Whichever country around this world you live in, it’s always interesting to look outside your border and admire the different car cultures you see. The grass always seems greener, and what’s on the other side can often seem more exciting than whatever domestic product is available. The positive side to this is the frequent adoption and adaptation of styles that are out of their natural habitat – an integration of ‘foreign’ cues that makes for exciting new evolutions.
Car enthusiasts hoover up influences from around the world and either strive to replicate them wholesale or incorporate them into new stylistic mash-ups. What better way is there than to look outside the traditional when it comes to the philosophy of the car?
Japanese car culture has a big impact on Speedhunters, yet there are many key elements used by even some of the most respected Japanese builders that can be traced to other countries. It’s part of the constant global exchange of ideas, both deliberate and accidental, that makes up the rich tapestry of global car culture.
But there is one country that has produced more than its fair share of automotive trends: the USA. Having enthusiastically embraced the automobile from its inception, America has always been a hotbed for the evolution of multiple branches of automobile culture. So over the coming month we’re going to be sampling different facets of this key influencer, and examine how US concepts have been developed both domestically and abroad.
Many aspects of American car culture have traveled the world over and been enthusiastically adopted in unexpected places. We will be exploring different sides of the Japanese hot rod and custom scene, where US culture is deeply embedded.
A 7-Eleven? A ’49 Mercury lead sled? Surely America – but the licence plate gives it away. Mike Garrett cornered this lead sled in Tokyo and will be bringing us the full and literal lowdown.
Meanwhile, Dino Dalle Carbonare has been cruising the streets of Yokohama with the Chop Sticks Car Club, one of the many US-centric custom clubs in Japan.
’32 Fords in Switzerland? We’ll be exploring other rodder scenes outside of the USA, and see how hot rods have been taken up in many European countries – the conventions that are followed and the local influences that can be applied. We also plan to hit up more hot rod events in Europe during 2013.
Another key branch of the US scene is drag racing. It developed in the 1940s, and like hot rods has spread around the world. But unlike hot rods, there’s been a far great cross-pollination of styles, with drag racing branching out into unique forms in places like New Zealand, Australia, Puerto Rico and Japan.
For that different take, we’ll be peeking into the Australian scene where sport compacts still significantly figure – a style that has thinned out in the US except maybe at grassroots level.
Bryn Musselwhite recently had the chance to shoot a couple of highlights of the Australian scene, and will be bringing us features on these two cars during March: the Mazfix Racing Mazda 6 shown in the images above and this madcap 2JZ-powered Honda S600.
Larry Chen is continuing his new-found love affair with playing in the dirt by delving deeper into the province of the off-road and the loose of surface. First up he’ll be heading out to World Of Outlaws in Las Vegas, the premier dirt-track sprint car weekend…
…and then at the end of the month he’ll be hitting up the Mint 400, the resurrected Great American Desert Race.
The Mint 400 is an annual race around a 92-mile loop laid out in the desert surrounding Vegas: a hundred and fifty-odd competitors will be setting out to tackle the gruelling event, including several celebrity crews.
In between these two events he’ll be making his way to Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield for the famous March Meet. Drag enthusiasts from all round the world gather there not just for the four days of action on the strip but also the hot rod car show, swap meet and midway vendors.
It’s one of the oldest continuous drag racing events in the world, and this year’s 55th running will as usual highlight the best of dragster nostalgia.
We’re very pleased to say that customs king Keith Charvonia is the latest writing recruit to the Speedhunters team.
Keith will be heading out to California from his native Phoenix twice this month, first to hook up with Larry at March Meet and then the second time will be for the Hot Rod Homecoming at Pomona, with Sean Klingelhoefer in tow.
Fairplex was the location of the very first NHRA drag race and is the home of the NHRA Winternationals, and the Hot Rod Homecoming show there is also celebrating a long history: Hot Rod magazine is 65 years old, so will be lining up cars (plus trucks, bikes and even boats) that have been featured in the magazine since its inception and displaying them in chronological order from 1948 until now.
Keith’s own Drag’n Kaiser will be on show: it’s going to be quite some event!
Mike will also be making his way back to Irvine for one of the regular Cars & Coffee gatherings: something he’s been suffering crank and caffeine withdrawals over.
On top of all these events, we’ll also be gathering together a fine group of American car culture icons to showcase at the end of March.
Outside our US theme, I’m currently in Switzerland ahead of the opening day of the prestigious Geneva International Motor Show – its 83rd edition. Tomorrow we’ll get even more details on the McLaren P1 amongst many others.
As usual it’s going to be awash with concepts and premieres: Ferrari are expected to reveal the successor to the Enzo and we’ll get the chance to see several production models in the flesh for the first time, like the Alfa Romeo 4C, FT86 convertible and Corvette Stingray.
Then there’s this. The utterly brutal Lamborghini Veneno is slated to make a show-stopping debut – a celebration of Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary, just three of this obscenely expensive and obnoxiously quick hypercar are going to be made.
Moving back to Japan for more indigenous fare, Dino has been out at Daikoku checking on the lastest Skyline meet up.
He also met up with Fredric Aasbø, who was over in Japan getting to grips with another ZN6 variant.
Fredric has been trying out the new NASCAR V8-powered ZN6 built by RSR.
Fredric and Dino will be giving their take on the partially completed build.
Dino will also be checking out the King Of Sedan VIP meet later this month.
It’s been a while since Speedhunters last hit up a VIP meet, and we’re excited to see the latest developments in this fast-moving scene.
Over in New Zealand we will be covering off the weekend’s D1NZ drift action, which saw MadMike take the win. Brad Lord will be catching up with all the latest news from the event.
He’ll then be following this up with a look at this year’s Leadfoot Festival up in the North Island.
There are few more eclectic gatherings of classic cars and racers from across the eras than at Rod Millen’s ranch festival.
A real mix of European, Japanese and US styles await the lucky attendees: I can’t wait to see what Brad turns up this year.
One of the most prestigious races in the endurance racing world will be upon us in March as well: the Sebring 12 Hours kicks off the final year of the American Le Mans Series. Larry will be shadowing the BMW team and the debut of the new Z4 GTE racer. They’ll be taking on Porsche, Chevy, SRT, Aston Martin and Ferrari in the most hotly contended GT battle on the planet.
42 cars will be competing at the 61st running of the 12 Hours, and Audi are making an unexpected reappearance with a pair of R18 e-tron Quattros: this will be the last year of LMP1 participation ahead of the series’ merger with Grand Am, and Audi are going to put in maximum effort to walk away with the last ever LMP1 win.
Who can stop them? There aren’t many teams who can be expected to take on the might of Audi head on, but the Rebellion Lolas should put in a strong fight at this classic race. Let’s see if the last lap is as exciting as normal – those GT drivers can’t stop themselves!
The European Rallycross Championship is also entering a new era.
New rules and bigger promotion threaten to break rallycross into the mainstream. The racing will be as frantic as ever, and the appearance of high calibre drivers like Petter Solberg will make the weekend even more special.
As the month closes out, I’ll be down at Lydden Hill in the UK – the birthplace of rallycross as a sport – to witness the start of this new dawn.
Swap mud for dust and you’ve got WRC Mexico. Sean is heading out to Leon for Rally Guanajuato, the third round of the World Rally Championship. With Sebastian Loeb skipping this round as his part-season bowing out of the WRC continues, the fight to steal his crown is on.
We’ll also have our usual high-fibre diet of feature cars streaming through March: from this beautiful 1976 CSL I shot at my recent visit to Daytona…
…to a stunning Quattro that Sean tracked down during his trip to Sweden.
Sean will also be getting under the skin of the latest car to emerge from Magnus Walker’s Urban Outlaw production line.
We’ll also have plenty of behind the scenes features, which will include Sean and Rod’s visit to the Koenigsegg factory at Ängelholm airfield in Sweden.
Once home to a fighter jet squadron from the Swedish Royal Air Force, this is where they design, develop and assemble these stupendous supercars, and Sean will be showcasing our exclusive access at this amazing facility.
Paddy McGrath has been on the Continent exploring the dizzying heights of the automotive brand experience.
He’s been exploring the incredible displays on the Champs-Élysées – the prestige Parisian shopping area where the big car firms maintain flagship showrooms.
We’ll have all this and more as the month marches on: a steady supply of Americana supplementing a rich stream of events, features and behind the scenes exclusives from around the globe. Is the grass greener? Let’s go and find out, but I’ve got to warn you – there’s an awful lot of very green grass everywhere you look…