Tag Archives: modified cars

Hawaii car culture with Larry Chen
Car Culture

Sunshine and slammed style: Hawaii’s car culture looks breathtaking through the lens of Larry Chen

I don’t think it needs much introduction. Hawaii is a vibrant state unlike any other in the U.S. and made famous by gorgeous vistas, a bustling tourist industry, and some of the most interesting and passionate locals who embrace the Aloha State’s culture. Anyone who grew up with Lilo & Stitch can at least infer that. However, Hawaii’s car culture is not what we think of when we also envision its glistening beaches and rolling green hills. It probably comes as a surprise that Hawaii even has one, given how compact the islands are and how physically isolated the state is from the American mainland. But it exists. And all-star photographer, Larry Chen, has some words to say and an illustrious fleet of outlandish modified cars to show off.

Larry Chen helps showcase Hawaii’s finest

On the surface, there’s not much to explain. Larry Chen hosted a car meet in conjunction with Canon and a group of locals while Larry was around for PhotoCon. Resultingly, a bunch of locals showed up with an unexpectedly eclectic display of Hawaii’s finest modified cars. And no, it’s not just lifted 4Runners or a “brand-new 2003 Toyota Tacoma (cherry, brah).”

A modified Volkswagen Bug on chrome steelies. Lowrider trucks. Drift cars and VIP builds slammed on their balls (you see that slammed cars are especially the vibe in Hawaii). In a state where the fastest speed limit is 60 miles per hour, and Japan and California sit thousands of miles to the right or left of you, there is zero logical reason for there to be a Liberty Walk Audi R8 or even that lovely, very Urban Outlaw-esque Porsche 911 SC. I’m guessing the most sensibly built car there was the Subaru SVX lowered on WRX wheels at Slammedenuff.

But you know what? Let ’em have it. Let ’em have it all. For all that works against the local car scene, they deserve the kingdom they’ve built.

Why Hawaiian car culture matters

Hawaii is not a car enthusiast’s haven. Yet, slowly, through glamorous photos ripped straight out of brochures and bits and pieces of pop culture, it has been heavily romanticized as such, arousing bucket-list trips in peoples’ heads of supercar grand tours around the island or highway races from beach to beach. Right. That’s not real. Or at least it’d be difficult to do so.

Tight, confusing roads that change from highway to suburban side streets in the blink of an eye don’t make for very exciting driving roads. What picturesque backroads do exist are heavily touristed-out, not very technical for the touge-minded, or just gravel, meaning all those rental Jeeps on Turo aren’t just for show. And speed limits are low. Remember that 60-mile-per-hour freeway speed limit because that’s as fast as it gets. Racetracks are also uncommon, with what few exist always under threat of closure; however, recent news points to a more hopeful future for local motorsports fans, especially on the island of O’ahu.

I know. Test Drive Unlimited lied to us.

Despite these strangulations, a loud and proud pocket of car culture prevails, much akin to Hong Kong or Singapore, which Larry also highlighted for facing similar geographic challenges. Thankfully, Hawaii, like much of America, has a comparatively lax approach to the legality of modified vehicles versus other corners of the globe, meaning you can have cartoonishly wild stuff like these drift cars or lowrider builds on the archipelago without risk of being impounded for merely existing. Just pass inspection… Which I doubt some of these cars do, anyway.

At a quick glance, it’s a unique melting pot of cultures, too. Look at one build, and you’d think you’re at a weekend car show in Oakland or South L.A. Turn your head, and suddenly you’re at the Daikoku PA or Tokyo Auto Salon with more trees. Maybe there’s a glimpse of 1950s Americana at the same venue. Hawaiian car culture seemingly takes the best aspects of West Coast and Asian car cultures and reels them into a central location, both culturally and geographically, making Hawaii a unique halfway house for car enthusiasts traveling between the two realms.

Hawaii car culture with Larry Chen
Image credit: YouTube, Larry Chen

And it should be known that this isn’t the first round of internet personalities exposing Hawaiian car culture. Larry states that this is only his fifth time visiting the islands, and a quick moseying through YouTube also reveals other outlets highlighting Hawaii as both a cultural hotspot and a driving destination despite its restrictive roadways. Top Gear magazine recently reviewed the S650-generation Mustang GT in Hawaii where they attended a local car meet and viewed an autocross event. Several years back, David Patterson, a.k.a. “ThatDudeInBlue,” did a series of car reviews and a mini-documentary highlighting the struggles and ingenuity of blue-collar Hawaiian enthusiasts in the wake of losing a local race track.

Sending our respects from the mainland

So yeah. Hawaiian car culture exists and is very much a banger. Or at least I think it is, and maybe you should, too. It’s a respectful gathering of some of the most welcoming enthusiasts representing various snippets of subcultures from across the Pacific blended together. It doesn’t have the easiest time existing. But its participants are happy, authentic folk with incredible cars showcasing the most creative ideas, and the internet owes content creators like Uncle Larry, Top Gear, and Patterson a thanks for bringing their triumphs to light.

So, from the Nevadan desert, I say aloha to our companions halfway across the ocean. Never stop building, never stop dreaming, and never stop driving. Our Test Drive Unlimited dreams lie within you.

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WCCS garage car show

This California garage’s grand opening celebrates the best of car culture with an even grander car show

A cool breeze and steady clouds rolled over LA to remind us that autumn weather was around the corner. Angeles Crest became the set of some derivative horror flic and dampened any enthusiasm to soak up the nonexistent rays in Malibu. I was in town sampling yet another press car, but nothing more. How uncharacteristic of me, as I always try to find other immersive things to do, other stories to tell. Might as well when in such a hub for culture, food, and driving. But this time around, nada. Already wished Porsche a happy 75th at The Petersen. Already visited the Lady of the Lake at The Mullin. Maybe one day, I’ll hit the apexes at Willow, but not this weekend. What to do.

I wasn’t about to be the airhead who sucks at planning so bad they couldn’t find anything to do in LA on a weekend. But thankfully, a nifty little Instagram post pointed me towards a new garage in Gardena to spend my Saturday morning. A local group, Brekkie Car Club, was the crew putting on the show, but an outsider like me knew next to nothing of them. I expected a small parking lot meet like those I had been accustomed to and maybe a coffee stand.

I probably should’ve browsed their page and done my research before showing up with the lackadaisical attitude I initially had. Now I feel rude for making any assumptions.

Cool breeze, warm coffee, fiery cars

Integra Type S
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The alley was mostly full, so I parked the Acura Integra loaner in an overflow lot across the street with the other late attendees who had already begun spilling out of the entrance. The howls of Japanese straight-sixes and German flat-sixes clash as attendees come and go down the street. Even the cars spilling into the street and the overflow area were among the cleanest examples of tuner cars, even the ones that were clearly for show or casual street use. And this was before you entered into the actual show.

Humorously, being set in the alley of a parking facility in Gardena, it was definitely the largest Cars N’ Coffee I’ve attended, longitudinally speaking. Cars stretched down seemingly a couple hundred feet of tarmac, lining the entrance to this newly-minted garage and culminating in a pocket of vendors and top-shelf cars. 

On display was among the broadest spread of diversity in American car culture, a gathering for many tastes with people from all walks of life. And no, this sort of event isn’t exclusive to solely this region, but you don’t see it in such droves in many other places. It’s somewhat alien yet completely on-brand for this corner of the country. From home-brewed tuners to shop-built restomods. From sport compacts to supercars. There was plenty to behold. Peep at the slammed truck that I’m willing to bet is lower than the actual lowrider in attendance. 

WCCS Car Show
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Growing up in Las Vegas, our car culture is but a scaled-down caricature of what lies 300 miles westward. It was a scene I knew but turned up to scale I rarely experienced back home, with a rainbow of personality and creativity to match. My home has some bang-on Cars N’ Coffees. I will not deny them that. But it’s not often I see a kei truck and kei van sitting pretty next to a 911 Carrera lowered on WORK wheels. Nor is there ever a Vorsteiner booth with Europe’s finest rocking sets of circular artwork.

Seriously. Get a load of the rollers on the gray Urus. And the 991.1 GT3’s bronze two-piece center-locks with the polished rim? It’s like something out of a Speedhunters post.

Typical in this day and age, you’re never short on grayscale cars, but the blinding paintwork of vehicles from the Chevelle 454 SS to the pair of old and new BMW M2s do just enough to pierce through the otherwise dreary backdrop of clouds. 

And did I mention the Fast & Furious Supra, complete with nitrous bottles and a fully dressed-up interior? No? Right. Nevermind then. Forget ‘bout it, cuh (I had to). 

Fast & Furious Supra
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

There was no shortage of heavy-hitting knockouts on display. In addition to Vorsteiner’s Urus and Huracan STO demo cars and the armada of Skylines and 911s outside sat the illustrious, drool-worthy collector pieces inside the facility. Truly the stuff of dreams and living legends. Try the cleanest Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X you’ll ever see outside of a magazine cover from 2015. Or not one, but two Carrera GTs. Or if you’re more into modern performance, there’s no going wrong with a GT2 RS.

And it’s not like everything in attendance was a minty-fresh collector’s piece pulled from an RM Sotheby’s auction ad. Some cars were textbook definitions of pristine. Others preferred patina. It was a healthy mix of cars made to look as if they were on the assembly line and ones made to tell the stories of their history. Every drive, every adventure, and every nick from probably following a dump truck too closely.

WCCS garage car show GT2 RS
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Perhaps my personal favorite was locked in a three-way tie between the Honda N600 rocking an interior adorned with stuffed toys and knitted seat covers, the Evasive Motorsports Honda S2000R restomod in all its carbon fiber and Championship White glory, or the Bugatti Type 35 continuation car by Pur Sang. But is it wrong to even mention the S2000R and the Pur Sang in the same breath, let alone park them within a couple dozen feet of each other? Or is that just the time we live in, where a Japanese sports car of the 2000s can transcend its original platform and stand on the same pedestal as something that belongs at Concours d’Elegance?

Or, here’s a better question. Who cares?

Pur Sang Bugatti Type 35 at WCCS garage car show
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

A melting pot of metal and memories

Prestige matters little when both vehicles exist as symbols of their creators’ love and ingenuity. Here, they sit for a like-minded audience to gawk over every intricacy that makes them special, even if they’re worlds apart. The co-existence of these cars in one space puts the intimidated or uninitiated at ease and encourages them to branch out of their wheelhouse to discover cars they wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

The same goes for every car here. A 911 GT2 RS shares the same square footage as an S14 240SX and an Evo X. Mustangs and Camaros intermingle with M cars and Supras. Because why the hell not? There is no segregation of the various cults like I often see with other events. There are no “Mustang people” or “Porsche people” here. They’re just car people.

WCCS Car Show
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
WCCS Car Show
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

This level of variety in car culture and its people proves, when done right and not with the foolish delusion of chasing clout and outlaw stardom, that it’s more than just an exercise in materialism and vanity. And it’s this melting pot that makes for great memories and meeting new people.

But why on a cloudy day in some industrial park alleyway in Gardena? Surely, there was no one staging for quarter-mile drags in the hopes of appeasing triad bosses or winning pink slips to ten-second cars (bam, two references in one piece). Brekkie’s show was more of a celebration than anything else. A celebration of diversity in car culture, as well as the grand opening of a new garage for these cars to potentially call home. 

Celebrating a new home for our four-wheeled friends

Hell, that venue had to belong to someone, right? Right. So hats off to auto journalist and TheSmokingTire co-host, Matt Farah, who celebrates the opening and unveiling of the Westside Collector Car Storage South Bay location in collaboration with Brekkie Car Club. His 90-car garage presents itself as a hub for dedicated hobbyists to give their cars a home when they themselves can’t, delivering a much-needed service to the local community seldom seen throughout the LA area and other densely populated metropolises.

Matt Farah portrait at WCCS
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Tucked deep into this otherwise unassuming alley gives the location a lowkey vibe. If you didn’t recognize the signage out front, it’s almost speakeasy-like for cars. Its privacy and security are to be further bolstered by the later construction of a concrete wall, and that’s only a fraction of future developments soon to follow. Being more sprawled out given its location, the WCCS South Bay facility will soon exceed the capacity of its original Playa Vista location, which made headlines upon its opening for its impossibly ingenious use of such a compact space. Adopting the second building adjacent to the now-opened garage will reportedly allow car capacity to inflate to 170, with room to spare for indoor and outdoor lounging, a conference room, a kitchen, and a dining area. 

Get that. A kitchen. In the same place you’d park your weekend toy. To some, it may just look like a glorified parking structure. But the enthusiast in me, who probably watched too many movies and played way too many games, sees a lounge for car clubs, a hub for drivers’ meetings on rallies, and your character’s starting garage should they ever make a Test Drive: Unlimited game in California. 

Excessive? In all the best ways. So think of it as a gift to the community, because as much as we love them, cars are a hassle in big cities. After all, the eclectic customers who will soon fill these bays surely deserve some treat for keeping our increasingly niche hobby alive with cars that are becoming more like museum-worthy exhibits with every passing year.

And I mean. Come on. It doesn’t sound like a bad place for the valet to take their sweet time when they give you a place to kick it.

So yeah. I’m a fan of this idea and of gatherings like this. And you should be, too. People like Farah and his crew at WCCS make being octane-blooded in concrete jungles feel less like wedging your passion between a rock and a hard place. And it’s lively, community-driven shows by groups like Brekkie Car Club that keep the flame burning for veteran hobbyists and hopefully light a flame in the hearts of the new and curious.

Not a bad assessment, huh? And to think all I wanted to do was kill a Saturday morning.

WCCS Car Show
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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