I don't know what time I went to bed, but I know it wasn't early. And it certainly wasn't enough.
The sun and splendor of the previous day had gone, replaced by hard rain and a sea of gray. Rising from bed like a Phoenix from a dumpster fire, I emerge from my room. Laughter and music fills the hall. As I enter the dining room I'm greeted by the crew, which has steadily grown since the previous day. All the previous suspects are here, along with Kyle (@ksfphoto) who we'd met in front of the house the day prior, Cory (@5xyrxy), Nash (@nashdak), Jesse (@1er_me), Aubrey (@aubreyhawthorne), Cody (@cococo95), and Ashton (@ashtoon_mcg). Endless aftermovies play on the TV. No one seems to be sure of what the plan is. On top of that, the amount of cars we have is severely limiting.
Prior to leaving the states, I had made quite an effort to contact local car owners and set up shoots. I had it in my mind that we'd have multiple cars available, so that we could go our own way. Now that I see the actual situation, my plans seem a bit far fetched. The house was quite far from the heart Melbourne. In fact, the house was far from anything at all. We faced a 40 minute drive regardless of what we wanted to do. We're lucky enough to have a few unexpected cars available (shout out to Kyle) but with Sarah busy as hell setting everything up for Status our options are slim.
The day moves slow, and yet somehow it fly's by. I decide to venture out with Charley for his maiden RHD voyage in Kyle's r36 (yes I said r36) to go pretty much nowhere. By the time we reach the base of the hill I've bombarded him with at least 50 questions and 100 "don't fuck this up's" but to my surprise, he seems to be right at home. No struggle with the mirrors, staying in the lane just fine, and overall making it look easy to drive on the opposite side of the road. I myself have only had one experience driving the other side, and while I didn't crash I definitely didn't feel comfortable for a majority of the time. Especially not right away. Not only is the side of the road opposite, everything is. The mirror position, the direction you turn, the direction everyone else is going. The place you look IN the mirror is different. It's certainly a lot to keep track of, and on top of all the different laws, signs, and unspoken rules of the road it is almost too much. But Charley makes it look like he's been doing it his whole life.
Upon our return we learn that Josh (@d_a_t_e_d) has a date with a bugeye (@mrvinism) down at the docklands (played out), and we're all invited.
I did not realize Melbournes' weather was so sporadic.
Our drive consisted of rain, sun, heavy rain, sun again, and rain again. We had to slow down on the freeway to avoid crashing because visibility was so low. Part of me wondered, would we even be able to do this? Are we going to get rained out on our first shoot of the week? That would be a tragedy. But Australia decided to be a kind host. As we arrive at the planned location our eyes are blessed with beauty. The clouds have parted, opening a path for one of the most intense sunsets I'd ever seen. The kind that only appears after a long gloomy day. Small pools of water dot the ground, reflecting marvelous orange light all around us. The city of Melbourne shines at our backs, amplifying the colors even further. The air seems to glimmer all around. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day. Several cars are parked down the way, half of which are from the Status house. But placed in the center of the lot, silhouetted against the sky, sits Vinh's beautiful Bugeye.
Created by: Conner Esposito
For those who are unaware, Subaru was having a bit of a style crisis in the early 2000's. From 1993 to 2000, Subarus' now coveted Impreza was very much a 90s machine. It had the look, stylings, and rapport of classic JDM titans like the Skyline and the Evo. But it was time to revamp, and in 2001 Subaru released their new model.
The response was less than ideal.. far less actually. Christened the 'bug-eye' because of its circular, bulbous headlights, the new Impreza was not a hit with the people, and two short years later they released a facelift model (generally this is a re-design of the front end) which became known as the 'blob-eye' and yielded incredible sales numbers. After a few more years, they changed again, this time putting out the 'hawkeye.'
Personally, I didn't know much about Subaru's legacy when I first got into the scene. Not enough to understand the different facelifts anyway. But standing here, watching Vinh air out, I would have never guessed the Bugeye wasn't a hit. Perched on some wildly aggressive brushed RSV RSS18's (I'm not familiar with the names of their line of wheels either, don't feel bad if you didn't know. I had to ask), Vinh's WRX has a commanding presence. Seemingly twice the width of the original design, his car boasts the first production V2 widebody from Angry Acorns. It's strange seeing a car sculpted around circular headlights flow so well with a kit that is extremely square. But Vinh took the initiative and had the new pieces molded into the existing fenders, and it feels right at home.
I've seen a lot of wide bodied cars, of all makes and models, ranging wildly in execution. From flawlessly done in a professional capacity to janky, busted up and barely hanging on at the local pop up meet. Plus everything between. And I have to say, I'm impressed with the way this fits together. The front bumper has been heavily modified to flow into the widebody kit, seeming to stretch at the edges to encompass the offset. Adding to the overall look is a set of side skirts meant for an EVO X, sacrilege for most Subaru enthusiasts and yet, it fits perfectly. Maintaining the boxy theme and tying together the side of the car while still matching the height and aggressive nature of the other bumper choices. A more difficult feat than one might think, and absolutely wonderful to witness in reality. Rounding out the ground effects is a rear diffuser from a Nissan 180sx, another part never intended for this car that just flies right under the radar.
A few more goodies compose the exterior. Custom Circuit Demon headlights sit menacingly below a Varis hood, honeycomb design accentuated by RGB LED's on the inside. Around back, Illumasthetic built LED tails outline a molded trunk. The roof is marked by a chargespeed wing, topped with a custom made gurney flap.
But it isn't all looks. Vinh has swapped out the original WRX drivetrain for the STI version, along with other STI bolt ons. Once upon a time, according to Vinh, it also had a stage 3 tune. He tells me that his passengers are routinely surprised at how quick it is for a stance car. It's these tid bits of info that set certain builds above the rest. They demonstrate knowledge of the platform past it's looks, along with dedication to creating something to one's own standard. The passion comes through effortlessly. It's obvious to me that Vinh has a genuine connection to this vehicle. The depth and scale of his modifications mixed with the authentic parts and tedious effort put into the final product shine as brightly as the sun that sets behind it.
Night falls quickly. We have no light left save for the ones left ablaze in the maze of skyscrapers and the waning sunlight along the horizon. A crowd has now gathered at the docklands; a bunch of the Fortune guys and some other random cars. Josh and a few others split off from the rest of us to go get rollers with Vinh, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. And by that I mean food.
We pull into a spot right off a small Canal not 15 minutes away, and I can already tell this is the designated hang out. 20+ cars are here, filling up nearly every spot along the road. Tons of variety, several skylines, 240s, VWs, BMW's, even an adorable little MR2. We end up parking in the very back corner, stuffing into a tiny little space barely suitable for a Kei car. I can see 50 people standing outside the restaurant, an Italian spot called Pizze Societe. I'm starving, but my interest in the cars outweighs my hunger. So much so that by the time I realize I haven't ordered food, the place is already closed. Once again, I am displaced by my hardwired need to continue shooting until I can no longer stand.
Cars start clearing out. The lot becomes sparse. I can tell my ride is eager to leave. I snap my last few shots of the night; going right up until I am at the car door, ever seeing eye surpassing the pressure to hurry up. It has become a bit of a curse to see with such clarity. Getting lost in the scene around me as the awareness of reality fades away. It often leaves me in hot water.
We make a stop at a local grocery store to find something quick to eat and then it's back to the Status house. Everyone is gathered in the basement. We have our laptops out, the drinks are pouring, fun abounds. I hear Amanda and Jesse chopping it up, trying to place the differences between American English and Australian English. Obviously word choice is different, but they were more focused on underlying differences. Annunciation of letters, shortening of words, completely omitting sounds. An interesting conversation to have, and one that burns long into the night.
Time passes. My ability to function wanes. The bed calls to me. As I make my way upstairs talk of ghosts and shadows captivates the remaining members of the crew. But for my tired mind, the day is over. Trudging up the stairs, the final synapses of my mind reflect on the day. Even though it was a fairly slow one, my insistence to shoot every waking moment made it feel like endless movement. With legs weak and eyes heavy, I practically collapse on the bed. One by one the last lights in my mind are extinguished, and with a final click, I drift off into slumber.