VEX Performance: A Peek at Some JDM Icons

As mentioned in my previous post with Jimmy’s wagon – I managed to take a few candid/BTS shots inside VEX while he was wiping down the car and I thought I’d share a few with you to get you a glimpse at the inner guts of their shop. A lot of people kind of just go to a shop to get their work done, but they don’t always get to see what goes on behind those doors that say “EMPLOYEES ONLY”. What’s behind those doors? Is it big? Do they even work on cars? And it becomes this very mystical thing to regular Joe’s that only know that maintenance is an expensive but necessary thing in their lives.

I consider myself lucky because I get the chance to go through those doors most times because of what I do. To me, it’s like being in a toy store all over again – being able to see what happens and what cars are being worked on. It’s not my area of expertise and I don’t spend a lot of my time in a shop – but it’s a cool thing to be able to hang out and just be surrounded by car related things. Either way – one of the shops that has been long-standing for quite some time has been VEX Performance. Ryan and Jimmy are the two main baes of the shop and with a plethora of knowledge between the two of them, you’d be hard pressed to find another shop that can give you very specific and detailed directions on everything car related. I think that’s one of the main reasons VEX continues to be a successful physical storefront – you don’t get that type of service and expertise through online web stores or by chatting with a customer service rep online. It just doesn’t happen.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a full blown review on VEX – as I didn’t get shots of everything like their store front – Jimmy insisted I wait until they get the shop tidied up and ready for actual pictures. I just wanted to do a quick walk around their massive shop area and show you guys what goes on back there. Full shop pics to come soon…

In one of the corners of the shop – we have a GTR with it’s front end laying in pieces – getting some engine work done.

A shot of one side of the Alpha Carbon Fiber intake on the GTR

I believe this one also had an Armytrix exhaust as well. I got a shot of the burnt tips but it had a reflection of my shoe in it that I was too lazy to edit out LOL.

VEX also had another side to their already massive shop which they just took part of the wall down so they can now walk through. This S2000 was over in that corner.

Over in another corner – we have a yellow R34 GTR V-Spec awaiting it’s turn to get some work done

A rear end you can’t miss…

Sitting on Advan GT’s and a colour matched BBK

Right behind that was a yellow FD RX7

Man, I really want an FD in my life…

Rear quarters of the FD and the R32 GTR in black beside it.

The lighting here and the DOF almost made it look like a diecast model display lol

A set of BBS SR’s getting ready to be mounted

Another FD RX7 in red wearing Bronze TE37’s

Jimmy’s TE37 Sagas sitting off to the side

A caged and torn apart STI acting as a storage/parts car for now.

One last one of the red RX7 from the rear quarter to end it off…

Hope you enjoyed!

#WagonLife Part 2: Jimmy’s BMW 328i Wagon – Winter Edition

Had a chance to do another photoshoot with Jimmy on the weekend but this time it was inside VEX and his new winter wheels for his wagon. Originally, we were supposed to get together to do a Fall shoot on his TE37’s when the leaves were all orange/yellow but Mother Nature decided to skip Fall altogether and just get straight to winter. It never fails around here…

There was a bunch of snow on the ground and while the leaves were indeed yellow – it wouldn’t be much of a Fall shoot with snow on the ground too. Instead, I asked Jimmy if he had space inside the shop to shoot and well… There was more than enough space in there… I took some separate shots around the shop that I’ll share later, but we’ll stick to keeping this post to be Jimmy’s car only.

This shoot was a little different for me as I haven’t really shot inside a shop before – I was excited for this because it allowed my creative juices to start flowing. The thing about shooting inside a shop is that you’ve got limited angles and a lot of distractions that are not easily avoidable. You’ll see that once you start scrolling, you’ll notice a lot of other cars in the pictures and things laying around. When I photograph cars, I really like to use my surroundings as part of the picture rather than trying to avoid it altogether. I find that if you can manipulate the things around you properly, it creates a sense of separation rather than it just being “in the way”. You’ll find that in my pictures here – I used a lot of vignetting – which I don’t normally do – but I think it helped create a nice sense of isolation for Jimmy’s car in the shop and by colour-grading it to be a little more cool and crisp – your eyes always look at the car before everything else. As I previously said, I’m not trying to make you guys ignore everything else in the shop because they’re there as part of the picture – However, I do want the first and last thing you look at in the picture to be Jimmy’s car. The windows and the shop lights helped create spot lights and illumination for me to play with which was really fun to do… Let me know what you guys thought of this set.

Jimmy sitting really low on the BBS’s

One of my favourite shots of the day was this one. The rear garage door windows and the white lights paired with the white paint was perfect.

A shot here used a lot of shadows and miscellaneous parts sitting around the shop but Jimmy’s car still stands out perfectly well.

Jimmy’s TE37’s sitting on the bottom left corner of this pic… We’ll get pics of these on someday…

A close up Jimmy’s new BBS RGR’s and studded Hakkapelitas. Ready to dominate winter.

It’s hard to not love this front end – it’s so aggressive and clean.

The iconic BMW headlights

Is this Need for Speed or what?

VEX had A LOT of room for activities and lots of spaces I could go and walk around to get multiple angles. This was another good example of that.


Can anyone recognize the JDM Icon on the left there? Or was Jimmy’s wagon too distracting to even notice?

Hint: it’s red. lol

The sun was perfect that day as it shined through the windows. I always get lucky with the light when shooting with Jimmy.

A rear shot of the RGR’s

Up close and personal

I really need this wagon in my life. That rear is just so good. But I’m also an ass man… So I could be biased.

And a quick shot outside in the yard to show you I wasn’t kidding about the snow in the middle of Fall. Orange/yellow leaves and snow on the ground. Brutal.

End. You likely haven’t seen the last of Jimmy’s wagon – I’ve still got a date with him and the TE37’s so whenever the weather cooperates with us is when we’ll shoot – whether that be this year or next…

Adios! Stay tuned for some side shots of VEX in a separate post…

In Retrospect: Driven to Perform 2008/2009

I was inspired by Stickydiljoe when I saw his post on looking back at Tokyo Auto Salon a decade ago to see the changes that have happened all this time. Then I suddenly remembered that I, too, have a hard drive of old pictures and photoshoots that have been laying dormant all this time. There were many times when I would turn on my hard drive and look at some of the folders and said to myself “I’ll never open this again”. Look at me now… Opening them again.

Some of my earliest photos were when I started getting into the car scene and Driven to Perform was my first show with my Civic at the time in its embarrassingly modest state. Nevertheless, the show itself was also fairly modest compared to what you see today. Things change, cars change, shows change. Back then, I knew next to no one in the car scene – I was merely another fish in the sea trying to gain some recognition. Arif was the one that encouraged me to enter the show with the booth and things kind of just unfolded from there. To this day, every show that I’m in – Arif is still there and it’s like nothing has changed except for my attitude towards car shows.

10 years ago at Driven to Perform – I was a starry-eyed kid with dreams and hopes and dangerous levels of excitement to be in a show like this. This was the show that I was taking transit to just several years prior to fulfill my childhood dreams and walk around cars that I would drool over in Import Tuner magazines. Even back then, I was taking pictures with my point and shoot – who knew I’d still be doing that today. Unfortunately, those pictures are long gone… I wish I kept those. But I digress… It was at this very show that Arif told me “these days are long man, and you kind of just want the show to be over – after a few of them – you’ll feel the same. But I understand how excited you are – I used to be just like you”. Ever since then, every show that has since passed that I’ve attended – Arif’s words have resounded with me so clearly – he was right. I do just want to go home and sleep now.

Anyway, this post is a rather personal one to me in the sense that these photos are TERRIBLE. I can’t even imagine taking pictures like this and I even have some with neck breaking angles or super wide, non-flattering shots. I cringe. I cringe really hard. Besides that though, some of these photos might make you be like “whoa! that was so-and-so’s car?!” and some might make you say “this car looks like it time traveled to present day!”. This was back when I didn’t do “coverage” pictures, I just took random pictures. The main reason for combining 2008 and 2009 is because 2008 had a whopping total of 28 RAW files compared to the 500+ that I shoot today. This post is not meant to be a data-eater – it’s fairly small and it’s meant to just go back in time a bit to what the early days used to look like for those of you that missed out on shows like this decades ago. It’s filled with friends’ cars and good memories and that’s what life was about back then…

I think if there’s one car that stands the test of time for me – it’s Ryan’s EP3. In fact, not much has changed for this car if you look at this picture alone. Ryan still rocks that Walker Japan bumper and decal today – you’ll notice that his decal now is not as perfect as it was, but it’s pretty damn close. Through the years, he’s gone through a ton of wheels and colour variations, but it has largely remained “frozen in time” to be a timeless EP3 build around here. He hasn’t molested it with fender flares or stancy wheels… It’s just simplicity.

I want to say this is Steve Poyntz’s AE86? I didn’t know him at the time, but this was a very recognizable build at the time because everyone was just getting into the initial D trend and this car was iconic. He even drifted this thing if I recall correctly…

Sitting on Work Equips.

Jackie Law’s S2000 with a very mild wheel/tire/height set up compared to what you see today. He no longer rocks the T1R BBK – it’s now been replaced with an Alcon BBK. Mag blue CE’s have been replaced with an almost battleship grey TE37 set up and you can no longer fit fingers between the fender and tire. He’s also replaced that ASM bumper with a Voltex front bumper… Another iconic car that I looked up to at the time when building my own.

Jamie Fry’s J’s Racing S2000 – he tracked this thing hard and he always went balls out whenever we were at Race City. I’m not sure where this thing is now or if it still even looks the same.

The rear of Jamie’s S2000. At the time, there wasn’t a big explosion of super JDM plate frames or titanium bolts and washers. We weren’t quite at that level of detail yet. Some were – and those guys lead the pack in a very quiet pace – the rest of us were hanging out in lalaland.

Back in the Beyond booth with a neck-breaking angle. With an SRT-4 Neon starting the picture off – a chassis/build I don’t ever see anymore. Giuseppe’s R32 that some of you may recognize from my photoshoots with him over the years… He’s now replaced it with the blue S15. My Civic on Work Emotion XT7’s and HFP lip kit. Punit’s Integra on Rota’s and a carbon hood, and Ryan’s EP3 on T/A CE28’s. Lots has changed over the years…

Another car that some might remember is Dal’s K20 Type R. Back in the day, Speedtech Racing Development reigned supreme in Calgary for the locals to go get their fix of rice. Dal’s car was one of the poster children for the shop with Takata Green CE28’s, the K20 swap and aggressive aero. In this day and age, this would be considered very tame but back then – seeing green wheels, carbon lip and canards and a GT wing out back was highly frowned upon. This thing hauled ass, but not everyone had their tastes accustomed to this level of aggressiveness back then.

Dal’s K20R later went on to be with Reggie Mah who then stripped it down and built it all back up again in his version of “KID ICARUS”. By this time, you would have been more familiar with it after being featured by Super Street and shot by Stickdiljoe with a white/teal colour combo.

Another car that was beside the beyond booth was this baby blue RX7 – fully kitted out in race mode. I didn’t have many other pictures of it – but I vividly remember people walking by it with a very judgmental look about it. Again, if you saw this today – everyone would be screaming “OMG GT WING! OMG CF DIFFUZERZ!”

Ending the 2008 show with Arif’s EK. Yes, that’s the same one with the Backyard Special bumper and yellow CE28’s that are always dirty with Project Mu brakes behind them that I post every so often. Yes, those are Rota’s. Yes, that’s a tow hook. Yes, I’m pointing things out that you wouldn’t believe. Arif has changed a lot on his Civic and I mean A LOT over the last decade as you can see. You’d never believe me if I told you this is what his car used to look like, but it’s a good example of how things progress and how trends change. Rota’s were very largely known back then and I’d be surprised to see them on a car today…

Yes, that’s all I had for the 2008 show. Note the space between cars back then – plenty of walking room…

Starting the 2009 DTP show – we were in a new location because the Olympic Oval had been taken up that year and so this was new to everyone. It was smaller, it was tighter, but it didn’t change the fact that we were all still excited to be at the show. Beyond had Mercedes Terrell as the model for the booth and I got a few shots of her with some of the cars… This one being Giuseppe’s R32 Skyline.

Yet another car that may be familiar to you is Ryan Dandurand’s MR2. This is yet another car that has gone through many changes and has really stuck with me through my journey of building cars. It’s cars like Ryan’s that have always been one step ahead of everyone else that gives people like me inspiration to build something “better”. I’ll remind you again that in 2009 – things like TE37’s and big brake kits weren’t around for everyone so seeing them on cars like Ryan’s were “big things”.

Arif’s car had a nice visual overhaul with his first set of white TE37’s.

Jackie’s S2000, Corey O Hara’s Civic right beside, and Nick Foisey’s Mustang GT…

A closer look at Corey’s Civic on bronze RE30’s and ARC winglets. At the time, the big thing for the 8th gen Civic boys was adding winglets – more specifically – ARC winglets. I remember so many people wanting them but not wanting to pay the price, so people ended up making their own… Over the years, I guess these same people started companies up like Top-1 and other “generic” splitter and diffuser models.

2009 was the year of upgrades for a lot of us. Punit also got rid of his Rota’s and changed them for Work Meister’s. Over the years, we got to know each other better and he later sold the wheels to Diana who then had them painted purple and put on her Fit.

An NSX on Wedsports (I believe?). An NSX at the time was a big deal too – not many were around but this was something my noob eyes loved seeing.

Dal’s Integra with a more subtle look for 2009 – on Mugen MF10’s. Imagine seeing this today and it still fits in perfectly well. Trends come and go, but you always recognize a really clean and well-thought out build when you see one.

I got rid of the Work XT7’s and also got a set of white TE37’s. A very mild set at the time, and a FWD stagger, but still a set I miss…

Ending it here with Mercedes Terrell signing my Recaro. I still have the Recaro’s but I’ve since washed off the signature since that fire died in me long ago. TBH, I didn’t even really like Mercedes Terrell – it was just a hype thing for me to do at the time. The Recaro’s are both now my office chairs at home…

Anyway – I might find some time to go digging again through my archives that I’ve never posted here before over the winter for some good content. It’s refreshing to look back at a few of these! Happy snow day!

Spotlight: David De Borja (@Deborja) x Lexi x FRS x BRZ

Well that was a mouthful.

Anyway, David finally sent me all the photos from the photoshoot we did a few weeks ago that I did the BTS shoot for and he gave me his blessing to share on here with everyone else. As you might have already seen/read – the shoot was an amalgamation of a whole bunch of other shoots – Jason Tang’s BRZ, Steve’s GTR, some rolling shots, and some of Lexi with the cars too and the below is the result of all that.

I mentioned many times before as well that it’s interesting to see another photographer work their craft – you only get to see where they’re standing and what they could potentially be taking a picture of, but you’ll never really ever get to see what they see through the viewfinder at that moment in time. When I photograph and when I look through the viewfinder, I try to envision the endgame or the result that I want to end with the photo. Before going into a photoshoot, I like to imagine the location, the car, the colours, the time of day and the lighting and put it all together in my head to know exactly how I’m going to colour-grade the photo, what look I’m going for, what angles will look best and when I finally get to shooting and looking through the viewfinder becomes an easy task – it just comes down to pointing, aiming and shooting. The idea and the way the photoshoot is going to turn out has already solidified in my head and I “know” what it will look like before it’s even done. I know – it sounds like blasphemy and crazy shit – but that’s truly my way of preparing for a photoshoot.

With that said, being an observer at a photoshoot almost causes me a small level of anxiety – only because I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what it looks like through the viewfinder and the always-prepared-photographer in me wants to know! And so after bugging David a few times – he finally got around to doing the photos and I know he’s a busy guy – the guy is doing a photoshoot every hour of the day it seems. I’ll be eating lunch and he’ll be shooting one car and when I hope on the gram again, he’ll be shooting another car before I’ve digested my last meal. Anyway, I was stoked when he sent me the photos today and I was stoked to share them with you. I was particularly excited to see the photos with Lexi because my car has never been shot by many people other than myself, let alone with a model. In short – it’s a different perspective for me and it’s refreshing to see my car in a different set up than its usually in. The mood and tone of the photos paired with the colours of Lexi’s outfit turned out great!

Check out David’s instagram here: