5 Observations On Car Culture In 2016

As 2017 starts ringing in around the world, it’s time to wrap up our end of year posts, and to do that I thought it would be a good idea to make some general observations on car culture trends in 2016.

Keep in mind these are by no means the biggest or most definitive things happening out there, but five of my own random thoughts on the state of car culture in 2016, in no particular order.

Porsche Mania Continues


This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Porsches – particularly the air-cooled ones – have been insanely popular for years now, and each time you think the bubble might burst it only seems to get bigger. Numbers would tell you Porsches were easily some the most commonly seen cars on Speedhunters in 2016.


And no matter how much these cars rise in value, there seems to be no slowing the enthusiasm that Porsche owners have when it comes to modifying their machines and driving them hard.


It’s already been eight years since RWB first started getting big media exposure, but Akira Nakai’s widened Porsches continue to multiply. The world-famous body man continues to build RWB 911s for customers all over the world, with new countries seemingly popping up every week. It’s good to be the king.


And while it’s the air-cooled 911 that are still the darling of the enthusiast community, all Porsche models seem to be riding a wave of popularity among modifiers, from vintage 356s to modern models. Maybe the front-engined cars will be next?


Are the days of affordable secondhand 911s gone forever? More and more it’s seeming that way. But I guess time will tell what happens to a Porsche boom that’s so far showed no signs of going away.

Big Money For ’90s JDM


This is another one that’s been building for a while, but it reached new levels in 2016. I’m talking about the skyrocketing values of high performance Japanese cars from the 1990s. It’s no longer a question of if these cars will become classics, but how just high their prices will go.


Dino saw this first-hand when he encountered an all-original, untouched R34 GT-R being offered up for an unbelievable price tag of ¥17,340,000 or about US$173,000. It’s staggering to think about.


Many have attributed the rising values of GT-Rs to rising demand from the United States now that the import flood gates have opened, and more cars than ever are leaving Japan for new homes overseas.


The same thing can be said for the classic NSX. Whether it’s because of renewed interest in the namesake due to the new NSX, or people just discovering how great the original is, this is another high-end Japanese machine from the ’90s that’s undergoing a big boom right now.


And while this is exciting to see, there’s also cause for concern. Could this mean the days of the heavily modified GT-Rs, NSXs and others are gone as owners start locking up their cars to preserve their value? Will lesser priced cars like the S2000, 240SX and Evo be next?

Off The Paved Road


When Speedhunters first started back in 2008, off-roading was not a subject we covered much, but these days it’s not uncommon to find all terrain vehicles on this site. Part of it is because we are always trying to present a diverse mix of car culture and part is because of the recent uptick in off-roading popularity that can’t be ignored.


And it’s not just seasoned off-road veterans we are talking about. Whether it’s for competition or just for fun, more and more drivers seem to be making the transition from the the pavement to the dirt, including professional drifters Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Forrest Wang.


4×4 fever has even overcome a few of us Speedhunters. There’s Keith’s Project Trailhunter which wraps Chevy V8 power in a classic Toyota Land Cruiser.


And Larry’s Project FJ Cruiser, which isn’t only built for fun but as a working vehicle during the many off-road events that he’s been shooting lately.


Of course, there’s no reason that an off-road machine has to be built out of a Jeep, truck or SUV. I’ve also noticed an increasing number of normal passenger cars built with knobby tires and extra ground clearance. I think we’ll be seeing more and more of this sort of thing as gearheads look for new ways to get their kicks.

The Drifting Nostalgia Movement


On the professional side of things, the sport of drifting just seems to get bigger and crazier, and that’s great. But at the same time, the another part of the sport has gotten big with a decidedly throwback feel.


The idea is to recapture the spirit of drifting as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with cool looking vehicles, teams with matching cars, and a whole lot of fun.

The Final Bout events are the epicenter of this movement in the United States, and for 2016 the series went nationwide as the throwback drift movement continues to pick up steam.


As someone who first got hooked on drifting during those so-called glory days of the early 2000s, I can certainly get on board with this.


And while I don’t have the disdain for big-budget pro American drifting that some have, I really like the fact that the two can coexist together. Because why not both?

 Over Fenders Are Still Everywhere


Here’s one that’s just too obvious to ignore. The over-fender and wide-body movement shows no sign of stopping, and 2016 was another year dominated by the low and wide.


Looking back, the over-fender movement seemed to have kicked off in earnest around 2013, and I don’t know if I could have predicted that it would still be huge at the end of 2016.


There really is no car that’s been exempt from the trend, whether it’s something old or new, expensive or cheap. Be it Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny, Pandem or anything else, we are still very much living in the age of the wide-body.


Like many others have said, I think we’ve learned that some cars and builds are more suited to this style than others, and when done right it’s still very cool to see.


Time will tell just how much longer the over-fender and wide-body trend lasts, or how it will be looked back upon, but for now it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere.

So there you have it – a few of my random observations on car culture in 2016. Now I’m curious to hear yours, and while you’re at it how about some predictions for 2017 and beyond?

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia



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As a japanese automotive enthusiast I am getting more and more worried about the fact that the prices of the cars I cherish are rising like crazy.  Unfortunately you can't do anything about it, supply and demand damn you....

Let's just face it: japanese cars have always being disregarded in the mainland of Europe, very limited quantities sold, in consequence of hostile policy on foreign car importation back in the days. We missed a lot of great japanese cars in that way unlike in the US, Canada and Australia.

Now do the math: few cars+high demand=not good.

I'm just born in the wrong era... the 21rst century isn't really working for me. It's nothing like Initial D anymore lol...

HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone.


My observation is the LS Swap movement, you can't deny the fact that loads of people have gone the LS route with their cars...


Hmm, been that way for the better part of a decade


Sorry Mike, but I really don't get Speedhunters continued comments about overfenders, specifically that the "movement started in 2013"...
Maybe I'm just too old, but this "movement" has been around ever since tire companies were able to start making rubber wider than 3".   Why call something a movement when its just a simple, practical means of helping a car turn corners at a higher speed, and people have been doing this since before the 1950's.  

Need proof?  Have you noticed the difference between a stock AC Ace and an AC Cobra?  Same car, wider fenders!  Originally people widened fenders by cutting and welding in a new piece of steel.  You'll see that happen on a lot of 1960's and 70's Beetle's, amongst many other examples. Then the Japs started using plastic/FRP for a cheaper way to achieve the same thing.

Why these comments bug me is simple.  You guys make it sound like its a recent phenomenon and wonder when it'll go away.  Well, from what I can see, it's not recent, and guess what?  It ain't gonna go away!  
Just like lowering cars to improve performance.  Ever wonder why they chopped and channeled cars in the 50's and 60's?  Same reason as widening.  Lower CoG and wider track = faster around a corner.

As long as there's a need for someone to want to go faster around a corner, there will be a need to lower and widen a car.

And besides, it looks so damn cool!

Long live over fenders!!

Happy New Year!

PS.  You guys do some really fantastic articles, keep up the great work!  Looking forward to reading your stuff in 2017.


"more and more drivers make the transition to dirt".....Must be just where I live, but the ratio of guys who work on trucks and off-road vehicles vs those who work on road cars is 10:1 at the very least.


In Canada, truck after market companies far outnumber car aftermarket companies. Same thing with scrap yards. The truck area of all three local scrap yards are 3 or 4 times the size of the car sections.


Twitch_6 I live in Colorado, and off-roading is huge here because of the variety in terrain. I went back out to eastern South Dakota to see family just before Christmas and when I got back it dawned on me that I didn't see nearly as many lifted trucks on the streets out there. Maybe it's just down to how incredibly flat the Great Plains are that off-road options are limited, or the fact that trucks are used so much for farming (where lifting would be counter-productive), but it was crazy when I got off the freeway in Colorado and was almost immediately flanked by elevated coal-rollers. We've got 4x4 shops all over the place as well, but I think the ratio to car shops is probably closer to 6:4.


Ronnie_B Yeah wide bodies have always been around to an extent, but nothing like the Kei Miura craze of the last few years. If there was a graph to represent the total number of significantly widened cars for each year since the dawn of car customization, it would look like a dyno graph for a Honda and you'd get a VTEC-like jump at the 2013-2014 mark.


Ronnie_B Maybe it's a movement of non-functional modifications. Form/function, because most sports cars come with wider archers and lower suspension, but there's always room for improvement


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CyborgGT Ronnie_B A famous Norwegian car journo once said, its always something "firster and biggerer." 
To state that the car world has seen "nothing like the Kei Miura craze"is a very bold statement when you think of the "firster biggerer" quote.
I think the last time we saw this extreme wide body craze, it started in the mid 1980´s. It started out with German premium cars, and you often saw som Ferrari Testarossa inspired design. One of the most famous producers was Koenig, and you had Gemballa, Strosek and a lot of others.
It then spread like wild fire, and the whole "Max Power" era was very body kit, and wide body driven. The German company Rieger was maybe the biggest (and I think much larger and more main stream than Kei Miura will become). 
But then the Max Power trend took a down turn in about 2006-7, and the last magazine came out in 2011. (I used to be the editor of GATEBIL Magazine in Norway.)
The body kit-type styling went with it, and for a good amount of years that type of styling was frowned upon. 
The over fender trend of later years started - I think - with the Japanese style rivet-on over fender, and especially Kei Miura has taken it to another level. How it will be looked upon in the future, who knows. But historically the performance-oriented mods are the ones that stand the test of time, and the more "look-focused" not so much. But everything moves in circles.
The custom vans of the 70´s and 80´s are coming back in style. So the Koenig, Gemballas, and DP´s of the 80´s and early 90´s. 
The Kei Miura-type over fenders look very cool, when applied with "taste and style", so my guess is that the will fare quite well, but its only a guess. (Extreme lowering with air springs, and stretching tires to the max, I am not so sure about, but who knows.)
But as I learned in my time as a car journo (not only for GATEBIL), there has always been something firsterer and biggerer ;)


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*Locks S2000 away in garage to be opened again in 15 years*


Doesn't have to be non functional though....


The biggest support comes from the oddest of places sometimes, expecting to get a lot of stick for my Stagea turned out incorrect, others seem to really like the car which is a happy suprise for me.
it could of been my show rosta, but the "Stick a Vtec in a mini" scene has had a massive boost in popularity the last year and I'd like to see that continue as some of the builds are really impressive and very creative.
Some of the CRX groups in a member of have noted insane prices recently for the car, especially the d16a9 non vtec ones, SiR's and the like. I don't want to see that continue as parts are hard to find and usually involve international shipping already.
The rising popularity in wagons will hopefully continue, there's something about have a GTr-binary wrapped in the appearance of some sort of mutant Volvo that's really put a smile on my face, especially when it eats audis for breakfast.
More stealthy builds an uptake in the VIP scene in the uk are my major predictions though.


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Jordan_Butters I'm thinking of buying an FD RX-7 while they're still cheap for this very reason. Just restore the thing and wait...


TarmacTerrorist I wouldn't say it's non functional, either. For the guys keeping their camber relatively stock, the wider tire is going to provide better grip no question. It's rare to find someone stick a wide-body on and keep stock-width tires, just at a lower offset.


Twitch_6 I'm in SoCal. Every 3rd garage has a sand rail, 4x4, couple of quads or a bike or two. It's just what we do lmao


I'm starting to see a retro movement. It started with the Pandem S15 which had a redone front end which made it look like an old datsun (or as some americans saw it looked like a 70s barracuda). But then he rolled out the RX-7 with a front end to look like the classic mazdas. And now IDL design made the Slantnose 997. So I'm curious whats the next car to get the retro treatment.


TarmacTerrorist Yes Im seeing general price increases for 4th gen Honda civics/crx in my area. K series motor prices are on a big decline. I'm trying to snatch as many DOHC ZCs as i possibly can before people understand what they have. I put one in my hatch recently and have received so much praise and wonder for it. I also think the old impreza coupes are a new territory to look into.


roaming around totally agree with this. Looking at it from a motorbike standpoint. Pretty much all manufacturers are offering cafe racer and throwback style bikes these days, even chinese brands are offering cheap but still pretty cool looking 125's for great money.... It's also spawning amazing crossover designs, the idea of which I hope makes it to car design. Everyone of the below are 2017 models... amazing stuff!


CyborgGT Ronnie_B There's definitely been a recent boom in popularity, but I'd argue it came about in the late 90's/early 2000's - check out the magazines from UK, US, Japan or Aus/NZ around that time and there's a noticeable rise in the popularity of "widebody kits" - the Rocket bunny/Liberty walk style has combined this integrated wide body style with the older bolt on fender.


Maybe we will soon start seeing over fenders on widebodied slammed cars. and then after that ^3. Who knows when it will end? 
Those cars do it look awesome, I have to admit, and amazing to see car like that (and its not particularly a fault of their own) ... as long as its not mine.


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I sure hope front engined Porsches get more love!


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DominicAtkinson TarmacTerrorist  Luckily 4th gen civics haven't gone up in price much where I live (UK), I just bought a 4dr sedan which is in fairly good condition for £400. Although the sedans only came with the 1.4 twin carb in the UK, and mine is an auto which makes it even worse. A ZC would go nicely in it I think! CRX's on the other hand have massively gone up in price over the past couple of years!


1st gen Impreza coupes for the win


LouisSoon That would be cool indeed!


Jordan_Butters Yep yep yep. If I could comfortably fit in an S2000, I probably would have bought one a while ago.


p8af Same to you!


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