Through My Lens: 5 Countries In 2 Days
Being Spoilt

Being a Speedhunter or an automotive journalist in general really is an automotive enthusiast’s dream job.

While it’s sometimes hard to convey just how hard the work really is, I can honestly say that I sacrifice a lot for this job. My personal life with friends and family suffers, as does my health; believe me when I say that it owns me. Every waking moment I am thinking about what I need to shoot next or what pictures need to be edited and captioned.

But I just get enough of it.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_02

But every now and then I get to do some really cool things and be pampered by auto manufacturers to the point that I have to pinch myself wondering if this is real life or just dream. I really appreciate such opportunities, which is exactly why I want to stab myself in the neck with a fork whenever I hear an automotive journalist complain about anything while away on a manufacturer press trip. It’s a common occurrence too.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_03

When I told the Speedhunters crew that Toyota had invited me to to Switzerland for the 2017 Geneva International Motor Show, followed by an epic drive through the Swiss alps in the revised Toyota 86, I was challenged to do something that auto journalists rarely ever do. That is, talk about the actual trip and the experience, rather than just concentrating on the cars.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_04

While I normally take this approach with press events I’ve shared on Speedhunters, I figured it would be only appropriate for me to continue the trend. After all, I was the first one to ever post food photos on Speedhunters.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_05

People often ask me what the hardest part of my job is, and without a doubt it’s the travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling all over the world photographing cars and the culture surrounding it, but there is nothing worse than the actual transiting part. I do more air miles than anyone else I know, but out of all the flights I’ve had in my life, I’ve only flown business class on a manufacturer press drive.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_06

Normally I am cramped in the worst seats possible, but when Toyota flew me from LAX to London Heathrow in business class, it was a much needed break from the battle that is flying anywhere with all my camera equipment.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_07

After a short flight from London to Geneva we were greeted by a nice gentleman with one of my favorite signs in the world. It signifies the beginning of an epic journey.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_08

Our first stop was my home away from home for the few days I was covering the Geneva show, Hotel Beau-Rivage.

This had to be one of the nicest places to stay in Geneva, and came complete with a lakeside view. It made me wonder though – if we were based here for the humble 86, where were the Lexus journalists being put up for the week?

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_11

Events like this are always a bit of a reunion with friends that I’ve made over the years. Sitting next to me for a fondue meal was Craig Taguchi, who I’ve known for 12 years now. As I mentioned in my previous post, we used to work together when he was leading Drifting magazine in the US. Talk about a publication that was ahead of its time.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_12

So what do you do for work? I play an instrument from the second floor of a restaurant. Dinner and a show, what more could you ask for?

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_13

On the Geneva show floor the following day, it was cool to see Kato-san all dressed up for Liberty Walk’s official European debut. He has always been a big support of Speedhunters and my photography, so I really appreciate his efforts in the car culture world.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_14

It’s always great to see former Speedhunters journalist and one of the best motorsport photographers of our time, John Brooks. If you guys are wondering who I look up to, John is one such person, legendary for sure.

The Drive
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_17

Fast forwarding a few days, the morning of the Toyota 86 drive started at another Beau-Rivage hotel, this time in Lausanne. Coffee and treats were served, but I was more interested in what was parked outside.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_18

There were a bunch of 86s in different trim levels all fueled up and ready for a drive. The best part? They were all 6-speed manuals.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_19

We had a quick briefing on the driving route we’d be taking, then packed up the cars and headed out for the day.

I sat shotgun as the Detroit editor of Motor Trend magazine, Alisa Priddle, took the wheel. Unfortunately for us, the roads were a bit slick due to the recent snow and rain, but they were still a blast. For the drive, we were heading into France and then back to Switzerland before reaching Zurich.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_22
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_23

The first stop was a little cafe on the side of the main road for a quick coffee break; then it was my turn to drive. I am in a constant state of jet lag, so any caffeine throughout the day is more than welcomed.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_24

At this point I had not been behind the wheel of an 86 since it the model was first launched. I took an epic road trip in one and shot it with a camera that was made in 1986.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_25

I also got to drive one of the prototypes in Japan, which was the first time I actually met Speedhunters’ editor in chief and everyone’s favorite Japanese Italian, Dino Dalle Carbonare.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_26

Back to my European 86 adventure, our next stop was a very fancy lunch spot indeed – Restaurant du Peyrou in Neuchatel.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_27

Although I had only driven the car for a short amount of time, the 86 was everything I remembered it to be. It was fun around town and so easy to reach the limit in, the latter helped by winter tires being fitted.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_30

While many complain about a lack of power in the 86, I think it comes down to the simple fact that most of these people have not driven one of these cars at the limit. Let me just say, it’s a blast.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_31

Furthermore, I challenge you to name a better new driver’s car than the 86 in the same price range. The closest thing Alisa and I could come up with is the Mazda MX-5.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_32

Sure, there are plenty of used vehicles out on the market that can provide more bang for your buck, but that’s not the point. If car manufacturers don’t make fun driving cars now, there won’t be any good used cars later on for the next generations of car enthusiasts to modify and enjoy.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_33

It’s very rare for a manufacturer to build a standalone chassis from the ground up for a low-volume model, but that’s exactly what Toyota has done with the 86.

A fancy lunch does not begin to describe our experience at Restaurant du Peyrou. Not pictured is the best duck I’ve ever had, which was devoured before I remembered to take a photo of it.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_34

Next up was a long-haul drive to Zurich, the route taking us through many small towns and some awesome back roads.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_35
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_36

Of course, there was a coffee stop midway too.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_37

At this point it was pouring rain, so we headed straight to our hotel for the night.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_38

After some interesting stop and go traffic coming into Zurich, we arrived at Hotel Baur au Lac.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_39

It was here that I had my second-ever Michelin star meal. The first was at a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_40

On the menu was veal and the fanciest hash browns I’ve ever seen. This time I remembered to shoot before I inhaled.

As if dinner was not enough, chocolates and a little winter clothing gift were there to greet me in my room.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_43

Toyota really spoilt us.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_44

Day three started early with a drive from Zurich through the tiny country of Liechtenstein, into Austria and then eventually onto Germany.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_45

Liechtenstein made me think about that meme going around where its last military engagement sent 80 men but returned with 81 as they made a friend. This place was absolutely beautiful.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_46

There were so many tunnels during this first leg, and since we were driving through four countries, at times it was tough to know where exactly we were.

I made a point to try to stop as many times as I could, but it was tough as we really had a strict time schedule to stick to.

Catching Up With Tada-san
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_49

The highlight of my trip was driving with Tetsuya Tada, who was the chief engineer for the Toyota 86. Here is Tada-san enjoying a bit of Pokémon Go during one of our coffee stops in Austria.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_50

It was great to reminisce about the time the 86 was launched in Japan. As you can imagine, there is so much on the line when journalists are given the keys to prototype cars and a race track to use them on. It was at that event that Ken Gushi drifted the entire course.

not to mention the same day Ken Gushi drifted the entire track with one of the cars for the first time.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_51

I also had a chance to photograph Tada-san racing an 86 at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring a few years back, which was the same time Gazoo Racing was campaigning a Lexus LFA.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_52
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_53

It was fun to pick his brain about what inspires him, and what he loves about cars in general.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_54

He is a diehard racer and he loves all things that go fast. I asked him what he wants to buy when he retires, and he replied: “a new Porsche.” That’s my kind of answer.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_55

In fact, one of the things that he told me really surprised me. He said a few things about the 86 were inspired by his Porsche driving days, such as the simple analog gauges as well as broader things like the Toyota’s driving characteristics.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_56

The 86 version I had a chance to drive with Tada-san had a revised intake manifold and an updated exhaust which together added around 5hp, bringing the 2.0-liter boxer engine up to 205hp at the crank. This is standard in all the manual versions of the 86 in the US, but sounds different than the other ones I’ve driven previously, being much louder from 5000rpm.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_57

Our final stop for the day was at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_58

I had no idea such a place existed as it was breathtakingly beautiful inside and out.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_03

It really was like something out of a fairytale.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_59

Parked in front was a special edition 86 that was being revealed to us a full 12 hours before anyone else would lay their eyes on it.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_60

But before that we were to have what would be my favorite meal of the entire trip.

Pretzel tree anyone? From now on my life is ruined due to how amazing this pork belly was. Do you guys hate me yet? I can’t really stand myself either, so don’t worry about it.

The 860 Special Edition
Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_64

With food coma in full effect, the 860 Special Edition was revealed.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_63

Toyota is planning on making 860 units with the Supernova Orange paint job seen here, and a further 860 Halo White models.

Think of this as the most premium 86 you can buy new, with suede all around and orange stitching to match all the paint on all the leather surfaces.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_68

Aside from the special wheels, it also has other features not seen in any other version of the 86 including heated seats and auto climate control.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_71

The 860 is for the enthusiast who wants all the bells and whistles on their everyday sports car, but I could not help to think how cool this would look lowered with a set of nice wheels. That’s the Speedhunter in me talking!

LC1_4328

It was back on the road and onto our last leg of the trip to Munich, which of course meant a nice cruise on the autobahn.

LC1_3720

For much of the trip we had to stick closely to the posted limits as the Swiss police don’t really have a sense of humor when it comes to speeding, but I have to say that it was really nice to finally stretch the 86’s legs. With my c0-pilot sound asleep I drove with the flow of traffic and had a chance to top out at 210km/h (130mph), which the car happily did. While it could go faster, there was no point in testing the limits on winter tires.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_73

Our final stop was the Mandarin Oriental in Munich. I know what you guys are thinking – how is it that press events like this are even a thing? And, what sort of stories are expected in return for what is essentially a 5-star vacation with cars? Well, let me tell you guys that I couldn’t be any less expecting of this sort of treatment.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_74

There was once a time where I went to the SEMA Show and slept on the floor of four different hotel rooms, one for each night of the event. And in order to save the cost of flights, I used to help some of the Formula Drift teams tow their race cars across the country, just so I could get to events to photograph them.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_75

So, when I get to eat at a place like Nobu at the Mandarin Oriental, I definitely count my blessings that I have made it to this point.

Of course, no trip to Munich is complete without a stop in at the famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall. Many stories from the trip were shared over a constant flow of liquid gold, so it’s a bit hard for me to recall what we actually talked about.

Larry_Chen_Speedhunters_Geneva_show_2017_toyota86_drive_79

The next morning I boarded a direct flight from Munich back to Los Angeles. Despite it having been an amazing trip, I have to say it was such a welcome sight to see my home having been on the road for three weeks, from hotel room to hotel room. It’s a very normal thing for me to wake up wondering where I am in the world or more importantly where the heck is the bathroom because it’s so very dark. Poor me, right?

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto
larry@speedhunters.com

ADVERTISEMENT

Comments

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

29 comments

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1

At this price point there really is nothing like this car. A drivers car. Glad they made it.

2
Demitry Klimenko

that trip is absolutely epic ! Amazing pictures and story as always :)

3

Big improvement on the original and heaps of fun to drive.

5

Nice shot.

6

John brooks the man! his retrospectives still hold up

7
Christian Clark

OOOO! Jalop!!!!

John Brooks was a freaking GEM when he wrote for this site. I miss his content more than any other person that's graced Speedhunters' rolls.

8
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Man, that bird's eye-view shot of LA is epic!

9

Haha, thanks I just snapped it with my phone as we were landing at LAX.

10

Hey Larry - about the challenge...
How about a 370Z or Ford Mustang? Similar price, RWD sports car.

11

I've driven my brothers 370Z for a while now. The Z definitely has the power over the 86. But, the Z also feels heavier when it comes to corners. The biggest thing to me as far as owning the Z over the 86 is future maintancance. Comes down to preference at the end!

12

Good point for sure. Looks like the 370z is about 4k USD off, if we are comparing base price.

Mustang ecoboost may very well be the only brand new competitor to the Toyota 86.

13

That's so cool, but since I live in western Austria near to the Swiss and German border, it would have been awesome to see some pictures from there :D

14

Awesome read

15

Larry "What a life" I haven't red the context yet, I have followed speedhunters for more than a month now, reading almost all the stories here but you are one of the star of the blog ^ ^ and this one just with the title , it shows how awesome and how you love what you do. I admire that a lot being a car guy my self... I envy than hahahah enjoy and Godspeed for all the speedhunting you do..

16

Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for the support.

17

Great story Larry. If this isn't more motivation for people to actually pick up a camera and see where it takes them I don't know what is.

18

Haha, thanks!

19

forget the cars, that pork belly looks amazing

20

I'm in the wrong business...

21
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Damn never got to meet Brooks! Legend for sure! Looks like you enjoyed getting spoiled. #youbastard

22

Say hello to Mr. Pagani the next time you go to his house #SirPlease

23
Christian Clark

HAHAHAHAHHAHAHHA thats GOLD

24
JBfromSiliconValley

You live a rough life

25

Great Article Larry!

26

The 860 special edition seems like a more updated version of the 86 Blackline we received in Australia. Just wondering if any other countries received Blacklines?? The Blackline is essentially the 860 but with TRD bumpers, skirts, red accents in the interior and a couple of decals.

27

Great read! Great photo's, even the food ones. And man, you indeed are a living one though life. Driving a drivers car on of some of the best driving roads Europe offers. And afterwards eating luxury food in some of the best restaurants? I envy you. Badly. Except for the constant traveling bit. I'm fine without sitting in tight airplane spaces for hours on end.

Good call to tell this kind of story. Really refreshing.

28

My 86 GTS 2014 (Austraila) has heated seats with two heat settings!!!!! Nice article but you haven't tempted me to upgrade yet!!

29

Really nice article Larry. I feel you captured the essence of what you do very well. Prost!

OFFICIAL SPEEDHUNTERS SUPPLIERS