Parked Beneath the Smoke
Offset Kings, Formula Drift Long Beach. April 12, 2015
While technically the Offset Kings show was held in a parking lot, I think it’s fair to say that most parking lots don’t have 1000hp monsters pouring smoke into the show every few seconds. Setting a car show infield of a Formula Drift event lends a certain atmosphere that I don’t think you can get anywhere else. That’s what makes this show so unique, it’s set in a venue that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. It also adds an interesting dynamic, as all of the cars sit bathed in tire smoke. As you walk up and down the rows, it can become difficult to see what sits lurking further away.
Say what you will about slammed cars and stance, but personally I think it’s one of the most visually impactful car scenes around. When done properly, the cars are jaw dropping. Fortunately Offset Kings is a curated show, meaning that all of these cars were done right. So on my second day at Formula Drift, I headed straight for the show to see what was parked beneath the smoke.
The title isn’t an exaggeration either, as I wandered around there were huge clouds of smoke that filled the parking lot. It added a cool dimension to the cars, they were all that much more menacing in the haze. It can be tough to get consistent photos in these sort of conditions, but if you are patient (and lucky) you can get some really cool shots.
One of the first things that caught my eye was the lineup of RWB Porsches. And really, how could it not? It would be an understatement to say that these are some of my favorite tuner cars in existence. I have never had the opportunity to see one in person before, so seeing five was nothing short of jaw dropping. There is a perfect balance between German precession, and Japanese art in the RWB cars. Better yet they look amazing doing laps, or sitting still. Not many cars car offer that sort of versatility.
I have said for a long time that if I ever won the lottery the first thing I would do is buy a Porsche 964. But after finally seeing a RWB in person, I’d have to revise that statement. I would buy two 964s, and send one off to RWB immediately. The white example here is owned by Brian Scotto, of Gymkhana production and Hoonigan fame. I’d argue that this was my favorite car of the show, it was executed so perfectly that I had to stop and stare for a long time.
And it wasn’t just RWB Porsches in attendance. This 964 was far less aggressive, but no less impressive. I’m sure some air cooled purists would be unhappy with the ride height, but it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t look amazing. And that’s the key here, just because a car isn’t built how you want it, doesn’t take away from the quality of the build.
As expected there were quite a few Euros present. I was surprised to see so many big budget, modern examples though. I typically don’t get the opportunity to see cars built like this, on more expensive platforms. But remember, these cars are some of the best representations of this scene. The E91 was particularly impressive, with subtle touches of green to really give the car a distinct look. I love how they let the color flow from the splitters, through the wheels, to the stripes down the side of the car. It’s design choices like these that set apart the truly well executed cars.
Of course I couldn’t help but stop by every single E30 at the show. One that stood out in particular was this S54 swapped example, owned by Eli. I got a chance to talk to him for a little bit while making the rounds at the show. He told me that he and his father have owned quite a few E30s, and ran me through the mod list. This car was immaculately restored, and even had a cardinal red interior, something of a holy grail in the E30 community. The S54 is also, by far, my favorite engine BMW has ever produced. Pair that with (what I think is) the best chassis, and this car is nothing short of perfection.
You might have seen these photos floating around Instagram, and I’m proud to take credit for them. Eli’s car won Best Euro and as a result the photo I posted spread through different BMW and E30 pages. It’s great to see that a build with this much effort was getting the recognition it deserved.
There were some other incredibly clean examples there as well. Every time I see an immaculate E30, it inspires me to keep working towards something on my car. While my shell might never be as straight as the cars here, I hope that it’ll be as impressive as these cars, in it’s own way. This brown E30 belongs to Renown Steering Wheels.
If you find yourself looking to find the most tasteful E30 in existence, this car might be it. It features euro grilles, with the euro bumpers, what I believe are iX fender flares, as well as pop out windows. Of course it also has a Renown Steering wheel. After seeing one in person, I think I will have to get one for my own E30 very soon, they look so at home in the E30. This car represents that subtle style that I love so much. At first glance it might look like just a slightly lowered, early model E30. But clearly a lot of time and effort has gone into making this car what it is today.
Unfortunately I don’t know who the owner of this white E30 is, but I love the meaty tires they have fit onto the car. It gives it something of an old school race car feel, especially with the stenciling on the tires. Of course like the other E30s it was equally as clean. The owner should definitely be proud of this car, it was an incredible example of how a late model E30 should be done.
But the show wasn’t made up entire of E30s of course. One style that caught me off guard was plastering giant anime characters on the side of cars. The style is called Itasha, which literally translates to Painful Car. I’m not sure painful is how I would describe it. While I don’t think I would ever do this to my own car, I can respect the effort and creativity here. These cars stood out quite a bit from the crowd, and ultimately that’s the point. It’s hard to fault anyone for wanting their car to stand out. While I tend to appreciate the subtle touches more, I can appreciate going completely over the top.
Another car that stood out was this Bosozoku styled Cressida. This car is pretty tame by Boso standards, but it certainly stood out. I actually saw this car heading to the show the previous day, and it’s an unbelievable sight in motion. When this car cuts through a sea of Camrys you can’t help but smile. It’s ridiculous to the point of being cool. While I realize this is not everyone’s taste, I think it’s hard to fault the dedication to building something like this. If given the opportunity somewhere down the line, I’d love to build a car like this.
It’s clear that this car is a veteran of shows as well. I remember seeing it last year at the exact same event, and the stickers on the windshield indicate a history of not only being at these shows, but winning them. Those sort of details only come from someone owning a car for a long time. After a while the modifications, and awards begin to tell a story. The car drips with personality, which is something that you can’t just buy. It has to be built and earned over time.
Continuing the trend of unique builds, this Pilot certainly stood out. I like seeing oddball platforms that no one else would think to try. I admire those willing to put up with a lack of aftermarket and community to build something that no one else has. I think it’s safe to say that I have never seen another slammed Pilot before. Kudos to the owner for making something truly unique.
Of course there was a good deal of aggressively fitted cars there as well. They ride inches from the ground, with massive amounts of camber. To me these cars look like the concept cars we see each year from the manufacturers. Many are gorgeous to look at, but ultimately never hit the showroom floors because they aren’t what the public wants or needs. While there might be some sacrifices to driving a car setup like this, I think it’s worth it.
You might have heard the saying “If you don’t look back at your car when you walk away, you’re driving the wrong car”. Well I know every single one of these owners take a good long look back, every time they park their car. I drive a “kind-of” low car myself, and despite the pain of scraping on speed bumps, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The FRS and BRZ continue to prove themselves as a versatile platform. While there were a few sliding around nearby on the track, many more were right at home parked in the show. There is a serious deficit of fun tuner cars being produced right now. While factories have been promising that more will be out soon, the Toyobaru twins continue to remain one of the best options out right now. As a result all different kinds of car cultures have put their own spin on the chassis.
One thing that struck me was the number of Rocket Bunny kits present. I think RWB has a lot to do with this style becoming as popular as it has been. It lends to a race car/functional feel, while still looking great. Even without the kit though, these cars still look aggressive. And in some ways the lack of a wide body makes the fitment that much more impressive. These owners are able to fit quite a bit of wheel and tire into a wheel well designed for something much smaller.
Another car that really caught my eye was this SR20 swapped Datsun 510. I like to think of the 510 as the Japanese equivalent to the E30. Lightweight, RWD, but in a way still very practical as a car. This particular example solved the lack of horsepower really well, and the swap looked factory. While I don’t have the exact specs on the engine setup, I’m willing to bet that this car is an absolute screamer, and a blast to drive.
Normally I would gloss over Hondas. I’ll be honest, I’ve railed against Hondas for a long time. Locally there are quite a few poorly done examples, as it seems like the ricer cliché continues to haunt the Civic. That was until recently, when I started looking into various Civic hatchback builds. I realized that, as a platform, they are incredibly competent. With the right knowledge they can make for fun canyon carvers, or stunning show cars. I hung around the car for a little bit hoping to talk to the owner, but I didn’t see them at any point. After seeing this well done hatch in person, I really feel the urge to buy and build one myself.
I had a bit of an “I get it now” moment at the show. While I’m still very much a RWD enthusiast myself, I see the appeal of buying an equally competent FWD platform. With the huge aftermarket and information available these cars start making a lot of sense. There are so many option, and with a little bit of work you can make something really cool. And if you put in the effort, you can make something as stunning as that Integra.
There is something to be said about a car that has passion behind it. We talk about supercars or old hot rods having this creative force behind them, pushing to build something that is unique and better than what exists. I think that the cars at this show have the same level of passion behind them. While not everyone might agree with the style, I think credit has to be given to those who set out to build something unique, and succeed. Offset Kings is the sort of event that highlights, and celebrates this kind of passion. The builds here all reflect that sort of driven mentality to build something that stands out under the drifting clouds of smoke.
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