Center Stage

CENTER STAGE> Hwy 341 Hillclimb Hero Porsche

Just thirty minutes south of Reno Nevada and 40 minutes east of Lake Tahoe lies the most dangerous stretch of highway in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and quite possibly, the entire west coast - Nevada State Route 341.

As the twisty road slices through the mountains towards the oldest city in the state of Nevada, a gold and silver mining town called Virginia City, it allures drivers with breathtaking views of the snow capped mountains in the Sierras - but this is all part of Highway 341's deadly charm.

Drivers who are tempted into gazing upon the majestic beauty of the Sierras while behind the wheel are often fooled into making fatal mistakes at high speed. Taking one's eyes off the single lane road even for just a few seconds can easily lead drivers headfirst into the rocky face of the mountain, or worse - off the treacherous cliff side, where the drop is hundreds of feet, with sharp boulders and abandoned mine shafts below.

For close to twenty years, a man named Duck Fuson has been challenging Highway 341 in a 1974 Porsche 911. This is his story.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Mercedes SL666 AMG from Hell

The first time that I was introduced to this car was during the Targa Trophy event this past year. However, the car was dressed in white and had a unique theme that might have been reminiscent of a Storm Trooper. Over the course of the past year, owner Jamie Liu has been adding modifications in an effort to gain a top position at events such as Hot Import Nights, SEMA and Autofashion 2011. Words alone cannot justify the brilliance of this build so let's look further into Jamie's amazing Mercedes-Benz R230 SL55 AMG.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> TE72 Wagon with Widened Advans

Anyone who knows me personally can tell you that I have a soft spot in my heart for rear wheel drive Toyota Corollas. I've even made it a point to seek out and photograph modified RWD Corollas when visiting other states and/or countries. Hell, anyone who has read anything I've written online or in magazines or books can tell you that. This being said, it comes as no surprise that I was more than a little excited when I first laid eyes on this battleship gray TE72 Toyota Corolla wagon.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Tomei Stroker Silvia from Portland

During the 2010 Formula Drift Pro-Am Nationals, up and coming drifter Kyle Pollard from Portland, Oregon earned his Formula D license behind the wheel of a white F20C-powered AE86 Levin - in tandem with guys like Pat Cyr and Walker Wilkerson. Since then, he has opted to build a car that is fully Formula D legal and more easily competitive. Because of all the aftermarket support available, he chose an S13 Silvia... of course!   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Fifteen52 Volkswagen Jetta Variant

The first time I met Matt Crooke, co-owner of Fifteen52, was on a cold night in Upland, California. We were at a locally-famous restaurant called The Hat, which is known for their great pastrami sandwiches. However, I wasn't there for the beef. I was there for the weekly gathering of Volkswagens that come out in droves just to hang out and chit-chat about the trials and tribulations of owning and modding a Volkswagen. We quickly got acquainted and I soon found out what Fifteen52 really meant.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Porsche Powered VW with Patina

It's been a while since MotorMavens published some car features from Europe. Come join us as we dive deeper into the Euro car scene in the Netherlands! This is a 1960 Volkswagen Beetle, is there anything more classically Euro that you can think of? I think not... but don't be fooled, this Beetle is not quite stock. It's also a daily driven car. Let's have a look at the details...   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Rusty 1937 Ford Pilsner Pickup

A while back, I attended the world’s biggest one-day charity car show, Cruisin' For A Cure, in Costa Mesa, CA. It was a great way to get the word out on the prevention of Prostate Cancer. While mandatory digital rectal exams (finger up-the-butt in layman’s terms for those who may have been thinking there was an app for that) were not part of the admission, the chance to view hundreds of classic, customized vehicles were. This was my first time attending this show and I’ve got to say, it was THE largest car show I’ve attended. Many cars caught my attention and, as I was leaving, I spotted this 1937 Ford Truck owned by Tom and Linda Chorbagian. So I hurriedly grabbed my strobes in the trunk and took a few shots during the festivities.

Its rat-rod look reminded me of a Japanese aesthetic called Wabi-Sabi (no, not the green stuff complementing your sushi). Essentially, from an artistic point-of-view, wabi-sabi is defined as “flawed beauty.” It refers to beauty as a result of age, wear and tear and any anomalies which add uniqueness. It's a growing trend in rat-rodding and it seeks beauty in the simple and imperfect. Tom's truck is a good example of the embodiment of this principle and has that perfect combination of burned paint, rust, and look acquired from age and weather--it's hardly an eyesore.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Mastermind Spirit Rei S13 Odyvia

Seeing the MasterMind Odyvia for the first time at our MotorMavens Mass Appeal Show in Irwindale, CA was a mind-blowing experience. Hearing the car start up for the first time left my ears ringing for hours. However, rather than just telling tell you why I fell in love with this car, I thought I should tell you how this car came to life instead. Please fasten your seat belts, this ride is about to get CRAZY. You're probably asking yourself, what is an Odyvia? In case you didn't know, it's when you combine Honda Odyssey headlights with a 1991 Nissan 240SX (S13 Silvia) body. Hence, the name ODYVIA...I find it rather fitting for the car - the name sounds like it was plucked from an epic poem like The Iliad.

The reason I felt so passionate about this particular car wasn't the one-off Spirit Rei Japan widebody kit, custom fabrication, custom interior, nor the Z06 LS7 motor swap. It was because it took incredible persistence and attention to detail to accomplish - this project was riddled with issues that would make an average mechanic lose his mind.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Formula Drift Rookie of the Year

When I first met Aurimas “Odi” Bakchis, it was at a local grassroots event. From the first time I met him until now, I’d say he’s still one of the most down-to-earth guys you’ll ever meet. However, that’s hardly the description I’d give him when he’s on the track. On the track, I'd say Odi is a menace. With only two years of drifting experience, Odi entered professional competition in 2011 and earned his professional license in 2010 through the Top Drift Pro Am and Vegas Drift Pro Am series.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Royal Flush Subaru STi Scraper

A few years ago, the term "royal flush" wouldn't make you immediately think of cars. Rather then picturing a car's wheel fitment and ride height, it was more associated with card games. However, with wheels right at the fenders, tires tucking underneath them, and frame rails sitting only a few inches above the tarmac, this Subaru Impreza WRX STi owned by Austin Mardian from the Royal Flush Crew really embodies what it means to have your car sit flush.

When Austin rolls out to car meets and shows, he and his friends from Royal Flush crew definitely roll deep, with more than enough slammed cars to back up the name. For those of you local to Southern California that have been to many of the larger car shows, you might have seen several of the Royal Flush "VIP" style cars. Whether it's a Lexus or Infiniti on air ride or Austin's STi, they mob out in big numbers to all of the events they go to. While some of the cars in the crew scream for attention, the clean subtle look to Austin's STi was actually what caught my eye when I saw his car for the first time.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Chris Gray’s Irish Grip Spec AE86

There is probably no better way to introduce myself to you guys than by sharing with you, on 86 Day, a recent shoot I did of a friend's Toyota AE86 Levin GTV. As Daniel Bridle has shown you with the Team Tekno article, the AE86 is alive and well here in Ireland! Usually the AE86 comes in two different guises: the Japanese drift spec with drift body kits and crazy camber; and the UK spec with Superlites and Cibie spot lamps. However, there is another type that is rarely seen on these shores and that is - the grip spec AE86.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Team Tekno AE86 Crew in Ireland

Late last month my girlfriend and I hopped on a plane and flew to Dublin, in Southern Ireland. However this wasn't your typical romantic getaway, instead, one of the main reasons for the trip was for another kind of love - of the Corolla kind.

When it comes to Japanese cars from the 1980s, I've never quite seen one that evokes as much love, nor as enthusiastic a following, as the AE86 Toyota Corolla. To some people they're just weird old hatchbacks that look more suited to being driven by elderly ladies to the supermarket and back; but to others they are lightweight, rear-wheel drive cars with fun engines that beg you to drive them hard - not to mention a certain character and style that you only get from 1980s Japanese design. It's just crazy to think that, when I was much younger, these cars could be picked up for a few hundred pounds. Nowadays, you can see some examples going for over £10,000!

On that note, if there's one country (excluding Japan) that has the biggest love for the AE86 as far as I've seen, it's got to be Ireland. I'm not sure what it is, but people the Irish are nuts for them and it always impresses me how such a small country can contain so many. There are more in Ireland than in most of the UK combined.

My personal love for the AE86 came about, like many others, through drifting. There's just something so right about seeing an AE86 being thrown sideways, foot to the floor, with the driver giving it everything he has. It's just RAW, and it's always been my dream, since I started shooting cars, to shoot an AE86. Not just any old 86 - it had to be the right one. So, when I came across some new photos of Killian O'Brien and Kevin Reilly's Levin and Trueno, I knew they were the ones I had to shoot. So, after organising things with Killian and Kevin, I and my girl (who happens to be a big fan of Corollas, too - luckily for me!) headed over for a taste of Team Tekno style!   Read more...


CENTER STAGE> Meeting Team Yellow of Norway

As some of you may know, Justin Shreeve and I have been brought out to Norway by brothers Lars and Dag Harlem of Team Yellow to cover the Gatebil Festival held from July 8-10. Justin and I got a chance to come by the shop and meet some of the team and their machines!

The Garage is actually inside of an barn in the middle of a farm! It was really cool driving through fields of wheat for about half a mile until we came up to a red barn house perfectly placed on the beautiful hills of Norways countryside!.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Retrofitted Ranz Motorsports RX4

The term retrofit is defined as the replacing of existing parts, equipment, or systems with updated parts or systems. This 1974 Mazda RX4 is a perfect example of the concept.

My first glimpse of this ride didn't come at a car show, as is usually the case. No, I actually saw a picture of this car on Facebook - a picture that my friend, June Masermsin, took at Wekfest in Long Beach. So, I guess a case could be made that a car show was technically where I saw the car - in a third party, social media-inspired and facilitated manner.

Technicalities aside, I immediately expressed an interest in shooting the ride and, the following week, I received a random text from a buddy of mine (who happens to be a childhood friend of the owner) informing me that the car was available for shooting the same day! How's that for serendipity? And, since I started by defining retrofit, wouldn't it be nice if I kept the trend going by linking you to a definition of serendipity? However, there was one caveat—I had exactly one hour to shoot the car. So, what was an enterprising photographer to do? Take a look!   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> JZX81 Toyota Cresta from Calgary

The lesser-told stories of Formula Drift involve the homegrown teams and drivers who work their way up the rankings at grassroots and ProAm events to get the opportunity to pour out their own blood, sweat (and money) to face the best professional drifters in America. They represent the spirit of the sport.

In the spirit of representing the spirit of the sport (say that three times fast!), rookie Formula D driver Alex Lee came all the way down from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to debut his Driftmania Canadian Championship (DMCC) West winning 1990 Toyota Cresta at Long Beach! And he certainly did it with a bang!   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Fresh & Clean BMW E30 in Atlanta

Cleanliness, it seems, is a bit of a relative term. Whether you are following Webster's definition or the definition that has been popularly sculpted within the car scene, there are varying degrees of what could be considered a clean car. There even seems to be some disagreement as to what exactly that means. Is it the application of the owner's taste? Is it the degree to which he has maintained his vehicle? Is it keeping a simplistic/minimalist approach or just doing things right over all? Whatever it may be, this gorgeous BMW E30 owned by Georgia native, Ryan Sermonet, epitomizes all of the above.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Walker Wilkerson’s Autohero S13

If you dont know who Walker Wilkerson is by now - you will soon enough. From seemingly out of nowhere, he showed up to the first event of the 2011 Formula Drift season and had an incredibly strong showing. Walker outscored many Formula D veterans in qualifying, moving forward to wow the crowd with exciting tandem performances, much like fan favorite Fredric Aasbo did with his JZA80 Supra last year.

With limited seat time he wowed the judges in his purple widebody Nissan S13 240SX coupe, equipped with a stroked 480hp monster SR20DET, during qualifying. Eventually landing high at 7th place, deep within veteran territory. And with that explosive entrance in the pro arena - he secured his spot in the big show on Saturday in the Top 32. Not bad for a first timer in, well, pretty much everything for the day.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Audi A8 That Belly Scrapes

It’s been quite a while since the last time we featured a ride from the guys over at Rotiform… Well, you’re in luck! I was able to get the full scoop on Jason Whipple's 2000 Audi A8 and, while it's an over-sized, VIP-style automobile, it nonetheless exudes the luxury and class of the $100,000 price tag of its time. A certain song comes to mind when looking at this ride - it almost emanates a certain Oh You Fancy, Huh? attitude…

I was able to steal Jason away on an uneventful Saturday morning to do the shoot, which took place in Southern California. On the way to our location, MotorMavens Crew photographer Oliver Petalver opted to take full advantage of the scenery by hanging from the window to take some dope rolling shots. They turned out pretty awesome, don’t you think?

Funny thing, though - while photo pro Oliver was hanging out the window of our chase car, Jason aired the car out to get that menacing, low effect... and Jason’s face immediately went from smiling for the camera to a certain heightened awareness of the road surface. The A8 was literally scraping on every little dip, pothole, reflector, manhole cover - I mean EVERYTHING. It was quite a sight to behold because the car was sparking, rubbing and making wonderful sounds as it scraped along the Pacific Coast Highway while onlookers gawked and stared. Members of the "functional" crowd may insert your favorite "hella" joke here.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Garson x Rocket Bunny Odyssey

Before I get into the details of this incredible VIP style Garson and Tra Kyoto fitted RA1 Honda Odyssey, let me fill you in on some details. It was super late on Saturday night, and I had just finished a non-automotive editorial shoot for a Japanese magazine. I had a gorgeous model and the magazine's editorial staff sitting at my dining room table, talking to me about photo ideas while I was urgently texting members of the MotorMavens Crew to see who would be down to drive down to San Diego, CA with me for the AutoFashion VIP Meet.

I had just returned from Las Vegas, and was still reeling from a sleepless week of meetings, afterparties, and overall hustling at SEMA. However, I remembered that I made a promise to my friends at AutoFashion in San Diego - I told them that I definitely would be going to their VIP meet to show MotorMavens support, and to shoot photos of the event! I was still sleepy as hell, and I didn't feel like driving by myself, so luckily I was able to talk Tamer Omran, Lambert Paat (and his gf Daisy), and Driftwell founder Herbrock One into rolling to SD with me.

Right as we found parking at AutoFashion, this gorgeous cream-colored 1997 Honda Odyssey (RA1) immediately caught Tamer's eye. He immediately hunted down the owner, who drove it all the way from Tempe, Arizona to attend the show!

We found out that it took four years for the owner, James Cherry, to collect parts for his Odyssey and ship them over from Japan. Even though he was building on the car one by one, he decided that he would put it all together at once instead of bolting on parts one at a time - this way, the Odyssey would have more impact when it came out! Good move.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Bisimoto Turbo Hybrid Honda CRZ

No one with any passing knowledge of the automotive industry is unaware of the upcoming release of the new Honda CR-Z - and most are very excited about the prospect. If you're a Honda tuner, the word excited is probably far too "whatevs" to describe your emotional state - especially if you're particularly fond of that wonder car that Honda released in the mid-1980s. If you're Bisi Ezerioha, you've already gotten beyond all of that. If you're Bisi, you've already built a version of the car that exceeds the power output of Porsche's 911 GT3 Hybrid - awesome.

As the owner of Bisimoto Engineering, and somewhat of a legend in the Honda community, Bisi is an overachiever when it comes to wringing every last ounce of power from any of the projects he accepts - often with ground-breaking results. MotorMavens crew members Antonio Alvendia, Herb Policarpio and I took a visit to his facility to see his latest masterpiece. We arrived just in time to see him adding the finishing touches to his Norm Reeves Honda purchased, 2011 Honda CR-Z.

As he went about his work, he took the time to explain his vision for this build which was to benchmark the CR-Z hybrid versus the newly released Porsche 911 GT3 hybrid which boasts a hefty 480hp at the crank and to do so while retaining the drivability, reliability, and eco-friendly nature of the original. In his own words: ìto really show them what Bisimoto Engineering could do.î In a matter of six weeks, not only had Bisi met his goal, he had exceeded the Porsche's horsepower numbers by 53 horses and developed 22 new aftermarket performance parts for the CR-Z. Did I mention he was an overachiever?   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> SR Datsun 620 WarMachine Pickup

"I couldn't find the sports car of my dreams, so I built it myself." Ferdinand Porsche

Datsun didn’t make a fast enough truck for Chad Copeland, so he followed Ferdinand Porsche’s example of persistence and built his own. After three tours of duty in the Middle East as a part of the Air Force, Chad took some driving courses and practiced on Eglin Air Force Reservation trying to slide his truck around corners and hang it out as far as he could. This was long before the artform of hooliganism now known as drifting became a sport.

That first truck is now long gone but Chad is keeping the interest alive in the form of his current Datsun 620 pickup. At first glance, it’s obvious that this isn’t your everyday 620…just in case you happen to see these every day. In fact, as much as this truck shows you with its exposed components and armed forces-inspired livery, there is more to be found beneath the proverbial surface.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> JCCS Award Winning Sakura 510

Building a car from the ground up isn't an easy task to do - physically or mentally. Some might already know exactly what they want to do, while others may have a general idea and focus on one thing at a time. Plans always change (which is the exact reason why my S14 has been sitting for over a year) but one thing that all these owners have in common is...Dedication.

This Datsun 510 project was started 13 years (and three owners) ago. The original owner (Joe Smith - sounds like an alias), had the body and paint done. He also accumulated a lot of NOS (new old stock) parts though the Nissan dealer he worked for but the car was never finished. Eventually the car ended up seeing two other owners before Dom Stokes bought it.   Read more...

CENTER STAGE> Superfine Serial Nine Cressidas

I can't imagine that, back in the mid 80s to early 90s, anyone thought of Toyota Cressidas as performance cars - after all, they were stuffed to the gills with power options and a plush interior. They were pseudo luxury cars that were made for taking trips to the grocery store and picking up the kids from school.

That perception of these four-door beauties changed when engines like the 1JZGTE and 2JZGTE started to become more accessible with the spike in JDM import parts coming into the US within the last decade. With minimal work, and a good knowledge of cars, one could have a powerful car with less investment than, say... a 240SX or AE86. Opting for the straight six turbo 1/2JZ engines was a no-brainer if you had a Cressida.   Read more...