Drifting, jumping, show cars, oh my! This is the Nitto Tire Auto Enthusiast Day 2019 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Last year, I used Auto Enthusiast Day (AED) to get the word out about Carbage to the masses. This year, I decided to cover the event instead and I’m very glad I did. The overall event was a success with seemingly more people coming out to enjoy a day of cars, drifting, and watching Ultra4 driver, Nick Nelson, tear up tires with all-wheel burnouts, doughnuts, and hang time off the ramp.
A Truck Only Pixar Could Love
In what must be the closest recreation of a digital vehicle by using a real one, this version of the Pizza Planet Truck has got to be one of the best out there. Even if it’s not a real 1978 Gyoza Mark VII Lite Hauler pickup, the closest we have and the hints it takes from real life is a fourth-generation Toyota Pickup – Hilux if you’re from outside of the US – with round headlights.
From the door placards to the rocket to the life-size Buzz and Woody (you know what I mean), it features a lot of correct elements that many recreations don’t quite get.
The one thing he’s able to get right that won’t be correct for anyone else in California will be the license plate. The original truck’s plate in the movie, the first Toy Story, is a reference to the resolution it originally rendered in. It was done in 1536×922 (an aspect ratio of 1.66:1) before it was sent to print on film stock and made to fit a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It also took 117 Sun Microsystems computers in a “render farm” that ran 24-hours a day and each of the 114,240 frames rendering in about 35 minutes to 30 hours.
Fortunately for Pixar, their technology could render all the original movie in less than its 77-minute run time. However, now, the complexity of the videos they are creating now takes about 60 to 160 hours since they are getting details far more minute as individual hairs to millions of lights. One last bit of Pixar nerdery about the Pizza Planet truck: it’s been in every Pixar film except The Invincibles.
A Jeepster Restomod
I know it’s a term thrown around quite a lot, but this is the true definition of “restomod.” This Jeepster built by Synergy Manufacturing sits on a modern JK frame, but that’s not all. I don’t want to go into too many details as I’ve lined up a full feature later in July 2019. I’ll be traveling to their shop and taking up close and personal photos, getting details, and maybe more. Be sure to keep your eyes out for it very soon.
Low Down and Real Patina
It may not look like real rust, but this isn’t a wrap job on “SLMDUNI” in The Shop OC’s booth. This Ford F-100 is rolling on air ride and the original, patinaed paint flat cleared over. That flat clear makes it seem like this is a wrap, but I can reassure you that it’s real. It also features a 4.6-liter DOHC V8 from a Lincoln Navigator.
The tanks have a nice, SoCal hot rod and lowrider touch with Mexican blankets wrapping around the air tanks and copper hard lines for the air suspension system. You’ll also find the same blankets wrapping the bench seat.
Being a mini-truck fan since I could drive, I was happy to see some of the classics being well represented here at Auto Enthusiast Day. Datsun 620s, first-generation Ford Rangers, it was great to see more of them coming out.
Even more modern minis like the Toyota Tacoma were out and about. Hopefully we’ll see a bit of a resurgence with the Colorado/Canyon and new Ranger despite these being classified as “mid-sized” pickups.
Probably the wildest was this 1973 Datsun 620 built by Tad Banzuelo out of Orange County, California. Its very custom widebody is thanks to use of a chassis from a Chevrolet Caprice. He then modified the body to fit to the new frame. It uses a GM LS7 with a TR6060 six-speed transmission. The rear end from the Caprice remains but sports a 4.10:1 gearing and a Torsen differential. Yes, there will be a feature on this truck coming up as there are many, many details I’m leaving out on this build.
The engineering and design into this extra-long Datsun pickup will make this feature well worth the wait.
What had me excited were the demos by the Nitto Tire teams from Formula Drift (FD). I haven’t shot anything drifting related in over three years now and coming out here reminded me what I loved the sport. Sure, drifting’s not a fight to the finish line but it is a competition of car control. I do keep up with these guys outside of FD, but, still, AED was a breath of tire carcass-filled air that I hadn’t had in a while.
It was great to see Ernie Fixmer out in a car again. The last time he was driving professionally in FD, a 400-horsepower SR20 could keep up with the field. Today, it wouldn’t even qualify and would barely be worth using in Pro 2.
He’s out here in a Nissan Skyline sedan with a built RB inline six. Most of the day, it was having issues with its fuel pump, but it finally got going when I was able to take photos of the demo. The car is still in development, though, so its going through a bit of a teething process.
While Vaughn Gittin, Jr was out at Davis, Oklahoma for the Ultra4 Holley EFI Clash at Cross Bar Ranch round (which Vaughn took second in), his FD teammate, Chelsea DeNofa, was out in a 2014 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 2. Its one of the cars used in The School of Drift, a program set up by DeNofa himself. It’s a 450-horsepower, naturally aspirated Coyote V8 with an RTR intake, exhaust, and tune. While it is considered an advanced instruction car, it also shows how little you need to get going in grassroots drifting. You don’t need a FD Pro level build, just something that will handle well and has some decent aftermarket support.
While it may say “Matt Powers” on the car, it wasn’t the FD veteran driving the S14 Nissan 240SX. That was Tommy Roberts, a long-time drift car driver and owner of Parts Shop Max. Under the hood was no SR20DET, either as this car has a LS-swap sending torque to those rear wheels. Watching Tommy drive always made me wonder why he never went Pro in FD, but I suppose it’s because he just simply enjoys it as a hobby. Sometimes, a hobby is just a hobby and that’s enough for someone. Though, that doesn’t mean he’s not connected to the professional sport in some way as his business sells suspension and steering parts to cars looking to get sideways.
Then we probably have the most overbuilt demo car in the world. This Toyota Corolla is built by Papadakis Racing for Race Service, the promotional and media team behind three-time FD champion, Chris Forsberg, and Ryan Tuerck. Tuerck is well known to the Scion FR-S and Toyota GT86 fanbase. However, his world recognition is thanks to his insane, Ferrari 458 engine-swapped GT86 known as GT4586. It wasn’t used in this demo, but Ryan settled for driving this Corolla. Not that it’s a slouch as much of it is based off the Rear-Wheel Drive converted Corolla that Fredric Aasbo drives in Pro competition.
Even so, this particular 2.7-liter, turbocharged Toyota 2AR four-cylinder isn’t pumping out 1000-horsepower as is professional cousin does. Tuerck must make do with only 850-horsepower. Yes, I said that. That 2.7-liter 2AR, as a mild build from Papadakis Racing, still makes more power than your factory supercharged 2019 Corvette ZR1 by nearly 100-horsepower. Kind of tells you the levels of power FD cars are making, and just the beasts that these drivers are controlling in that seemingly chaotic dance of drifting.
Again, watching these guys out and tearing up tires again makes me miss the sport and doing coverage on it. If you like this stuff, let me know and I’ll get more of it. Use the comments section below to let me know to get more of it or share this article with your friends.
Ultra4 Air Show
Not to be outdone, Nitto’s Ultra4 driver, Nick Nelson, showed just how much power a 4400 rig can put down while getting air miles at the same time. Locked into four-wheel drive, Nelson executed drifts and four-wheel doughnuts with ease. He certainly gave his passengers rides of their lives.
That’s A Wrap
We already know that there will be an Auto Enthusiast Day in 2020. If you happen to be in or around Anaheim at that time, it’s worth coming out. Especially considering all you pay for is parking at this event. No matter how many people you bring with you, all you pay for is parking, the food you want to eat, and the apparel or parts you buy at the show. For most events around SoCal that aren’t parking lot meetups, you don’t always get that luxury.
You typically get hit with the double whammy of parking and tickets for entry that can make something like this over $40 per person. When you add in that this isn’t just a car or truck show but an equal representation of SoCal vehicle culture of hot rods, classics, off-roaders, road racers, and drifting, you realize this is a great, inexpensive way to get people exposed to your favorite hobby.
What better way to show them by giving them a mix for very little money?
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