Level Up: Arif’s Honda Civic – The Final Form?

Ah yes, another photoshoot in the bag – and a rather special one at that. This one is of Arif’s Civic and it’s been quite a long time since we’ve gotten together to shoot. Lots has changed since the last time we shot it and there always seems to be a period of several years between our shoots and while it feels like it’s only been a year or two – this time it’s been 4, and prior to that, it was 5 years. Here’s the link to the Fall shoot we did some time ago if you’re interested:


This time was special – no, not because we had a candlelit dinner with Jina-spec entrees or anything like that. Don’t get any wrong ideas. It was because this time when Arif asked me for a shoot – he was able to get access to CH Toyota all to himself on a Sunday and one other person. Luckily, that other person was me. You don’t really think about shooting inside a dealership until you’re asked to shoot inside a dealership. I’m not going to say it’s a rare opportunity because I’m sure many others have the same ability to do so, but it doesn’t come around all too often.

It’s an eerie place when it’s empty and there aren’t salesmen walking around, or phones ringing, or machines running and tools banging. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. There’s no pressure to say “no thanks, I’m just looking” or “umm, I’ve got an appointment at 3?”. You could stand and stare at that 4Runner TRD Pro all day if you wanted without the pressure of someone asking you questions. Speaking of 4Runner’s… Before we get on with this pic-heavy post, there was one gem sitting in the showroom that I was able to snap pics of with nobody around to bother me…

This 1,000,000 km 4Runner. Yup, one million…

The interior – despite the mileage – was in fantastic shape. The seats looked better than most used cars you’d find that have 100k on the odometer. Although the steering wheel has taken quite a beating, it hasn’t stopped the car from running.

A shot of the back seats and carpet – still quite immaculate.

And just look at the condition of the body and paint. This could pass as an old, low km car if you judged a book by its cover.

Some of the suspension components have been replaced as expected, but the rest of the car still looks great.

The original wheels – although scathed and starting to age beyond repair still holding strong.

And finally – a shot of that odometer just to prove it. Man… Glad I got to see this.

And so now as we move on and Arif gets the car ready, I took a couple shots of the inside of CH Toyota – when the lights are off and everything is at peace.

The M3 kind of out of place… But adds to the picture as decoration…

So we begin… Arif’s car in the flesh. Very different than 4 years ago when we shot it and very much evolved into something better.

A lot of the shots I took were with the lights off. I felt it gave a very unique feel with a slight blue colorgrade added to it. Almost like it was in the pits getting ready to do some hot laps…

One of the most notable changes are his yellow CE28’s which demand a lot of attention to the car.

Arif said that he had the car all cleaned and ready to go on Friday when he was confirming if we were still good to shoot on Friday. My mistake was believing him. I took this pic and for a split second, I second-guessed what I saw through the viewfinder only to have my doubts confirmed when I reviewed the picture again after taking it.

“Arif – I think you need to clean your wheels again” I said. Arif gave a hesitant “what?” trying to sound like he didn’t know what I was talking about even though he knew damn well. “Your wheels are still dirty here…” I replied again. “You know what, I’m just going to leave it so that you can take a picture and call me out cause I know you will” he says. Deep down – I know that he thought his wheels were as clean as could be. Why else would he have left his car in the dealership overnight and not drive it there on the day of the photoshoot? Because he didn’t want it to get dirty. This is the problem with multi spoke wheels, man. You clean the top half of the spokes because you’re looking down on them but you always miss the underside. As Arif reads this, I know going forward he’s going to start cleaning the underside of the spokes. Mistakes happen.

One of my favourite additions to Arif’s car is the newly retrofitted headlights done by Aldrich. Rich has done many retrofits for our friends cars and they’ve always come out impeccable. It’s a much appreciated update for older cars with halogen reflector headlights and if done nicely, it can look very OEM. No unnecessary LED bars or strobing/changing colours all over the place – just a nicely placed projector and housing.

Another notable change is the BYS bumper. Another welcome addition to bring the package together nicely.

Interior wise – not much has changed. Good ol’ Tigger still hanging from the cage as you can see by his tail…

Lots of big changes as I go through these pictures – another is the Project Mu big brake kit you see behind the yellow CE’s. Surprisingly a very fitting colour combo.

This photo in the washbay had a sort of neckbreaking angle but I liked it. Also, Arif was holding the hose that you see over to the right of the picture there. Just thought I’d give credit where credit is due…

Getting set up to move around

In my opinion, Arif’s car has really “grown up” in the sense that it’s evolved from a “boy-racer” look to a more sophisticated and rounded out look. The much tamer Seeker wing, the BYS bumper, the clean retrofitted headlights and the J’s hood.

Another addition are the Tracklife Composites fenders. A much more aggressive look up front.

The TiBurnt valve stem caps with Project Mu and Volk.

The panda theme that Arif had going on for a long time is more or less gone. Everything is paint matched now – the hood, the roof. The only “black” you see now is the naked carbon accents on the lip and the side mirrors.

Close up of the BYS badge on the front lip…

Another shot of the retrofitted headlights

The bolts holding the hood latch are a gold titanium. A nice touch to match the wheels IMO…

Under the hood now sits a K20 that replaced the F20B which was the heart of Arif’s Civic since I’ve known him.

One of my favourite pieces under the hood was this titanium hood rod.

Mugen bolts…

The rear of Arif’s civic also sports new LED tail lights with a slight smoked finish as well.

Inside, the iconic STACK cluster

Quick intermission – the owner of CH Toyota’s Ferrari sitting in the corner collecting dust… I mean, my house is free to let it “collect dust” too, ‘namsayin…

Getting ready to move to the final area…

I think a lot of my favourite shots were done here in the tire storage area. We’re lucky that he was able to squeeze in nicely. That’s what she said.

I dubbed this “Speedhunter” style… It was unintended but I guess I achieved it nicely lol.

Getting some higher angle shots shows the awesome lines of the J’s Racing hood…

Another shot. Menacing.

OK last one I promise… Once again, good job Rich!

A shot of the cut off – the most important part. Check that blue/purple.

The teaser shot I posted earlier this week… My favourite shot of the bunch still.

And just a few random shots before we ended it for the morning…

Time to hit the track…

Hope you enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed shooting it! It’s nice not having the pressures of people and other cars around – although not huge pressure – it’s still distraction and things you need to work with. An empty dealership and all the time you need provides ample opportunity to get a multitude of shots. Adios!

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 Beyond.ca 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!