The Year of Development – 2021 Review

In recent years our annual review posts have evolved slightly. Originally they served as a way to quickly run back through all of the posts and updates from prior 12 months, but 2019 – coincidentally titled The Year Things Changed – saw the introduction of a change in that format, which carried on in 2020 as we dropped the itemized blog recap and instead looked at the overall “theme” of the year.

In trying to put together the foundation of a review for this year, to then expand into a full-length article, I was having a bit of trouble at first because in many ways 2021 felt a lot like 2020, round 2. We were not safely able to return to a fully normal schedule or feel, but we certainly did get closer. Coming into the year knowing what we did from the prior 12 months though we at least had expectations and ideas in place based on what we experienced in 2020 and knew how we could build upon that.

And then it occurred to me: in many cases, what had been introduced or had started growing in 2020 specifically was indeed continued, built upon, refined, and/or evolved in 2021. Be it projects, groups, events, or brands, 2021 was more akin to 2020 than any other year prior and not just from a scheduling standpoint. 2021 wasn’t really a second round, it was more so a second chapter.

Think about our car community as a whole and what makes it up: the big name shops that have their hands in many of the top projects. The shows that stand out on the calendar and are our hotly-anticipated dates of the year. The iconic projects. The key players involved in everything. Fill in the blanks for each of those categories, for both the 2010-2019 period and now 2020+, and you see some differences, don’t you?

With not just new events created to fill the calendar (some by new groups) and new projects started to pass the time, but also a shift in faces as some stepped back to adult and more new enthusiasts came in, and shops and brands being started and grown, we might as well consider 2020 the start of another “Volume” in the story of our local scene with many of the big names and events from Volume One being joined or succeeded by newer additions.

For the sake of this analogy, we’ll call 2010 to 2019 – or Volume One – the ill.motion years. This was definitely not the start of a modified car scene in Calgary but I’ll call it the first volume specifically because those of us who were around at its launch remember just how significant ill.motion’s creation was and how it really helped to start putting Calgary (and Canada) on the map in regards to the “tuner” scene. There were a lot of pieces in play prior (the prequel years, we could call them?) but iM really kicked the whole thing into high gear in 2010 with a way to expose it all to the world. They were certainly a key player and household name in our city with arguably the biggest impact of anything in that decade-long span, if not ever. From there we saw countless other groups start up, Sunday School’s creation and quick growth into the premier annual event we know it as now, and the quality of cars drastically jumped as the community matured in a very short amount of time. By 2019 though iM had shifted from steadily updating the blog and showcasing the Calgary community online to focusing their efforts on Sunday School each year, with plans in place for what would have been its grand finale in 2020 as the remaining members were ready to step back and move on to the next phase of their own lives – that 10th and final edition has been put on ice through, so what year it ends up being held in is still to be determined.

Come 2020, and through the combination of the forced reset of the event calendar, new groups and businesses either just starting up or having plans already in motion, many of the established members beginning to take or having already taken a step back, and a definite shift in behaviours, by the end of the year our local community had become something fairly different and while at the time it may have felt like a bit of a detour before returning to its regular course, 2021 worked to solidify it as the start of something new instead. The start of this second volume.

We can’t mention events or key players of 2020 and 2021 without of course mentioning Redline Sorority. They took the initiative last year with the newfound space in the calendar and hosted their first Sorority Row show which was a success by any measure. This year then, they were able to not just attend Driven as a group for the first time (since there was no Driven here in 2020) but also took home Best In Show: Team, shortly afterwards continuing this momentum by taking what they had started with Sorority Row last year – which had to be organized very quickly due to how conditions updated – and put on an even bigger, better rendition of it this time around.

Their involvement in the scene extended beyond the two formal shows mentioned though as they were one half of the team behind this year’s much-needed and very smoothly-run Tuner Tailgate meets. Probably the biggest negative takeaway from 2020 was that our car meets were in an excruciatingly poor state, as anyone local has surely heard about to the point of exhaustion by now. Redline, along with Not/Available, took the basic formula from our waters-testing 3G meets last fall and streamlined it into a beautifully efficient and effective procedure for safe, well-mannered, and mature car meets. The two groups put in a lot of work this season to provide us with some proper, wonderful gatherings that really helped to bring a lot of the community back together and made for some relaxing and memorable evenings in between the larger events. Just as the Beyond meets had been the meets up until their demise in the mid-2010s, the Tuner Tailgate meets quickly became the ones to be at now, and they’ll surely only get better in 2022.

On the topic of putting in work, we also need to look at the companies run by people in our community. For years, Jackie and his crew at Balance Auto Garage – née Zero Limit – have had the place for all of us to go to for anything from involved installs, to minor fixes or fabrication (he whipped up a bracket for Mustard’s air filter in something like 2013), or even just to hang out. Balance is still going strong, having had a large anniversary celebration in 2020 (and to think of it I’m overdue for a visit there to see what’s new) but more new businesses have opened up and rapidly grown in recent times as more of our friends have found their niches to explore and crafts to hone. VS-One came about in early 2020, getting right to work with some amazing cars rolling through their doors and helping many in the community – even kindly hosting one of our 3G meets last year – while over in the art world Jason has found something that really resonates with his JTooned brand (I still adore that name; if you know you know) and is always pushing out incredible pieces at a breakneck pace despite having things like a job and little humans to look after also. However, when it comes to making headlines in our scene there are two names that have really stood out these last couple of years: Infamous Aero and Custom Decals.

Both parties were more than busy this year and remained as steady topics of conversation through their involvement in local projects and events. Hosted in conjunction with So Scare, Custom Decals’ 2021 closer was bigger and better than last year’s, being one of the most talked-about events of the year and up there with Sorority Row and Driven. They continue to draw enormous crowds to whatever they host and keep incredibly active on social media to share the various projects they get their hands on. More and more local cars come through for makeovers and they are set to keep up their rapid rate of growth, continually chasing ever-bigger goals especially with what they have in mind for 2022 and their Tuner Spirit show specifically.

Jesse and the Infamous Aero team meanwhile continued to hustle and make significant investments this year which in turn prompted significant achievements. A new shop came last year, new staff with new skills joined the team, and now with new technology in house this year they were able to seriously level up from their already very well-received products, stealing the show at Driven in July with the debut of their A90 widebody kit. Showing just how committed and driven they are to make the brand known, jumping into the A90 widebody market was a brilliant move for the exposure it could offer, though not without its risks given the required time and financial investment; not to mention they’d have to get it just right from a design and quality standpoint to compete with other kits both coming to and already on the market. In the last few years they’d really established themselves as a go-to for splitters and diffusers among others, whereas the A90 aero takes them to a completely new level now; I think they’ve definitely made themselves known on the world stage given the buzz we witnessed around the kit following its original unveiling. They’re clearly setting their sights on competing with some very big names in the market but are establishing that they have the skills and equipment to back this up, with more on the way too.

And lastly, projects; and ours specifically. After all, the site continues with its mixed format of covering both the Calgary community as well as featuring our own builds; and just as we’ve seen a changing of the guard when it comes to headline groups and events within our community as well as the standout vehicles that call Calgary home, we of course have seen a similar turnover in regards to what we’re turning wrenches on in our own time. With some of our more established cars stepping back for one reason or another, room has been made for new ones to roll in and get more airtime on the blog in recent years. In the earlier days our group’s projects were very biased towards Focus and Fiesta platforms – Mustard, Ketchup, Mayo, followed by Sriracha and then Selsun more recently – but as time has passed many of us have either stepped back from events or have changed projects in an attempt to try new things, broaden our horizons, or tackle other items on the automotive wish lists. We’ve kept Focus/Fiesta builds as part of the content (turning to cars like Yolanda’s ST, Ruzz’s RS, Dijon, and Arabis) but there have also been new introductions: Mario has jumped into the EV world with his Tesla Model 3, my mother left her other cars alone to set about having the Suburban partially restored, and the S15 has been my main project the last couple of seasons although it too will be taking a slight step back (temporarily, it’s nowhere near complete) in favour of my Grand Prix finally receiving its own restoration next year. I’d been talking about this in passing for a little while but scheduling, parts acquisition success, and a coincidental special birthday for it next year (30) have resulted in the perfect window of opportunity to have it looked after at last. I’m quite excited to get started sharing its revival despite it being a rather oddball platform, even within the GM W-Body world. Just as the S15 was a different type of project from Mustard, this will be different from both given a much stricter adherence to the car’s original specification and a different purpose behind the build as well. That said, expect continued progress on both the S15 as well as Arabis, since each still has its own smaller job jar to work through this coming season.

On To The Next

So, 2022. At the time of writing this I don’t know if ill.motion will be trying for Sunday School X or not – to close out their run and formally step back – but it’s clear there will be plenty of the introductions from 2020 and 2021 carrying on and continuing to grow. If Volume One was the ill.motion Years, I don’t yet know what Volume Two could be titled as and perhaps we won’t for a while; perhaps it will only be evident once this volume has ended. Until then we’ll keep it untitled as we carry on with its creation and all of these new characters and elements continue their own stories, defining the Calgary car scene for the coming years.

Volume 2, Chapter 3: 2022. Let’s get to writing.


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