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100 Acre Woods

I made a mistake last weekend.

That mistake was finding a new hobby that will inevitably cause me to buy more car parts that I probably don’t need.

That mistake was rally.

Rally (noun) : a form of motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. It is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points.

In the small, quiet, and often cell-service-less towns of Salem, Potosi, and Steelville, Missouri there comes a time during every spring when the air is filled with gravel, rev limiters, and exuberant cheering along many backroads. A closer look will show fearless drivers throwing their cars throw corners at insane speeds and seemingly sprouting wings over crests, all surrounded by exuberant (and often times relatively drunk) fans standing on the side of the road amongst the towering trees of the Mark Twain National Forest. This was 100 Acre Woods Rally. And it was exhilarating.

A handful of us had the privilege to tour the Subaru Rally Team’s staging area with a private tour the day before the entire rally, giving us an up close look at their cars and a chance to speak with their techs to learn more about the half-million dollar (PER) machines in front of us.

Day 2 had us at the Parc Expose as each team arrived, offering fans the opportunity to spend some time with both the teams and cars. Among the familiar faces at the event were drivers and teams like Ken Block with Hoonigan; David Higgins, Craig Drew, Oliver Solberg, and Aaron Johnston with Subaru Rally Team; and a surprising appearance from Mike Lovejoy who I had a chance to meet at the 2017 Subaru National Business Conference in Denver. At the end of the Parc Expose was the Special Stage that highlighted the
general spirit of what rally is and gave the teams a chance to show off their vehicles for all the fans, from which they departed off to the stages for the day.

Heading out from the Parc Expose – our group decided on Stage 3, which consisted of a long straight followed by a sweeping upwards right hand turn into a tunnel of trees. As this was my first rally to shoot, I experimented between capturing frozen motion along with some tracking and panning shots. Throughout the weekend, I wanted to experiment with the panning, both during the day and night stages. This resulted in some more artistic shots than I usually shoot, but am relatively excited about the results.

The last portion of the day had us at an amazing night stage. We arrived a few hours early and after a few drinks and a chance to finally get some food in our systems, we patiently waited for the sun to drop below the horizon and the safety cars make their way through the stage. As soon as the safety cars made their way through the stage and it was hot, the sounds of “CARRRRR!” from the fans radiated through the stage as each car lit up the long approach into a tight lefthand hairpin turn. This was a challenging stage to shoot at night, so I took some liberties with shooting a little less traditionally.

After a long, exhausting day, we all hit the sack relatively early as soon as we got back to our cabin (albeit, “early” being midnight or just slightly past). Our earliest, and last, morning offered one of the most exciting stages that has made a name for itself as a result of both amazing footage AND potential crashes. Thankfully, all we had this time was the former. The Cattle Guard Jump. The name is pretty self explanatory.

And now, after only a little after 48 hours of experience… I want a rally car.

Should I do it? Road to Rally on Youtube? 😉

Happy Thanksgiving – Get Wide

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

A few weeks ago I had the chance to spend a rather rainy day with my friend Jimmy and his Pandem v3 Rocket Bunny BRZ when he was down in Indy. Had a lot of fun with this set, definitely makes me consider going widebody as my next plan for my own BRZ.

Just a reminder to everyone on this holiday – we have a lot of things to be thankful for in modern society, so please don’t take that for granted…take some time out of your weekend to be force of good and positivity in someone’s life, because you never know what someone else is going through. Be kind to each other, make memories with friends and family, and never forget that each new day and every breath of life is a gift that should be cherished and lived to the fullest with.

What happens when you rent an entire amusement park and give adults free alcohol? Subaru National Business Conference – Denver 2017

Let me preface this entire post by saying I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I received an email from the Subaru Ambassador team inviting me to their National Business Conference as an Ambassador representative… but what I found, the people I met, and the experience I’ve gained was by far the furthest thing from what I was ever expecting as I boarded my flight to Denver last Sunday.

Armed with a few changes of clothes, my camera and computer, and a fresh pair of Adidas, I threw some good music on and promptly took a quick nap on the plane before landing in Denver. After a crying baby a few seats behind me wailing the song of his people, the craziness of the crammed train to the main terminal in Denver was a welcome, if not sweaty, sight.

Fast forward a little while trying to figure out how to get to the hotel downtown, I found myself chatting with another Ambassador on the shuttle, and I could tell that there were some pretty rad people that had been selected along with me and I started to think more and more “how the hell did I get picked for this..?” – a thought that would permeate the entirety of the week for me.

After getting situated in my hotel room at the Sheraton in downtown Denver, I ventured down to the lobby to meet up with the rest of the group and meet the rest of these Ambassadors that had been invited to come on the trip. I had assumed there would be 30-40 of us… and boy was I wrong. Fifteen. Fifteen of us had been selected from almost 9000 other Ambassadors… once again, I started having my “how the hell…?” moment.

After we all arrived in the lobby, we all grabbed a quick drink at the Yard House (the amount of affection for this place grew each night we were in town… as did our tabs…) and made our way to the small introductory dinner with the people who were in charge of the program. Little did we know that during the dinner, we’d end up meeting the likes of Tom Doll and some of the higher chief executives of Subaru. And the amount of kindness and down to earth attitudes that they exhibited… remember that “how the hell?” mentality? Yeah, it definitely hit as Tom sat down next to us at the table and just chatted with us over the course of the next few hours. One thing I started to notice, even just during this first interaction, was how excited and attentive these people were and are to our feedback and suggestions for bettering the brand and filling in the gaps that may be missing. Even by the end of the first night, I started to feel like I was there for a reason, and what I was saying and suggesting was actually valued. Except for a factory turbo on the BRZ. Sorry guys. 

The first day of the conference, none of us really had any idea what to expect, but the level of quality and showmanship that the conference displayed was next to none…yet at the same time it felt like we were walking into a very familiar home every time we walked into the main convention area. It was inviting and comfortable, with plenty of places for people to sit down and talk and generally just enjoy being there. Every major area of the Subaru Corporate offices were represented, from digital marketing to techs, the Share The Love event to the Zero Landfill Initiative… everyone was there. But even more than that, everyone there was family. This is where the story gets a little personal for me – being able to walk up to the individual who is in charge of making purchasing and hiring decisions for photography and artwork for the brands marketing… I admittedly stumbled over my words the first time around because of how much my brain was freaking out with “THIS IS WHO YOU’VE BEEN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MEET FOR YEARS”. Fast forward through the first conversation to the second and really being able to explain my passion for combining my photography with the brand I love and being met with a response along the lines of “You’ve got good work and I’d love to help make this a reality for you.” made me realize that not only was I having a great time, but this was a life and career changing opportunity. This wasn’t a one-off experience, either… being able to talk to the heads of departments and people in charge of marketing, social, sales, parts, etc…you name it, they were more than willing to sit and talk and actually listen to what I had to say, and WERE EXCITED ABOUT IT. At a corporate level, the type of enthusiasm and genuine kindness exhibited by these people is parallel to none. The rest of the day (and next two days at the convention) was generally the same format – walk around and talk to retailers about the Ambassador program and help them formulate plans on how they can utilize it. Pretty straightforward right? Nope. You’d be shocked how many retailers DO NOT know about the program – but it’s all good, we took care of that.

Fast forward through the hours during the day at the convention to the evenings when Subaru hosted entertainment…

That word up there… entertainment… scratch that off. Subaru knows how to party.

From downtown arts districts to renting an entire amusement park for close to two THOUSAND people, with free food, drinks, and entertainment (rides included at the park), every single person attending was in the highest of spirits, and the atmosphere was absolutely contagious. From steak, sushi, lamb, mouth watering desserts one night; street tacos, pizza, and beer cheese dips with pretzel bites the next; to all your favorite fair and amusement park foods the last… Subaru knows how to throw a damn party. Think you know how to throw a good party or event? Subaru comes in with that “hold my beer, watch this” attitude and kills it. Every time.

I’ve been in the car world for a while, from shooting for aftermarket companies to working for a dealership at a corporate level, and the amount of friendliness and kindness that Subaru exhibits from a personal to corporate is rivaled by none. Hands down. No questions about it.

The brand marketing itself as having family values and promoting making the world a better place isn’t a gimmick. It’s reality on every level.

 I will forever be thankful for this brand, this opportunity, and the ability to say with confidence that every single person I met at this conference is not just an acquaintance, but to each and every one of you that’s made it through this post – you’re family. 

// Derrick’s VW

Had a chance recently to get together with my friend Derrick and shoot his VW. We wanted to have two different visual feelings to the set and hit a few locations around Indy, so we chose to get some good shots downtown in the city and a few at a local park.

Derrick has always wanted to see some good rollers of his car, so I’m pumped we were able to knock some of these out for him.

Check out his IG – Derrick

// chase gamblin – buddy

In the car scene, many times the term “from humble beginnings” is a phrase that is followed by the story of someone’s success or spotlight that leaves them with an inflated ego. While this isn’t always the case, in today’s day and age, it seems more and more that it is becoming the norm rather than an anomaly. That’s why it’s so refreshing when you find a build and the person behind it that has truly come from humble beginnings, and sticks to those roots. That’s the absolute epitome of who Chase is and what his Mini Cooper, Buddy, is all about.

While not a spotlight car in recent years, Minis have always been considered a classically fun sports coupe that offer the driver a great connection with the road and the experience of driving. What you get with Chase’s Mini, though, is a passion that is desired by many and rivaled by few.

Unlike many builds that come together in a year, or two if we’re really pushing the envelope, this has been a 10 year build for Chase that’s not only come a long way, but evolved from version to version. The idea of sticking with a single car for so long is something that so many enthusiasts love, but very few are willing to accept the patience and dedication it takes to follow through with it. These days, it seems that people go through cars and builds like candy, each just trying to be “the next big thing” to hit the scene, or to blow up on Instagram.

After getting to know Chase and spending some time with him here in Indiana, his story and build are not only inspiring but highly impressive. Having always been a Mini enthusiast, Chase picked up this car, which he endearingly named “Buddy”, back in 2006 and began the long process of turning it into the monster it is today. As many enthusiast builds start, many of the first necessities were taken care of quickly: wheels, tires, exhaust, sway bars, end links, etc… the little things that we all mindlessly add to our cars without really thinking about them, they just kind of happen. But things didn’t stay the same with Chase, they never did and never will, he makes that clear with how much his car has evolved over the years. As he continued to modify his Mini, his love for touge continued to grow, and as we all know, a love affair like that breeds bank accounts being emptied. Big brake kits, changing the car up with a different color scheme, etc. After a while modifying things here and there to give Buddy more grip and response on backroads, Chase began adding things that were not only different, but they were truly unique and custom fabricated.

Chase began sourcing and fabricating parts that gave Buddy an aggressive, yet not overdone, look. Light bars, yellow hella lights on a front rally bar, shaved and color matched roof, clutch masters clutch and flywheel, LSD, the list goes on…but Chase definitely wasn’t done yet. And not in a “killing the game” sort of way, but a gradual evolution that seems so foreign in this day and age. And with evolution comes trials, too. Broken axles, control arms, curbs and potholes taking tolls on wheels, careless drivers backing into the car, etc… But that’s the beauty of this passion we all share. Things get reinvented, and we see things in a different light than we did before. We make things better and mold them to what we like and what we think looks good.

As he neared the 4-year mark, the decision was made to have the motor pulled and sent to ENDYN for a complete engine build that would set the benchmark for the rest of the build to come. While that was in play, he had acquired a set of wide-arches from a friend and planned to fit those on the car. Now, we hear the term wide-body with just about every make and model of enthusiast car these days. Wide-body is all the craze right now, but Chase decided to pursue that option before many of the wide-body scene owners nowadays even had their license or were out of high school. Not only did this set Buddy apart even more, but it was something Chase could do and work on while his new motor build was being finalized. As soon as the motor was delivered to his home, things began to take a different turn… A unique thought had begun to creep into his head and he began taking the steps to secure a turbo in addition to his supercharged motor in order to twin charge the car and take it a step further yet again, but after purchasing the turbo and toying with the idea even more, the decision was made to switch the car from a supercharger to solely a turbo instead of both. With that decision, Buddy began to take the shape of what he currently looks like, with the final (for now) stage of the build taking another two and a half years from that point.

The addition of a custom carbon fiber hood, full cage, gutted interior, new radiator and piping, a roof swap from the OEM sunroof to a solid roof, Relax seats and SSR wheels from the guys up at Touge Factory, and small odds and ends were scattered around in that time period, but the ever present frustration of turning a factory supercharged car to a turbo charged car seemed to stick out more and more for Chase, not to mention his finishing of his thesis with school. Finally, the car was sent to Track One Motorsports to finish the complications of the turbo build that seemed to continually plague Chase day and night, and the car began to take shape in the way only an entirely unique and custom fabricated monster can. After almost a year of dealing with shops and custom fabricators, Buddy was able to start up for the first time with the turbo, and the finishing touches were on the way. Bilstein coilovers, new front splitter, a tune leaving him with a conservative 330whp and 236wtq from Dynasty Tuning in Kentucky. Finally. Buddy was done and Chase couldn’t have been happier. 10 years, 4 states, countless hours, 5 sets of coilovers, numerous sets of wheels, a turbo swap from an OEM supercharger, wide-body arches, a completely custom and standalone ECU, undergraduate and graduate classes, and untold passion later, Buddy had evolved through Chase’s careful and dedication molding into an icon in the Mini world, and a truly unique car to anyone else.

Fast forward a few months from that time frame, and a friend sent me info about this car and I knew I had to get it over to Wooley and get it in S3. After having met Chase and shooting with him, he’s become a good friend and an example of what I feel like is missing in the car enthusiast scene these days. We get so caught up in “killing the game” or trolling someone’s build that we lose sight of the fact that what really brought most of us into this scene in the first place was the passion and dedication of cars. Not often do you meet someone with a build as extensive or time-consuming as Chase’s, and the forum thread of 200+ pages and 200k views over 10 years really hit that home for me when I researched the build to write this article… It’s something that is truly inspiring and I can’t wait to see where this build goes. And in lieu of Chase’s love and passion for his car and what it has become, let’s never forget this:

“Whatever it is, the car has to look good. If your car doesn’t look good, sound good, and feel good, you’re not going to drive it like you should.” Akira Nakai