One of the most fascinating aspects of our slice of automotive culture has been to watch the maturation of the “import tuner”. While acknowledging that there are those who have been modifying imports since the cars first arrived in the states, our scene was largely defined in the first half of the 1990′s by magazines like Sport Compact Car and Super Street. Cars such as the 5th generation Honda Civic and the 2nd generation DSM twins were kings, as most of the iconic 90′s Japanese sports cars heralded today were out of the price range of the average import enthusiast. These humble starting points, however, created opportunities for truly epic builds. These first generations of our scene built like they had something to prove; because frankly, they did. They were building the economy cars of the time and lacked the acceptance of the mainstream American performance community. Japanese cars were simply rice burners; most true Japanese performance was still out of reach, either economically or geographically. While the Japanese had established performance pedigrees decades prior, those series mostly took place in European or Asian venues. Our Nascar Nation was not ready to accept that a Honda was anything but an economical way to get from point A to point B.
2011 has been a dynamic year for our scene. I’d like to think that if 2009 and 2010 were the years that the Stance scene exploded, this past year was its period of maturation. The builds are more complex, the projects are more varied, and each region (whether in the states or around the world) has developed its own unique style. Whether its the over-the-top VIP builds of Japan, the OEM+ Euro builds of the American Northeast, or the unbelievable Hondas of California, each of the major players have reached levels of style that haven’t really been explored in the import scene before. Additionally, as the scene has matured, many have been wise to explore the roots of lowliness in hot rods and rat rods, and even ventured outside our normal comfort zone into domestic pro-touring cars and West Coast low riders. All that to say, 2011 has been a year about promoting inclusion. Stance, it seems, has graduated from the bastard child of the forums, to an accepted (tolerated?) subset of modern automotive culture. It seems that even a seasoned track nut can finally look at a fitted car and admit that it at least looks cool.
The Hawaiian Islands, for all of their natural beauty and tropical vistas, have a rather tumultuous geological history. Located above a Pacific Ocean hotspot, the islands that form the 50th state were created through a series of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and subsequent erosion. This pattern of destruction and rebirth has allowed the islands to continually turn mountains of magma, ash, and fire into tropical paradises. Albert Lee, a resident of the capital city of Honolulu, saw his last project, a turboed GS300, burn to the ground after a faulty turbo install. Determined to come back bigger than ever, Albert teamed up with VIP Modular to create this gorgeous VIP Modular GS350.
For many people, the extent of their automobile enthusiast life is lived out in the forums and the blogs. One can spend hours hopping from site to site, post to post, in search of something to awe, shock, or bewilder; and that niche will always be filled. Soon enough, however, one becomes jaded to the big, expensive wheels, enormous turbos, and seemingly impossible suspension set-ups. Rather than appreciating the cars as personal projects with their own investments of time, money, and effort, the cars simply become objects to judge and rank in a personal hierarchy of acceptable norms. This corruption is where statements like, “V8 drift cars are played out!” come from. Just because the internet has introduced a handful of fully swapped, functional engine-swapped cars in a period of several months, the forum junkie’s brain pushes this “trend” into the “been there, done that” folder; not even considering that there’s maybe been one within his own arm’s reach before, and the chances of him actually shaking the hand of a builder is slim to none.
I hate that minivans have the stigma that they do. While they admittedly won’t win any awards around the track, they are the perfect vehicle for someone looking for serious utility without the drawbacks of larger SUVs. And one only has to look back to the 1970′s to see the awesome styling possibilities with these big wagons. Owner Donald James saw the potential in his 2005 Odyssey and went all out with a classic VIP build, blending traditional Japanese cues with a mostly untouched USDM platform. Read More
If there is one negative consequence of the stance movement, it has to be never ending stream of arguments about the balance of function versus form that has risen from man’s quest for lowness. What usually begins as an open picture thread of fitted cars quickly devolves into a mindless frenzy of insults, insinuations, and ill-formed facts about how a car’s function has been sacrificed for the sake of hard parking. The assumption seems to be that the owner of the car sat down one day, looked at his new car, and decided, “You know what, forgot about acceleration and handling, I’d rather this car be a freaking paperweight.” Unless the owner is a complete idiot, however, that’s not how it happened. Every project is going to be a balance of form and function; and if you know what you are doing, you’ll make them compliment each other. Anthony Hancock started with Honda’s S2000, a car that’s built from the classic sports car formula. His goal was to take the original idea, but take all the different aspects of the vehicle to a more aggressive level. For Anthony, the ultimate form that this blown and fitted S2000 took had to jive with the increased function. The two had to move synergetically, hand in hand. Form had to equal function.
The world of VIP is generally reserved for the more seasoned members of the import scene. Not only is the price of entry considerably higher, aftermarket pieces are priced with exclusivity in mind; this genre is the textbook example of the idiom “You’ve got to pay to play.” Rules, however, are meant to be broken, and usually are. Andre Pham started this VIP GS300 when he was 18, an age when most of us were trying to cut 15 year old Civic springs and morph Home Depot garden accessories into aero pieces. The youngest member of Liberty VIP, Andre is self-made man, building his Lexus with a combination of hard work, quality parts, and some generous help from the gents of Liberty. Read More
One of the great cliches of car modding culture is the idea that somewhere, your dream car sits alone rotting away in a forgotten garage or back lot, waiting to be rediscovered and transformed into a mind blowing car. Whether it’s an orange Supra that simply needs some overnight parts from Japan, or an old CRX you bought for $25 from the blue-hair down the street, everybody has a story about the time they tried to turn a pauper into a prince. Most of these stories, however, end in defeat. The project becomes too expensive, or takes too long, or the owner just loses interest in the build. James Craig’s story isn’t like that, though. After discovering this 1997 Nissan Silvia K’s Edition rotting away, he set out to transform it into a gorgeous OEM+ tribute to good taste and creativity. Read More
There are few relationships as strange as the one between a true car guy and his car. At some basic level, a car is nothing more than an assemblage of metal and plastic parts, designed and fabricated through engineering expertise. Rationally considered, an automobile possesses no more character than a washing machine or a refrigerator. Important to life? Absolutely; but certainly not an entity capable of stimulating deep human emotion. But that’s not how we see our cars, and that’s certainly not how Brian Bullock sees his time attack Civic. You see, Brian has been through some rough times here recently. Not the kind of troubles that the average Joe is used to either; we aren’t talking about broke wheels or loose women here. Brian has been hit over and over and over by the kind of tragedies that make one forget about suspension settings, fitment, racing, and cars in general. The average man would have undoubtedly abandoned the project, setting aside piles of metal and plastic until the storm blew over. But Brain isn’t average; he isn’t anywhere close. Despite his challenges – and perhaps because of them – Brian Bullock put together the amazing time attack Civic you see here during the scariest time of his life. This story is bigger than wheel selection, color, or stance; in fact, the car plays only a supporting role in a story that is filled with heroes. Our “car guy culture” may be founded on our cars, but the true raison d’être can be found in Brian’s garage, a place filled all at once with sorrow, defeat, persistence, and finally, rejoicing.
Nissan 240′s are everywhere nowadays. While the car has always been popular for its bang-for-your-buck performance potential, the rise of drifting and drifting culture has rocketed the quaint RWD coupe to its ubiquitous state. Though its JDM Silvia cousin spans 7 generations, the 240sx largely owes its American popularity to the S13, S14, and S15 chassis. These cars have been slammed, swapped, slid, and saved in every way imaginable; to the point that even the wildest 240 can suffer from anonymity. What each individual car lacks in sui generis however, it makes up for with a large and dedicated community. Owners have drawn from each others experience and ideas, and have elevated their cars into the perfect breed of drift machine. But Brian Waggoner’s drift 240sx is more than talk. He has transformed his 1993 240sx into a competitive drift car, allowing him to compete all around the US in the Midwest Drift Union Series.