Earlier today, Ford held a press conference where CEO Mark Fields outlined some of the company’s plans for increased investment in electrification in the coming years. On top of speaking about plans for additional EVs and autonomous technology, Fields also announced that Ford is working on hybrid versions of both the F-150 pickup truck and the iconic Mustang, set to debut in 2020.
Given the increasing number of hybrid performance cars hitting the road, the idea of a hybrid Mustang isn’t as unusual as you might you think, but it remains to be seen just how this car would slot into the line-up and what sort of buyer it will appeal to.
What kind of powertrain will it use? How will its performance compare to the V8 GT? Will it be geared more towards fuel economy than outright speed? How much will it cost? They’re all questions we’re looking forward to Ford answering in due course.
I have to say, the idea is an interesting one, but it all depends how it will actually be applied. What would you like to see from a Mustang hybrid? And would you ever consider buying one over a more traditional version?
I enjoy working out why I like certain things; if I can nail down a few attributes that attract me, I can short cut to other things I like using a few chosen identifiers. It’s a simple theory really, like buying a burger at your favourite chain because you like the recipe or cooking method.
With that in mind, I really like Minis, old and new (MINI) style. They both have a place in my dream garage, the ultimate combination probably being a bike-engined, carbon-shelled classic and a heavily modified 2010-ish Clubman.
I like the way they transcend social groups, look good parked up outside a takeaway or Michelin-starred restaurant, and the fact that everyone looks right getting out of one. They’re one of the very few cars that can be owned by anybody and feel right at home.
Over the years I’ve ridden in or driven one-offs built for fashion brands, race teams or just manufacturers special editions. In one of these car you might be popping out to the shops or thrashing in the Dakar Rally, so is that why Liberty Walk’s latest creation is based on the MINI? Possibly.
Kato-san, whom I met at SEMA in 2014, is a clever man. He’s also an insanely energetic and enthusiastic person. Whether you like his style or not, he does what he does with passion, and that counts for a lot in my book.
So when I first saw this MINI in the UK, I liked it for a few reasons. First up, I’d seen pictures of the LB car in Japan, and here was one in my own backyard! Even with the incredibly privileged access we get as Speedhunters, seeing something in the metal and getting to properly take in the proportions instead of interpreting them through somebody else lens is something else (yes, I appreciate there is an irony writing that!). I still get a huge buzz inside from encountering something fresh for the first time.
Then there’s my appreciation of the MINI. Going back to that, I used to write articles for a long-closed magazine called Go Mini, that specialised in the new generation. I’ve done 1000s of miles in all different kinds, from diesels to big turbo converted nutters. Street racing in Italy and driving across America really taught me to appreciate the simple package, the great handling and the potential to do whatever you want with them. I’ll admit at first I wasn’t a fan, but as time passed I realised the new MINI was a reflection of a changing world. BMW moved on with the new design and really nailed it so well. Compact and comfortable, great handling and a wide range of spec to choose from.
Being the first in Europe, this one is a demo car for Liberty Walk’s licensed distributor, The Performance Company (TPC). I’ve known James Pearman from TPC for a number of years, so it was pretty easy to find out more. Plain and simple, I wanted to shoot the Mini; some cars make you feel that way.
For every penny I pour into my Volvo project build, I sometimes find myself looking back to a simpler spec when I could jump in something cool and go for a drive, just for sh*ts and giggles, you know? It’s easy to get carried away with a build, but what we have here is something visually impactful and relatively straight-forward to put together. In the bigger scheme of building a car to stand out, it also wasn’t that expensive to achieve.
Of course, it’s all very well me banging on about why I like it, and I genuinely do, in a spaceship-coming-in-to-land-next-door kind of way. But this shoot and article is so much more than my musings.
What I really wanted to know is why a MINI? In a line-up that features Lamborghinis and Ferraris, why choose did Kato-san choose a MINI to represent his LB brand?
We put together the shoot to coincide with Toshi from Liberty Walk coming to London a while back. That’s where Fast Factory is based, a massive outfit that puts together extremely high-end cars for wealthy clients. Trev Kay from FF set the tone and made us all laugh as we went location hunting in a brand new stretched Mercedes limo.
Shooting in the sanitary Fast Factory workshop allowed me to take the details of the kit in. The first thing I’ve always thought is, that regardless of whether I’d do it to my own car, Liberty Walk kits work very well with the factory metal.
Ask & You Shall Be Answered
I think that’s because Kato-san is a car guy, which you can’t fake. So we fired up the internet and asked a few questions after the shoot. Kato said, “I know brand new things are important, but old culture and history are important for me too.” It’s easy to forget we all started somewhere, but it’s usually way back in the roots of your own home country’s car culture, pulling money together and building the best you can. Dino sums up the root of Kato’s passion right here.
You’re famed for high-end supercar modification, so why choose a MINI then? “I wanted to show a true older style with a Liberty Walk twist for young people. We have the bosozoku style in this MINI and the classic Mini style too. I don’t care whether it’s a super car, expensive car, old car or cheap car, every time I choose a new model to work with, it’s because it’s the best car for Liberty Walk. That’s it.”
It strikes me that Kato-san is successful because he has a global perspective on life. Yes, bosozoku is a Japanese genre, but it’s based on works race teams who met street gangs at an amazing candy-hued, airhorn-blasting, rebellious mega party. He’s pretty liberal with the influences, and this is why I think I like his signature wide-fender treatment. I like bigger wheels, race cars and the way an arch sits down over the top of the tyre. Those are my identifiers.
Katy-san has Europe very much in his mind, “I want to share tuning culture with younger people all over the world. There are many big brands like Mansory and FAB design in Europe, but we are thinking of many new products which young people can afford. I hope young people begin to like tuning culture and car culture more and more.”
I think that last wish is a given; people will always gravitate towards something that gives us freedom. Whether that’s a bog-stock banger, which takes away from the family home for the first time, or it’s the next step to where we start modifying it, exploring our own individuality.
My musings aside, now that I’ve spent some time with the TPC/LB MINI, I like it even more. On the cold dark streets of East London, it mixed in perfectly sat down on its air suspension; it’s a global blend of styles.
It’s pretty badass aside from the kit too; with a name like The Performance Company, it’s no surprise that the modifications go past the LB kit. Along with the air ride, this car was a development mule for UK-based tuners Turbo Technics, a long established specialist with some very cool cars in its past. The TT hybrid turbo has a Pipercross high-flow filter helping it breathe, some Forge hardware keeping the boost under control and cooled, and as you can see, a Remus valved exhaust with black tips.
So yeah, I’m a fan and I know why. Now I just need to work out how to modify the kit to fit a similar aged MINI Clubman wagon, because that’s another thing I like: long roofs.
The Ford Mustang is arguably the most iconic American car. Since its inception back in the ’60s, it’s been a hot toy for many people; these things are almost everywhere, and it’s hard to go a day in the US without seeing at least one, unless you live in the middle of nowhere.
Shelby has been playing with the Mustang since the beginning, and its new take on the S550 is another special machine.
Shelby has called many cities its home in the past half century, but since 1998 it’s been based in Vegas.
For the benefit of those who haven’t visited Shelby American HQ, I figured I’d include some pictures of the facility so you can get a general idea of what it looks like inside.
Upon entering, you’ll find yourself inside the gift shop which has everything you’d ever want to own with a Shelby logo on it. To the right is the showroom which always has a few cars on display.
Out back is the huge shop where all the work is done. It’s amazing how big this place is, but really needs to be in order for Shelby to keep up with the high demand for its cars.
It’s fully stocked with parts and Shelby’s staff are able to do pretty much anything required, from paint, to conversions, to repairs and more.
It wouldn’t be Shelby American without a few cool machines parked throughout the shop, though.
This original and pristine Shelby Mustang GT-H was probably my favorite looking car there. The ‘H’ stands for Hertz, as these cars were offered for hire exclusively through Hertz Rental Cars back in the day. The GT-H legend lives on too, and you can head into selected US Hertz outlets and rent the new S550 GT-H right now if you want.
These two cars were the ones Larry and I drove the next day, and are also the ones Mike wrote about.
Up until this point I had never driven a Mustang, so to get a good feel for this particular car I took the Snake south, and exited the freeway near Jean and Sloan. The roads here aren’t the smoothest, but they’re all but deserted.
Initially when on the freeway heading to the location, I was wishing that I was behind the wheel of the red 6-speed manual Super Snake, but after some spirited driving through the desolate roads near Jean, I started liking the feel of the car.
It almost had a nice visceral feel to it when upshifting. With some newer automatic vehicles there’s that annoying lag in throttle input, but this one didn’t have it at all.
With the help of the Whipple supercharger, the car’s Coyote V8 pushes out an astounding 750hp. Seven hundred and fifty horsepower!
That’s Shelby’s claim by the way, other companies that have dynoed this thing are getting near the 800 horsepower mark.
The subtly of this car definitely adds to its unique factor. For the unassuming, it looks like a slightly modified Mustang, but for those who know, it’s something special.
The interior is actually quite comfortable for a sportscar with 750hp, and it makes sense too. I see more of these things than any other car when I’m driving around on road trips during the summer months in the US (Subaru exempt). It doesn’t seem like the best road trip car, but the numbers don’t lie -people love this car.
It might also be because of the car’s insanely good looks.
The demand for an automatic version of the Snake was never present for the previous models, but these days more people are looking for a Mustang that can be used in everyday bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic, and then give a Z06 a run for its money.
And that’s exactly what this car can do.
I’m interested to hear what guys think about Shelby’s take on this automatic version of an everyday sports car.
Additional Photos by Larry Chen
As 2017 starts ringing in around the world, it’s time to wrap up our end of year posts, and to do that I thought it would be a good idea to make some general observations on car culture trends in 2016.
Keep in mind these are by no means the biggest or most definitive things happening out there, but five of my own random thoughts on the state of car culture in 2016, in no particular order.
Porsche Mania Continues
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Porsches – particularly the air-cooled ones – have been insanely popular for years now, and each time you think the bubble might burst it only seems to get bigger. Numbers would tell you Porsches were easily some the most commonly seen cars on Speedhunters in 2016.
And no matter how much these cars rise in value, there seems to be no slowing the enthusiasm that Porsche owners have when it comes to modifying their machines and driving them hard.
It’s already been eight years since RWB first started getting big media exposure, but Akira Nakai’s widened Porsches continue to multiply. The world-famous body man continues to build RWB 911s for customers all over the world, with new countries seemingly popping up every week. It’s good to be the king.
And while it’s the air-cooled 911 that are still the darling of the enthusiast community, all Porsche models seem to be riding a wave of popularity among modifiers, from vintage 356s to modern models. Maybe the front-engined cars will be next?
Are the days of affordable secondhand 911s gone forever? More and more it’s seeming that way. But I guess time will tell what happens to a Porsche boom that’s so far showed no signs of going away.
Big Money For ’90s JDM
This is another one that’s been building for a while, but it reached new levels in 2016. I’m talking about the skyrocketing values of high performance Japanese cars from the 1990s. It’s no longer a question of if these cars will become classics, but how just high their prices will go.
Many have attributed the rising values of GT-Rs to rising demand from the United States now that the import flood gates have opened, and more cars than ever are leaving Japan for new homes overseas.
The same thing can be said for the classic NSX. Whether it’s because of renewed interest in the namesake due to the new NSX, or people just discovering how great the original is, this is another high-end Japanese machine from the ’90s that’s undergoing a big boom right now.
And while this is exciting to see, there’s also cause for concern. Could this mean the days of the heavily modified GT-Rs, NSXs and others are gone as owners start locking up their cars to preserve their value? Will lesser priced cars like the S2000, 240SX and Evo be next?
Off The Paved Road
When Speedhunters first started back in 2008, off-roading was not a subject we covered much, but these days it’s not uncommon to find all terrain vehicles on this site. Part of it is because we are always trying to present a diverse mix of car culture and part is because of the recent uptick in off-roading popularity that can’t be ignored.
And it’s not just seasoned off-road veterans we are talking about. Whether it’s for competition or just for fun, more and more drivers seem to be making the transition from the the pavement to the dirt, including professional drifters Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Forrest Wang.
4×4 fever has even overcome a few of us Speedhunters. There’s Keith’s Project Trailhunter which wraps Chevy V8 power in a classic Toyota Land Cruiser.
And Larry’s Project FJ Cruiser, which isn’t only built for fun but as a working vehicle during the many off-road events that he’s been shooting lately.
Of course, there’s no reason that an off-road machine has to be built out of a Jeep, truck or SUV. I’ve also noticed an increasing number of normal passenger cars built with knobby tires and extra ground clearance. I think we’ll be seeing more and more of this sort of thing as gearheads look for new ways to get their kicks.
The Drifting Nostalgia Movement
On the professional side of things, the sport of drifting just seems to get bigger and crazier, and that’s great. But at the same time, the another part of the sport has gotten big with a decidedly throwback feel.
The idea is to recapture the spirit of drifting as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with cool looking vehicles, teams with matching cars, and a whole lot of fun.
The Final Bout events are the epicenter of this movement in the United States, and for 2016 the series went nationwide as the throwback drift movement continues to pick up steam.
As someone who first got hooked on drifting during those so-called glory days of the early 2000s, I can certainly get on board with this.
And while I don’t have the disdain for big-budget pro American drifting that some have, I really like the fact that the two can coexist together. Because why not both?
Over Fenders Are Still Everywhere
Here’s one that’s just too obvious to ignore. The over-fender and wide-body movement shows no sign of stopping, and 2016 was another year dominated by the low and wide.
Looking back, the over-fender movement seemed to have kicked off in earnest around 2013, and I don’t know if I could have predicted that it would still be huge at the end of 2016.
There really is no car that’s been exempt from the trend, whether it’s something old or new, expensive or cheap. Be it Liberty Walk, Rocket Bunny, Pandem or anything else, we are still very much living in the age of the wide-body.
Like many others have said, I think we’ve learned that some cars and builds are more suited to this style than others, and when done right it’s still very cool to see.
Time will tell just how much longer the over-fender and wide-body trend lasts, or how it will be looked back upon, but for now it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere.
So there you have it – a few of my random observations on car culture in 2016. Now I’m curious to hear yours, and while you’re at it how about some predictions for 2017 and beyond?
Right from the very beginning, the car feature has been a staple of the Speedhunters story mix. We’ve traveled the world seeking out some of the greatest and most interesting builds, and delivered right here to you on the site.
2016 has been no different, and over the course of the last 12 months we’ve featured an eclectic mix of cars. It’s always hard to determine the ‘top’ story, but using a unique score system that took into account all the numbers (including comments), we’ve been able to compile a list of our 12 most engaging and impactful car features of the year. Let’s get started with #12, working our way down to #1…
#12. Hakone Turnpike With Four Supras & A Fairlady
Technically speaking, this is four cars not one, but a group of friends driving their rear-wheel drive Japanese sports cars from the ’90s on one of Japan’s most famous roads was always going to make for a great feature. Story link.
#11. Improving A Legend: A Modern E30 M3 Rally Car
The E30 BMW is more known for its touring car exploits than its gravel-bashing abilities, but it’s a great rally machine too, as this Irish example demonstrates. Story link.
#10. Original Spirit, Restored
In reimagining the Need for Speed 964 for the 2016 SEMA Show, an iconic Porsche race car was the inspiration. ‘Spirit of 147′ is the result. Story link.
#9. RAUH-Welt Redefined: The Terror Garage RWB Speedster
From one RAUH-Welt Begriff Porsche to another; Terror Garage’s Speedster build impressed for its unique take on RWB styling. Story link.
#8. Magnus Opus: The Complete Porsche 964
Yes it’s another Porsche, but what would a list like this be without at least one creation from our good friend Magnus Walker? Story link.
#7. FuguZ: When Movie Stars Are Car Guys
Sung Kang’s ‘FuguZ’ build made a big impact at the 2015 SEMA Show, and early this year Larry got to shoot the Datsun in its natural element: a winding canyon road. Story link.
#6. That Ferrari-Engined Toyota GT86
It was easily one of the most anticipated builds of 2016, and Ryan Tuerck’s Toyota GT86/Ferrari 458 mash-up – the Gumout ‘GT4586′ – did not disappoint on debut. We can’t wait to see this thing being drifting in anger in 2017. Story link.
#5. 555 Horses Of Widened Fury
Sometimes, a chance encounter with a car can lead to a great story, and that was the case with this Subaru 22B replica street/track car that Dino found at Tsukuba Circuit. Story link.
#4. When A V8 Swap Just Isn’t Enough
When Brill Steel builds a car you just know it’s going to special, and this V8-swapped Nissan S14 is no exception. Story link.
#3. Building The World’s Best Drift Car
HGK Motorsport is a name that’s become synonymous with wild drift machines built to exacting standards, and this 2 Series BMW might just be the best yet. Story link.
#2. Project Purist: The Jaguar E-Type Built To Drift
A Jaguar E-Type, built to drift. Yes, that really happened – and it’s epic. Story link.
#1. How To Slam A Ferrari
If there was one car that split opinion more than any other in 2016 it was a slammed Ferrari 348 from Hokkaido, Japan, hence its #1 position on our list. Some loved the way the Italian sports car has been modified with a ground-scraping stance, while others thought it was sacrilegious to do something like this to a Maranello machine. Either way, we’re sure you’ll agree that the build made for a compelling feature. Story link.
That’s our 2016 car feature list done and dusted, and now it’s up to you to let us know which car ranks as your #1, using the poll below.
Vote on your favorite Speedhunters Car Feature of 2016
How To Slam A Ferrari – (0 %, 0 votes )
Project Purist: The Jaguar E-Type Built To Drift – (0 %, 0 votes )
Building The World’s Best Drift Car – (0 %, 0 votes )
When A V8 Swap Just Isn’t Enough – (0 %, 0 votes )
555 Horses Of Widened Fury – (0 %, 0 votes )
That Ferrari-Engined Toyota GT86 – (0 %, 0 votes )
FuguZ: When Movie Stars Are Car Guys – (100 %, 1 votes )
Magnus Opus: The Complete Porsche 964 – (0 %, 0 votes )
RAUH-Welt Redefined: The Terror Garage RWB Speedster – (0 %, 0 votes )
Original Spirit, Restored – (0 %, 0 votes )
Improving A Legend: A Modern E30 M3 Rally Car – (0 %, 0 votes )
Hakone Turnpike With Four Supras & A Fairlady – (0 %, 0 votes )
The imminent end of year always makes you ponder the last 12 months. We always think back at the amazing travels we’ve all been on here at Speedhunters, hunting out the best car culture has to offer. This year, one aspect we wanted to focus on was meeting spots.
We regularly cover all sorts of gatherings around the world, but what are the Top 5 in our eyes? What are the ones we’d recommend to people, the ones that we’d definitely add to our ‘to do’ list, and the ones that even after so many years never seem to get old? We’ve combined forces and brought you insight into just that. Let us know what you think of our selection in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
#5. Stockholm, Sweden – Wednesday meets at Brostugan
Scandinavian car culture runs far deeper than Gatebil events. Take Sweden for example; much like Japan there is a vast array of facets to the scene with enthusiasts literally into everything and anything. Due to this there are some cool meetings that are held during the warm months, and Arslan headed to one earlier in the year at Brostugan, the same place where he spotlighted a cool and rare car.
As Arlsan put it, “The location is at a cabin next to the water just outside downtown. It’s very popular with the locals; people usually swing by after work to grab some food, coffee and enjoy cars with a beautiful view.”
“It usually gets busy after 19:00, especially if the sky is clear.”
#4. Ireland – The Juicebox BBQ
We stay in the European continent for the fourth meeting venue on our list, one that Paddy scoped out in his native Ireland. It was the first of its kind at the venue, and one we hope to see again next summer.
Paddy explains, “It was a meet organised last minute by likeminded enthusiasts with no ulterior motives other than to gather the best cars in one place, talk and eat burgers. It wasn’t advertised and was organised by word of mouth and personal invitations only.”
#3. Scott’s Valley, USA – Canepa Cars & Coffee
In third spot is a location that we’ve become familiar with since Mike first scoped it out a few years back. Finally, I had the chance to see it for myself back in August.
What can one say, the guys behind the Cars & Coffee event at Canepa certainly know how to put on a show. With the very special array of machinery that’s owned by people that live in the Bay area, the turnout is amazing every time.
There is hot coffee flowing throughout the morning, not to mention as much sugar as you are able to assimilate on an empty stomach.
But it doesn’t end there. Once you have done your rounds, seen all the cars that have shown up and greeted new and old people alike, Canepa opens up its workshop and showroom so everyone can check out what amazing rarities it’s currently working on. Your mind is guaranteed to be blown.
#2. Tokyo, Japan – Tatsumi Parking Area
When it comes to meeting spots, we all know that nothing could possibly touch Japan. It’s not so much the spots themselves, but the fact that there is something happening almost every night. For a car guy, that means a couple of hours of freedom from a busy schedule is always within reach.
Being just 10 minutes from central Tokyo once you jump on the Shuto-ko expressway, Tatsumi PA’s location makes it even more special; it’s close, always there, and it goes hand in hand with those wanting to go out for a spirited drive. It’s not only for static meets either, it’s a stop in spot for when you’re out behind the wheel and unwinding after a hard day or week of work.
#1: Yokohama, Japan – Daikoku Parking Area
In top spot we could have only selected Daikoku Parking Area. I mean, does anything even come close? Sure, Tatsumi 35 minutes up the Wangan is great and has mostly all the same attributes, but what sets Daikoku aside from the rest is its sheer size. You can shoehorn a couple of hundred cars in there and once packed it truly generates a party atmosphere.
It’s home to countless famous meetings throughout the year, like 7s Day, the R32, R33 and R34 GT-R meets, and the Datsun 510 gathering to name just a few. It combines the best the JDM scene has to offer in all its enormity.
It’s always interesting seeing how car culture manifests itself in various locations. Just like stiles and schools of thought, there are curious differences we all notice, but generally speaking it doesn’t matter what sort of cars interest you the most and where you are from, if you come across any of these five meeting spots we know you’ll feel right at home.