A Saturday Afternoon In Long Beach
Where Are All The Camrys?

As expected, last Saturday’s Wekfest Long Beach event brought about some of the best builds in the SoCal region. The range of vehicles on display was diverse, and included everything from JDM-styled Japanese makes, VIP-styled Euros, and domestic muscle that even those who don’t normally spend much time at car shows – yours truly included –  just had to stop and admire.

Louis and I set out to find some of the best from this year’s showing at the Queen Mary, but as we wandered the rows of cars we began to ponder something, a trend that didn’t really seem to fit right when you think about it.


Of all the cars at the show, there were no Camrys. Normally, you don’t really think about it; the long-standing Toyota model is a family car, the beige of beige-mobiles; it really doesn’t bring the mindset of “I want a VIP or ultra-low Camry.” So, why did he and I have this question in our heads?


Because of the showing of Honda Accords. Among Speedhunters, this question wasn’t unique to us, but we felt this would be a great time to point it out. It’s not unusual to see an Accord that’s been modified; the long-standing Honda model really comes across as the ultimate sedan (or larger coupe) for those who like to have fun in the front-wheel drive category. I’ll even go so far as to say I have seen more Nissan Altimas and Hyundai Sonatas modified than Camrys in the enthusiast world. So why is that?


They are both marketed towards the same target: young families looking for reliable transportation but don’t want a minivan or a domestic car. Yet, it’s the Accord that gets the attention to those who want a car that fits that, but also want to modify to fit their style. To add to that, domestics don’t get much love within that segment, either. As far as modern sedans go, something like the Chevrolet Cruze are a rare site for manufacturers on this side of each pond.

The Usual With The Unique

There’s also another odd side to this question, but I’ll hit on that later. We continued on, and as we walked about we saw the usual suspects. From Nissan it was the S-chassis, 350Z, and quite a few GT-Rs of several generations.


Honda Civics of all iterations were in plentiful supply, and this Mugen-laden E-AT Civic Si was one that piqued my interest. From the look of the bumper, the owner isn’t afraid to drive this one around with such rare or hard to find parts. It was also period correct with cassettes in the center console and a tape deck head unit.


And of course, the VIPs like Steve Wong from Falken’s Lexus LS. Lexus was a marque you couldn’t miss up front as they were everywhere; not many new RCs, LCs, or classic SCs, though, it was nearly a sea of sedans. The GT86, FR-S, BRZ were also still well represented at Wekfest with some fitting examples.


While I wasn’t surprised to see the Euros out here, as a bit of a VW-head I was happy to see cars like the MkIV Golf R32 and GTI as well as the classic Beetle out showing the new generation of builders they still know how to get it done. Yes, when someone says R32 in conversation, I do have to ask, “Volkswagen or Nissan?”


There were some standouts just simply because they were vehicles you wouldn’t expect. Like this Nissan Juke with its race look and a very aggressive rear diffuser. Probably doesn’t do much.


Trucks had a surprising representation at Wekfest. While nearly all of the examples were lifted versions, there was a first-generation Tacoma with a Honda F20C swap including the dash and transmission. Save for the stock car-style wheels and Buddy Club seats, you’d just think this was a dropped Tacoma until it went by you shifting at 8500rpm. I hate to say it, but images of a Project Wes Mantooth Tacoma to rival my Project Ron Burgundy S10 started popping to mind after I had a closer look at it.


It may comes as shock to S2000 purists, but it looks like the GM LS is starting to creep into them. We’ve seen a couple at Formula Drift but this was a new one at Wekfest with a right-hand-drive conversion. As if to counter it, though, was an F20-powered version right beside it with an ITB setup and also right-hand drive. With engine placement being roughly the same on both examples, it makes me wonder how the LS-swapped version handles. It’s too bad my knees hit my hands as I try and turn the steering wheel on the S2000, even with a lowered seat set all the way back, otherwise, I’d love to drive either version.

Hybrid VIPs

There was one odd ball – for me at least – that really stood out at Wekfest. Of all the cars that could get modified, why the Prius? Yes, we saw many VIP-style Prii. Or is it Prius’? Priuses? Anyhow, we saw some good-looking hybrid cars you just wouldn’t really expect here in the US. Now, there is a Prius tuning culture in Japan and it’s a very strong one. However, the idea of a Prius there and a Prius here are not similar. It’s much like the vanning culture in Japan versus here in the US. It’s a people carrier, except with the Prius it also carries the notion of the ultimate hippie-mobile and the air of smug-emissions that should be tested and regulated like smog.


That also means, like the Accord, there is a model missing from this picture: the Honda Insight. It’s a hybrid and has very Prius-like looks and qualities in the second generation. That generation was also cheaper and sold better in the US than the Prius, but we don’t see a tuning culture around it. Honda and Mugen had some interesting tuning parts for the model, but outside of major manufacturers and a few rare examples, I can recall more Priuses that have seen modification than I can Insights.


The thought from one of the Prius builders we talked to at the show mentioned that it may come down to a parts situation. How often do you see performance or even body kits for the Insight? When you look it up for the Prius, it’s harder to miss a kit. Then there is a JDM factor as those Prius modders in Japan take off OEM parts for aftermarket ones, owners here purchase them to bring a different flare to a US market car. It really does harken back to the ’90s where Japanese car owners would search and scramble for OE parts from Japan. However, instead of it being lots of models, it’s only the Prius in this case.


As we leave you with the thoughts of Wekfest and helping to bring about a new era of modifying Camrys and Insights, we do have a few questions for you. When it comes to modifying cars, which car did you expect to see more of and didn’t? How about which one you did not expect to get the attention of tuners and does? Do you agree with Louis and I about the lack of Camrys and Insights when compared to the Accords and Priuses we do see? Sound off below as we’re interested in your thoughts or experiences as owners of any of those four cars.

Oh, and there’s a huge bonus images chapter for you to check out below as well.

Words by Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

Photos by Louis Yio
Instagram: lusciousy

Cutting Room Floor


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
Daniel Jenkins

In South Africa I would definitely say Opel/Vauxhall. There are modified Opels in SA but they are mainly used for drag racing. Even the Corsa B, which is a very cheap car, still tons of spares available on the second hand market and was/is a very popular car here but I can only recall seeing a handful built for show. I've seen more customised exotic cars than high quality show car Corsa's.


Compared to UK/Ireland, it seems there are very little modified VW Golfs in the USA? Really good to see a nice R32... I am one of those who actually assume people are talking about the Golf;)
And German cars are popular - e30s, e39s, and of course M3s and M4s. Do VW really not have a good reputation for reliability in the USA, or are they just considered too small and FWD to merit a look?
I'm sure there are a few, but i rarely see any featured unless its a camper of Beetle rat-rod... :/


I wouldn't say modified Volkswagens are necessarily uncommon or rare in the U.S., but they don't seem to be very popular on the West Coast, which is where SpeedHunters is based out of. Where I live (Pennsylvania), Volkswagens and Subarus makes up the majority of modified cars that I see.


I live in the USA and I see quite a few modified Volkswagens. Particularly GTI's, but occasionally I see modded Jettas too. German parts are expensive over here though, so sometimes it scares the younger crowd away from them. I have quite a few friends who want VW's but stay away due to the cost of parts here. Snow is a concern as well for the northern states. A lot of people just buy trucks. But Subarus are the vastly popular option where I live. Cheap, practical, AWD fun.


Beautiful gallery, thank you for this! So nice to see such a variety. Digging the 9th gen Civic Si.

I would say I'm most surprised by the aftermarket support for the BMW i8. When that first was released, I was sure it was going to be one of those niche vehicles that you never see modified, yet now it seems like there are dozens of well modified examples running around out there.


they need some zokusha, bosozoku and shakotan builds in cali

Jack Robinson

I'd love to see more kyusha too. Don't see much of it in the UK & there are alot more relaxed rules. I live in Cornwall, United Kingdom; And I'm pretty sure I have the only kyusha/shakotan style car in the county. I don't really like using the term JDM


I kind of agree with you, it would be nice to see some more cars like that, here in the U.S. But, I've always felt that whenever people here in the U.S. try to build a "JDM" style car...it just doesn't feel right at all to me. Whenever I see a car at a show, or one online, that is supposed to be "JDM", it immediately screams to me, "I was built in the U.S.!" I'll go as far as saying, it makes me cringe a little. If the same car were built IN japan, and by a shop there..it would come out looking far better.

Funny thing is, when the Japanese build a car in the "USDM" style, the car turns out looking better than most, if not all, of the "USDM" styled cars that are built here in the U.S. Wekfest Japan is a prime example. Something about the way that the Japanese build their cars, whether it be in a, "USDM" or in a more traditional "JDM" style, it still looks better than if the same car were put together in the U.S. I've felt like these cars are much more authentic in what they're trying to be, than the equivalent "JDM" style car from the U.S.

Now, I'll probably come off as being some sort of Japanese car culture apologist, weeabo, or otaku..but that's far from the truth. I love the car (Japanese) scene, here in my part of the country, and just as much love the style of how people build them. But what I don't quite like, is when people try to pass their car off, as being "JDM", when in fact..they have no clue what that term even means, and where it ACTUALLY came from. Build your car with a whole Spoon Sports or Varis catalogue for all I care, but don't claim it's "JDM".

Getting back to the Zokusha/Shakotan/Bosozoku thing that prompted my reply in the first place, is some that we should just leave for the Japanese to do, in my opinion. The "VIP" and "JDM" styles, are here to stay in the U.S.,(I put these terms in quotes, because their definitions here in the U.S., have been so muddied/forgotten) and I don't see either of them falling out of fashion any time soon. But I'll say it again, there's some other things that we should just leave alone. That same thought, also applies to "Kanjo" style Honda's/Acura's..just don't try and copy that, especially not the lifestyle that traditionally accompanies it.

Why? Because at the end of the day, your car will look like nothing but a a cheap copy/imitation.


There are some, but it's really just a small handful of them. And even those aren't built to the extreme like they are in Japan. Cops would put an end to it almost immediately with a million traffic infraction tickets if they saw something as crazy as a legitimate boso-style build here in SoCal.


I'm in love with that AT Civic.


Thanks for the great picture of my Estoril Blue 328d Wagon! I made it on Speedhunters.. WOOHOO!!


I'm really loving that yellow FR-S, with the Aimgain widebody kit, in the bonus pictures...wish you got another shot of it! It's a shame that that kit isn't more popular, as I think it looks better than the RocketBunny/Pandem offerings. Hopefully people here in the U.S. step out of the current comfort zone, when it comes to how they build a car, and embrace a different way of doing things.

Wish we had some more events like this, here in the South, where I live.


Hey guys. I'm Rob, the owner of the Grey/Black JDM inspired Prius. So you guys had me thinking that day, and I chatted with my friends out in Japan regarding why Insights don't have a huge following. It might boil down to aesthetics. The ones I talked to think the Insight unattractive / cheap looking inside & out compared to the Prius even though they are similar looking, so there was probably less demand for aftermarket. I also think having that strong community matters too. In Japan there are huge gatherings among Prius owners/enthusiasts.

I was not ever planning on taking the car to level I have in the beginning. But I did a LOT of research and had plenty of guidance/inspiration from my friends in Japan and here stateside with friends from priuschat, to help build my car. With aftermarket support in Japan and better access for people stateside to acquire these parts, the more likely you'll see more of us (like it or not). Many Thanks!


I like how the last write up at the end said they were looking for modified Camrys. Well there a few . I was featured at Toyotafest by you guys back in 2015 . We are still at there. Only a few of us left.


I think Euro cars aren't modified as much as I would think. Living in Europe itself there are ofcourse a lot of parts available. And you do see many M3/4 being modified and VW have a big following worldwide. However, smaller company's such as Opel or French cars in general seem to not get attention as much. In the Netherlands, we see those cars mostly very cheaply modified while being slow and loud. It's for 'tokkies', or roughly translated poor people without any taste at all. But all the new generation Opel (or Buick or Vauxhall) cars have a nice flowing exterior which with some love and small changes can truly outshine a lot of other modern day manufacturer cars. And how about the Renault RS cars? Everyone who drives them loves them because they're amazing to drive while being frontwheel drive. Thankfully the new Alfa's are making a comeback, even though it's a small one still.


I would love to see more Nissan 300ZX builds, I think that they are the best looking car of its time, and if the engine is modified correctly, little will get past it. however, I would love to see a properly built Mitsubishi FTO I have never seen a serious FTO build and I think that for me this is a car that tuners all over the world have always just looked away from?


As person who owned a 1993 300ZX 2+2, for 5 years... I second this!

I think out of all the 90's Japanese sports cars, it's the best one out of the bunch.


No doubt about it, the Z32 is both one of the best cars (IMO) and best looking '90's cars out there, and a BLAST to own...have had a NA and TT now since 2003 and neither will ever leave my possession.
Too bad they seem so passe with the show car crowd as I'd love to see highly modified examples such as many other models of cars seem to get often enough.
And, I thought Dino was gonna find us a proper Z32???


I agree with the zx builds. Always reminded me of the poor man's lambo. As far as I know, the technology and engine development was futuristic for the time. I'm sure someone more auto-savvy could explain why.

My neighbor has one in pretty good condition just sitting under a tree with these cool purple petals that fall all over it once a year. Great for a photo-opp, but I wish I could see it being driven. If I had money or time I'd make an offer for real.


Before I browse the rest of the article I wanna point out how shoddy the Nissan Altima is. I recently had the displeasure of driving one as a rental. New car, looks pretty great on the outside, but inside there was really low quality materials being used. Not comfortable to sit in, and the placement of some of the interior components was just strange (door handles places basically at the hinge, making for a difficult move just to open the door.) Rant over.

That white accord with the fenders kinda does it for me lol.


Those 'stock-car wheels' are Diamond Racing Steelies iirc. VW guy, you should know that lol.

Justin Banner

Maybe, or it might be one of the many that have that look. Trail Masters, Daytona, Pro Comp, Crager, Pacer, and many others have a steel wheel that looks like that.


I recall SH featuring a metallic green Camry that was really cool. If someone were to take a camry and make it, like... Lexus-spec or something, that would be a good read/view.


Thanks for all the bonus images!


Who's the clown that puts only the headlight of an R32 GT-R in this story? If the name alone isn't enough to warrant a full picture(s), the rarity of it on US soil surely is?

Justin Banner

Maybe because there were cars that caught our eyes more. I'm surprised you aren't up in arms over just doing the roof and front fender of the R34. Just because something "rare" doesn't always warrant additional looks, especially if said "rare" chassis has been seen more times than a Camry at Wekfest.

Yes, I went there.


Yep, nothing screams engineering masterpiece like a lowered Honda Accord with rims and neg camber!! ha ha.. I was on the edge of my seat!!!


Love the white civic hatchback with the beefy tires....and the faded license on the supra is a nice touch!

Growing up in Socal my whole life , there are things that stick out to me... Is it me or does it seem the East Los - Low Rider Scene has creeped over to the import scene? I remember when low riders being more popular than import cars and then the boom of the 90's import showoff scene which started to take over.

But like the saying goes, you can take the boy out the hood but you can't take the hood out the homeboy!"

The influence is too heavy and that's why I think when someone "tries to do JDM", it falls short because they add what they like from other cultures and get a hodgepodge of what you see. I always wanted a low rider bicycle as a teen but I would never bring that culture to "my import" scene.

I love me some Thumpin Deep House Music and Low Rider Bikes but not when it comes to "Racing" in the night.. .-[0_o]-


ok this might be a very unpopular opinion, but i wish they had more mazda proteges at car shows, especially ones like wekfest. yeah, i know it's not worth dumping a whole lotta money on something that's essentially a mazda version of a corolla, but they're still kooky cars that have their own character, and like i want to see people actually mod these tastefully, bc the people who usually mod them rice the crap out of them i remember. that's just my (very unpopular) opinion.


I think it's great when people dump a whole lot of money into something that may seem not worthy. That's what making custom cars interesting... not everyone will do it. Most everybody likes to stick to the recipe of looking like a badass with big number machines...that's fine and dandy..but that's kinda expected...Cheers to the underdog!


i think one of these days i might buy a 02-03 protege es manual and just like dump some money making it look good then take it to wekfest san jose and just show it off.


Im not sure why the Camry hasnt gotten much traction to the modification scene.. Im guessing lack of aftermarket support possibly?

yet, Toyota has failed to capture younger enthusiasts with their styling ( probably because the lexus shares the same platform)

But Ive seen quite a few nice builds on Toyota boards. Do I think they should be entered in a car show? No.

Just because some sort of suspension and wheels are added doesnt IMHO make it a real build. This is why the whole scene bothers me as someone can go buy a STi, then coilovers and some wheels and automatically his car is cool? I guess when the owners finger prints are inside/outside of the block, on internal parts, etc does that car now rise above and stand tall.

I still stand behind the"Built Not Bought" creed.

I wanted to make my camry look like if TRD where to make one, this is what it might look like. but its not going into a car show, thats for sure. I just didn't like how the car looked in OEM trim.


Most Hondas, including Accords, have a loveable quality about them, that many other brands do not. I've owned cars from many manufacturers, and the Honda and Subaru cars were the only ones that felt like they actually had personalities to them. I drove a Camry, and it felt like driving a toaster.