Getting A Taste Of The Donk Life
How To Donk

For most people, the word ‘Donk’ will bring to mind the image of a ’70s or ’80s US domestic car with candy paint riding high on comically large wheels – something along the lines of those in the featured image above. But what if I told you that there’s so much more to the scene than just the way these creations look?

During a couple of days spent hunting speed in Florida recently, I came across a few Donks and instantly decided that I needed to find more about the culture that surrounds them.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

After asking around, I was given a name and number to text. A few moments later after a couple of messages back and forth, I had an invite to a show called Street Beast II.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Except the ‘show’ was just one side of this event.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

The other? Well, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I don’t think I would have believed it even existed. As it turns out though, Donks and drag racing actually go hand in hand. But more on that later…

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Before I could immerse myself in this unorthodox world I had a 3.5-hour drive to Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, which is located about 90 miles north of Miami.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

By the time I arrived at the venue the cars I had come for had already started rolling in. It’s one thing to see these creations in pictures, but something else to see them in person. I had to take a few minutes to digest just how crazy what I was looking at was.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

One of the first things that struck me about Street Beast II was the unique and friendly atmosphere; I wanted to learn more about the people in this scene, and how they came to be involved.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Given the number of high quality builds around the place I was spoilt for choice. The first person I spoke to was Murph, the builder of this 1988 Chevrolet Impala.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

The Impala has been under the knife for four months and Murph told me it should be completed in the next two. It’s being built for an enthusiast named Luk, who chose the colour and 32-inch wheels. Despite have sunk around $30,000 into it so far, Luk ensured me that his car is in good hands as Murph’s shop is quickly making a name for itself in the Donk world.

On top of the obvious exterior work, other modifications include air shocks, stiff springs and a drop kit, but Murph was extra excited to show me the interior which features a full custom retrim and a huge sound system.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

While the Impala doesn’t have an engine yet, an LS V8 with upgrades is currently being pieced together, and with that up front this thing should really haul.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Not far away from Luk’s Impala, another caught my eye thanks to its incredibly bright paintwork and wheels. The ’71 Impala coupe’s owner, Flink, was happy to give me the rundown on it too.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Flink has been building cars since the age of 14 and is completely self-taught, although car culture has always been a part of his family. He normally takes six months or so to build a complete car, and usually repeats the process once every year.

For Flink, and most others involved in the Donk scene, a big part of the culture is meeting up with friends and cruising around the city streets together. It’s a simple pleasure.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

The three-orange paint and matching custom interior really stood out, but for me it’s the 30-inch gold Asanti wheels that steal the show.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Like so many other Donks I was able to look over at this event – and to my surprise – performance has definitely not been left out of the equation either. Under the hood sits a 427ci Chevy big block with forged pistons, FiTech injection, and a 250hp shot of nitrous. Flink estimates the 7.0-liter V8 is putting down 600 to 700hp via a Turbo 400 3-speed automatic transmission. That’s a lot of horsepower for any car, let alone something like this.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

On my way to the dragstrip to catch some of the racing, I met the owner of another ’71 coupe. Having grown up around cars, Tony has always been building something and this particular Impala, sitting on 26-inch Salvini wheels (with 7-inch deep lips out back), took a year to build.

Once again, this is a very complete build, if not somewhat more restrained than a lot of the other cars I looked at.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

It’s definitely not restrained under the hood though. The supercharged LSA adds up to around 700hp, but despite that output Tony uses the Impala as an everyday car.

Donk Culture
Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

From a visual perspective, wheels are obviously the most important aspect of a Donk build – and the bigger the better.

In chatting with Jude from Corleone Forged who had a little booth set up at the event, I learnt that the biggest wheels his company makes is a 34-inch behemoth. Thirty Four. 

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

The size alone doesn’t mean that they’re the most expensive wheels in the lineup, Corleone gives its customers the option to design their own wheels, and the level of personalization extends to size, spoke style and color.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

As one of the defining aspects of Donk, most owners don’t hold back when it comes to wheels, and while an off-the-shelf fitments start at around $4,000, full custom sets can cost up to $20,000.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

It’s evident that this is a scene that thrives and grows on those involved always trying to one-up their last build, which is why the wheels have only gotten larger over time. It’s perhaps part of the reason why modifications these days often extend to high-horsepower engines too.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

I was curious to learn about the origins of this scene, David, or ‘Lowlyfe D’ as he’s more commonly known, was the right person to ask. Not only is he the current president of the Lowlyfe Car Club based out of Homestead, Florida, but he’s been involved in the scene since the very beginning.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

According to D, the Donk scene’s beginnings can – ironically – be traced back to lowriders. While small wheels – specifically 13 and 14-inch wires – are clear favorites in lowriding circles, somewhere along the line someone fitted bigger wheels and it just spiralled from there. Lowrider cues can still be found in Donk builds though, custom paint work and intricate detailing being common traits of high-end builds.

D’s 1984 Chevrolet C10 pickup isn’t your average Donk. Not only is the base vehicle choice a little unexpected (D chose to build a C10 as it brought back memories of his grandfather’s pickup), but this is a frame-up rebuild that features a raft of unexpected parts.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

Under the hood is an LS2 good for 500hp, and ensuring the truck drives and stops well are QA1 coilovers and Brembo brakes. As you can see, there are tubs in the rear in order to tuck the huge 28×12-inch wheels.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Street Beast II - Donk Show - 5 - 6 - 2018

While this scene might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the amount of passion and love from the people within the community completely drown out any negativity.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Donk Show

The builders and drivers are having a good time expressing themselves through their cars, and I’m sure that’s something that we can all understand and relate to.

Keiron Berndt - Speedhunters - Street Beast II - Donk Show - 5 - 6 - 2018

As I alluded to earlier, there’s a lot more to the Donk scene in Florida than first meets the eye. I’ll be back soon with my follow-up story from Street Beast II; I Watched A Donk Smoke A Corvette Grand Sport seems like a fitting title.

Keiron Berndt
Instagram: keiron_berndt
Keiron Berndt Photography

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53 comments

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1

"It’s definitely not restrained under the hood though. The LS3 with LS8 supercharger combination adds up to around 700hp, but despite that output Tony uses the Impala as an everyday car."

No such thing as an "LS8" blower - the motor in that car is an LSA, which is a variation of an LS3 with modified heads and a blower. Same motor that comes in the gen 5 ZL1 Camaro and the 2nd gen CTS-V.

2
Paddy McGrath

Amended.

3

I've never had the privilege to see high-quality donk builds before. Where I live, the cars are barely more than worn-out stockers on s10 suspension and low-quality chromies, and they smell like oil and have saggy headliners. these though....damn. top notch stuff here.

Author4
Keiron Berndt

Jackie, wait for Part 2...

5

That blue Regal on the strip is actually really clean

Author6
Keiron Berndt

Right??

7

Great article. I love how it was written in a very respectful way. Excited to see part 2!

8

You know, ever since I first heard of them I've been fascinated by the idea of the Donk. It's just... so completely different and unique. At first there was all the appeal of the bizarre and that feeling that this is kind of wrong and a terrible thing to do to a car, in much the same way that the VIP scene's onikyan builds are, but as with the VIP scene the more I've looked into them the more just straight up fascinating and cool the whole thing seems.

Don't get me wrong, a Donk is in no way my kind of car- I'm all about the lightweight, stripped out Chapman ideal myself, really- but I've come to really appreciate the work and passion that goes into these things, as with all of the automotive scenes I can appreciate without being directly interested in myself. It's cool to see that reflected on SH.

Plus, is it just me, or are some of those candy paintjobs just straight up infreakingcredible? I swear, that three-shade orange car had my jaw on the floor just looking at the pictures, I would absolutely love to get a look at that in person. Regardless of what you think of the wheels, that's some stunning work.

9

The orange caught my eye as well. Beautiful.

10

Interesting. The same argument in favor of modern TV used to promote donk culture.

I don't watch a lot of TV, mostly because the subject matter doesn't appeal to me. I've never been able to get into Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones or any other modern show that's universally praised.

In the same way, you hear quite a bit about how involved in "the scene" or how passionate the practitioners of this or that questionable automotive trend (donk, stanced, etc.) are.

But just like TV, I don't care how well-done it is if the subject matter doesn't appeal to me.

And this subject matter doesn't appeal to me.

11

How much time & effort & investment does it take to watch a TV show?

I don't think you've thought this through.

Author12
Keiron Berndt

Well said, Cap!

It's not my style either, but it was one of the most enjoyable projects I've done!

13

Agreed. This may not be everyone's taste, but articles like this is why I follow this site every day. So glad to see something different.

Author14
Keiron Berndt

Thanks for the kind words, Tommy! I know you're going to enjoy Part 2!

15

So glad to see Donks on Speedhunters. Cars, like food, is where we can all learn to celebrate our differences in taste and culture. Great work!

Author16
Keiron Berndt

Well said! Thank you for the kind words!

17

Title should be "getting a taste of the don't life"

18

ahhh I this makes me miss my 94 Crown Vic LX Donk... had it sitting on 28 inch Diablo Elite wheels. All green inside and out.

Author19
Keiron Berndt

Daanng!!! That sounds like quite the beast!

20

So cool to see this year. Big wheel racing is such a strange concept. Counter productive really but many are legitimately fast.

I follow a few on instagram who go state to state trying to maintain the fastest on x size wheels crown.

Author21
Keiron Berndt

Dude, stay tuned for Part 2...

22

i always thought of donks as an american interpretation of or a facsimile of bshozuko culture

23

Reminds each heaps of hot wheels cars in a cool way

Author24

I had the same feeling when I first arrived!

25

That blue Dually is on a whole different level of builds... literally. Great article!

Author26
Keiron Berndt

Right?

27

All the doots in my city are rolling on food stamps and drug money so it's kinda a double take on keeping ratty cars rolling and what pays for it.

Author28
Keiron Berndt

I don't think that's a fair statement.

29

This article was like watching Troll Hunter. I clicked for a laugh, but ended up staying the whole way through because it was really well done and enjoyable. Stoked for the follow up!

30
theAngryMarmot

I am happy to see the lack of negativity in here.

A little local car group I hang out with has a guy with a early 70s Caprice convertible. Baby blue, with huge wheels and color matched accents. White interior. It is a really cool car actually.

I wouldn't ever build/buy one as it is not my style - but just because something isn't your "style" doesn't mean it cannot be cool, or interesting.

I am glad to see this on Speedhunters, because any automobile in any style that is done well is cool. If you can't respect an owner's efforts, vision, and taste when applied with skill - you are not an auto enthusiast.

Can't wait for part 2!

31
Speed Huntress

I was so excited to see a full feature on Donks, I couldn't have thought of a better way to learn about a new cluture. Thanks guys!

Author32
Keiron Berndt

Just wait for Part 2!

33

First time to see the interior of these cars, they're taking the word "wheel" too serious, aside from the obvious enormous rims they do have a steering WHEEL.
1 positive thing when "upgrading" from lowriders to donk: never worrying about hitting the crank case.

34

Take for example this instagram post I made a month or so ago after meeting the owner of this ‘73 impala (post after a little explanation). I’ve met tons of guys who own Lamborghinis or Porsches or whatever else who have been outrageously rude to me when I show interest in their car and have not a hundredth of the passion for cars most of the people who build donks do. One of the things I have always loved and always will love about the donk and lowrider scenes is the passion of those in them. They are what I would call true enthusiasts. I’ve never met one who’s rude or who won’t talk to me about their car. And I’m too lazy to rewrite, so here’s an excerpt from the Instagram post I mentioned - you might not be into these or those builds, you might not be into this or that type of car. but if you’re into cars in any way shape or form, you should be able to appreciate a serious, high quality build that the owner poured their heart and soul into, worked for, and spent countless childhood hours dreaming up. i’m not talking about a cobalt with wheels and a lawn mower exhaust or an expensive car purchased to boast about and shame others who can’t afford one as expensive. i’m talking about a real build like this ‘73 impala - interior done up, paint glistening, sound system that really thumps, 400 ci motor tuned up, tasteful wheels, and much more. if you can’t appreciate a build like this, i advise you to evaluate not only your passion for cars, but also your worldviews and tolerance of others, whether you agree with them or not. by far one of the coolest owners of a cool car i’ve ever met in my many years of spotting and going to shows. took time out of his day to tell me about his car and about the time and money he put into it. it’s truly unfortunate that many of my generation, and even other generations, call themselves automotive enthusiasts, yet have not half the passion of this gentleman. my conversation with the owner of this impala is a memory i will cherish forever.

decom_dbd0761832d9cd9b9f376054c2bd9277_5b0e18e199664.jpegdecom_dbd0761832d9cd9b9f376054c2bd9277_5b0e18e199664.jpeg
Author35

Hell yeah, man!

36
Matthew Sales

I must say, I have a soft spot for donks. They're a bit of a guilty pleasure though. They are undoubtedly gaudy and ridiculous, but I just can't help but enjoy them. I wonder what they are like to drive with such huge wheels?

Author37

I mean, you could always build one and find out... ;)

38
Anthony Chang

This post tells me, in the USA, everything is BIG.
(Oh wait, no, shall I use the word HUGE instead?)
XD

Author39

Ha!

40

I actually like this way more than I should. Please don't tell anyone.

...I'm about that donk life :(

Author41

Build one!

42

While id never build one or drive one ill always have respect for a good donk.

43

It's about time Speedhunters covered this part of car culture. These build are incredible. The passion of the builders is so over the top. I am looking forward to part 2. I want to know what kind of gearing these thing run to race with a huge wheel diameter.

44
Alf's Ugly Mother

The trucks and SUVs can pull it off.
The cars are hit or miss...but most of them would be pretty unappealing stock anyway.
Why not go for shock value? Everyone's doing it in one form or another.

45

thanks for this insight into a mostly misunderstood car subculture; could anyone tell me more about the tires for donks? How do they differ from normal tires? And seeing that they actually race these cars, I guess the rubber can hold quite a load?

46

Some of these cars seem not even try to "channel". The cars have double wishbone in the front and I guess the owner don't mind a high driveshaft dividing the passenger compartment. Why are the axes not always moved so high that the wheels touch the hood (top of supension travel). How much does such a tire cost? The rim survives some burn-outs.

47

It's certainly not my taste, but you just can't help but give the owners the respect and credit that they are due. They are obviously built with the same love and passion anyone else puts into their project cars...
Except Mustang owners: Why don't they all just install snowplows?

48

Just because someone's passionate about something doesn't mean it should be done.

I'm sure John Wayne Gacy was having a good time, as he reckoned it.

49

Seriously dude? Comparing building a car to rape and murder? In what universe is that even remotely appropriate? If you don't like donks, don't build one. These guys aren't hurting you or anybody else by doing what they do.

50

Great stuff. I miss the scene in Charlotte; always nice guys to talk to.

Just wait for the V8 bogans with their kiddie license plates to see this stuff though, they'll lose their shit!

51
Ryan Senensky

I have no issue what-so-ever with donks. I also love the SpeedHunters community for being positive, to be frank I was ready to see a wall of racist responses that don't look at the culture as a whole. With my background somewhere between classic Japanese cars, lowriders, minitrucks and street racing Hondas, Donks have a lot of appeal to me.

I'm super excited to see part 2 and I'm so happy that someone is covering these outside of "woah how big can you go?!" Keep up the good work!

52

So much attention to detail and customizing. I am glad this could be featured on SH without people spiralling into anti-black nonsense and hate!

53

Coming across this from a little bit further away (germany) stylewise this is not my cup of tea. But for its uniqueness and the passion and craftmansship it's done with I absolutely dig and love this.Thanks for widening my perspectives with this gorgeous article. And all you marvellous Donkers - donk on!

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