Ever since I joined the team here at Speedhunters, I’ve constantly found myself trying to find that fine balance of content amongst the array of different ventures to bring to you guys.
More often than not though, I realize I veer away from car shows, just like a few other team members here. I don’t think it’s about whether we enjoy them or not, but more so the repetitiveness that comes with it.
Which is why most of the shows I’ve typically covered in the past are sub-entertainment branches of a much larger event going on at the same time, generally at a race track.
After questioning myself why I felt this way, I came to realize that I frequently get bored after making my first round through the sea of cars. When a show is trackside though, or at some sort of unique venue, like JCCS at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, even as a participant you have the ability to leave and do other interesting things like sightseeing or breathing in race fuel fumes.
I couldn’t have been the only one who felt this way though, right? I mean, isn’t the purpose of a car show supposed to be entertainment for the spectators? This is a question that my good friend Cary Inayoshi knew all too well, which is how he and his crew came up with the theme for their first ever CARNVL event.
CARNVL’s premise resides in the roots of entertaining its guests at the highest level, something not commonly found at your average car show. We’re talking a full-blown carnival happening simultaneously during the car show, alongside a small drifting circuit which hosted drivers including Faruk Kugay, Matt Field and Donovan Brockway, as well as awesome food, a live DJ and dance stage, and of course a drift trike circuit and stunt bike riders.
When Cary initially mentioned his plans for the event to me, I couldn’t recall the last time anyone had made this much effort in keeping their guests on their toes. So I figured if there was any car show to cover in NorCal this year, it would be this one.
Plus, anything Cary throws has my support.First Stroll In Many Years
I made my way to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton early in hopes of capturing the staging aspect of the show. For those unfamiliar with the venue, the only thing you need to know is that it is huge. And even though CARNVL took up only a small amount of the space available, it still took me a couple of hours to cover everything there.
Getting in early also meant I could avoid as much of the crowds as possible, which turned out to work in my favor. Not only did I have the space I needed, I also got to reminisce a bit on the days where I would enter my old Subaru into shows, prepping and detailing it early on before thousands of people would see it. I couldn’t help but giggle a bit if I’m honest; doing that much work is far too much effort for me nowadays.
But although it may not be my thing, I can appreciate all forms of love an owner gives to their car.
Making my way through the indoor portion of the show, a few interesting cars and trucks caught my eye. Most in a good way, some, not so much. But as we are all adults here, we can agree to disagree on certain tastes, right?
On that note, my favorite inside was this very simple yet well executed Lexus LS on Work VS-TXs. I’ve always liked this chassis, and can’t help but think of a Yakuza boss being shuttled around in one of these somewhere in the rural areas of Japan.
Overly done ‘stanced’ cars have lost my interest over the last few years, but the VIP scene will forever live with me. There’s just something about them that oozes gangster, and who doesn’t love a good mob story?
Outside there was a line of other unique cars waiting to stage with the rest of their peers. Amongst these patient participants were a few long-time friends, including Matt Tomczek in his restomodded Datsun 510. I stopped and chatted with him for a bit, and it suddenly hit me that this would be a great opportunity to leverage the event in my favor.
Not that I was against being there or anything, but utilizing my time spent covering the event as well as catching up with old friends would be a win-win. Especially since everyone is an adult now and finding time to simply hang out and shoot the shit almost never happens anymore. So for the rest of the day, I did just that.Diversity
One of the most difficult obstacles of hosting a show is bringing in variety for all people. There’s a saying that goes ‘you can’t please everyone’ but that’s actually what the purpose of events like this are for. And being in the Bay Area makes it easy to get a taste of literally anything and everything, on any given weekend.
Needless to say, CARNVL managed to bring an impressionable group of cars together.
Continuing my stroll through the rows of cars and vendors, I came across a few builds that may be familiar to you guys from previous stories, as well as a few that are still being setup logistically.
A few more of my favorites included my buddy Daniel’s insane RB-swapped S15, and my long-time friend Kyle’s tastefully executed Voltex STI. Next to them was Tim, who has seemingly has the craziest Evo X around here.
Speaking of diversity, I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout from the vintage community. One of the rarer cars in the United States is the VW Brasilia, so seeing one restomodded and laid-out was quite the treat. Next to it was an awesome Dime, rocking a familiar sticker to us all.
After making my way through all of the inside and outside rows and catching up with more friends, I finally crossed the fences and entered into a playground that Speedhunters takes immense pride in: The drift course.Ferris Wheels & Skids
The makeshift paddock filled up early on in the morning, and I luckily made my way to the section right before the warm-up sessions started. Some of the cars here were featured in our coverage of Winter Jam, so don’t be surprised if they seem familiar.
But before getting into that, check out the stunt riders. It takes a different breed of human to be this crazy on a motorcycle.
Cruising through the paddock, I managed to capture some of my favorite drift cars in NorCal, including team Ruf Lyfe’s line up. I seriously can’t get over their livery, it has so much style.
From a short distance away, I heard a familiar voice laughing (as usual), and made my way to greet the man behind most of NorCal’s drift events, Faruk. You may have spotted his 2JZ-powered E92 BMW M3 a few times throughout this season’s Formula Drift coverage, but it’s always a pleasure to see it in person again. He graciously offered a ride-along, but I passed that over to my girlfriend as she had never been in real drift car with a pro driver. It’s safe to say she had an absolute blast, so thanks for that, Faruk.
With my few hours of time coming to an end, the rest of it was spent capturing the guys in action. The course was fairly short and not as technical or challenging as a pro layout, but it definitely made for some great morning fun for both the drivers and spectators alike.
They definitely put on a heck of a show for everyone.Summer Is Here
Before we left and headed back home, I took a few minutes to soak in everything I had just experienced. While reflecting on the event, I realized that CARNVL served as a taste of what the summer has in store for us. This was the first major event of the year for NorCal, and the first time I set foot in a (primarily modern) car show in a very long time. Seeing what’s new with trends and catching up with old friends was the exact refresher I needed to brace myself for a fruitful summer ahead.
There’s tons of events coming up, including our own Speedhunters Live in Australia and Japan that I’m officially stoked to see (from behind the screen sadly). And on that note, I’ll leave you with the remainder of the gallery.