Outside of the weird stuff floating around the show, there were so many C4 Corvettes, 3rd generation Trans-maro-birds and G-bodies that it would make your head spin. They likely accounted for at least 10% of the show but what felt good about it is that they appeared in smaller clumps and it made it a bit easier to take in. With so many cars, some were easy to walk past while others were rather unique. This Regal T-Type was a great example, judging by the chrome trim, I don’t think it was actually a Grand National or GNX but with the drag radials in the back and massive exhaust, it looked like it could boogie.

I do have to mention the C4 for a moment because there were a lot of them. Some of them looked slapped together with coathanger exhausts but, cars like this Lingenfelter ZR1, were in amazing condition. We forget how important the ZR1 was for the Corvette when it came out, it brought the Corvette back into the limelight after people had written it off for the better part of a decade. The ZR1 sported an aluminum V8 with DOHC 32 Valve head and 375 HP from the factory. The Lingenfelter version even expanded that an extra 100 HP, making it one of the most powerful cars you could purchase in the early 1990’s.

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Of all the manufacturers from Asia, one brand in particular was able to create more consistently great cars than any other, Toyota. The Toyotas in show were excellent, a handful of trucks were there, a few Mk2 Supras and every variant Celica sold in the 80s. Getting a good look at the white MA61 Celica Supra at the DJ booth was entirely worth experience all of the 110 decibels of Huey Lewis coming out of those speakers behind it.

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Outside of the Supras, the 80’s Celicas were all pretty great, albeit not the fastest thing in the world but they’re 80’s cars, it likely never will be the fastest thing around. Instead, for very little money a Celica can get you into something that is fun, bulletproof reliable and easy on the eyes. This red A40 Celica falls deeply into the podium of best A40s I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but have seen at all.

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The first car I saw when I pulled into the show was this ST185 Celica. At first, I saw it and thought that it was a nifty little GT Four clone, it had the right bumpers, hood and even graphics. Then the owner got out and I saw that it was RHD, it was a real ST185 GT Four and further more was a GT Four RC, the highest trim level with the widebody and AWD. The owner and his girlfriend were wonderful people, extremely friendly and were thrilled to show off their car in the show.

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Robert Correll brought out his Hello Kitty Itasha Suzuki Alto Works. Fun fact, me and Jana have almost bought this car on several accounts but the logistics never worked out, it was either posted for sale when we were out of town or right after we had just bought a car. I am really happy to see it went to a good home and Robert has done a great job expanding on it’s theme. When we were at the show this little girl came up to Jana and poked her on the butt asking if she owned the car, the girl was rather shocked when a tall mustachioed man turned out to be it’s owner.

Alto Hood.jpg

If you’re not familiar with a Suzuki Alto Works, it is a kei hot hatch. It was government limited to 60 HP but you can easily double the stock output with bolt on parts. The car came in either FWD or AWD and was manual only. If you want a more in depth description of the Alto Works, I have an article here at Japanese Nostalgic Car. The Alto Works is most definitely a Carbitrage Top Buy.

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Speaking of imported cars, we should probably mention the R32 Skyline. To stand out with an R32 GTR today, you have to have something really special, I found the coolest and most special GTR I’ve seen yet. This is an actual Tommykaira R32R, one of 400 ever made. These were $76,000 when new back in 1992, that was double what the standard GT-R retailed for. For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, this is to the GT-R what RUF is to Porsche.

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It came with a bespoke bodykit, wheels, interior accents and was tuned to make more power while still being just as driveable as a standard GT-R. Unfortunately the owner didn’t have the Tommykaira wheels on the car. Apparently, the night before the show he discovered a loose wheel face bolt. With dozens of bolts holding the wheel face on, he didn’t have the time to make sure every bolt was torqued correctly and didn’t want to damage the car so he threw on his spare wheels.

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Naturally with a show featuring 80’s cars, we were bound to see a lot of the first wave of modified trucks, sky high Toyota pickups, the last clean Bronco II, both generations of Subaru BRAT and some wild paint jobs were to be seen.

C1500 Diesel

Without any doubt, the one that caught our eye was this slammed C1500 with a choptop, a FedEx truck Detroit Diesel engine coming out of the hood and in the bed, not only smokestacks but two fog horns out of an old supertanker that was scuttled in Duluth. This truck is every bit as ridiculous as it is awesome.

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So not only is this arguably the best Cabriolet in existence but it also has a cool story to it. Chad Erickson, the owner of SCI, originally built this with his dad back in the 90’s and it’s still in the family. It still has the Calloway turbo kit on it that they installed over 20 years ago and it is still going strong. Chad posts regularly about cruising around in it with his mom, his kids and, fun fact, he can even fit his BMX bike in the back.

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Back to the 80’s has grown massively since it’s inception. I am really happy to see what it has done, it’s a testament to the commitment of the hosts. Growing from a small show put on by the local Minnesota Fiero club to something that can take up nearly a quarter of the parking available at one of the largest malls in Minnesota is nothing to scoff at. It is a unique show in of itself too, kind of a combination of Concours of Lemons and Radwood. I really have to say, if you didn’t go this year then you have to go next year. Even if you don’t particularly care for 80’s cars, there is still something there for everyone.

The Big 3: Hot Hatches of the 1980s #BTT80s

In this new series we compare three cars from the major automobile producing continents America, Asia and Europe. Sometimes it feels like these three nations can only excel in one field or another but this is proof that everyone can make great cars if they put their minds to them.

The Big 3 1980s hot hatches

In this new series we compare three cars from the major automobile producing continents America, Asia and Europe. Sometimes it feels like these three nations can only excel in one field or another but this is proof that everyone can make great cars if they put their minds to them.

The Hot Hatch is a car that appeals to almost everyone regardless of economic privilege. Everyone from Jeremy Clarkson to the vaping teen down the street wants or owns one. The plucky nature of a car designed to scoot through downtown traffic but is fitted with a big engine and stiff springs is a lure hard to ignore by anyone with a pulse, and with good reason too. These cars caught their stride in the 1980s and, with Back to the 80’s just around the corner, we want to explore the best that each continent had to offer during the era. Here are our Big 3 Hot Hatches of the 1980s.

America: Dodge Omni GLHS

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After committing harder than anyone else to muscle cars right as the oil crisis and strict emissions standards came into existance, Chrysler Corporation found themselves suddenly with a lineup of big hairy V8s that were slower, less economical and less reliable than its import competitors. Chrysler’s first solution to the sudden unpopularity of large V8 engines was to sell Mitsubishi’s compact cars under their name. While their captive import program got people through the door to the salesfloor, it did nothing to further develop Chrysler’s branding. Tiring of selling captive imported Mitsubishis on their showfloor, Chrysler changed directions and worked to develop their own subcompact car, called the Omni for Dodge or the Horizon if you got the Plymouth.

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After an extremely roundabout development program, the Omni was ready for production by 1977. The car was a modified version of the Simca-Talbot Horizon, a brand owned by Chrysler for the European market. Soon after the Omni/Horizon went on sale, Chrysler found itself bankrupt from their issues years earlier, sold off Simca to Peugeot and had it’s first government bailout. Lee Iococca, who was looking for a way to save Chrysler, saw promise in small cars and let the American Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon live on while he spearheaded development of the K-car. The Omni’s chassis, called the L-Body, did stave off the debt collectors long enough for the K-Car to go on release.

“I wanted to take the plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made, and turn it into something that could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche, at a price the average guy can afford – the guy making $20,000 or $25,000, with a wife and couple of kids.” – Carroll Shelby

At the same time that Chrysler was having their debt crisis, Carol Shelby and Ford were having a crisis themselves while in a trademark dispute over the Cobra name. Once Chrysler was stabilized Lee Iococca wanted to breathe some life into the Omni platform, he approached Shelby and asked him to make a hot Omni. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1987, Shelby was quoted as having said “I wanted to take the plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made, and turn it into something that could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche, at a price the average guy can afford – the guy making $20,000 or $25,000, with a wife and couple of kids.”

Dodge Omni GLH red

What did Shelby do? He took the “plug-ugliest little box Chrysler made” and then did some simple hot rodding tricks and tuned it up to 110 HP. Frankly, I should note that I object and I think the Omni has one of the best hot hatch designs ever. The car was called the Dodge Omni GLH, which at face valve us a reasonable name likely meaning GL trim and H for high output. That’s not what it meant though, it literally meant Goes Like Hell. Soon after the release of the GLH in 1984, Carroll wanted more and he got his hands on a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger. Then he did the unthinkable in 1985, bolted the AiResearch turbo onto that Chrysler 2.2L engine and at 7.2 PSI it made 146 HP.

GLH-S

In the right hands, the 146 HP Dodge Omni GLH certainly could whip a Ferrari or a Porsche but Shelby wasn’t done. Two years later, by 1987, he released the GLHS. Again, not meaning GLH-Shelby but meaning “Goes Like Hell S‘more.” 175 HP at 12 PSI of boost with a full frontal front mount intercooler gave the car the power to set a 0-60 at 6.7 seconds, on 1980s tire technology. That was enough to keep up with a Ferrari 308 and a Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

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Shelby certainly had done his job and he also unleashed himself on just about every Chrysler product during the 80s. Not only did the Omni GLH bring Chrysler back from the malaise but it set up their future with cars like the Dodge Spirit R/T, Plymouth CSX and of course the SRT-4.

Asia: 3rd Generation Honda Civic Si/CRX Si

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While the Dodge Omni brought back straight line performance on a budget, which were the hallmarks of the muscle car era, it was Honda that really became a cult classic. It wasn’t an immediate thing though, it wasn’t because the manufacturer gave all of the best tuning shops in the world dollar cars and said have at it, it was a much slower burn. The Honda Civic Si caught it’s traction as the hand-me-down car, parents bought them for first cars and gave them to their children, who then created this whole culture around them.

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Of course this wasn’t by accident, Honda’s roots were firmly planted in two fields, reliability and performance. This all happened because the Civic was just that great of a little car. After the war, Honda helped get Japan on its feet with reliable little motorcycles, they were pretty good too since they won the Isle of Man TT in 1961. So when Honda made their first actual car, naturally it was a cheap little, reliable sports car, the S500. Eventually they came to America and started to make subcompacts during the malaise, the car was the Honda Civic.

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By the 1980s the Civic was a mainstay in American culture and after some experiments with the slightly spritely Civic S and the cute gas-mizer the CRX, Honda dropped a bomb on us. The Honda CRX Si, and later, the Civic Si. When it released in 1986 the CRX Si had sporty figures not seen in years. As Chris Hoffman from Japanese Nostalgic Car likes to point out, the original CRX Si had an infatuation with the number 91. It had 91 hp, 91 lb-ft, 1491 cc displacement (91 Cubic Inches), a 9.1 second 0-60 time and weighed 1900 lbs.

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All together this made for a very sporty car. It was able to feel fun and spritely, while getting 35 MPG in the city. It did it reliably too, which even to date, is a rare thing to find. In America, the gears started turning once kids began to find out that these cars had deep racing roots to them and extensive catalogs of performance parts from Japan available. By the early 90’s, the car to own was a modified Honda Civic. The tuner bug spread like wildfire but it was little known that, the bug had already invaded other parts of the globe.

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In Japan, Honda had been doing a Civic One Make race since the 1970s, creating endless inspiration for boy racers then in 1985 Honda tuner Spoon, won its class in Super Taikyu touring car racing, and was even able to beat half the field of cars above it. The bug America had caught in the 90s, had already hit Japan in full force by the mid-80s. Companies like Mugen, Spoon, Junction Produce and others were able to create figurative rocket ships out of the humble Civic Si. The Japanese highways would see the Civic become the favored platform of the Loop Tribe racers, or Kanjozoku. The nimbleness and zippy nature of the cars felt right at home.

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This hotted up little econobox created it’s own cult following, for people in America, it felt like it came from nowhere. For those in the know though, they saw this coming, they knew it was in Honda’s DNA to make something great. Since 1986, the Civic Si has been a mainstay in American hot hatch performance.

Europe: Mk2 Volkswagen Golf GTI

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The Honda Civic Si is a wonderful little hot hatch, and so is the Dodge Omni, but none of those would have ever existed if it wasn’t for the Germans. Much like the old proverb “the germans invented the car, the french perfected it and the Japanese made it reliable,” the original hot hatch was the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The original GTI, planned for 5000 units, was a run away success with total sales of 462000 units. To change such a perfect recipe is not only playing with fire, but playing with fire next to a leaky propane tank.

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How does one improve on such a great design? Leave it alone as much as possible. You refine the rough bits, up the options and make deadly sure that you don’t upset the product’s balance. With the curb weight only increasing around 100 lbs between the final year of the Mk1 and the first year of the Mk2 GTI, the car felt 96.3% as sprightly as the original one did, but it did so with a level of refinement that was just right for a hot hatch. If that wasn’t enough, the car also dropped it’s drag coefficient by 8% so it would actually perform better over the original model at high speeds.

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Volkswagen’s gamble on updating the Golf paid off, the car continued to top sales and best of lists around the world, even when everyone else was getting into the “GTI” market. That term right there, “GTI Market,” might be the greatest boon to the GTI, it created it’s own market. It wasn’t the first fast subcompact but the GTI was a watershed car and after it came out, competitors came out of the woodwork. Some even took the name; Suzuki, Dacia, Citroen, Peugeot, Mitsubishi, Nissan. Nearly everyone used the GTI moniker at some point.

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Regardless of who used it, the name GTI stuck with Volkswagen. Whenever it seemed like the imitators were beginning to keep up, the GTI kept getting better. After existing for the first half of it’s life with the original 8 valve engine, the Mk2 GTI received it’s first major engine upgrade, A 16 valve DOHC 1.8L engine. It replaced the old 8 valve and it came with a power bump from 110 HP to a massive 137 HP. The 8.9 second 0-60 time of the old hat 8 valve was slashed down to 8.3 seconds, faster than a Porsche 944.

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There is a very strong argument to be made that the Mk2 GTI is the peak of the Volkswagen GTI’s lineage. It perfected what the Mk1 started and perfected it. It was more comfortable, faster and kept it’s looks. It did all of this, yet, it didn’t lose it’s direct feel that the newer models have struggled with. Regardless of how the later cars stack up against the Mk2, the formula has stayed true since there is word that the GTI is going to outlive the Golf.

EVENT: InterMarque 2019 Part 1

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. I find myself having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Meanwhile I’m trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma.

InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

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Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. All too often I find myself standing in a boiling hot parking lot while some mouthbreather babbles on about some grievance they have with the show. Meanwhile I’m having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Honestly, some shows could be nothing but vintage Japanese cars and Group B rally cars, yet I still find myself trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma. InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Citroen DS and Traction Avant

In fact, I have to say that my first visit to an InterMarque show was the farthest thing from the scenario I mentioned above. It was a perfect combination of factors that all came together in just the right way. A car show like a real estate investment, while the house itself is important, you can always improve that, you can also improve the yard but the hardest part to improve is the location. If you nail all of those aspects, it is a perfect house, and InterMarque certainly nailed it. It really wouldn’t be out of place at Monterey Car Week, not only are the cars on caliber of some of the crop that you see at Car Week, but the character of the show and it’s location would fit in just as well.

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Every spring, InterMarque car club and the City of Osseo shut down 4 blocks of the quaint downtown area of the city for an annual spring car show. The cars range from RHD Honda BEATs to European rarities like a Borgward Isabella. The true beauty of the show however is the location. You have the cars lining down 4 blocks of the city, allowing for easy foot traffic and lots of space to take pictures and gawk. There is a plaza in the middle of the show where small businesses sell their wares and, more importantly, there is plenty of shade and places to sit. You really feel comfortable at this show and that’s something that a lot of shows miss the boat on.

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It’s the small businesses along the street make the show feel like something magical. If you tire of constantly walking and baking in the sun, you can just pop into an antique shop or stop for a gyro. It makes you feel like you’re actually benefiting the community rather than being a nuisance, the constant anxiety of having to cut the show short because someone decided to flex their rev limiter skills is non-existent. When you leave the show, you feel happy, rather than drained. On the way home we were actually remarking about how much we loved the show, rather than complain about who did what.

Volvo 145

There is a sense of camaraderie amongst fans of the show. These are the people who represent what Carbitrage is all about, it’s for people who love the automobile in all of it’s forms. It’s a place where you find a Triumph 2000 owner talking to the owner of an S2000 and instead of belittling each other or talking at each other, they are just enjoying each others company. I even had deeply enlightening conversations about the various coachbuilt variants of the Citroen DS and about the Bosch Jetronic fuel injection system.

Triumph TR3As

It isn’t just the Carbitrage staff and a group of our fans that love the meet. You’re just as likely to see a 17 year old kid losing their mind over a Honda BEAT as you are to find a white haired man with a beard doing the same thing over these Triumph TR3s. It reminds me of when I was a kid going to Hot Import Nights for the first time and getting jacked up on all of the free cups of NOS energy drink. Every car is something special, you feel like you need to look at every single thing.

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That is another piece of the of the mosaic that makes this show so good, everything pays off to look at. Some cars that are obviously cool, like this Volkswagen Type 3. They immediately draw your attention and reward you when you get to the details. You go in expecting something excellent and you aren’t disappointed.

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Other cars in the show pay off once you get up close to them. To be entirely honest, I was even thrown off by this car and I pride myself on knowledge of the most obscure cars I can fathom. Richard Halkyard spotted it from half a block away, it is a Humbler Super Snipe. While it looks like an upscale Checker Marathon from the outside, under the hood it gets really interesting.

Humbler Engine

It sports an overhead valve inline six, which on it’s own doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but if you consider that it has hemispherical combustion chambers and a crossflow head design, it suddenly becomes very interesting. Now add that this was designed in the UK in 1958 and was put into a slightly upscale but still largely affordable car, it becomes even more noteworthy.

Super Snipe Badge

In 1958, outside of Chrysler’s Firepower V8 engine, a hemispherical OHV cylinder head could only really be found in upscale marques such as Jaguar, Porsche or the incredibly rare MG MGA Twin Cam. The crossflow design, where the intake is opposite of the exhaust on the head, is something we take for granted today but it wasn’t a common design on six cylinder engines until the 1980s, and it was still usually only seen on high performance vehicles for another decade.

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As great as cars like the Humbler Super Snipe were, going through a completely esoteric show full of things most car enthusiasts have never heard of can feel like it isn’t relatable sometimes. InterMarque wasn’t just completely bizarre European classics, cars like this Mk2 Celica Supra and NA Miata were in show as well. The Japanese representation is still small at InterMarque but it has been growing year over year. What is lost in quantity is made up for with quality though because not only were the cars like these two cars mere examples of great Japanese cars, but they were among two of the best examples I’ve seen yet in Minnesota. This Supra on it’s own could contend at Japanese Classic Car Show out in California and the Miata was no slouch either. Lining the block you could still find the occasional Datsun or Mazda tucked away in other spots as well and they were welcome just as much as the British roadsters were, it honestly felt really good seeing a show that didn’t discriminate one brand over another.

2CV Spitfire Rear

There was so much to see at this show, it could have not been any better, we will be updating with a second part that is more focused on the cars in show. It was just pertinent that we talk about what really made InterMarque great. The location, the attitude, the community, it isn’t just one aspect that makes a show great but everything put together. Like our real estate reference in the beginning said, the house, the yard and the location all make for perfection.  If you’ve never been to InterMarque, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the year and you owe it to yourself to check it out next year.

INTERESTING ENGINEERING: Audi’s UFO Brakes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.