Somehow we’re already at the end of another year. No, I don’t know how either – but they do say that time flies when you’re having fun so the extreme amounts that we had of it could explain how at times it feels like 2015 was last week.
As I look back on the past 12 months I can say that 2016 was probably the craziest year we had. It was definitely one of the most eventful and I know I can speak for all of us when I say that we had some truly amazing times and will be remembering moments from it for the rest of our lives.
From meeting Nakai-San, to finally getting Josè up here, to the new cars and projects, and major goals that could be crossed off the list, we did a lot and I hope you all had fun following along with the adventures as well. The site saw way (way) more visitors than it had in years prior and continued to lead to more new friendships and wonderful encounters with fellow enthusiasts along the way.
Each year I like to set a goal and for 2015 that had been to make it out to as many meets and events as possible; and come December I felt I had done a good job at that. Not only did it allow for me to experience more of our car culture but it also let me document and share more with all of you. I continued that this year and took part in even more new events and activities including the Menace meets, the Horsepower car show and auction, and 780 Closer. However, my main goal for 2016 was more personal and that was to round out the Focus and chase some trophies.
Over the prior years the car had picked up some small awards from a few shows but I had my sights set on something bigger. There were a few I was hoping for but it was a Driven award that I was working for first and foremost after Mario had taken it with Ketchup last year – from day one friendly competition had kept us constantly improving our cars and we were always pushing each other to do better and make the Foci more complete and therefore more competitive.
From the start I had always wanted to build the Focus into a car that could be competitive at shows and as we were heading into the then-new year I made the decision that this was when I’d make that push and bring up what I felt to be the weak areas of the car to give it the best chance at bringing home some trophies, but the plans that I had in place then never accounted for what we’d be facing just partway through the year. At the end of it all we found ourselves finally making a long-term plan a reality and I am eternally grateful for all of the help and support my car family showed me as we did just that.
As they say (and as we said many times) when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And with all of that said, let’s now rewind to January and take one more look at 2016 before we move on to 2017…
Winter can sometimes make it tricky to find things to do with cars, but if there’s one thing you can count on it’s that parts will be arriving for projects as everyone prepares for the return of the warm weather. Appropriately then, the year kicked off with the arrival of a couple of parts for Ketchup and Mustard – an RDC emblem delete and OBX header respectively. Mario wanted to clean up the exterior of the ST a bit, while I knew I needed to work on the sedan’s performance as I knew it was a weak point of the car.
I also met up with Alex to grab some shots of his TL following his first season with it, which allowed me to show all of the initial changes it had undergone since he had picked it up over the summer. He was finally back in his favourite platform and I was happy to have the chance to provide him with some photos of it as it slowly but surely started to become his TL.
Along with our own cars I also make a point to look for special models to try to grab photos of, and the same day that the header went on the Focus I had the opportunity to photograph a white GT350 sitting in the showroom of Metro.
It was around this time that I also decided to give YouTube a shot since I enjoyed watching so many channels on it anyway and wanted to contribute myself. I figured it’d be a welcome addition to the blog and I’ve certainly been having fun giving video a shot as something slightly new to try out. It’s not as frequently updated as the blog itself but there have been some moments that I am very happy I was also able to capture on video for sharing with others, and also for looking back on myself.
A little later, near the end of the month Paul came into town so Dom and I met up with him for a mini meet at Chinook Mall. Living in Edmonton (about 3 hours north of us) we only get the opportunity to meet up in person a few times a year so whenever we learn that one of us is heading to the other’s city we try our best to do just that. It usually makes for a great excuse to get other owners out as well, if we can.
Speaking of Paul, February started off with a quick look at his Mk3 hatch, the photos for which I had taken at the then-recent mini meet. His car would be going through a little bit of a makeover later on in the year and it was nice to have the chance to shoot it in its original black/green theme.
Shortly after the Balance Auto ITR returned to the site with Part 2 of its coverage. The factory B-series had been pulled, leaving the car motor-less as it awaited the replacement K-series to be built up and dropped in.
I then continued working on the performance of the sedan with a tuner from Rebel Devil Customs. I finally had the four basic power-adders for the N/A engine and was extremely happy with the feel of the car. Naturally fellow N/A owners wanted to go for rides and it was agreed that there was a noticeable improvement over just the intake and exhaust. I was content, and had done all that I intended to do to that engine.
The month wrapped up with coverage of World of Wheels. Seeing as how it was the show’s 50th anniversary I decided it was high time I finally made my way back after missing it for a few years, so I met up with Alex to go check it out. Since it had been a while since my last visit it was also the first time that I was able to share coverage of it here on the site! It was a great opportunity to see what other enthusiasts (and other automotive sub-genres in general) were up to and looking outside your familiar circles is always a great way to get new ideas for your own project; it’s something I certainly enjoy doing.
By the time March rolled around I had already been to a few Barlow meets thanks to the mild weather we were experiencing, and so I started sharing a few photos from them on the site. The first time I had ever attended a Barlow meet had just been the year prior, but I quickly found myself making regular trips over to the Tim Hortons to take part in them more and more. We all had a lot of fun hanging out at them and the fact that we could go on just about any given night and find cars there was awesome.
With summer getting closer Mario dropped his emblem delete panel off for paint, and since it was the perfect time to do so he also left his roof rails so that they too could be colour-matched to the car. He was happy with Ketchup’s exterior and these were essentially the finishing touches for it.
March also saw the return of the annual Calgary Auto Show so of course I went and brought along my camera – I have attended this show each and every year since well before I could drive and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I finally had the chance to see an RS (albeit a prototype) in person along with tons of other beautiful new cars, and I’m already looking forward to 2017’s show as it’s not all that far off now.
This was also when my new brakes arrived. Still wanting to work more on the performance of the sedan to round it out, I was able to get a big brake kit from VMAXX with help from Rebel Devil Customs – not only so it’d be more competitive at shows but also just so it’d stop better for daily driving. It was the first kit of its kind in Canada and to my knowledge still is today – admittedly it was overkill in terms of performance but that was also the point. Once-and-done was my thinking and I never wanted to have to upgrade the front brakes again so that when/if the car finally got a swap they’d still be more than I needed… Jackie at Balance installed them for me and I documented the process – I shortly after threw the summer wheels back on too because we kept having surprisingly good weather!
I’m always looking for opportunities to share new content that I feel you guys will enjoy and at the end of the month I finally had the chance to upload some photos from Tokyo Auto Salon that Josh had kindly sent my way. While the blog focuses on Calgary/Alberta-based content, opportunities to share coverage from outside our borders aren’t turned down, especially when it’s from a big event such as TAS!
Next up it was Part 3 of the Balance Auto ITR build, showing off the super-aggressive front bumper that Jackie had recently acquired for the car as well as the mountain of parts that would be making up its new engine. If it hadn’t yet been clear that Jackie wasn’t messing around with this car, it certainly was at this point.
Finally, at the end of March we had a very special guest in Calgary – Akira Nakai of RWB! He was in town to build a car for a local enthusiast, Patrick, and it happened to be the first RWB 964 Cabriolet in all of North America as well as Calgary’s first RWB, making it a very special and significant car.
The day remains as one of my favourites of the year, but also one of the most memorable of my life. The entire atmosphere, the event, everything was amazing and I got to actually meet Nakai-san himself – someone I’ve followed and whose work I’ve looked up to for years. It was an incredible experience and I was even able to get a couple of signatures from him as well as a couple of photos with him. I have sitting here in my office in fact the signed commemorative shirt, and of course displayed proudly on the trunk of the Focus is the other signature. I see them every day and each time they remind me of that amazing experience.
The month of April started off with more coverage of RWB YYC since it had happened right at the end of March. I was working through all of the photos as fast as I could but I had taken so many that it ended up being a four-part series covering the day.
At this point Driven Calgary was fast approaching so many cars were quickly changing in preparation for the show. Alex and I spent a day at Balance Auto where Jackie graciously let us borrow/tie up a bay to fit a new front bumper and full lip kit to Alex’s TL-S. With the car now having been his for the better part of a year, his long-standing vision was coming together and the TL-S was looking better than ever. It stood out from other TL-Ss, but it did so without any one modification screaming at you or overpowering the others.
After the TL-S install day I then met up with Patrick, owner of RWB YYC (Kokumajutsu), and was able to shoot it at Eau Claire. A big thanks goes to him for meeting up with me that day and giving me the opportunity to capture it in a more open environment – and without crowds everywhere! I was extremely grateful for the chance and proud to be able to share the photos on the site for you all.
Following that it was back to Balance Auto with Alex where he had his new Advans fitted to the TL-S, getting it closer to being ready for Driven. With their rather aggressive sizing his fenders had required some rolling prior to being able to run them, which he had taken care of after we installed the lip kit. From there we quickly stopped at a mini meet and watched a few cars roll in before calling it a day and heading home.
It was at this point that Mike at RDC could finally reveal his latest project, ST sedan #002. The full set of photos and the press release for it went up on the site and it was big news within the Focus community. Of the 7 ST-swapped Mk3 Focus sedans that now exist, 6 of them were revealed within a 6-month window this year, beginning with this one! The first conversion for a client, ST4 #002 featured a completely stock exterior which was contrasted by not only a full ST3 interior conversion, but also a big turbo swap!
Worth noting is that just after ST4 #002 was revealed, the third was as well from SS Tuning. All of a sudden there was a trio!
Returning to local content, Driven prep continued with Shane’s Integra when I helped him fit one of his new J’s Racing fenders – a personal favourite piece of mine for the DC2/4 chassis. We were all getting excited for the show and were working to cross items off of our to-do lists as quickly as possible.
One item on Brandon’s list was some vinyl wrapping, so Mario and I gave him a hand with that next. With a large roll of True Blood vinyl to work with we wrapped his roof and some trim, and I also covered his steering wheel emblem with a custom yeti logo. As one final (and subtle) change to the exterior an OEM Fiesta ST third brake light was installed to add a touch of red to the wing.
Now we move on to May, and what was probably the pivotal moment of 2016. Scratch that, it was the pivotal moment. The first story to go up was that of April 27’s meets at Grey Eagle and Menace, which was published on the first – that was the same day that I was out with Mario, Brenda, Derrick, and Brandon. We enjoyed the nice weather and threw a couple of small parts on Ketchup to go with its brand new Tarmacs that had just arrived. We took some photos and then grabbed dinner before going our separate ways.
3 days later while Mario was driving home from work, another car ran a light and struck him at high speed. I remember it perfectly; Alex and I were at my house detailing the focus in prep for Driven and Brandon started calling me. My hands were full so by the time I had put down my tools and gotten my phone out of my pocket I had missed the call, but then a text from him came in saying he was glad Mario was okay. I had no idea what he was talking about but it didn’t take me long to figure it out – and then I saw the photos. I tried calling Mario but he was already en route to the hospital to get checked out.
Thankfully he was able to walk away from what was a rather high-speed collision; the other car was moving at a good clip at the time of impact. He was a bit shaken up but that was to be expected.
We found out later that he broke a thumb in the collision but otherwise was more or less unharmed aside from the expected bumps and bruises from the impact and the airbags, and a temporary limp from a hurt foot. Ketchup saved his life, providing another example of just how safe the Mk3 platform is. Unfortunately though, with how hard it was hit the damage was too severe for it to be repaired so it was ultimately declared a write-off.
Without being able to repair the car we knew that we had unexpectedly been given the opportunity to carry out something we had been waiting a long time for, so I bought Ketchup from Mario (after he had bought it back from insurance) and we began to tear it down.
The idea of throwing an ST engine in my car had been around for a few years now, well before Mike at RDC even proved it could be done when he swapped his and built the world’s first ST4. We never had a set deadline in mind, but rather decided that we’d do the swap whenever we managed to find what we felt was the ‘right’ car. We figured that we’d know it when we saw it, and obviously we knew right away that there would be no car better to use than Ketchup. It had even been joked about in the past that we should switch the engines between the cars…
We had built up Ketchup and Mustard together, shown them together, and they were just known as a pair. Therefore, without the option to fix Ketchup we knew that we had to use its heart to swap Mustard. Everyone liked the idea that we would let part of it live on in Mustard and combine the two cars to build Canada’s first ST4. We felt it was a fitting ‘end’ to the ST and the fact that we’d be taking the pair and making them one, better, car was a perfect way to end the first chapter. The unexpected acceleration of the timeline meant I had to hustle and quickly clear up some funds to make all of the purchases (that S15 savings account I had? Goodbye!) but it was absolutely worth it and I’d do it again.
Immediately after this was Driven Calgary, so a multi-part series covering the show was much of the site’s content for that month. Many had thought that Mario was registered in the event making it just that much sadder that Ketchup had been hit, but the reality is that he actually hadn’t signed up. We were able to see him and hang out and were all extremely happy that he was there and doing okay. It was the first time I’d seen him in person since before the collision so I was happy to get to spend some time with him and enjoy his company.
This year, Driven also marked the achievement of something I had been working towards for a while. Like I said at the start I had been working on the sedan’s performance to round it out and make it more competitive in the hopes of getting an award at Driven and other events, and this time around Mustard took Best In Show Domestic Tuner! I remember that Mario grabbed my camera at the start of the awards ceremony because he was confident I would win and wanted to get some photos of the moment for me. When my name was called he ran after me as I went up to the stage, only afterwards remembering that his foot was still hurt from the collision – and that was when the pain returned. He was too excited and forgot that he had to take it easy! That gave us something to chuckle about as we celebrated.
In between a couple of the Driven entries went a few photos from May 11th’s Menace Rides meet – with the season since wrapped up I can say that these were absolutely a welcome addition to the local community and I can’t wait for them to return for 2017!
Of course it was then time for the annual trip up to Edmonton for the 780 Opener! It was at a new location this year and a week later than usual (it is traditionally scheduled for the first weekend in May but this time around that was taken by Driven Calgary), but it was a great time regardless. Mario and Brenda even came up in her EL (which later on in the year was sold) and we took the chance to talk about his plans for the new car, which we knew of at the time but was still to be kept a secret for a little while longer. I did however drop a sneaky little hint in one of the Opener posts that would very easily (and did) go unnoticed unless you knew what was coming…
And on that, the month wrapped up with the reveal of Mario’s new car. A very eventful, stressful, and seemingly long month had come to a close. On the first day of May I was taking pictures of Ketchup, and on the last day I was sharing pictures of Sriracha.
June kicked off with a full explanation of what was happening with Ketchup as there were still many questions being fired at us regarding the whole incident. Obviously there was a lot to handle in regards to insurance/money/values/etc – the usual headaches of having a car written off which were just complicated seeing as how it was heavily modified and the intention was to buy it back as well. Once the dust had settled and things were sorted, we could actually share the facts and what the plans were from that point forward.
Since we were quickly approaching the halfway point of the year, a special mid-year Menace meet was hosted and the turnout was spectacular! Some of us met up for a Shinkiro Style pre-meet at Chinook Mall (which brought back some good memories of the old Beyond meets) and then headed over to the Menace location. The lot overflowed as tons of enthusiasts brought out their cars and it was amazing to see the turnout given that the meets had only started this season.
With car shows on the calendar and Ketchup’s shoes to fill, Mario wasn’t wasting time and the first update on the Fiesta went live next! Despite already receiving various parts, even more were coming for the mini ST and we were all excited to see it transform.
Shortly afterwards I was able to spot my first ‘real’ Focus RS at Metro, and of course I brought the camera along with to shoot and film it. Up to this point the only RS I had seen in person was the prototype at the auto show, but this was an actual customer vehicle that had just arrived in Calgary. Like that prototype, it too was finished in Nitrous Blue and despite still being dirty from transport (and wearing its protective wrap), it looked amazing.
Next up were photos from a quick Shinkiro style meet, which again took place at the old stomping grounds of Chinook’s upper parkade. It was another beautiful day, and a great mix of cars came out for it.
It wasn’t long after the first one that another RS spotting took place, this time at Marlborough. Mario and I went over to check it out and were even able to open it up and look through everything! I photographed it and of course filmed it too, and that video quickly became the most-viewed on the YouTube channel; it still is today in fact! Thanks again to Marlborough for allowing us the access to the vehicle, and I’m certainly pleased that you all enjoyed it so much!
As the weeks were seemingly flying by we knew we had to get moving on the preparations for swapping my sedan later that summer and so Ketchup’s engine was then pulled. With help from Derrick and his brothers it was then transported back to my house so that I could start working on it. It was the biggest step yet in the project and excitement was building – stress too, however.
The final post in June, and thus the final post that will be looked at in this half of the review – was one that I think really surprised people. It was perhaps a little bit out of left field but looked at a car that was very significant to me, and I hope that it at least was interesting to those who were unaware of what it was. At a local Pontiac show I stumbled across something that I had legitimately thought I’d never see in person – a Turbo Grand Prix!
This more or less forgotten variant of the first-generation W-Body Grand Prixs was a very limited run model that was never sold new in Canada, and had seen its numbers sharply decline over the years due to reliability issues and difficulties in sourcing parts. This was a true unicorn and by far the cleanest, lowest-mileage example I had ever heard of. As an owner of a 1G W-body Grand Prix myself (the white one above), this was a model that I had long been interested in but simply never thought I’d see in person. Perhaps the fact it’s such an unknown vehicle made the sighting that much cooler, just because you had to really know what you were looking at to recognize how special it was.
And with that, we are at the halfway point of the year! Please check back tomorrow for the second part of the review, which will take us from July right up to now. Sunday School, Josè’s visit, more meets, more installs, and even an unintentional car purchase; all to come!