Art Of Speed, Malaysia’s largest automotive festival, has been entertaining readers of Speedhunters for a few years now. However, up until this year, we’d only ever seen the event through the eyes (and white glasses) of one man.
This time around, Dino and I gave each other a virtual mid-air high-five as our planes rocketed past one another in opposite directions. While Dino would be enjoying the cold change in Melbourne, Australia for the Black Label Invitational show, I’d be sweating it out in Kuala Lumpur. We were both looking to explore a new scene and bring you guys a fresh perspective on our findings.
I landed in KL with little more than an open mind. My knowledge of what to expect in Malaysia was embarrassingly limited to just a few conversations with friends who’ve visited, and a couple of hours’ worth of digital exploration.
That sum of knowledge was capped at knowing what sort of metal to expect on the show floor at Art Of Speed, leaving me to wander about, seek out, and experience everything else in person.
And believe me when I say a lot was crammed into just four short days.
With so much happening and so many different elements to share, I couldn’t possibly contain it all within one story, so before we delve into my Malaysian adventure, let’s take a closer look at the machinery that made up Art Of Speed 2019.
Recycled Ideas, A New Style
No less than 132 cars and 88 bikes were sprawled across two massive halls at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park, all perfectly presented in their unique way. While some builds glistened with fresh paint or blinded you with perfectly polished chrome, other vehicles parked proudly covered in patina, harsh weathering, and many other signs of a hard life.
Unlike the majority of shows I’ve attended, which all seem to be niche-specific, Art Of Speed embraces the entirety of Malaysia’s custom car culture. More importantly, so do the 50,000+ attendees that rolled through the gates over the AOS weekend.
The lines that exist between automotive genres in other lands I’ve visited just don’t seem to exist here.
Here, it’s been simplified to just one category for all: cool people building cool shit. It really can be this easy.
You could argue that this ‘togetherness’ exists only within the confines of the showground, but I’d counter that by drawing your attention to the cars built locally. Malaysia may indeed be heavily influenced by international scenes, but the fusion between these worlds and a unique way of building have given birth to a distinctive style you just won’t encounter elsewhere.
Think peak Americana, Japan’s golden age of motoring, the wildness of an untameable jungle, and let’s throw in a healthy dose of Mad Max rawness for good measure too.
While it’s true that some builds here lack the refinement one would expect from countries with a more established scene and access to better tools and parts, there’s enough ingenuity and imagination in Malaysian car culture circles to create a finished project that’s way more interesting than any generic cookie-cutter shopping list ‘build’.
Don’t confuse my talk of togetherness for saying that there aren’t unique styles within the scene, as there certainly are many different aspects within the greater culture. But it’s less about the cars sharing aesthetics and goals, and more about the level of mutual respect between owners.
One of my very few responsibilities was to select a recipient for the ‘Speedhunters Choice’ award.
After an internal struggle between three or four standout vehicles, I ultimately settled on Kean Yap’s Hakotora Datsun Sunny ute.
Finished in a tribute livery to the original Hakosuka GT-Rs that helped forge a 50-year legacy, Kean’s Sunny is not only a high quality build, but walking around the little pickup was like being sucked into a blackhole. The Datsun is peppered with period trinkets and Japanese memorabilia.
There was so much to see that I was still noticing small additions the following night during a wild tunnel run, and eventually a proper feature shoot. But more on that later…
I wasn’t the only one to take notice of Kean’s Sunny. Steve Vandervate, Hot Wheels’ premium line lead designer, also selected the small truck for the ‘Hot Wheels Pick’ award.
No Equal To Modern Classics
The secondary hall brought about a complete change of pace.
Tuner booths were replaced with hipster vintage clothing outlets, a miniature skate park, lowrider bikes, and heavily customised collectables.
Furthermore, outside of a few hero builds, the extreme modifications of the main hall entrants were nowhere to be found.
Instead, a carefully curated selection of mostly JDM modern classics filled the show floor. Seeing so many familiar shapes in concours condition was a refreshing change of pace.
Icons, unicorns, and entire family legacies reminded the AOS audience that sometimes a well-executed restoration can tug on the heartstrings just as effectively as the craziest of builds. Hell, throw in a good dose of personal nostalgia and I’d argue that certain scenarios could even illicit a more powerful response than any trillion-horsepower project.
Seeing a prime example of my own personal unicorn – the Evolution IX wagon, a car I’ve chased but never owned – was a timely example of the allure that a desirable factory-fresh car can possess. It has me addicted to my local Carsales app again.
Subaru’s line of WRX variants has been a pillar of the Japanese tuning scene for more than 25 years, and the family portrait was rendered complete at Art Of Speed 2019 with this 22B. Or at least an extremely good clone, because later on I was told it’s a replica. I hate admitting when I’m wrong, but the owner of this car, who’s gone to great lengths to ensure every measurement and proportion is accurate, sure had me fooled.
GT-Rs seem to enjoy universal favoritism, and a replica Z-tune built using only genuine Nismo parts seemed to further enhance the Godzilla family’s appeal with the Malaysian audience. The cost of car owership in Malaysia and Singapore is nothing short of exorbitant, so I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been to assemble such a pedigree stable of vehicles.
Every corner of the show contained something surprising, be it an unfamiliar make, a fusion of styles, attention to tiny details, or even just the downright quirkiness of some cars.
Believe it or not, this monster post has only just scratched the surface of what is a very interesting scene, one we’ll continue to explore in the coming weeks.