Car Life>> For The Love Of Cars

Do you remember the moment you climbed into the driver's seat for the very first time? The nervous excitement; the eagerness and trepidation as you twirled the key and heard the car bark into life? That anxiety is kind of what I'm feeling at the moment, as I'm about to relocate half way around the world to get behind the wheel of Speedhunters.

Being one of the newer members of the Speedhunters team, you're probably asking yourself: who the hell is this guy? Well I'm just another enthusiast who fell for cars at an early age. As a toddler, I'd start bawling if my Matchbox cars were prised from my grasp or if I was ever dragged away from an episode of Knight Rider. By the time I was five years old, cars had consumed all of my waking hours (and often my sleep too). And that's exactly how it still is today.

When I left university I decided to take a detour, giving up a comfortable career path for a job that related to cars. It couldn't hurt to mix business with pleasure right? So I joined an Australian company called Auto Salon (no relation to Tokyo Auto Salon), and things just kind of went from there. Rather than bore you with a rambling introduction, I thought some postcards from my time in the car industry would probably be more interesting.

Little did I know that a couple of weeks after starting work I'd be given a baptism of fire, finding myself trackside with the HKS R33 GT-R (that's me in the background). This was on the eve of Drag Combat 2002 – one of the events the company organized – with Tetsuya Kawasaki sucking in some fresh air after a burnout.

In the eight years that followed, I filled up a passport chasing cars around the world. 

When Auto Salon branched out and created a monthly magazine, I joined the editorial team where I would eventually spend five years as the Editor and then Editor in Chief. I never thought I'd end up writing for a career, but there are certainly no complaints when you get to do something you love, something you are truly passionate about. Delving into the scene, meeting the people, and driving some cars along the way (like spending a night with Nico Tjen's NSX) is something that never gets old. There are so many characters and different flavors within the greater car community that you'd need a lifetime just to scratch the surface.

Every year I make the pilgrimage to Japan around the time of Tokyo Auto Salon to absorb some of their amazing car culture. In spite of the sub zero weather, one of the greatest memories was seeing the Team Magician drift team in action. These guys are truly insane… 

…while also witnessing some grass-roots drifting up in the hills.

Motor racing has fuelled my addiction to cars. As long as it has four wheels I'll watch it: NASCAR, Indy, WRC, V8 Supercars, you name it. But the motor sport I follow religiously is Formula 1. I've been an F1 junkie since '93 and it's a habit I've never kicked. 

The inaugural F1 night race around Singapore's Marina Bay stands out as one to remember. Being able to see the drivers' eyes as they raced under flood lights made the trackside experience so much more connected.

Being part of the media scrum in the F1 Paddock isn't exactly a pleasant experience, particularly in the sweaty humidity of Singapore.  

 As an Aussie I'm obviously hoping Mark Webber is crowned this year's world champion. 

Television is a poor substitute for what Formula 1 is really like. Hearing – and feeling – these cars in person is something every car enthusiast needs to experience, regardless of whether they're an F1 fan or not.

Part of my attraction to F1 is the ruthless chase for perfection. 

It's a world where performance is measured by a thousandth of a second and a hundredth of a gram. Walking through the pitlane of an F1 race is kind of like peeking into the future of the aftermarket industry. Forged magnesium wheels, titanium, inconel and of course carbon fiber were all used in F1 long before they trickled down into our hands. 

Earlier this year a dream came true when Bridgestone gave me the opportunity to have a ride in an F1 car. You can read what it was like in the Minardi F1x2 here. For an F1 fanatic like me it was a totally surreal experience.

Of course a love of cars means a love for driving, and often I'd just grab my keys and go for a drive with no destination in mind. Only half the fun is in building the car. The other half is driving it.

The Great Ocean Road is my favorite piece of tarmac; it's an engaging, spiralling road that stretches 150 miles across one of the lowest points of Australia's mainland. I've only driven it twice (primarily because it's a 26 hour round-trip from where I lived), once in my 350Z and another time in a Cooper S.

As a kid I used to pull apart my toy cars, painting them with markers and swapping wheels. Besides the cars getting bigger, not much has changed now that I'm an adult! I've modified all of the cars I've owned in one way or another, and I think the tuner bug will stay with me for the rest of my life.

As most modifiers will agree, there comes a time when you start to yearn for a daily beater, an unassuming car that you keep stock and don't care about. This was my dented up beater that, in spite of the promises I made to myself, didn't stay stock for very long.

Things got a little out of hand, but this B18CR setup paired with an ATS gear set and FD made for plenty of fun! Sadly I sold it a few years ago and I've missed it ever since.

But the car I'm most proud of is the drifter we built as a magazine project car. We had three months to put together a pro-level drift car, which was certainly no easy feat when we hadn't even chosen a car, found a driver or formed a team. 

This was Day 2 of the S15's build. We opted to use a mint S15 which we wasted no time in stripping. Tearing apart a car is pretty fun… until you get to the sound-deadening. To speed up the build process we borrowed another S15 chassis as a 'dummy car', which was used to design the body-kit while the primary chassis went in for fabrication work. Give us a shout in the comments section if you'd like to see an inside look at its build, as we documented the S15 from start to finish.

During the build, the IS Motor Racing garage in Sydney's south became my second home. In many ways it's a scene played out in home garages all over the world – including the late nights and diet of pizza and beer – just on a much bigger scale.

Here I'm doing the first shakedown laps before handing the S15 over to our race driver Fernando Wiehrl, who is riding shotgun in this photo. There were some minor issues with our mash-up of S15/Z32/R34 parts but it was a great shakedown test overall.

It seemed like a masterstroke to use chrome vinyl rather than paint as it was substantially lighter. Unfortunately it was a total nightmare to apply! This was the night before it was shipped off to its first race… we were still there when the sun came up.

There were many low points during its campaign, but after a DNS in the third round of Drift Australia, we returned with back to back victories in the remaining two rounds. At the end of the Australian season we shipped the S15 to the U.S. for the 2007 D1GP All-Star World Championships. After watching countless D1GP DVDs over the years, seeing a car you've built go up against the heroes who inspired you is unforgettable. 

Managing a race team was a new experience for me. Being stuck behind the pit-wall can be quite frustrating as you have no control over what happens out on the track. It was often like being a mediator; deciphering the driver's feedback and balancing it with what the team and chief mechanic had to say. As drivers always want more power, more grip and more everything, it can sometimes be challenging!

Here's Fernando going in for the kill by overtaking Imamura in the Top Secret Z33. If you remember seeing a dude behind the judges screaming like a Bieber-loving school girl, that was me.

Enough of the past however; what really matters is the future right?

Rod's assembled an amazingly talented team and I'm really looking forward to collaborating with them to make Speedhunters a unique experience for each and every one of you. I'll need a bit of time to settle in – I'm currently in the middle of packing all of my belongings for the adventure in Vancouver –  but I'm itching to start this exciting chapter. We have some big plans in store for 2011, so I hope you're looking forward to it as much as we are. Let the hunt begin!

- Charles Kha



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Great article! I too am an enthusiast contemplating leaving school to pursue a career with cars. Unfortunatly I am not an editor by any means! I am also going to take your advice and visit an f1 event and see it for myself!


dude... I love the auto salon magazine! Was so upset when I saw the last issue ever!


Charles, welcome on board, hope you'll have a good time as editor-in-chief!


What an inspiration Charles, even though we never met, i feel like i'v known you for years

can still spot your eg on melbourne streets, what a car...

you will be a great speedhunter!


Awesome to hear the news about Editor-in-chief, Ive read alot of your work from Auto salon Magazine, Your attitude towards the car scene is one of a true car enthusiast! Im positive that you will do all us aussies proud with your contribution to Speedhunters!


welcome mate!

nice story - good read!


Awesome article, your career path is my dream. good luck on here and a story on the full build of the s15 would be sick


Would love to see a build article on that s15!


i dont mind this guy to much


Wow! what a journey you've had! What a fantastic article. It's good to see someone trusting their instinct and following their passion.


what an inspiration Charles, even though we never met, it feels like i'v known you for years

can still spot your eg on melbourne streets!

you will be a great speedhunter!


Goodluck dude!! Hope to see great stuff from you here on Speedhunters!


Dood! Please post info about the both S15s! :D


I would also love to see a full article on the s15!


How amazing Is it , that being car enthusiasts really joins us all on a common ground.

Lol haha I also painted my hotwheels with markers as a lil kid, but also i stole mom's nail polish to "paint" them....

Cant wait to see some of your work here on speedhunters!



Hey Charles

I've been reading Autosalon magazine since the Top Secret Z33 featured on the front cover (can't remember the exact issue no. haha) but have always been a fan of your writing style, and also loved reading your articles - so informative and entertaining!

Although I'm somewhat sad that you've left our shores, I'm happy to hear that you've moved on to bigger and better things, ie. speedhunters!!

So, pretty much just writing to say congrats on scoring this position (I'll admit, I envy you :P) and wishing you the best of luck!

Anyways, looking forward to you writing some more quality articles, I'll be keeping a keen eye out for them!

Kind regards


Way to go, Charles! Looking forward to what the future brings :-)


its a shame they stopped printing autosalon


Wow great article Charles, welcome, looks like you have had a very interesting engaging life in the motor world!


You are so lucky to have the opportunities that you got!!

I wish I had your job..would be a dream come true.


The first time I drove a car I was actually under 16 and sneaked my mom's car put. I didn't know what I was doing whatsoever and couldn't even figure out how to get the key out of the ignition. I have no idea what I was thinking.


Welcome, I'd LOVE to read a full Build story of that S15.... Its GORGOUS!!!!


Mr. Kha you're a lucky man. You happen to be living the dream of many people who, like myself. religiously follow this blog. Try and go to every event you love and cover everything that interests you. In reality the things you love about cars are things we all love about cars. Oh and yes please to a feature on the build of that s15.


Congrats man, truly great article.


Always inspiring on speedhunters :)

I'm currently unemployeed but I want to work with cars, but don't even know where to start.

I'm a photographer by trade.

Planning on starting a company later but great article :)


i'd love to see/read the S15 build.. Killer looking aero..


AWSOME POST! Great shots


Great story, post up the build for the Silvia! Looks like you guys did a great job


Welcome, great article, and yes i'd like to see more of the s15 build!


Great Read!! Looking forward to hear/see more.. Welcome to Speedhunters !


Welcome to the community! If you could possibly cover some Formula 1 races for Speedhunters I think you would receive a lot of reader love haha


Welcome to the community! If you could possibly cover some Formula 1 races for Speedhunters I think you would receive a lot of reader love haha


welcome plz keep the hellaflush garbage out of speedhunters


welcome! inspiring/enjoyable story.


"Give us a shout in the comments section if you'd like to see an inside look at its build, as we documented the S15 from start to finish"

hell yeah, GIMMEE!!!


great beater you had there!! what a setup with the itbs :O


Nice! Your writing and adventures entertained and inspired me through my early teens!! Hope it all goes well...God bless.


silvia looks good plus i never tire of seeing an NSX..


Liking your story and your shots, I'm an F1 junkie as well and look forward to the US return of the series. It's not the same on TV!


id love to read an articly about the auto salon s15 build, its an amazing car


id love to see the S15 build, and maybe a revival of a "Kha Control" column :P autsalon magazine was the cream-of-the-crop in terms of auto journalism in Australia, i believe.

thanks for all the hard work, and i cant wait for more form you on speedhunters!


PLEASE show the more of the S15 :D


awesome information


Not expect to see NSX here =)


Definately need to bring back Kha Control


welcome to Canada!



trying to go/going the same road you've taken (or similar). make a living pursuing a true passion..


lol charles, remember when u were on the SHO forums. EK civic back in the day with 5zigen seat?

this was well over 10 years ago. memories?


Congrats Charles! I remember reading a countless number of your magazine (and your editorial at the start of each!). I also remember the S15, the build progress and seeing it in Sydney. All the best with your future here


Oh and +1 for F1 news if possible :)


Welcome to Speedhunters, I've 16teen and I want to be an editor ... nice post


your gonna be fine mate. autosalon was a great magazine nearing its end. but im sure your gonna bring the same high quality to the speed hunters team. lookinn forward to seeing what you come up with mate.

Too easy mate!!!!


Hey Charles,

a big fan of your work here, I've always enjoyed reading your articles in ASM and also your blog soit's good to see that you'll still be writing on Speedhunters. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for future articles.

PS. I agree with jessejames, bring back "Kha Control"




Post an articlem on your civic and Z builds that you personaly did. Those are cool!


Been missing Kha Control, been missing your monthly writeup in Autosalon Magazine (ASM). Sad that ASM died. But am looking forward to seeing what you will do for EA.




So excited to hear about this new phase in your life Charles, been a fan of ASM and your blog for ages and we know you're the man to take EA & SH to ever greater heights. Viva Kha Control!



DUDE i wanna be like u! haha i also took my cars apart when i was lil, i also tuned my grown up cars (3000gt, Nissan maxima) i wanted to do a RWD 3kgt and an RB powered Maxima... but im in Peru now, we dont have anything close to that lol. GOOD READ.. take much care bro


Gud stuff brother keep it up :)


So excited to hear about this new phase in your life Charles, been a fan of ASM and your blog for ages and we know you're the man to take EA & SH to ever greater heights. Viva Kha Control!




I wish you great success in your new walk in life. You have been a role model of mine for many years. I believe you have been a strong influence in the modified car scene in Australia and I thank you so much for all the initiatives you have brought to the table.

Although we have not met personally, I feel that you are such a great friend to me and can feel so much emotions while reading about your antics at ASM. You have inspirited me to work and study hard. Words cannot express how much you have helped me during stressful times completing uni assignments.

Thank you for telling things as it is, and for being such a strong advocator and motivator for guys like me.


This guy sounds cool.


Welcome to Speedhunters! I liked the story, it's people like you who inspire me to keep looking into the automotive world. :D Cheers!


As i said on your blog, congratulations again! You definitely deserve the fruits you've worked hard for! Good luck with the future and let us know if you ever come back to OZ!



Sorry mate, but u HAVE TO post the s15 build :/ No sleep for u this time :P


Imagine this: one day you're called into a meeting and told you're job is to build a pro-level