Member When - Wekfest Hawaii 2020
Around this time of the year, the car show season in Hawaii would be in full swing after the Winter break (or by Hawaii climate standards, a short period by which trade winds remain for a little longer and ever so more rainfall). Aside from the first Cars and Coffee meetup of the new year, the first big show will have also taken place. Those familiar with the show schedule on the island know that the Wekfest tour tends to kick off its yearly schedule in Honolulu; usually on the first weekend of February.
For those who don’t know about ‘Wekfest’, aka the ‘Best Car Show in the Nation’ as acclaimed by SuperStreet Magazine, Wekfest is a car show movement that originated, like most, in the United States. It stood out though with one aspect in particular it still holds to today: selecting quality builds over allowing every kind of vehicle from walks of life to get a spot within showgrounds.
Founded in 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Wekfest stands out from the usual slew of automotive car shows by mandating a screening process for anyone who wants to enter their cars: encouraging people to be more attentive towards the construction of their build, using quality parts, and overall, devote proper time and effort into making their cars ‘show-ready’; increasing their chances of getting selected for a spot at the show. That doesn’t mean a few do slip through, but it means you’re more likely to find a stanced Silvia S14 with multiple JDM-exclusive parts and just left the paintshop after multiple all-nighters, rather than a Corolla sedan with replica TE37s installed; paired with an AliExpress hood bra, JDM leaf, along with multiple ‘420’ vinyl stickers. And when you consider Wekfest makes stops in Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, and as far along the East as New Jersey before flying over to Nagoya, Japan, the show aims to feature the ‘best’ of each region’s respective car culture. Just imagine the vetting process for an entire country like Japan, where people will bring their builds from various prefectures/regions to Nagoya, Aichi (the middle of Japan), where Wekfest makes its annual stop in Japan.
Alas, while travel between the mainland and Hawaii has resumed to some form, the restrictions surrounding large public gatherings have not been dropped. Even with face coverings made mandatory for attendees, multiple sanitising stations onsite, and temperature checks at check-in, as much as I have an itch to satisfy for a car show, it would be irresponsible to hold one on an island with a large elderly (kupuna) population; let alone indoors in a convention center. The Wekfest organisers seem to have planned ahead that there would be no regular schedule for the 2021 leg; with the only confirmed stop to be in Nagoya by May (tentative).
Hawaii folks should remain hopeful that despite the disruption, Wekfest will one day return: whether it be sometime in the Fall or even as far as in 2022. But at least this gives them more than enough time to prepare their builds; either to make their debut or return to the show floor.
It also gives an opportunity for myself to once again look back through my archives, and go through the many photos that I have accumulated from pre-Covid days. Thankfully, one of those happens to be my coverage of Wekfest Hawaii 2020: so in place of what would have been Wekfest weekend on Oahu, let’s look back at the first (and only) big show that went down before the rest of 2020 happened.
At that year’s show, our very brand ‘HiddenPalmTree’ made its debut at Wekfest: hosting a booth at the show, with two local VA builds onsite: namely Shayne’s WRX STI and Alex’s WRX. Along with showcasing the ‘stupid stance and fitment’ route for the VA Impreza generation, they were also serving as our brand’s showcase for our merchandise line.
And before you ask, no: Alex is not on bags: this stanced setup is entirely on static coilovers. Shayne on the other hand, does have air suspension management. And yes, both attract equal numbers of ‘your cars are broken’ comments from passersby, Facebook groups, and commenters on Hungry Hungry Hawaiian.
Alex’s brother, Kai was also posted a few steps away from the HiddenPalmTree booth. Shouldn’t be too hard to infer that the Haavisto brothers are prime advocates for static-stance setups, evidenced by Kai’s BRZ going for a ‘Bosozoku’ style that rides harder and is far-more tilted than his brother’s WRX. He's also got the blastpipes to boot.
A close friend and collaborator of HiddenPalmTree, Darren also made it into the show. Darren's E210 Toyota Corolla hatchback, might have had only subtle mods and some Enkeis thrown on, but this was the first of many modified E210s to debut onto the local scene. If you haven't seen the aftermarket support for the latest Corolla hatchback explode lately, you're missing out.
And if you don't believe how an A-to-B car like a Corolla is getting this much attention from enthsuaists and the aftermarket industry alike, believe me: you're missing out.
Speaking of Corollas: there seemed to be an awful lot of modified ones last year. Aaron's 'VIP' inspired 10th gen stanced-Corolla, with puddle lights and a tray with Boss Coffee cans, was one that caught my eye.
You can't go wrong with older Corollas either, especially a Hachi.
Or an even older generation, from the Corona lineup.(Yes, make the jokes all you want).Old School Imports Hawaii always have at least one old-school Toyota within their lineup each year.
Making a comeback at this show and at Spocom previously was Arvee's iconic pink widebody WRX STI. A distracted driver had taken her car out of action for a good year or so, as work began to reassemble the rear axle (which had come off in the accident), and do all the repairwork on the body and fenders.
A while in the making, but Arvee has been enjoying her comeback in the recent shows.
While major shows like Wekfest to attract modified cars, that being said: there are a few modesly-modified/clean cars that do make it through the preliminary screening. I guess 'Concourse' also is deemed showworthy among the judges, especially when its a well maintained example of a first-generation Mazda Miata. A reminder that going the typical 'show' route most builds go down, isn't the only route to aftermarket enhancements you have to go to make your car 'show-worthy'.
A bit more digging online and through the team this car is part of, Bushido Hawaii, revealed this is not any regular NA Miata. In fact, this is #936 of 3500 Miata 'Special Editions' (SE)'; all of which came exclusively with the tan interior seen below, and the iconic British Racing Green paint. In such a limited edition specification, you don't need to do much to a car like this to make it stand out. Especially with an interior in that color.
The RedZone family was also out in full swing with their vast number of Honda builds, all tuned by the legend himself, Jeremy. The 2020 show was definitely a mini Honda-fest. Not as much as you might find at an Eibach meet in Socal, nor the annual Honda Owners Alliance (HOA) meets in Hong Kong, let alone a Honda club gathering at Twin Ring Motegi.
Wekfest 2020 was also the debut for a few that have been under the wraps for a while. Like Caitlyn's EK hatch: which in the months leading up to February 2020, had been completely gutted out; going under a complete respray and rebuilt engine block, rolling in time for the show.
I will admit, I love the comeback of racing liveries and decals many of these Hondas: from the Civic hatches to the Integra coupes were rocking.
But from my experience at the past few shows on the island, at least before I moved, this car show had the most Hondas present.
VIP was also a common sight: the number of Civics matched by the number of Lexus LS/Toyota Celsior VIP builds. Richardson’s Lexus LS, known as the Toyota Celsior in the Japanese market, keeps turning heads at shows and meets; even though its remained largely clean and unchanged since he picked it up. What more could you expect from someone who used to own one of the best VIP-built Lexus GS sedans on island too.
The same goes for Kim's LS. It might not look like much has been done, but look closer, and you’ll see the number of JDM accessories her Lexus sports: from the AimGain International bodykit, to the WorkWheels sporting 326-Power spiked lug-nuts from VIP-specialist Samson at Revision Audio. When it comes to VIP modifications, remaining clean and being attentive to detail matters above getting massive side arches or an abnormally-oversized wing.
Craig of Team Underrated's Lexus GS: representing the HPT brand on his rear bumper via a vinyl cut. I especially love the custom taillights his car runs. He's been one of the underdog VIP builds on island, slowly but surely getting his car noticed out there.
Mansu Hawaii was also representing the 'Bippu' scene of Hawaii with two heavy-hitters: Devan's 'Celsior' with a Sixth Sense body kit, on an aired out, cambered setup with Workmeister S13s, in a fitting-all black paintjob. I remember when this was still in two tone turquoise and silver. Now, it looks like it drove straight out of a Yakuza film; it's just missing a convoy of black Mercedes Benzes surrounding it.
If you thought that was extreme, have a look at the Mansu president Ryan's entry: this Infiniti Q45, that had gone under a JDM-spec Nissan President conversion. Aside from the low-profile fitment and cambered setup, there's one particular detail that makes this Q45/President stand out from the rest: from the VIP crowed on island and even on the mainland.
Yes, it also has a suicide doors conversion. Door handles moved to the opposite side, and they are functional: they open and close at will. Makes getting into the rear passenger seats a dramatic affair, especially when you see the mini-chandelier hanging on the roofline, along with those individual-ottoman leather seats.
Keeping in theme with Japan, Wekfest HI 2020 was also Makoa’s final, final Hawaii show with his Hestia-themed itasha BRZ before it would be making its way to the motherland, as Makoa himself would be relocating there.
Unfortunate that the pandemic as of this feature’s writing has delayed his move even further, but at least it gives those who have yet to see this airbrushed itasha car one last opportunity to see it on this side of the world, before it calls Japan its home.
I can only imagine how many people there will be surprised to find a left-hand drive, USDM spec, itasha-wrapped BRZ. It will get the Akihabara crowd talking for sure.
My itasha team, Akiba.HNL were also participating at the show. Specifically, also serving as booth/vendor cars for one of our sponsors: Elusive Arts. The RemWRX of our leads and Kill La Kill Honda Civic owned by our member Rain, helped bring in plenty of interest to Elusive's booth that day.
As what I was told, he managed to sell a lot of inventory that night. I mean, seeing these two weeb-mobiles would definitely make me interested in purchasing a few Demon Slayer peekers.
Another 'deko-car'/livery themed favorite of mine at Wekfest: my fellow Juke owner Justin's other car: his 350Z, sporting a mass collection of Nismo/VQ parts, including a 'loudboi' Tomei exhaust. Working at a autowrap facility, he got an opportunity to transform the appearance of his Z to one of his childhood icons: the 'Mach 5' from Speed Racer.
It might not look like much, but adding the Mach 5's side icons and the hood vinyl, combined with his gold Volk Racing S/F Challenge wheels and the red underglow, make it a great modern take on one of the most memorable cars from cartoon history.
VQ builds were also plentiful at Wekfest last year, especially from fellow NIssan/Infiniti enthusiasts at VQInc Hawaii. Josh's Z33 notably, as I learned myself: had undergone a Liberty Walk widebody kit conversion, all installed and cut by himself in his garage. Who says homegrown and built cars aren't a thing anymore?
And you have to show the Q50 platform for love: whether it be for performance, stance, VIP/race ready. The possibilities with this big barge of a sedan are endless, especially when this '4-Door GTR' comes with a twin-turbo straight six from factory; available with even more power with some tuning support or on the RedSport model.
There’s no denying who stole the show and ultimately took home the title as ‘Best of Show’ for Wekfest HI 2020: Nesa’s EK9 Type R (N1). It’s unique in every special way, all down to the most finite details, and not just the fact it is a RHD import.
Just admire the color-popping painted engine bay and K-series motor, which also continues onto the coating she chose for her Mugen wheels.
Funnily enough, Nesa has named her EK9 ‘Ariel’, after the Disney mermaid (which explains the color theme). On the other hand, when I think Ariel and Hondas, my friend from the Bay Area ‘Ariel’ with the Suki-Pink S2000 comes to mind first instead. Maybe its a coincidence, or maybe Ariel and Hondas are destined to be paired together.
Same goes for the grey-primer look and Rays Gramlights.
On that note, some mention should go towards a notable guest of the Wekfest shows at each stop: a certain blogger, vlogger, photographer, and apparel creator I mentioned in last week’s feature: a certain ‘Sticky’ Joey Lee. If you are a regular follower of his profiles, you’ll know he also is part of the Wekfest event staff and has a hand in judging the builds themselves.
Most notably from my perspective as an attendee, he gave a great ‘welcome’ speech as the judges were explaining how the process would work to everyone. Mainly, Joey raised a great point on what people who entered that day were doing to the vast audience of the show: both in person and observers watching the coverage. They were all, us included, setting an example to the next generation of enthusiasts. The ones who would grow up watching their favorite cars, following celebrity and feature-accoladed builds through social media and online media.
And I think more people, whether they're a regular participant of the show scene, just breaking into it, or don't do shows often at all; instead preferring to show their cars out on the streets or at smaller meets, need to remember that. It's easy to lose focus of what you want to make your car to be, or what constitutes a good standard of 'build' for you. I'll repeat that in case you didn't hear it enough: for you, not what others deem the appropriate standard.
Who will be the one investing in all the modifications, time and effort, and more importantly: be driving the car itself? The person who's name is on the title, or half of what the internet deems 'show-worthy'? It's why shows like Wekfest have a vetting system to keep up these days: judges and organisers are also aware of the fact there seems to be a copy-and-paste approach to building cars in the scene today that prevent some of the rising stars, from breaking away from the mould. You can only see so many cars on air management, hell-flush fitment-setups, and big aero parts before you have to ask: is there any originality anymore?
Don't be afraid to rock that crazy, bespoke light setup. Bring back underglow and all the early 2000s import scene craze you grew up, whilst watching the Fast and Furious films on repeat. Be confident to rock an unconventional platform like a BMW 3 Series or a Crosstrek, or debut that wrap design you've been planning all this time After all, shows each year are all about setting new trends or bringing back some nostalgia for memory's sake: why not step away from what will be deemed most hashtag worthy, and represent something within tuner culture that you love out of passion?
And with that, a look back at Wekfest Hawaii 2020: one of the last shows Hawaii managed to get it before everything after March happened, draws to a close. Here's to hoping Wekfest Hawaii 2021 will happen! If not, fingers crossed travel will resume within Asia to some form, so yours truly can hop over to Japan for Wekfest Nagoya in May.
If you attended Wekfest Hawaii 2020, were there any cars that stood out for you? Any cars you wish had more attention? Agree or disagree with my thoughts above? Let's start a conversation down below.
And for those who celebrate it, seeing as this feature goes live on the first day of the Chinese/Lunar New Year spring festival:
Gong Hei Fat Choi/Xi Nian Kuai Le/Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!
- Adrian Ma Photography
- Asher Uchiyama