This past year has been a bit of an odd one for me, at least from a Speedhunting perspective.
The previous year, 2018, was very numbers-centric around here, although that might have only been reflected in our end of year recaps. A handful of us posted up a huge number of published stories, with an incredible amount of readers tagging along for these various experiences from around the globe. It truly is mind-boggling and inspiring, and 2019 was no different in that way.
However, you might have noticed a massive decline in the amount of work that one contributor here has been putting out. You might have also noticed that contributor was me, and if you did, you’d be right. I think I still managed to edge out the rest of the team in terms of how many articles actually reached the masses on the internet this time around the sun, but heading into December I hadn’t picked up my camera since August, with a very small handful of stories published since that time.
I’ve appreciated all of the messages of support that I’ve received as well as those of you who reached out asking where I’d gone, but this hasn’t been a bad thing for me. I’ve been needing to step back from traveling, shooting, editing, and writing for a long time. However, with one last trip on the calendar for 2019 — one purely for pleasure, mind you — I had to dust off my trusty, albeit front-focusing Canon 5D Mark IV for an impromptu meet on Oahu, Hawaii.
As Sara already laid out, this gathering was organized by Tommy Dolormente, who helps run the Old School Imports Hawaii (OSIxHI) group and gets guys together from all over the island as often as possible. You might notice he’s a Team Wild Cards man as well, which is of course a sure indicator that he’s going to have good taste. I won’t go into the backstory of how the OSIxHI community was formed as that’s already been done, but I do want to offer up a handful more photos and some additional insight from a jaded fool behind what’s now a mostly-dormant camera.
That fool is me, by the way.
For me, 2019 brought the highest of automotive photographer highs – the Nürburgring 24 Hours perhaps eclipsing everything — and with it a bit of a resulting car culture hangover if you will. ‘Burnt out’ isn’t exactly the right term, but cars that would normally ignite my imagination simply didn’t interest me all that much.
Part of that is due to my current work with Bring a Trailer and a growing appreciation of subtly-modified cars that are great to drive and look at right out of the box. But I think the rest of it is due to an automotive sensory overload on all fronts during the last few years and the first half of 2019: DRT Miami, track days, Monterey Car Week, Höljes Rallycross, racing at Laguna Seca, and so on. And my personal hobbies also include things like shooting cars on film, so there was just no real break in the action. Ever.
So, what does this have to do with the OSIxHI meet, and do I have a point? I do have one, and I think it can be summarized like this: I saw some of the most insane, fastest, most heavily-modified, and well-put-together cars in 2019, and the cars in Hawaii can’t quite claim any of those titles — at least not in large number. Is that an insult? No, not at all.
Being isolated 2,000+ miles in every direction on a beautiful but humid, oft weather-beaten island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean is of course the main contributing factor here, but it’s exactly this fact that makes everything in Hawaii a bit more special. Seriously, everything is better in Hawaii — even the cockroaches — and this includes other things besides the character of the cars. The stunning, towering cliffs, the incredible beaches, the unmatched culture, the deep traditions, and at the center of it all, the people.
The character of these islands is simply unmatched by anywhere else I’ve ever been. If you go, get outside the touristy areas, get to know the people who actually live here (some for many generations), and bask in it. It’s amazing. And while I haven’t logged impressive miles around the globe like many others on the team, I’ve covered a lot of ground in America, and I can say with great confidence that the farther west you go, the more laid back people tend to become. Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find yourself farther west in America than if you’re in Hawaii.
Yes, I have seen larger gatherings of modified and old school cars. Yes, I have seen more aftermarket parts thrown at a build. Yes, I have seen car shows full of exotics, et cetera. And yet, this humble meet of 60 or so cars that cycled through was the best of 2019 for me. Either it’s something in the air, or the people in Hawaii really do have a way of welcoming you as family.
Tommy made a few posts on Instagram that Sara and I would be coming, but there was no promise of coverage or that anyone’s cars would end up on Speedhunters. It was just a ‘show up and experience Oahu’s car culture’ sort of thing – nothing more, nothing less.
There were no expectations from our end either, and yet when we arrived Sara and I were stoked by the number of awesome cars that made it out. More importantly, we were overwhelmed by the support from everyone who showed up. We were showered in stickers, even gifted a calendar, Hawaiian chocolates, coffee, and more. I signed the hood of someone’s car, and what I expected to be an hour or so of looking at some cool cars turned into three or four hours of shooting the breeze.
It was just the pleasant slap in the face that I needed to remember why all of us are doing this in the first place: to get to know people and share their stories. Stories like Julian’s and his home-brewed, turbocharged, SR20-swapped Starlet build that – like so many of our own – is happening on an as-he-can basis. It’s easily to revel in the cars that made the Top 10 on the features list here at Speedhunters, but this little Toyota is just as important. Enthusiasts like Julian are the lifeblood of all of this, and what each of us brings to the table has an impact on the community at large.
As one of my mentors in this world of automotive media once told me: “What you are doing is truly special.” I lose sight of that sometimes, and I forget about how important this really is. In a changing landscape where magazines, outlets, photographers and writers have all but disappeared, a number of enthusiasts continue to dedicate their time to uncovering and sharing these amazing untold stories from around the world.
It might seem like patting myself on the back here, but really this is just a call to action. To myself and to others, to contribute, to stay involved, and to appreciate the content that does continue to reach us. There were plenty of times where I considered fully throwing in the towel last year and, honestly, if it wasn’t for Sara holding everything down on the back end of each and every photoshoot for the last two years I definitely would have come undone sooner or later.
However, the new job I accepted has brought the perfect amount of stability and flexibility into my life, so despite not mustering up a year-end recap like some of my fellow compatriots, you can count on me hunting speed well into the future. You should try it, too.
Thanks to the OSIxHI family for reminding me what this is really all about.
Trevor Yale Ryan