Hidden Gems In The Caribbean: Barbados Car Culture
Barbados

When you think of Barbados, the first thing that will probably come to mind are pristine beaches and five-star resorts. I bet you would not think of car culture, let alone a thriving JDM tuning scene.

I had no idea what was in store for me when I headed to the independent island nation earlier this year for Red Bull Global Rallycross. A couple of my peers had told me about how much the locals love stage rally, and that every year there’s a big event that drivers from all over the world are invited to compete in, so obviously rallycross would go down nicely here. But what about street cars and performance tuning?

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How is it possible you ask, that there could be a thriving car culture on an island that’s only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide? Well, I was about to find out for myself…

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After I started posting a few photos on Instagram from Bushy Park Speedway, which was recently transformed into a world-class racing facility and is definitely the best race track between the Caribbean islands, a few local enthusiasts sent me direct messages, inviting me to come and check out their local nightly meet.

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I was intrigued, and because I had my own rental car I figured it would be cool to see what they had to offer. Although, I have to admit that I was quite sceptical, because up until this point all I’d seen driving around the island were jalopies.

Night Meet
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It was pretty late, and I’d just gotten back to the hotel after a full day of shooting at the track when I received a call from a guy named Jade telling me a meet was happening, and that I should stop by. He gave me the address, so I headed out to this fuel station in the middle of the island.

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As soon as I pulled up I saw a group of guys standing in the parking lot waving me down. My hair was kind of out of control by then, so I guess I was easy to spot.

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Right away Jade introduced himself to me, and to his friends. These guys have a car club called JDM Squared and they were really looking forward to giving me a taste of Bajan car culture.

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It wasn’t long until more people showed up with their cars. Apparently they put out an island-wide notice that I was going to be attending the meet that night.

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So what’s up with all the right-hand drive Japanese cars you might be wondering? Well, in Barbados they drive on the left and many of their used cars come directly from Japan.

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However, it’s not a free-for-all like in some countries. You can only legally import a car that is up to five year old – anything else requires ‘special methods’ as the locals told me.

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On top of that there is a 200 per cent import duty on cars. While that’s not as bad as Singapore, it’s still not so easy on the wallet for the average car enthusiast.

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Considering there are less than 300,000 people living on the island, I was already impressed from what I had seen just walking around the service station.

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Then I came across this – a 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage Colt fully converted to a baby Evo. Under the skin is a Lancer Evolution VI front sub frame and a Lancer GSR rear sub frame, with power coming from a 2.4-liter 4G64 with a GT3582R turbo. I thought to myself, what an interesting mix of cars.

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This is Nealiho, one of the car photographers on the island and an avid hunter of speed. I knew it was going to be a good night when I saw him bust out this awesome photo-stance right in the middle of the gas station forecourt.

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What was interesting to me was how no one seemed to mind that all these motor-heads had just shown up and formed a flash-mob car meet.

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I asked the attendant what he thought of it, and he told me that they welcome it, as it brings in so much business.

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There was talk of a little cruise around the island, but of course I only had my rental car. I was worried to leave it at the station if I were to ride with one of the guys, because doing the same thing in Los Angeles would see your car towed away in a matter of minutes.

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But the guys assured me that in Barbados no car has ever been towed away for this reason. So I left my little Hyundai parked right out in front.

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I jumped in with Jade in his EK9 Honda Civic Type R, a model that’s considered pretty normal Japanese performance car fare to the locals, but something extremely rare in North America.

Cruise
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I really can’t stress just how physically small Barbados is, so I was wondering where we could possibly cruise to. After all, the JDM Squared crew told me that they’ve pretty much driven every single road on the island.

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As I pondered this, I turned around to see a long line of cars getting ready to roll out. Because there aren’t many places where all the cars could park together, we headed for a university parking lot.

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Blasting through the streets of Barbados with all of these highly-modified Japanese cars was surreal.

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On top of that, I was in an a Civic Type R, and on the left side of the road no less.

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At this moment I definitely did not feel like I was on a Caribbean island. At the same time it was humid as all hell.

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We pulled up to the university parking lot to find that many other cars and their owners had already arrived. This was the perfect opportunity for me to delve deeper into Bajan car culture.

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While there are not many resources on the island for those who have cars, these guys make the most of what they’ve got.

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There are only three tuning shops and one dyno in Bardados.

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But the quality of fuel delivered to the island varies so much that most of the tuning that goes on happens on the street with a heavy right foot.

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As I walked around the carpark this EK4 Honda Civic Ferio Si sedan immediately piqued my interest, and apparently it’s one of the faster front-wheel drive cars on the island. The owner’s name is Junior Moore, and he pretty much did all the work to this FF monster himself. It has some goodies that would make any Honda tuner salivate, including a Darton-sleeved B18C block with Wiseco 84mm forged pistons and DD Tech Stage 2 camshafts, just to name a few of the upgrades.

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While the Bajans are real Honda fanatics, they also love Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions of all generations. Evos provide relatively cheap speed, but they also have the looks to boot.

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From what the guys told me, Bajan’s like speed – especially straight-line acceleration. This then, is pretty much what everyone tunes their cars for.

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Stance cars don’t really exist because there’s no real use for them, not to mention that the roads are very rough and most of them have gigantic potholes. So where do the guys with performance and tuned cars race?

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They hold 1/8th mile drags at Bushy Park (the same place where Red Bull GRC was held), by just sectioning off the front straightaway.

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At one point the government allowed some of the local enthusiasts to close down a highway to run full quarter-mile drags, but for whatever reason that’s not allowed anymore.

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So now some have resorted to racing on the one highway that runs the length of the island, which of course is the only stretch of road that’s two lanes wide. Being a main route, it’s also kept in excellent condition.

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On our return to the service station where I originally met up with the guys I was happy to see that my rental had not been towed away. After chit-chatting all night about cars, it was time for me to head back to the hotel as I had a long day of shooting rally cars ahead of me.

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We exchanged decals and agreed to meet once more before I left the island – this time at sunrise on the east coast with the entire JDM Squared crew and their friends.

Sunrise
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For my final day on the island I left my hotel room at 5:00am and a few moments later met up with Jade and the rest of the JDM Squared guys back at the same service station.

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This time there were some extremely clean cars in waiting.

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This Supra is one of only six examples on the island, and it’s very nicely modified with a big single turbo conversion to boot.

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And this R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R Vspec II? This is the only one of its kind in Barbados. Both the Skyline and the Supra belong to Pro Sales, which is one of those three tuning shops on the island I mentioned earlier.

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At 5:45am sharp we left in convoy for our east coast destination. Bajan car enthusiasts don’t really like heading out that way because the roads are not very well maintained, but as I was about to find out, the scenery was utterly amazing.

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In and out of small streets, we weaved our way through the city and into the countryside. I was following the bunch in my rental car, all the while wishing I was behind the wheel of Ole Orange Bang.

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Pretty soon there was nothing but trees and an epic backdrop.

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I wonder what the locals thought as we passed by… Seeing so many highly modified Japanese cars traveling in one group would turn heads anywhere outside of Japan, let alone on a tiny island in the Caribbean.

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We arrived at last, and just in time as the sun was rising from the horizon.

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These guys genuinely love their cars. It’s a way of life for them.

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There’s almost no reason to have such transportation on a island this small, but these guys are the few that actually put miles on their vehicles for nothing more than the fun of it. The general population just does not understand.

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Just like in Singapore, the enthusiasts here know exactly how many cars of a certain make and model there are on the island. For example, there are only eight Honda S2000s and just two Nissan Silvia S15s – both of them Spec Rs. The scene is that small.

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What I also found interesting was that pretty much everyone knows what is under the hood of each other’s builds.

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As the guys explained to me, a build may start out as a sleeper, but before you know it everyone on the island will know what you are running.

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At the end of the day it’s all in good fun, because those who race just do it for bragging rights anyways. When there’s money involved it’s not so fun anymore.

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It’s so amazing to me that we live in an age where you can experience Japanese tuning culture on a tiny island in the Caribbean, even though none of the guys in the scene here have stepped foot in Japan.

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And that’s the fun thing about car culture; pretty much everywhere I’ve traveled in the world I’ve instantly been able to make friends, because we all love the same thing, just slightly different variations of it.

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And honestly, that is the best part. The twist that each community puts on car culture is what makes it interesting across the board.

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So next time you guys are traveling abroad, don’t be afraid to hit up a local organised meet, or even a petrol station gathering like I did.

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You just never know what cars you will see or who you will meet.

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I want to thank Jade Alleyne, Nealiho Hope and Dwayne Thomas as well as the rest of the JDM Squared crew and their friends for giving me an authentic taste of Bajan car culture. Hopefully I can come back one day and check out this amazing little country’s rally scene…

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

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117 comments

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1

I really love how most of the car is so clean , that is somehow rare , to me .

2

Speedhunter saved my life,only car blog posting on Christmas. Woooohooo. Now back to the boring a** Christmas party : /

3

Final Barbados made it waiting a long time for this post

4

next step you need to hit up Trinidad n Tobago .. u be in for a surprise

5

Please come back for the rally, u won't b disappointed, plus they're alot more beast on the island than u think

6

I'm glad I could save your soul, even if it was for a few minutes. Hehe.

7

I would love to someday

8

I will take you up on that.

9

Great article. Missed you but next time would be great to have you take a look at my custom body 280z with rb26 swap. Some pics @redlineimports

10

Superb. JDM culture knows no boundries....

11

Trinidad & Tobago is definitely another island you need to visit. You will be even more amazed at what they have to offer. Also, take a look into the Caribbean Motor Racing Championships.

12

Come to Trinidad and Tobago biggest car scene in the caribbean, you won't believe your eyes

13

RDS that's how we do .... gotta cherish what you have

14

I was like, wicked body kit on that civic.. but no, its a freaking awd mirage! nuts

15

What a great article.  I stayed in the Sandy Lane District of Barbados for 2 weeks a few summers ago.  I was so excited to see what cars were there. I only saw 1 JDM car the whole time. Most of the car were really beat up.  Looks like I missed out.  Next time I suppose.

16

Lovely, joy to see the caribbean on here Larry, great article. Def' need to put Trinidad on your bucket list!

17

Larry Chen Agreed, probably the best tarmac rally in this hemisphere!!!

18

Bigups from Jamaica, glad to see some you Bajans making it unto a SH article/coverage for the 2nd time! Thanks for coming down to the islands SH!

19

Great article that just made my night Larry, similar feelings when I first visited Jamaica's Skunk Nation for their first Import Tuner Night in 2013. Amazing cars and culture where you would never imagine.

20

This is the best article on SH in 2015. Thanks so much!
Amazing car culture on such a small island!

21

what a microcosmos. Respect

22

Man, the things i would do for an EK9..but alas, too expensive to import and get street legal here.

23

Awesome article Larry, kinda reminds me of here in Zimbabwe, growing car culture, limited some in some ways, but (for now) free for all import laws so you're really only limited by money. And as far as tuning goes maybe one or two tuners and one dyno that i know of. Unless you're willing to drive/travel down 1000km to south africa where there's a lot more resources..

24

Larry, Offset Kings is coming to Guam:

http://fatlace.com/offsetkings/offset-kings-2016-guam/


Hope SH can do coverage here!

25

Great article! Return to Barbados as soon as possible as they are many sub clubs ( subarctic club and a Toyota club as well).
Thank you for the feature!

26

Amazing post, nice cars and landscapes!!

27
ChaddBacchusClarke

Great article larry, certainly made our Christmas.

28

Amazing article that covers the scene here perfectly. Love the photography as well.

The timing of this is pretty incredible, though... one hell of a coincidence. Reading this article, I recognized several cars and several faces. I'm currently in Barbados... it's my last day before I return to Canada. During the first few days of my trip I wanted to try to find the car scene here, and I kept seeing this black WRX drive by but never had the time to stop and talk with the owner. Finally, I ran into it parked after spending some time on the East coast island. Unfortunately the owner wasn't around, so I took some pictures and left a note on his car with my contact info, thinking nothing would come of it.

Later that night I got a message from him, we talked a bit about cars and we arranged a shoot for the next day! After the shoot, he brought me to a friend's garage and what was inside blew me away. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a fresh JDM import that I'm not allowed to talk about (can't let word get out on the island). Outside of the garage was a red EVO, a blue supercharged S2000 and an R35 GTR under a tarp. Further inside, a fully caged E46 M3, another EVO awaiting a built motor, a 750 whp Supra and a gorgeous Skyline R34 V-Spec (most of these were in your article). Inside of another garage was the cleanest AE86 I've ever laid my eyes on. All around the shop were turbos, engines, tires (so many R888s!) and brakes.

Talking with them, I found out they have to ship all their parts from the States AND pay a 51% duty on ALL car parts (!!!) which makes everything batshit crazy expensive. A set of XXRs costs roughly $2,500-$3,000 CAD and a set of Volks or Works is easily upwards of $7,000 CAD. Holy crap. I'm not going to complain about our weak dollar anymore.

After helping them finish getting one of their cars all put back together, they brought me out to destroy some island roads.

It was one hell of a day and made my trip.

Cars are such an awesome hobby. No matter who you are, where you're from, what your background is or what you believe in, you can still share the same love as so many others. How amazing is it that just leaving a note led me to spend an entire day driving, shooting and working on cars with complete strangers who live over 4,000km away from me?

29

Hey Larry great write up and pics!
I hope GRC comes back to NY/NJ in 2016 we missed out this year. :((
T&T guys how about some web links or Facebook or Instagram groups we can check out?

Props to you Bajan guys looking good!

30

The first thing and really the only thing I think when I think of Barbados is Rhianna. Mmmmmm love me some Rhianna :)

31
jbfromsiliconvalley

Great article....fun looking enthusiast community.

That wing has gotta go though :)

32

next time come to Trinidad and Tobago, much better JDM scene

33

Of all places, Barbados?  Thats so awesome!  The White Supra...oh man...and beautiful skies and lush green scenery as the backdrop...nice!

34

Larry Chen (y) from 2jz charmants to some fox body mustangs hidding away, trust me you wont b dissappointed

35

@vic_rx only cause of lesser import laws i guess

36

Check out JDMSquared @
http://www.facebook.com/jdmsquared
Instagram: @jdmsquared
http://www.jdmsquared.com

37

JDZNate lol next time come during the rally season u wont b dissappointed

38

That is so cool. Like an article within an article. Post some more pics!

39

It so great to see such a collection of evos, I was starting to think these things were going extinct

40

Real grassroots car culture

41

Best article of the year. This is the true definition of Speedhunting. SH, please post more articles on car culture in places off the beaten path like the Caribbean, Canada and Florida ( ahem ).

42

That crew goal.

43

I like that for the Evo 'relatively cheap speed'. Getting stupidly far from that in the UK now!

44

Speedhunters BlackPanthaaYT jaw on the floor xD

45

That is one of the best cover photos I've seen

46

@vic_rx Trinidad is pretty dangerous for tourists though I hear.

47

Well then if you enjoyed Barbados car culture ,you should just visit the neighbor island saint Lucia .... Where our car scene is almost the same but just as glorious

48

If you visit again for the rally scene you have to do a feature on the 3 Toyota Starlets that consistently breathe down the necks of the WRC cars (WRC Hunters we like to call them). All running Hasslegren prepared 7A-GEs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr1myQqgExc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aSg3JTCd9E

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k6bYg-qfww

50

LukeEVOVIII expensive insurance hurts as much as the 200% import tax. These things are completely bullshit.

51

EH098 EVOs doesnt extinct, they would just get faster

53

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54

Nice article!
@subaruclubja

55

Great article...the only thing missing is a picture of Mr. Larry driving that i10 monster.

56

would love to see a feature on that pink Colt

57

Excellent article, beautiful photos! I relly enjoyed this.

58

Larry Chen Thank you! I'll reply with some more. Unfortunately my favourite shots are the one's I'm not allowed to show anyone. :(

59

Larry Chen

60

Larry Chen

61

Larry Chen

62

Larry Chen My favourite shot, unfortunately with the car I can't show.

64

I did not see this article coming... Some real hunting going on! Nice

65
JoneKlemoOverland

looking forward to visiting Barbados for the first time next year. i will try finding some nive cars to photograph of course :)

67

That Mirage is so early 2000

68

SnowWolf that's pretty much BS, it's a pretty safe country with a HUGE tuning scene, crime happens everywhere somehow that gets amplified on social media, I invite anyone to come check out the scene just hook up with a knowledgeable local

69

I love the way the Supra was setup. Great post!

70

Larry Chen Haha spoiled Speedhunter!  :)

71

Wish I could live in a place with roll on roll offs. Should Check out Trinidad next SH. I'm sure every west indian island had a strong JDM presence.

72

Grate article!!  I know for a fact the St Thomas Virgin islands has a strong car/bike culture.
Unfortunately, they don't have any major tracks here.
We drive like WRC drivers, when we are ready, and have a deep love for imports.
WV Bug being the first and oldest.  Go down for Carnival a see what is up.

73

@Saint I lived in the virgin islands for 11 years (st.croix) but I'm from Grenada and I live in the chicago area now. The style that a lot of them do is more so a show car type. Sound and big wheels some terrible builds that cut all corners (something you see everywhere) and some that are not my taste but you can respect the work they did. The 10% that are into performance though are pretty nice. Drag racing is the thing down there so lots of nice bikes and drag cars. Other than that its a lot of cars with cut springs and gas station wheels with horrible paint jobs and plenty of chrome.

74

Massive thanks to Larry, it's not everyday that we are hosts to major car enthusiasts from abroad. 

The JDMSquared Team thanks Speedhunters for showing their appreciation for the car culture in Barbados albeit small in comparison.

We hope to see you guys again, hopefully soon.

Pat...

75

patelhishaam Thanks for hosting me. I can't wait to come back!

76

koko san You know it.

77

connormaynes67 Thanks for the kind words!

78

c22tch Thanks for the kind words!

79

v3g3b0t Hopefully, although the GRC Schedule comes out pretty late.

80

patelhishaam Hey pat, any info on the blue evo 7??
 I'm wondering if its a standard colour or a respray??

Looks like a respray to me and I love the colour, any chance you know whats its called or what company make it?

Blue evo 6 looks pretty sweet too

81
90nissanS13@my350z

13.3 AFR, dang... that's a bit lean for what seems to be barely moving.


This place has some amazing JDM cars, what a place to be!

82

That's awesome. Good to see that for a "third world island nation" that Barbados has good roads. I'm of Samoan ancestry, where roads are bad and I don't think driving a ride with harsh suspension dodging pot holes at speed would be fun. I do however enjoy gravel. 
Petrol and general ownership of a car yet alone high performance cars must be very expensive. But with the beautiful weather and scenery it must be all worth it. 

Good to see that wherever there are roads, there are car enthusiasts. 

I only wish we got to see Larry boosting it in that Hyundai :D

83

EH098 Come to New Zealand. Where Mitsubishis of all kinds are loved.

84

One of the best articles I've read on here in a while. Love the passion of these locals. Good stuff.

85

John Key NZ Probably one of the worst cars I've ever driven. lol.

86

True JDM cars right there especially that blue AE111 Levin/Trueno. Very rare to get even here in Asia.

87

90nissanS13@my350z That is rich homie. 14.7:1 is stoichiometric. A higher number is leaner, a lower number is richer. I.E. 16:1 is lean, 13:1 is rich. But that is all relative with engine load and speed. SH has a few tuning articles that go in to more depth on this topic, just use that search bar and look for "Knowledge Boost"

88

MikelMorgan  Yes, you could say that about most places. But with no track to go to, it is difficult to meet other people who are track oriented. So, the focus leans more to "show car style"
But the faith full are genuine car nuts. and the streets are the tracks.
I did 9 min from the East End to the airport, in a for Taurus SHO. If you have ever driven there; then you know I set a record. :)

89

@j_kouki I would love to see what the seen looks like there too.

90
90nissanS13@my350z

Rich* I know the difference, I wrote one thing while thinking of the other. Thanks.

91

Very very cool, I've always wondered about small island car culture.

Just a note, "I have to admit that I was quite sceptical" <-skeptical sir.

92

COME TO PUERTO RICO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

93

JBVVT_i It's on the list!

94

If you were intrigued by this..believe me when i say Jamaica's street car scene will have you in awe..euros,jdm,race,stance you name it.search skunk nation in youtube for a lil preview

95

Of course Barbados can't really compete with the larger richer islands like Jamaica and Trinidad. But the impressive thing about Barbados is just that, that it has such an impressive vibrant scene despite being so tiny. It's expected that with so many businesses and resources that the larger islands would have some kind of scene. Not necessarily Barbados though, and yet, they do, and It's impressive enough to garner international attention and attract foreign investment, such as the busy park redevelopment.

96

Jamaicas car scene is definitely crazy, however as far as comparison goes keep in mind it's many times the size and 9 times the population to little Barbados. Couple that with the crazy import restrictions and duties we suffer and I think that's what makes it more surprising for visitors to find such a thriving Motorsport community on the island.

97

JonathanCyrilien JDZNate  I actually left the day the rally started.

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JDZNate JonathanCyrilien aww that sucks, but all the cars arent beat up there's a couple of ford cobras, a lamborghini countach, a few classic ferraris and some mad engine swaps in the island #2jz charmant.

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@astronomy patelhishaam its a custom respray, and its got the power to match its looks, ya dont put k sport 8 pots on slow cars, or do u

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v3g3b0t

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Sample of Trinidad and Tobago

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@MyLifeAsLouis AE111 Levins/Truenos and Corolla GTs are commonplace in Barbados, mainly because the relatively small number of AE86s on the island means that they aren't being sacrificed for the 20v Blacktop engine inside.

107

I was wondering if someday somebody was going to notice about the mixture of car cultures that can be found in Caribbean islands. It was shocking for me when I arrived to Aruba the quantity of RHD R33 Skylines and Altezzas, among some other unique JDM examples. Keep the great posts coming Larry, love your job!

108

Wow, one of the best articles I've read recently, and not just on SH. The story, the cars, the pictures... just perfect. I'd never have assumed Barbados had a thriving car culture let alone such a rich JDM fanbase. I really enjoyed reading about it.

Larry, the sunset pictures are sublime. Makes me want to be there.

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Beautiful place, beautiful cars and beautiful people. 
This is perfectly shown on these shots and in this article.
Very nice job!

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"Not as bad as Singapore" totally gets me lol

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DetroitSmoke

My friend, Jamaica is everything but Rich. Jamaica is actually one of the most in debt countries in existence. Poor as Fuck basically. Sure they are a few people with money there but as a whole they are extremely impoverished and crime ridden. 
Additionally Barbados has a stronger currency than both Trinidad and Jamaica especially. Barbados has a higher standard of living than both Trinidad and Jamaica,  The Barbados Passport is one of the most valuable passports in the Caribbean, little to no travel restrictions. 
More big name celebrities visit Barbados and Have Property in Barbados than you can even begin to understand.

They are an official host of GRC and Hosted Top Gear ( Lewis Hamilton {in his F1 car} and Ken Block did donuts on the track there, Marcus Gronholm drove there etc)

Barbados has the Largest annual Rally event in the Caribbean and its is growing every year ( Sol Rally Barbados) 
It Crushes the Trinidad Rally in terms of scale for example.

Barbadians have all the same Wrc cars that the Trinidadians and Jamaicans come with to the rally to compete with
Focus WRC etc.
Barbados even one up them by having one of the few Suzuki swift sx4 wrc in existence in its possession.

Barbados has a concord here as an exhibit, aviation history ( yes little Barbados got one of those)


Barbados has a lot more money than you can even begin to imagine, it is not just some little island get away. Get your Facts Straight.

112
JDM Imports Rule

The backdrop in the pictures are outstanding also where the pictures were taken are really cool and it is nice to see a lot of JDM`s in one place and there is also such a variety of JDM`S as well

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I'd never have assumed Barbados had a thriving car culture let alone
such a rich JDM fanbase. I really enjoyed reading about it.

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