Wow. Who would have thought that describing the past twelve months would prove to be so difficult?
There are no specs to chase or research to be done. It’s as simple as looking back and throwing a few comments together. Perhaps that’s the problem; Stopping long enough to look back.
Twenty-eighteen was overall a year of change and surprises for me. I’m nursing the most significant difference right now as I try my best to type this story one-handed. Good timing! This is the perfect metaphor to describe at least the last half of this year.
Juggling work, photos and other adult obligations while preparing for the second #ProjectKid to enter the household has proven pretty challenging at times. Well, most of the time lately if we’re completely honest.
One kid was easy. Managing a baby and a four-year-old is a whole different game.
But how do you find value in a life with no challenges? It’s human nature to take things for granted if there’s no struggle in achieving them. Until you’ve tried to weld, you’re incapable of understanding the difficulty of crafting a pipe like this.
It’s through these new challenges that I’ve grown a deeper appreciation of both halves of my life. I miss my family intensely while I’m out on the road chasing speed, and conversely, I miss the high-octane excitement and thrill of the hunt while playing Super-Dad at home.
As my first opportunity to stop and reflect on what turned out to be a non-stop 2018, I’m going to be efficient and use this as an opportunity to learn as I write. Perhaps you’ll be able to take something away that’ll help out in 2019, too.
So as a quick disclaimer: I’m writing and reviewing the year entirely on the fly. Powered by red wine and anti-biotics, no less. [This is going the be GREAT – PMcG]
This could get personal, it may get weird, hell, it might even end up in the recycle bin before ever seeing the light of the day. We’ll find out soon enough.
Real Time Reflections
Casting my gaze back across the year’s stories fills me with a mixed bag of emotions. Excitement, joy, pride, regret and even a little disappointment. Let’s address those negative emotions first, see what we can take away from them, and then get ready to party.
Why am I disappointed? Thirty-six. After an entire year of (believe it or not) hard work, I’m a little underwhelmed with how infrequent my updates have become.
Admittedly, the main focus of my attention over the past couple of months has had little to do with cars, cameras or computer screens, but I still can’t help but feel I’m letting down the team, and you guys.
Yes, I understand it’s illogical and unwarranted. Family first. But as previously mentioned, This is a real time review and I’ll be sharing the unmoderated version.
Regret? Well, that’s simple and related to the low thirty-six stories. I regret not being able to share more of the adventures with you or shining the spotlight on some of the cars I came across.
What you’ve seen is the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg.’ I could fill another half-dozen stories from just my weeks in Japan, or give the recognition of a feature to so many more worthwhile cars that I encountered on my travels.
Ok. It’s time to party! For all of what I failed to deliver, I’m still quite proud of the depth and width of what I did manage to cram into 365.25 days on our tiny, spinning rock.
That there is ultimately the core value of both reading and contributing to Speedhunters. I can’t think of another outlet that gives a true enthusiast the level of freedom to explore cars and car culture like Speedhunters.
Where else could I start a historic F1 car, thrash Australia’s shittest car, learn to drift, race through Toyko, and pen a formal apology to the R33 Skyline?
Eat kebabs, choke on diesel soot, access exclusive parties and provide coverage of WRC? Absolutely nowhere. Far out, I love my ‘job’.
A Summer Of Fun
January seems like a logical place to start a year in review. While there was some local content, the highlight (for me at least) was the opportunity to photograph and attend Nakai-san’s annual ‘New Years’ party at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Many, many years ago, I remember sitting at my office desk and being blown away by the very same event presented by one of my photographic idols, Sean Klingelhoefer. I can still vividly recall many images from that piece.
Standing in his footsteps, halfway around the globe, was a surreal experience, and one I’ll always treasure. One of those rare moments that justified all of the long hours, the lack of sleep and the constant battle of self-improvement.
Not only that, I now had a chance to create and share my own unique vision of the night, and who knows, possibly make a similar impression on the next generation of our craft.
Reduced to its simplest level; it was a bunch owners of expensive fibreglass cars sharing chicken wings and Jack Daniels, but somehow, being there was an obscure milestone in my career, and also a point of validation that pursuing this whole photography thing was the right choice.
The next main story to come from my Tokyo adventures, excluding Auto Salon content, was less meaningful but managed to dial the fun-meter way past eleven. Even with an impenetrable language barrier.
A good mate, and fellow Australian cinematographer, Bez Black, and I hit the late-night expressways, and glowing alleyways with Niko’s Liberty Walk kitted R35 GT-R and Manabu’s glitzy Lamborghini Aventador.
Despite a lack of planning, luck favored us and provided a much needed temporary deviation from reality.
A neon-lit dream as we crossed the city at speeds we should mention that simultaneously taught us that language is no barrier for real car guys, and also that the titanium exhaust of an Aventador doubles as an excellent hand warmer.
Summer’s contribution was closed out by my first real attempt to drift (excluding embarrassingly poor late night single-spinner skids in my old R32 GTS-t.)
Drift School Australia set me loose in a pair of Nissans. Both the familiar R32 GTS-t and also an S14 Silvia.
Just when I thought I had a grasp of the concept and an ounce of pride, they threw me in the passenger seat with some of their more experienced drifters. If you’ve not experienced proper drifting yourself, let me tell you that there’s a phenomenal difference between sliding in low gears versus true high speed sideways antics.
Typically, the car scene slows right down from March through to June as the weather cools down. It’s not so much the temperature, but more the frequent rains that ruin even the best-laid plans. This season’s highlight, and an annual highlight too, fast approached.
Of course, I’m talking about Racewars.
An entire weekend of characters just as diverse as their stupidly powerful vehicles assaulting a runway and the local pubs of the picturesque township of Albany. Australia’s most south-western city, and an absolute gem of a place to visit.
In fact, my new found love for Australia’s west coast led me to fly my wife and first #projectkid over for our last chance at a baby-free week of relaxation, and our first (and last) real holiday for years.
In an attempt to highlight some of the very different approaches to building and tuning, I featured two Fords back to back. Both Australian designed and manufactured cars.
One is a complete work of art, the other was Australia’s worst car with a massive turbo strapped to the block. I’ll let you work out which is which.
The next main event on my schedule was another runway event. On paper, both events sound similar, but after experiencing both firsthand, I assure you they’re very different from each other.
My final planned adventure before the winter months setting in took me interstate to Melbourne this time. Officially, I was in town for the new look Motorex, but Dino and I were also starting to collect the first stories to kick off our two-wheeled content.
Starting with a shed tour and some portraits of Mr. Engineered To Slide, a.k.a. Nigel Petrie. If I only take one thing away from this year in review, it’s that I want to spend more time focusing on capturing the owners as well as their creations.
While in Melbourne I thought I’d be a friendly host for Dino-san, and also tried to make the most of our Lexus press fleet, by organizing some last minute Kebabhunting, followed by a night cruise.
We rose early the next morning and crammed a 700km(-ish) round trip to the amazing Great Ocean Road before I had to fly home in the afternoon. Yeah, it was a lot of effort, but totally worth it.
The fresh (read freezing) Antarctic air that blows across the limestone coastline is soul cleansing.
We cut through the B-roads, farming regions, and forests, giving us both an ample amount of time to sample both the V8 LC500 and V6 RC350. What conclusions did we arrive at? It’s all here.
Winter Is Here
It feels like my year of hunting slowed significantly after the trip to Melbourne. Tasks that needed to be done at home for the arrival of baby #2 could no longer be put off. Our first little dude arrived quite early, so we wanted to be prepared if that was to happen again.
I still got out when I could, but stayed fairly local. The extra time at home meant I could follow up on some cool content collected at previous events, and even spend a little more time behind the camera on the few shoots I did get to.
Some of that extra time available was sunk into an experimental shoot with Mark Boxer’s retro-teched Yamaha R1. The gameplan was to evoke a new-wave retro feel in the story to help capture the mix of old and new that made his project so special.
Mixing up some colour theory, strobes, and a smoke machine to create something really unique and different to what we’re used to Speedhunters. It was some of the most fun I’ve had behind the camera for some time.
It’s safe to assume that you’ll be seeing some more of these wild experiments in the new year.
I’m sure that ProjectKid #2 knew we were ready for an early arrival, and decided to be a jerk and keep us waiting intentionally.
Still, I’d much prefer to be waiting than being caught off guard. During that time on high alert with nothing much to do, I made some time to tinker and even enjoy #ProjectNine.
A set of DBA two-piece 5000-series rotors up front, single piece 4000-series rear rotors and DBA Xtreme Performance pads replaced my stock braking package.
Not too long after, a much needed NPC Extra heavy duty clutch and lightened flywheel were also installed. Both upgrades have made the car so much easier to enjoy. Early next year I’ll be tackling some suspension issues that should rectify its boat-like handing when driving hard.
Still, we waited for our precious arrival. I was getting nervous, I had one last trip away planned for 2018. I’d accepted to take part in a 24-hour Drift Challenge at Winton Raceway issued by Drift Cadet’s Peter Quoccy Pham (I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of saying that name quickly.)
The idea was to spend an entire day drifting on the skidpan. First, in their street Toyota 86, with modifications limited to an LSD differential and some coil-overs.
If successful, they’d let me loose in their dedicated drift car. A Harrop supercharged Toyota 86 with a few more mods for both power and steering lock.
If I could successfully drift their car on the pan, I’d try my luck on the race track in front of the Shannon’s Nationals crowd and a live stream. EEP!
Finally, baby Blake arrived, conveniently less than a fortnight before one of the largest events on my calendar, World Time Attack Challenge.
If I wasn’t sleep deprived enough before WTAC, running around through some of the worst conditions the event has ever experienced ensured I was completely drained by the end of it. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. If anything, the added stress made me appreciate how much hard work my wife puts in behind the scenes to help me stay focused on shooting fast cars. Thank you, baby!
And finally, my recent journey to Coffs Harbour to capture the excitement of the WRC. My first taste was enough to completely hook me on the sport, and off-tarmac racing, too. Expect to see as much off-road action as I can cram into the upcoming year.
Well, that escalated quickly. Leave a smiley face in the comments if you’ve made it this far. With an entire year condensed into one page, all that I’m left feeling is a sense of gratitude. Speedhunting really is an amazing project to be involved in, and it’s something I’m immensely proud to be a part of.
TL;DR Version: Expect more creativity, more personal stories and more variation in the types of events I plan on bringing in the new year. Most importantly though, Thank you. Thank you for supporting this project that enables us to chase and document car culture.
Now I can’t wait to get started and do it all again in twenty-nineteen.