If there’s anything Speedhunters should be judged by, it’s the cars.
It’s obvious, but maybe so much so that it’s easy to overlook. Cars are the glue that hold every story together, that connect so many owners, builders, friends, family and people around the world. Truly, cars are a wonderful thing. How countless pieces come together to create a living, breathing machine, machines with real soul is something remarkable.
As with the previous Year In Review stories this year, our Top 10 Car Features of 2019 have been decided by total page views alone. The cars here perfectly reflect the broad variety of cars that we try to cover; from dedicated track and race cars to styled-out stance cars, and everything in between. Hell, a completely stock car made #5 on this list, further demonstrating your appreciation levels for all cars.
This might be the final chapter of 2019, but these Year In Review features have helped us to identify and understand more of what you want to see in 2020 and beyond. As always, thank you for reading and being a part of the Speedhunters family.
Now, onto the Top 10…
It was supposed to be a road car, but ended up competing at Pikes Peak.
I’m sure that most of us can relate to projects escalating, but perhaps not on such a scale. Tyler Pappas’ BMW M2 is so much more than just a parts catalog aimed directly at a car. Every detail has been considered, reconsidered and critiqued until it offered the best possible performance.
With over 500whp, the M2 has been carefully evolved to ensure it can withstand the rigours of competing at high altitude. We know what car we’re going to be watching out for in 2020 at Pikes Peak…
Ferrari. Air. Stance.
You can practically feel the fury emanating from Maranello, but Madlane’s Ferrari F355 is an exercise in restraint and simplicity, and offers a completely different take on modern supercar modifications.
You could probably have guessed that this car was in Japan before even looking at the photographs, as there’s a freedom there amongst car enthusiasts which encourages people to be brave with their ideas.
While the purists might be relieved that there’s no modification to the original Italian metalwork, this also demonstrates Madlane’s respect for the car. This isn’t an F355 which has been built to purposely irritate people, but rather a genuine attempt at trying to make something beautiful. Something, which we think they have achieved.
A manufacturer renowned for changing motorsport with ‘quattro’, Audi generally isn’t the first company you think of when drifting is mentioned. I do think that it was always inevitable that someone would build and compete in one at some point, but I don’t think anyone expected such an impressive result.
Okay, there’s no inline-five, but an 800hp naturally aspirated LSX V8 isn’t the worst alternative out there. While LS swaps are the norm in North America, it’s refreshing to see something which isn’t 2JZ swapped in Japan. Both great engines, no question, but different is always appreciated.
Although we might have to revisit this again next year, as we heard ‘turbos’ being mentioned…
For so many years, Speedhunters was renowned for unearthing the biggest, wildest and most superlative builds from around the world. It was a great time, but there’s a part of me that’s glad that things have come back around to simpler and more relatable cars again.
Okay, the E30 M3 has slowly ascended into the world of unobtanium for most of us humble car nerds, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them.
Paul Chavez’ supercharged E30 M3 was one that almost escaped us, only for Trevor and Sara to have a second-chance encounter with its owner while shooting another car.
It’s a great feature, enhanced by Trevor’s decision to shoot a large portion of it on period correct 35mm film SLR.
A strong title, but a car worthy of the great Brazilian’s name? It’s easy to become single-minded in how you think something should be done, and Blake offers us a fantastic insight into his own thought process for Project NSX, and how shooting 5ENNA opened his mind.
For a car as beloved as the NSX, any modification will be scrutinised intensely, but the careful and deliberate choices its owner Roland made, proved a hit around the world. There’s nothing I can really say in such a short amount of space, so you’re going to need to check this one out in detail yourself.
This is maybe the one that impressed me the most. When Naveed pitched the idea earlier this year about shooting some rare, but mostly stock, production cars we weren’t 100% sure how they would be received. As before, Speedhunters has a reputation for the wild, so presenting unmodified icons was pretty much new territory for us.
We were fortunate that these features were being covered by Naveed and his intense passion for cars from this era. His commitment to researching every interesting detail, regardless of how obscure it might seem, is likely what has attracted so many of you to read this story.
And then, there’s the car itself; a pristine example of arguably BMW’s ultimate E36, the M3 LTW. 102kg lighter than the standard M3, this homologated special has some interesting quirks. Not least how it came to be…
Small, retro Japanese car with more modern forced induction motor swap. Sounds familiar, right?
It’s a recipe that we’re all familiar with, but as we know, not all swaps are equal. The most interesting aspect of this particular car is that its owner, Eric Straw, restored and built it not once, but twice. The first time around was good, but having evolved his skills knowledge over the following, he decided to start again from scratch and take another swing at it.
The result is nothing short of stunning.
With Eric supplying some fantastic build photos, it really gives you a proper understanding of what went into this car’s third life. The 500hp capable SR22VET isn’t exactly a bad addition, either.
A white Datsun with a newer turbocharged Nissan engine? I will confess to enjoying how closely these two cars ended up in the overall rankings, despite the feeling of déjà vu. While Estonia might not be the first country that comes to mind for Japanese car builds, Andres Lell has gone a long way to change that perception.
While there are obvious similarities to the renowned FuguZ, the intent and purpose of each car are quite different. Where Sung Kang’s car is a hardcore, stripped, naturally aspirated, screaming canyon racer, Andres has taken a more refined approach by building his as a turbocharged cruiser and GT car. We’ll let you be the judge as to which you prefer.
We don’t purposely try to push Japan as the ultimate haven for car culture, it just happens to be that way. The fact that none of the builds from Japan on this list are based on Japanese cars only further emphasises this – the Japanese have lately taken to improving everyone else’s cars. That, or their own manufacturers are letting them down with exciting performance-orientated cars, but that might be a discussion for another day.
Following on from Madlane’s Ferrari and a drifting Audi, we’ve reached the pinnacle with Japan’s finest offering on this list – M’s Machine Works Porsche Cayman.
Ryan eloquently describes this car as “head and shoulders above almost every modified Porsche on earth in terms of focus and execution. It’s like a factory Porsche skunkworks project, if the Porsche engineers were allowed to take a Cayman this far.”
There’s nothing I can really add to that.
From the moment this was first brought to us, we knew it was an absolute dead cert for our #1 Car Feature of the year. It could never have been in question.
This isn’t just a Ferrari F40, it’s a modified one with the most amazing history you could ever imagine. For all the examples stored away in collections around the world, never being driven, this is the car that’s trying to balance everything out.
Amir Rosenbaum took an incredible risk just to buy the car, regardless if it was a relative ‘steal’ at the time. After setting out to win and beat the Virginia City Hill Climb record (which he succeeded in doing in 2002, setting a record which still stands today), Amir then turned to flat-out land speed racing. Have you ever seen an F40 converted for salt flat racing? Well, you’re about to. You’re also about to read how Amir was relieved to blow an engine, so he wouldn’t have to go out for another run and knew that he “wasn’t going to die”.
This very car and owner is what every car owner on the planet should aspire to. If Amir Rosenbaum can break records in his F40, and continue to drive it and modify as he pleases to make himself happy, then nobody else on this planet has any excuse. Put your phone down, pick up your keys and go and drive.