05 Mar FMU Visits Tuner Galleria ’12
So, we visited Tuner Galleria (part of World of Wheels) this weekend, and our intrepid blogger was there to capture all the action.
Keep in mind our blogger did this write-up while in the midst of the TG/WoW atmosphere, so we’ll warn you when we say that drinking probably contributed to this write-up. Enjoy:
When you abbreviate it, World of Wheels becomes WoW. Having played World of Warcraft (also abbreviated WoW) extensively in a past life, I feel like I’m uniquely situated to discuss both types of WoW. But before we dive into the seemingly endless macrocosm that is WoW — the show, not the thing with Orcs in it — let’s make like the computers on the set of CSI and enhance, enhance, enhance into a much smaller portion of the show, the Tuner Galleria.
House music. Loud house music of indiscernible origin, with the bass turned up to 11 and the tweeters blown from years of blaring the Strongbad techno song’s alarm noise that seems to permeate every third house song. This is how you know you’ve gotten to Tuner Galleria (now called TG, because it’s short and I’m lazy). It’s not like World of Wheels gives you a lot of signs on how to get there. It’s through the entire show, and up a one-person-wide escalator all the way at the back, behind the RC cars. And truthfully, that’s how the majority of the downstairs WoW crowd treats the TG area, with the same abject wonder you’d find at a screening of Toddlers and Tiaras. But what the majority of them don’t realize that is that the upstairs is just a different version of the downstairs. We create our cars with the same drive and passion that they do, we put our hearts and souls (and wallets, sometimes deep) into our builds and expect our personal aesthetic to shine through and wow the passers-by. We’re all one in the same — even if you don’t agree with the “cars” that Shockwave puts on showcase, or if you still can’t figure out why Fisher’s S13 Rocket Bunny ‘vert has a massive sub box in-between the front seats — we are all still cut from the same cloth, maybe just a different corner of it. Everybody here is a dyed-in-the-wool 6-year-old in a frilly pink costume, put on a runway by a mother that must have some serious baggage left over from her own tortured past.
After the third or fourth $7 plastic cup of Amber Bock, the music begins to make sense. Which means I’d better start shooting soon, or else my fine motor skills won’t be able to compensate for the ethanol coursing through my veins, similar to the ethanol that will soon be coursing through Kris’s Phoenix Yellow M3. Still not sure why BMW came up with that name for that color, as I’ve never seen anything on fire remotely resemble that shade of yellow. But, I digress. The hardcore race-bred contingent of Bavarian powerhouses were situated under the Zima Motorsports trailer, with the trailer’s retractable shade providing excellent coverage from the harshest kind of lights to shoot under. The innards of the trailer were a mystery; in the midst an intense conversation with Ilia and my friends, during which I stood around awkwardly and didn’t say anything, I noticed an ever-present flow of models into and out of the trailer. Being unsatisfied with my current position *outside* the trailer, I immediately devised a plan to work my way into the trailer, which is undoubtedly where the REAL party was taking place. Approximately twenty seconds later, I gave up on that plan, as I realized I had yet to shoot any of the BMWs so nicely lined up.
If there’s one thing I noticed about TG in relation to the rest of WoW, it’s that the price tier of camera is markedly higher upstairs. Since you’re able to get all artsy and shit with a DSLR and not a point-and-shoot, I found it hard to take pictures of entire cars at once, since most TG cars had no less than five iterations of Ansel Adams around them, hovering three inches over a single square foot, trying to get that macro shot that they can show to the cute girl in their photography class who likes boys that are artsy and contemplative. It’s also very hard to use a 17-55 lens (with shroud) when one hand absolutely cannot let go of a beer.
Pinstriping is an art. Anybody who tells you otherwise is probably selling vinyl cutouts of pinstripes. The effort and dedication that goes into this level of work is staggering. And it shows on the painters themselves — brows permanently furrowed from years of squinting and close-focusing eyes, hands gnarled with paint marks that seem like they’re embedded three layers deep. These guys put their all into it, and expect a proper return. Which is why I got so many happy looks when I kept taking close-up detail shots of their pride and joy to later post up on the internet for all to see for free. These works were later sold off at auction, which was a spectacle in its own right. While I wasn’t drunk enough to place bids that I had no intention of honoring, I probably wouldn’t have even if I were, since the money was going to a good cause, and while I love causing trouble, I don’t love causing trouble for charities. Some men just like to watch the world burn. Not this guy.
By the time I’d completely run three or four different vendors out of Amber Bock, I figured it was time to walk away from the pinstriping, which had attracted both my gaze and my camera lens for quite some time. Remember when I called the WoW show a macrocosm? It truly is an example of the universe. Every element on the periodic table of cars is being represented here. From the lanthanides and actinides upstairs in Tuner Galleria, to the noble gases of donks and the heavy metals of rat-rods, everything had its own place on the floor map. And just like the periodic table, if you find yourself exposed to a certain thing, it might kill you. Have you ever heard of the cause of death known as over-velveting? Neither have I, until today. Maybe I made that up, but seriously, that was a lot of velvet.
Of all the areas I mentioned in this veritable primordial ooze of car culture, the group I approached with the most excitement — and the greatest fear — were the rat-rods and their owners, the majority of whom were rockabillies. If you haven’t read the Wikipedia on the Rockabilly culture, to overgeneralize, it’s all about pompadours, checkered clothing items and music that features a stand-up bass. Thankfully the crowd was docile and under the influence of a swing band which actually happened to be playing at the show, in their little corner. I’ve seen things get bad in the past. I once went to a Tiger Army show in downtown Las Vegas, where the Rockabillies have made way for their much more menacing brethren, the Psychobillies. Ingrained deep into the culture of the dance-and-stab 1950’s, the Psychobillies are essentially ska music personified. They closely resemble Rockabillies on the outside, but these pompadours take control of a much meaner countenance than their family-friendly ilk. Remember how gangs used to act in the 50’s, running around and causing trouble? Imagine that, but juxtaposed into the era of the for-profit criminal gang and the let’s-let-everybody-carry-weapons gun culture. They had to stop the show halfway through, because the mosh pit had suddenly grown knives, and one Psychobilly gang member had decided to plunge his knife-masquerading-as-a-comb into a rival Psychobilly gang member. That was not my scene. This was. Rockabillies embody everything that the grassroots car culture is about — doing your own thing and not giving a shit what others think. You can tell I embody this sentiment in my writing.
Along with the rust-and-rock style of the rat-rods, just a few feet away from that was WoW’s version of the Concours d’Elegance. Cars that bring their own lighting to cast shadows in all the right spots. Floorspaces laid down so immaculately that you’d think the owners pay as much attention to the carpet as they do the car. It’s a show-car-guy’s slice of heaven. For me, it was limbo. Sure, I know how to appreciate art when I see it — I go to museums, I watch plays — but I don’t normally do it after drinking the state’s supply of Amber Bock. Mostly due to the fear of causing some sort of Homer Simpson-like cascade of gradually increasing catastrophic situations that are only funny when viewed as a 20-second pixelated YouTube stream. So I made sure to shoot from the safest place possible — standing next to the bar. Not only am I far away from the cars and closer to the beer, but I also have a very sturdy platform against which to lean (which had become necessary by this point in the show).
As the haze around my head gradually cleared, like an airplane passing through turbulence to finally reach cruising altitude, I remembered that there were some FMU-branded cars at the show that weren’t just Kris’s how’s-it-related-to-a-Phoenix Yellow M3. In a brief moment of clarity, I remembered a familiar flat black Miata that I had the pleasure of shooting prior to the application of race livery. The FMU sticker is still on there, albeit right in the spot where one may consider rubbin’ to be racin’. Along with the little Japanese podracer, John’s C32 made an appearance in the downstairs portion of the event, as well. Only instead of being the black-on-black-on-carbon-fiber-on-black that you last noticed, it was wrapped in a matte white vinyl job, and looked utterly fantastic. Not to mention it had broken free of Tuner Galleria and been placed amidst the hustle and bustle of the blue-blooded main body of the periodic table. Quantum mechanics, I don’t get it.
Hope you weren’t too horrified by today’s coverage of the event. If you weren’t, this final picture should do the job. Happy Monday!