Let me be blunt: so-called ‘tuner’ shows don’t typically draw me in.
In all honesty, I personally prefer boxy old Volvos and vintage Saabs — the sorts of cars most might call ugly. However, after a couple of recommendations from friends I decided last minute to check out Tuner Evolution at the Portland Expo Center, conveniently located about 10 minutes from our apartment. If you aren’t familiar, Tuner Evo is a show organizer that is also hosting events this year in Puerto Rico, Miami, Philly, Charlotte and Chicago.
With thousands flocking to their events around the country, I figured it was time for a look.
I always feel a bit special (and sort of obligated to attend) and when touring shows stop in a city I live in. Tuner Evolution seemed to check enough boxes so I packed my camera bag and headed out.
I could tell I was close to the exit for the Portland Expo Center as the percentage of lowered Imprezas and Civics increased on the freeway. I was certain I had made it as I drove by dozens of BRZs and other platforms common to the tuner scene in the parking lot.
I parked my completely stock first-gen Honda CR-V among them all, looking like a bit of a sore thumb in a sea of modified cars.
Best of all (for me), I spotted an old Volvo on the way in…The Show
The event itself was exactly what I expected.
When I entered the large convention hall I found hundreds milling through rows of stanced and disco-esque Japanese cars. House music and excited voices filled with youth boomed from wall to wall.
Booths sold JDM-style stickers and housed models to autograph photos which drew very, very long lines. In the center of the second hall another DJ serenaded breakdancers who grabbed my attention for quite a good while.
The show was equal parts a celebration of the tuner lifestyle as well as the cars it’s centered around. One aspect I do especially enjoy about these shows is that nearly all of the base cars are relatable and attainable to everyone.One Love
After shows like this it is important to consider why we all love cars. Is it the people? The history? The pursuit of speed? Or a certain style or culture? I think it’s safe to say a lot of those categories overlap, but certain events from different areas of car culture are mutually exclusive.
If you are a fan of this style of modified (mostly Japanese) cars you might not get all that much out of historic racing, and vice versa. But that’s okay.
‘I like cars’ is a very broad umbrella term and there is something comforting about that fact.
Almost everywhere I’ve gone I have been able to find a community of car enthusiasts doing something. Maybe they are modifying their WRXs and Civics, or souping up their Nova for the drag strip. There’s a common thread connecting people that might not otherwise connect with each other, and I think that’s really beautiful, no matter how it’s played out.
Although I might not choose to modify a car in the way that many of the cars were modified at Tuner Evolution, there were a lot that I really liked. And in reality it doesn’t matter whether I was into them or not, because regardless I can appreciate the dedication and see the passion behind the builds that were there.
Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of this particular style either, you can still find something for you here, too. And if you are, this one was for you.