Tastemakers’ Tarmac: The Sights of Wekfest Long Beach
Text and Photos by Luke Munnell
Number One since Day One
I’ll never forget the winter of 2009. I was an overworked Import Tuner editor, fresh out of a winter-break fling with a cute girl who had gone back to school in the Bay Area, and had just finished building my Integra in an effort to occupy my thoughts with anything but her and work. And it wasn’t going so well. So, when I caught word of an all-new car show happening in San Francisco that promised to be the import world’s “biggest thing yet,” I jumped at the chance to fire up my newly-rebuilt project car, and hit the open road far away from the office under the guise of a work trip … in the direction of girlie’s place—purely by coincidence, of course.
After a solid seven hours of shaking down my gutted DC2 on R-compound tires in the pouring rain (and some snow through the Grapevine—yikes!), I arrived two hours early to S.F.’s thoroughly packed Japantown Main Parking Center, complete with a line out the door, wrapping around the city-block-wide facility. It seemed as if the buzz was right on the money. The inaugural Wekfest show was huge!
More importantly, it showcased a hand-picked assortment of some of the cleanest and freshest, heavily-modded, and—as history would prove—some of the most influential tuned imports of the day. I spent all day at the show (skipping from car to car like a little kid), looked over every car (ogled and drooled), and talked with every owner/builder I could find (stammered on about how cool their cars were and how much I wanted to be like them). It was awesome. The next day I was back on the road and feeling right as the cool Bay-area rain, with a renewed excitement toward the scene, my job, and even my own car, which comparatively was still miles away from cool. I even almost forgot about that girl. Almost.
Fast-forward nearly a decade and so many things have changed since then, but one thing has remained constant: Wekfest is still the best place to see the cleanest and most influential tuned cars of the day, and chances are there’s one near you. Take the one near me: this year’s L.A. show (one stop in Wekfest’s now seven-stop, international, annual schedule). Of the more than 400 cars that took over the tarmac and turf of Long Beach’s Queen Mary Park, nearly all were top-notch builds, unique in one trend-setting way or another.
Vendor participation is one thing L.A.’s tuning scene offers best, and fittingly cars and displays from some of the industry’s top brands greeted fans as they entered the show. It was clear from the start that the widebody trend has yet to hit critical mass, as I saw more Amgain/Liberty Walk/Rocket Bunny applications and custom adaptations throughout the show than I would’ve ever thought possible years ago.
Equally impressive were the increasing number of exotic and supercar company builds on the premises. Whereas years ago a clean, oh, I dunno … DC2 might be enough to show off your brand’s best tuning efforts, these days the bar is set as high as a modified Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 458, 991/718 Porsche, or Audi R8.
Sure, GT-Rs are still acceptable, if you wanna scrape the bottom of the barrel, I guess (kidding!).
As much as I like seeing something as rare as any of these high-dollar builds, there’s something a little more admirable to me about catching admiration with a car that would never see a price tag anywhere near six-figures. Fortunately for me, Wekfest had more of those than anything.
If tuning authorities like Autofashion and Platinum VIP had the power of executive order, we might all be driving slammed, big-body Japanese luxury sedans. That’s a movement I could get behind the wheel of for sure.
From cars as attainable as Central Pine’s ultra-clean Y33 Infiniti Q45/Nissan Cedric conversion, to the flared/slammed Lexus IS F a la Air Runner fame, a well-executed VIP build is one of the few styles of vehicle modification that can command respect from just about anyone.
L.A. Street Scene
Moving away from vendor alley and into gen-pop the trends continued—sometimes to an even more extreme degree. As wild as I thought the Ferrari and Lamborghini fender flare installations from before were, it became clear to be that the creativity of the common man is second to none.
It’s becoming hard to find a Scion FR-S in SoCal that’s not flared (it just looks so right, right?). But becoming ever more common are flared Honda S2000s, Nissan 350Zs, Hyundai Genesis, and more.
From clean flared Civics and Accords, to the uber-clean Eurosquad E30 BMW, to some, um … notable attempts, Wekfest L.A. shown itself as the premier testing ground for courageous widebody adaptations.
Also appearing to lose zero steam in the hype game was the chassis-mount wing and the air suspension—the most hyped builds incorporating a combination of both with the aforementioned widebody zeal.
Another emerging trend is clever, usually race-inspired livery. Whether on an actual race car, or on unapologetic show/street cars, it’s (dare I say?!) kind of cool to see.
And speaking of race machines, there were a few of those in attendance, as well as some potent high-performance builds and impressive engine swaps.
So while Wekfest has both literally and figuratively moved out of the NorCal underground and onto the world’s stage, and as the styles of import tuning have progressed far beyond what I think most of us saw coming years ago, it still holds the title as the best place to see today’s most current trends and budding enthusiasm. Which all make Wekfest an event for any serious contemporary automotive enthusiast to experience.
Visit the Wekfest website for a look at their tour schedule, and click through our gallery below for the outtakes from Long Beach.