The Times, They are a Changin'

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The Times, They are a Changin'

Looking at the quiet streets of PJS11 in Sunway nowadays, you would think that the automotive scene has long seen its halcyon days. Nearly a decade ago this industrial area was constantly crowded with tuner cars sporting custom bodykits, loud exhausts, and equally loud paintjobs. The concentration of private colleges in the vicinity attracted a steady stream of young car owners who were looking to spruce up their newly acquired ride. Now those custom shops are busy servicing a plethora of European cars instead, some working on customised Volkswagens with less flamboyant paraphernalia brought in from Germany rather than Japan, and only the odd Japanese tuner favourite sitting at the back of the garage waiting for its regular check-up.

There is a feeling of change in the air, the cars parked on the street side are no longer as numerous, and so are the shops. Many businesses here had changed their modus operandi from custom fabrication and fitment, to mere servicing and maintenance. The casual observer would see the tales of PJS11 as proof of the decline of the automotive scene, as the new moneyed youths from the surrounding colleges graduate from their loud and often ostentatious Japanese tuner cars and upgrade themselves to European marques, whose aftermarket parts often cost higher and deliver less performance gain than their Japanese counterparts.

But then again on the other side of the Klang Valley, the annual “OlSkool & Kustom Kulture” motor show Art of Speed, which attracted over 47,000 visitors over one weekend.

While you would find plenty of customised cars and motorcycles at Art of Speed, the one thing that would be hard to find are eye-catching primary colours and a polished shine. The colours and style of the cars gathered here are mostly brown, rusty, aged, and definitely, contrary to what the event name implies, not built for speed or performance. Most of the cars on display at Art of Speed looked more fitted to be on the set of the latest Mad Max, or any post-apocalyptic set, rather than the next instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise.  

Big wings and wheel cambers are merely for appearance, and the only liveries worn here are merely intricate pinstripes. Art of Speed is a striking display of sculptural art rather than alluding to any one or more form of motorsports out there today. Instead the cars and motorcycles on display at Art of Speed are more sculptural art, rather than alluding to any one or more forms of motorsports.

The event first started out as a local gathering of like-minded enthusiasts who were interested in the customised cars and motorcycles, drawing their inspiration from the American hot rodding and custom motorcycle scene. Overtime Art of Speed eventually grew in size and popularity till international-renowned enthusiast site, Speedhunters.com, listed Art of Speed as one of 2014’s top events in its calendar. The size and popularity of the Art of Speed event as well as the whole “OlSkool & Kustom Kulture” prescribed scene is reminiscent of the tuner influence that was seen at the turn of the century.

Likewise the local custom scene was recently abuzz with the news of Akira Nakai, founder and one-man outfit of the highly controversial but widely respected Rauh Welt Begriff, more popularly known as RWB, who made his way downtown to personally apply his kit onto an owner’s classic 911 (964) cabriolet. Nakai who made his name cutting up classic Porsches with a freehand to apply his signature body extensions of exaggerated proportions, treats his work as more of an art form rather than an exact science, perhaps part of the reason his work has received its fair share of ire from Porsche enthusiasts. To the casual observer his style is haphazard, and imprecise, but his works speak for itself.

The end result is stunning to say the least. It is the kind of Porsche with proportions that children would doodle about on their sketchbooks. Huge flared wheel arches housing immensely wide tyres complete with a prominent duck tail wing. Contrary to his carefree work ethic, the completed work is finished with the finesse of a master craftsman. Looking at the seamless and smooth bodywork, you wouldn’t care if the car isn’t meant for motorsports, or finely honed for mountain passes. Nakai’s work fires up the imagination all the same.

The automotive culture is far from a dying one, as seen with the rising popularity of Art of Speed, and the likes of RWB and Rocket Bunny, it is an evolving one. From drawing inspiration from competitive motorsports to celebrating exaggerated forms and patinaed bodies, the old school style is a far cry from what was popular before, and if we are honest, it is a more artistic and expressive form. One that deserves to be celebrated as well. While some of these cars that have been given the old school treatment are highly customised, going as far as being a travesty to its originality, it also brings about a renewed interests in such old cars, which were once neglected.

This in turn brings about a renewed appreciation for such aged cars and popularises the automotive scene as a whole. Its subject of inspiration nowadays might not be a serious one, but by adopting a more open and popular artistic style, rather than being confined to drawing inspiration from the motorsports crowd, old school culture has broadened the appeal of what was once an esoteric and enclosed one.   




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