2019 has been a wild ride. It’s the first year I looked back on and realized that 25 years ago was 1994, and not 1975. Am I the only one that feels like they’re getting really old, really fast?
From personal things going on in life, balancing my day job while contributing here, and also working on my own cars and projects, life has been extremely busy, with its ups and downs, too. But I’m grateful for everything fate has thrown my way. Staying busy and being productive is all I could ever ask for. Except the aging part that comes with it. I don’t like aging.
Aching muscles aside, the year was filled with quite a few events covered by myself and many of my counterparts here at Speedhunters. More than most other years, at least for me.
It started with my first ever drift event coverage during Winter Jam at Sonoma Raceway. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, honestly. I’d never covered drifting events before, and I knew the weather would be a challenge, since it almost always rains during this event. And I hate the rain. But despite my skepticism, I’m quite glad I made it a point to get out there. I was invited by Faruk Kugay, and he promised it would be worthwhile, which turned out to be true. I saw some epic slides, enjoyed a ride along with my other friend Marcus, and even made some new ones.
Which brings me to Denis’s ‘Dapper Drift’ E55. Throughout all of Winter Jam, Denis’s E55 was the one car I had my heart set on. It was different, but not because it was some sort of crazy-kitted drift missile. Instead, it was sliding in elegance, with a slightly aggressive rumble and supercharger whine as the revs bounced off the limiter in each transition.
I made it a point to stop by Denis’s pit and coordinate a full story with him later that day, and the end result was epic. We got to see the little details and precise craftsmanship put into his build to make it do what it does. And after getting the opportunity to really dig into his personality, I realized that the Dapper Drift E55 was truly a portrayal of Denis’s own personal steeze.
Not too long after, I figured I’d link up and share some stories of friends’ cars that I’d been in talks with about featuring for a while. Jesse showed us how to build quite the controversial BMW M4, Justin shared his Ultra4-winning rig, and I managed to finally get Marcus out of his shop.
Come February, it was time to tell the tale of the RGruppe guys. This group of older heads have the hearts and soul of teenagers, from driving like madmen all across California, to pulling pranks on each other and out-drinking anyone who dares put up that challenge. These misfits are the pinnacle of what we all wish to be when we get old: still modifying our cars, without a care of what anyone else thinks.
It was through one of the RGruppe members that I met Hoover from Turbo Hoses as well. The name of his shop really threw me off, as I had no idea what I’d be walking into when he invited me to take a tour one Sunday morning. With vintage BMW Motorsport cars, Noble race and road cars, and even a jet-powered Lotus Elise, Turbo Hoses had all sides of the spectrum covered.
A few weeks later, my good friend G messaged me about taking delivery of his BMW M3 Sport Evo. I knew I wanted to run a story on the car since it’s the E30 M3 to have, but after thinking things a bit more through, I realized that this wasn’t the only homologated car I knew of in the area, let alone in G’s collection. So I felt inspired and decided to pitch Paddy on doing a series of homologation specials for the site – seven stories of seven legends. It was a different approach to telling the traditional Speedhunters story, but what can I say, I like history, and I like taking risks. And I think it’s safe to say you guys enjoyed seeing the cars we only ever hear about on old Top Gear episodes.
With the homologation special wrapped up, I took part in one of the most fun rally events I’d ever been on. It was three days of back-to-back driving nirvana, in two cars that couldn’t have been more appropriate for the occasion. As you may now know, one of them ended up becoming a personal project.
When I finally returned home, I knew I wanted to get back on track with sharing more stories that I had in my pipeline. Jan and Alex Echeverri came up first, with their 2002 Tourings, followed by Ted in his 200mph Cobra. Both stories hit home for me, being passion-built projects by owners who had a long history of living outside of the norm.
As I noted earlier, this year had been full of events – at least for me. With spring and summer being prime car show season, I managed to finally attend one of CATuned’s ‘Open Haus’ mornings, the first-ever CARNVL event hosted by my good friend Cary, and of course Luftgekühlt – perhaps the most iconic show I’d ever been to, being that the venue was a freaking movie set at Universal Studios.
In the midst of all the show travel, I took a break to link up with Eric Straw from StrawFab and share his beast of a Datsun Roadster. This little thing was on its second iteration of being resto-modded, and if you haven’t had the chance to read the full story, I’d strongly recommend you do. There is no other roadster like this one.
During the Lancia shoot for my homologation series, Luca mentioned that they’d become the sole distributor for the New Stratos. His ties with Italian carmakers has provided some fruitful opportunities to leverage these types of things, and luckily for me, Luca has no problem sharing these ventures with the rest of the world to see. So when they finally took delivery of their first one, I couldn’t resist shooting it.
Based on a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, the New Stratos packs a serious punch and is the epitome of modern day coach building. I mean, just look at the thing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a modern car pay this much homage to its ancestral past.
Getting back to all the event coverage, the next few months consisted of my favorite time of the year – the end of summer. Typically, I look forward to this time because of Monterey Car Week, but this year I was able to add the first annual Sonoma Speed Festival to the mix, which meant for even more historical racing. I know vintage racing isn’t the most popular type of event amongst our readers, but it’s honestly the most exciting from a personal standpoint. I think that with a little bit of time, and a little bit more exposure to this type of stuff, the youth will finally start to come around and really learn to appreciate the significance of these sorts of events. Because frankly, if it wasn’t for these cars, we likely wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are now in terms of enthusiast cars.
During the small gap period between Sonoma Speed Festival and Monterey Car Week, I had the opportunity to take a McLaren 600LT out for a weekend. This was my first time on track with a modern supercar, and holy shit did it blow my mind. I’m still aching a bit from the g-forces this thing pulled on Turn 2 at Laguna Seca. Did I mention how much I hate aging?…
After the track, I took it out to the local roads that I frequent during my spare time, and it was then where I realized how useless these types of cars are outside of the racetrack. There was no way anyone could safely drive these types of cars at 100% on public roads. Put simply, they’re just too fast.
I realized that even more after swapping back into G’s 911 Clubsport the weekend after, where everything was literally the opposite. Feel like driving at 100% without killing yourself? Get yourself a lightweight 911.
Moving into the fall season is another great time for cars here in California. With the weather finally cooling down a bit, it’s much easier to drive cars that would otherwise suck in the heat. Cars like, I don’t know, a street-legal 962.
When G took delivery of this Koenig C 62, I knew it was going to be the wildest thing I would ever drive. And surely, it didn’t disappoint. It’s a proper thoroughbred being a full-blown Porsche 962 underneath its carbon street-legal body. Why anyone would even want to build something like this in the first place is far beyond my comprehension, but all I can say is that it is as glorious as you’d expect. You may have even caught a glimpse of it during RADwood LA.
Speaking of glorious, Mr. K’s personal 240Z fit the bill quite well too, but more so from a presence perspective. His car came into my good friend Rob Fuller’s shop for some maintenance, and luckily, his sidekick Alvin hooked me up with the opportunity to tell its story. If you ever wondered what the father of the Z-car drove during his stay in California, wonder no more.
I later wrapped up this year’s final event coverage with my trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for their first ever Global Auto Salon. It was my first time ever leaving the country after immigrating here, and it couldn’t have been better.
Saudi Arabia is a country close to my own origins, and ever since I left when I was three years old, I’d always wanted to make an excuse to go back and see it all as an adult. Despite not being able to make way over to Afghanistan, I still managed to get a taste of what authentic Middle Eastern culture was all about, even if it was automotive focused. It was an experience I’ll hold close to my heart for years to come.
But before I wrap things up, lets not forget my biggest highlights from this year.
If you’re even remotely into cars, then you likely have a top 10 list of aspirations you wish to own at some point in your life. If you’re heavily invested into the love for cars, like me, then you’ve probably doubled down on that list by narrowing your choices into more specific cars. Cars like the Calsonic R32 GT-R, Adam Carolla’s Coca-Cola 935, or even the BMW Motorsport’s E9 CSL ‘Batmobile’. With a tough list of choices, it’s hard to pick #1.
But for me, number one was met the day I laid eyes on Amir’s F40, as he casually cruised past me on the 101 highway in San Mateo, four years ago.
From that moment on, my heart was set on getting a story on his car, and through some rigorous networking I finally managed to bring that story to life this past October. I won’t give too many details away, as I’d prefer you guys read it to really understand the ‘specialness’ of the car, but I will say that meeting my hero car was one of my biggest highlights of 2019.
Finally, to close things out for the year, I figured it would be best to introduce my latest acquisition, Project 912SiX.
After selling my GT-R back in June, I was out on the hunt to finally get a Porsche of my own. There was precise recipe in mind for the car that I wanted, and with a little bit of luck and fate, that recipe came to cookin’ not too long ago. So far, I’ve only given you guys a backstory of how the car came to light, but I’ll be diving into the details of the first half of the build early next year.
Oh, and if you read the story, you may have caught the tiny hint where I said “…my plans weren’t to stop at owning a Porsche.” Well, those plans are blooming, too…
I have to admit, with how busy things have been lately, I never really got a chance to sit back and recollect all of the things that happened this year. From event after event, to story after story, the memories and experiences have been nothing short of epic. I guess when you’re out there, doing what you enjoy, it’s easy to forget that sometimes it’s best to just sit down and take a breather from it all. Not only to prevent yourself from getting burnt out, but also to just reminisce and soak in the opportunities you are given.
Being a part of this family at Speedhunters has brought me some of the best experiences and memories I could think of, and I cannot wait to jump into the next year with the team (like the way my counterpart jumps for food). The decade is turning, and with that, I wish you all happy holidays and a prosperous and healthy New Year. I’ll see ya’ll in 2020.