CULTURE: WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

- Words: Jason Hanif. Photos: MJ Digital.

Remember the days of spontaneity? Firstly, no this isn’t an intervention. If you’re one of our older generation readers here at T-LD then you’ll remember the impromptu decisions in your youth which led to an excessive amount of funds poured into cars and modifications, some of which may have been unnecessary, although in hindsight it may have provided a valuable learning curve. Recently, this got us thinking, what if you had a cheat sheet? If you could go back and re-write the path, what would you do differently when modifying your car?

Unfortunately, we can’t give you that answer. However, we did select a number of well known builds within T-LD of different age groups and professions to offer the rest of our readers, in particular the younger generation advice on what to do, how to do it and what potential mistakes to avoid making. Here’s what they had to say on what got them into modifying cars and what they would have done differently.

BRAD HEASMAN
21 years old, Sales and Marketing at Heasman Steering.

T-LD: Brad, you’re relatively new to the car scene although your project S14 definitely got noticed last year. You’re up first! Tell us, where did it all begin for you?

Brad: It all began for me when I was about 6 years old. I used to come into work (Heasman Steering and Suspension) with my dad every Saturday and just hang around at the workshop, see all the cars and watch the mechanics working on them. From then on I was forever surrounded by modified cars.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Brad: If I were to do the S14 again, i’d buy a pre-built race-car, then modify it to suit me in order to save costs and time. It’s all the little bits and pieces that really bite into funding and time such as cage, computer, dash, stripping and painting the interior. For those just getting into modifying, i’d suggest saving funds until you are on your full license. That way, with a broader mindset you can spend it on proper functional thought-out mods. I’d definitely have to advise against cutting springs, and don’t cut corners! Carry out modifications in the correct way and form, ensuring you don’t sacrifice the safety of your car just for looks.

TESSA WHYTE
35 years old, Marketing & Events Manager at Mercury Motorsport.

T-LD: Tessa, there’s no doubt this GT-R has received infamous notoriety worldwide, especially of recent online. So lets rewind a little first, where did cars and modifying all begin for you?

Tessa: Well, considering my heavy involvement with performance cars you’d be surprised to know that none of my family members are into cars or motorsport at all, so for me it’s not from a family following background! I first got interested in the performance car scene when I was 16 years old (in 1995) through an ex-boyfriend, who had a 13-second Datto 1600. That was the start of it all for me and since then i’ve owned numerous JDM rides with my very first car being an immaculate black RX2 sedan with a 13B mildport. I’ve owned an RX3 Savanna coupe (13BT), an RX7 (S2, 13BT), a KE Laser TX3 4WD turbo and a 550rwhp R32 GTS-T Skyline, which was back in the mid 2000’s. Since i’ve become involved with Mercury Motorsport though, a number of GTR’s (including NITTO & TOMEI) have found themselves at home in our garage over the past few years. Ultimately I was able to turn my passion into my career by working full time here at Mercury Motorsport, which is incredibly rewarding and definitely a dream come true.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Tessa: I have learnt a lot working here at Mercury Motorsport so the best bit of advice that I could give someone is to do it once, but do it right and do not take shortcuts. There is no such thing as easy, reliable horsepower or cheap horsepower. It’s extremely important to plan the modifications to your car and be realistic with regards to your goals, otherwise it can be an extremely expensive exercise and disastrous if you go down the wrong path! Stick to a plan, quote items up, budget and save up until you are ready to go get it all done at the same time. Also, keep it off the streets, it’s simply not worth it these days.

SHANE STANDLEY
33 years old, Senior Gorilla at Gorilla Industries.

T-LD: Shane, we know this is sentimental to you, Gorilla was one of the two first builds we followed here on T-LD. Where did it all begin for you?

Shane: It all began having a massive Matchbox toy car collection. As far as I can remember I loved cars. I use to love watching the Bathurst 24 hour race with the BP RX-7 dominating and Carlos Sainz ST185 GT4 tearing up rally stages. This is where my obsession with Toyota began. Since having my license from 1997 I have one way or another modified everything I have owned! From 17 inch wheels on my dads hand-me-down Toyota Camry to engine swaps in my old Lexus IS200 back in 2003. Nobody I grew up with was into cars or racing so it was a late submission for me, beginning with off the streets track days at Wakefield and then it all snowballed from there.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Shane: For my generation and I, driving a Corolla SX or a Gemini was considered hardcore. I’m pretty sure if I had owned my Supra when I was on my P-Plates i’d be dead or would’ve had jail time, so it was good to have a relatively “slow” car while I was young to learn cars and how lethal they can be in the wrong hands. One thing I would have definitely done differently is build the Supra into a straight out track car which is what we are doing now. I am overall happy with how my car life eventuated. Illegal street racing and getting caught taught me a valuable lesson. Previously spending all my money on cars has taught me how to manage my money better. Having that big crash at World Time Attack Challenge has given me more insight in life, I still love cars and racing and I can’t wait to get back into it!

STEVE KA
32 years old, Pharmacist.

T-LD: Steve, shortly after following Shane’s build we ran into the R33 GT-R you had owned at that time. There’s no doubt about your love for Nissan’s R-Chassis. So, where did it all begin for you?

Steve: For me, back in 90’s when Skaife and Richards smashed Bathurst in their R32 GT-R. This was an iconic decade for the teens growing up in that era. My love for the GT-R started here. I started with a GTST R33 4-DOOR, hence why all my mates call me this. I was at university at that point in time and vowed once i could afford it that i’d be in a GT-R. My first one was a R33 GT-R with all the fruit including a shot of nitrous. It ran 10.9s the exact way it was driven on the street. I ended up trading that one in for a Honda Civic CXI for three years as I became a pharmacist and and got married so life priorities took over. During this time, the likes of Gorilla Industries and Co were on the track on quite a regular basis. After attending a few track days and being a passenger I knew this was a sport that I wanted to get into!

One day, Shane from Gorilla Industries linked me to a car in Japan as I had a deposit on a EVO at the time (it spent 4 months on the docks of Japan awaiting delivery, so i spoke to the broker and said I wanted the Silver R33 GT-R). Imagine if I had owned a EVO instead of a GTR!? I was then informed that I had three hours before the car went to auction and the boys at IMG said the car I was looking at (R33), if brought into Australia could not be registered. “Its got 2 nitrous tanks in the boot with purges, no interior, race seats, roll cage etc.”, said the dealers. I was pretty down at this point, but an hour later I picked myself up and made the necessary calls to the right people in the industry. I had a plan to comply the car, called IMG back up and asked for their bank account details. A few hours later I received a call whilst at work that notifying me that I was now the owner of this car and they didn’t want anything to do with it when it arrived. I didn’t care at this time. I had a vision and it was exactly as the image below, which is what I achieved.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Steve: One thing I have learnt over the past decade of playing with GT-R’s is that it’s an obsession. If you’re not willing to make some sacrifices (long hours of work, driving a civic for 3 years) they become expensive very quickly. This is because they make power so easily, though it’s prone to hiccups. Tracking one is a whole other story. The cheapest way of doing this is to cap your power to 300awkw. Although they are a very heavy chassis to start with, they can still go relatively fast. 1450kg is where mine is at the moment and it’s done 61 seconds around Wakefield Park and 1:34s at Sydney Motorsport Park. Watch out for a sub 60 second lap at a certain Time Attack event soon!

After building over ten motors in my lifetime, I’ve learnt quite a lot. Budget is always the limiting factor and it’s very tempting to spreadsheet the cheapest way out. Sometimes spending $20,000 once and not blowing up versus $10,000 builds that fail twice is worth the wait! There are those workshops that promise the world without anything to back it up and there are those that are utter crooks! I have seen them all and been ripped off numerous times. I wish i’d met Powertune from the start as they understand the motor, its limits and its needs. In my opinion, they’ve got it spot on, enough to guarantee my 450awkw stroked dry sumped race engine.

Looking back, I wish I had saved up a little more and spent my money on the right mods which build a good foundation for other mods. However, like everyone else, I thought I could do things on my own and save a few dollars to mod other parts. You soon learn that experience triumphs. These cars are awesome and dangerous, cruise the streets and push hard on the strip or track. So as a 32 year old pharmacist I still choose to work as hard as I can so that i’m able to enjoy the car on the tracks at least once every 2 months. Driving is like my golf game at the moment, shocking! It takes a lot of practice, dedication and patience to hit a ball straight or go fast!

KOSTINKEN POHORUKOV 
37 years old, Project Director at Tilton Constructions.

T-LD: Kosta, congratulations on the big win! Can we go back in time for a little first, tell us where did it all begin for you?

Kostinken: For me, it all started at the local car ‘meets’ where everyone would go to hang around. Not long after I started racing 400m drags at Sydney Motorsport Park (then known as Eastern Creek). My car? First year of university, 1994 I had just turbo-charged my Nissan Pulsar S14 SSS. That car made 190kW at the wheels and I used to cruise it to uni with my ‘COO00G’ number plates and 2 x 15″ Kicker subwoofers with Rockford Fosgate 4 x 100 Amps MB quarter splits. Sad but true, that was me! From there I modified a DC2R and circuit raced it at Wakefield Park, then came the EVO.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Kostinken: If I could take it all back and do it over again, I would have spent money on a non-road registered race car. Due to financials, I would own a street cruiser just for the street as opposed to spending all my coin on one car. That’s definitely my only biggest gripe, turning a street car into a track car. To the younger generation, keep the street car and when funds permit, buy a track car and modify that!

MICHAEL ZOMAYA
26 years old, Business Development at T-LD.

T-LD: Michael, the popularity surrounding this car is astounding, especially on Social Media. However, before Facebook even existed, where did it all begin for you?

Michael: For me it was at a very young age. The other day I found some old cassettes of my former self at age three speaking with my mother and answering questions. One of the questions she asked was “What car do you want when you grow up?” in which I excitedly responded “Porsche!” – I don’t know where my fixation originated from, but that’s definitely when it did.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

Michael: There’s two things that I’d like to say, do it right the first time and keep it on the track. My first car was nothing special at all, but I threw a lot of money at it. I remember having an argument with some friends about it, how I was wasting my money on a car that basically had no potential at all. At the time I was in complete disagreement with them and continued to spend. Fast forward nearly ten years and I regret modifying my Holden Astra. I know a lot of you readers out there will disagree with my opinion, but don’t bother spending money on a car just because you can, unless you love the said make and model or the car truly has potential of being so much more than what it is. I see the same mistakes I made affecting my younger cousins who approach me asking what wheels they should get for their Mazda 2 or Lancer CS. I know for a fact that they don’t ‘love’ these cars, but the money they could potential spend on them could be saved and spent on something that is actually special and meaningful. This also applies to my EVO, it’s been through several builds and each time I’ve replaced several parts that could have been purchased the first time to achieve my final goal. The point I’m trying to make is to be patient and spend your money on a car you love.

From the Astra it was onto an EVO which was obviously a huge upgrade. I was quite young when I had the EVO and did a lot of silly things that I undoubtedly regret on the road. My advice to the younger generation would be to do a track day. I remember completing all three stages of Ian Luff’s driving courses at Oran Park which seemed to calm me down on the road. After the driving courses I moved onto track days and would attend one every three or four months. It wasn’t until I attended a track day that I realised how immature and stupid I had been on the road previously. For those of you who haven’t attended one, I highly recommended it. There are several car clubs and organisations that hold these events that do a great job. Completing a track day really tests both driver ability and car capability in a controlled environment. How on earth can you achieve this on a public road? The answer is you can’t. Fortunate for me, this realisation came to me at an early age.

JAMES ANDERSON
31 years old, Regional Manager at an undisclosed Institution.

T-LD: James, another car we’ve been following for a couple of years now, and the unique one that has mastered being in a state of the most ideal street and track car. Lets go back first, where did it all begin for you?

James: As soon as I got my licence I became pretty obsessed with driving. I used to do 1,200 km’s per week very little of which was needed, I did it just for fun. A year or so after getting my licence I bought a 1992 Nissan 180sx. At the time it was the best car in the world. Spent a fortune driving it everywhere with big plans and track days. Only minor modifications eventuated as I simply couldn’t afford it. Then some circumstances forced me to sell it which in hindsight was a great thing. I ended up buying a Mitsubishi Mirage which was lightly modified with an exhaust, suspension and camber adjustments. The car became a track hack that was daily driven. It would have done over 40 track days without ever giving me grief. While at university this turned out to be the perfect track car for me.

When I finally finished and got a full time job there were quite a few cars that had passed in quick succession before I settled on the S15. There was a brief period of which where a WRX which gave me massive grief at the track and was a bit boring as it was very stock. Then a Skyline before I finally purchased my first S15. It had 30,000 on the clock and was an Aussie delivered GT. I owned that for two years and it had the usual modifications for 200rwkw and was a test dummy for building the first part of coilovers for S15′s. This car did quite a lot of track days as well as being daily driven. I then decided it was going to cost too much to get it to where I wanted so I sold it and bought a more modified one as a better base. As it turns out the only part left on it from the previous owner is the mechanical diff. There is basically not a single factory part in the engine bay anymore except for the brake booster and IACV.

T-LD: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently? Is there any advice you can give to the younger generation?

James: Definitely, don’t make the mistake of buying something with the goal of it being practical or an all rounder. In my experience cars are a labour of love so if you don’t buy with your heart you’ll get over it much more quickly. The WRX was my attempt at something that could take plenty of people around as well as being fast and safe handling. I’m not in any way knocking WRX’s but that wasn’t right for me. What I really wanted was a light and extreme rear wheel drive base that really made me work for it. So I would definitely recommend buying what gets you excited not a compromise. Also, don’t buy cheap parts they end up making you really annoyed and cost you a fortune. Buy quality the first time around!

Got your own story to tell? Chime in the comments fields below and tell us what got you into cars, modifying and the culture that surrounds it. Feel free to offer advice and begin discussions for the upcoming generation.

10 Responses to “CULTURE: WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?”

  1. Steve says:

    Props to T-LD team for coming out with a solid mature article, whilst other groups just seem to be fighting amongst everyone else. I’d definitely have to agree on save your money, spend it on something you truly love. Don’t cut corners and avoid the fake products. Also don’t modify your car for what others will think or see it for, do it for yourself.

  2. Paul says:

    I learnt two things:

    1- Michael hit the nail on the head with this one

    “The point I’m trying to make is to be patient and spend your money on a car you love

    Couldn’t agree more :)

    2: I also learnt not to pick the wrong workshop to do work on your car

  3. I’ve been into cars all my life, properly got into it when I started doing photography and have now been around for a few years. Sadly it seems like I missed the golden days of impromptu meets at FOX Studios where you would actually get to know everyone, now people don’t even care about hanging out, they just want to see who gets the most photos of their car.

    It seems like a lot of people just want e-fame now, people have massive egos, buy performance cars just for show and to get some extra likes on a Facebook page. It would be nice to have a meet where everyone is there purely to enjoy the cars at hang and each others company, no rivalry or hate between each other.

    Advice to the new generation: try and be different, don’t do things just to get approval from a bunch of people who’s opinion doesn’t matter and also try and be different!

  4. Mitch says:

    Great write up guys!

    #DO.IT.ONCE.DO.IT.RIGHT

  5. Kevin Smith aka BALLR Inc. says:

    Modifying cars has been throughout my family for years. My old man had a number of old holdens in his early days. My uncle is a mechanic by trade, owned his own shop, built race cars, defensive driver training instructor, CAMS official. I grew up around v8s, however I always had a love for the import cars.

    The one thing I learnt in my 10 years of being involved in the scene is to build your car YOUR WAY! Dont listen to the kids that think they know it all. Listen to the guys that have been around, built quality cars and know what it takes.

    Thats my advice for the younger generation…build the car the way you want too. Dont be afraid to spend a bit extra for quality parts. In the long run you wont regret it. Ive learnt the hard way, ive made mistakes, but thats what happens.

  6. Love it guys, someone needed to post something like this! Very well done.

  7. Danny J says:

    I don’t understand the confusion between cheap parts and replica’s. There’s a clear difference between the two.

    We all understand that not everybody can afford the top end brands, but there are several brands out there that offer great products at much cheaper prices. The problem comes when people buy replicas of products. If you can’t afford the real thing then be prepared for whats coming.

  8. Jason says:

    Good point Danny, a lot of people are putting cheaper parts in the wrong category and the lines between replicas and cheap parts are being blurred.

    There are parts that are cheaper than others (which is great!), then there are blatant rip-offs (which leads into a spiral downwards effecting the genuine products revenue, leading to cutting overheads including budget allocated into R&D etc). That’s another discussion in itself though!

  9. Sam Gardner says:

    All this article is doing is offering advice from some well known people within the scene, unfortunately the scene has been on a inevitable decline for the past few years with events idolising cars with unsafe and fake parts.

  10. Paul says:

    Enjoyed this article. A lot of things resinated with me, in the past I used to act on impulse when modding my car, sitting there every other week searching for what new part could I buy. After lots of dollars spent, my advice is to plan and have an end goal. Mod your car as you wish and when you meet your goal make sure you really enjoy the car before moving on.

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