Cars have always been a major part of my life ever since I was just a young and easily influenced lad. It really wasn’t just cars, though. I’ve always had such an immense fascination for anything with mechanics and/or an engine. Airplanes, motorcycles, cars; you name it.
I owe it to my parents. Both being journalists, my father being an editor for Hot Rod Magazine and mother a freelance motorsports photographer, I had no choice but to grow up around cars. Not that I was complaining. My summers were usually spent with the deep rumble of traditional Ford flathead V8 roadsters screaming down the arid California desert floor of El Mirage dry lake bed, baking in the sun at the Pomona Swap Meet, or in the shop working on my dad’s hot rods. I was a hot rodder at heart, taught to appreciate traditional builds with great taste and attention to detail.
In the mid 90s, however, my parents joined forces to start a company dedicated to the growing import scene, catered mostly to Europeans who wanted the same parts they were seeing on US cars in magazines. My dad hailing originally from Le Mans, France, decided to name the company Mulsanne Speed Parts. After the release of the Fast and the Furious, the company exploded and became one of the biggest parts suppliers in Europe with branches in the United States, France and Switzerland.
At that point, I was attending every single Hot Import Nights event, SEMA IAS, Pomona Import Drags, NOPI etc. and hanging out with people like Stephan Papadakis, Adam Saruwatari, Craig Lieberman, RJ and Charlotte De Vera, LJ Garcia… well you get the idea. Of course, I was literally only 10 years old but to be around these people was just so awe inspiring and I really owe it to the glory days of this era for shaping me into what cars I love today.
One afternoon after an average day in junior high school, my dad came home with a flyer. “D1 Grand Prix Drifting Exhibition” at the brand new Irwindale Speedway which we had just been to the inaugural race a few years earlier. The only thing I knew about drifting at the time was what I’d seen in the one Option VHS floating around the house with an instructional segment on how to drift your Honda Civic (which by the way was totally badass). Of course, we attended this event and with the lax safety precautions at the time and my dad’s connections in the media he landed me a press pass so I could shoot some video. That event was nothing short of phenomenal. So many amazing cars, crazy Japanese dudes, and of course drifting was way beyond cool. I remember leaving the event that night and seeing an S13 coupe flying down the freeway with a Silvia front and really wide wheels. At that exact moment, I realized drifting was what I wanted to do.
I spent all day everyday in class looking at the photos in the Hyper Rev book my dad bought me. Saturdays were now spent at Drift Day watching beginner drifters learn on the makeshift course on California Speedway’s parking lot, picking up customer parts from shops like G Dimension, Red Round Racing, Signal Auto or Rotora and just absorbing everything I could from this amazing car culture.
After helping my dad launch his drift team in France and learning how to build SR20s, install Cusco cages and do 5 lug conversions, I finally got a driver’s license and bought a 1969 Datsun 510. Random, yet great car.
Apparently so great that it was worth stealing about 3 months after I purchased it.
Welp. I decided that it was finally time to build my dream S13 after that. I’ll spare the dreadfully long story of that car, but to keep things simple, it was a blessing. I learned to drift in this car, how to crash and how not to crash, how to build, how to break and how to fix (or not fix) things. It was a great car that I loved and hated simultaneously just as any car guy would.
After multiple years of beating it up, I finally sold it in 2010 and bought my current drift project. A 1989 Skyline sedan. I also needed a daily driver so naturally I bought another S13. Terrible idea, by the way.
With the years of gunk I’d accumulated, I decided (after some convincing from a friend) that it was a good idea to open up a shop to keep from working on my car in the driveway of my mother’s house. And thus, Auto Factory Realize was born.
Photos: Liam Kirby
“Realize” is a personal workshop, for the time being. I’ve spent hours collecting just the right things to create what I like to call the “ultimate hang out spot”. I tried to make a shop that looks like it’s been brought straight from Japan, which to me is very important as I like to work on my car in a place that inspires me.
In the future, I hope to be able to grow the shop name and offer products that I feel would benefit cars in America in a different way, such as custom aero kits and other dress up parts; things that might help bring tasteful styling back into drift cars here in America. For the time being, however, we’re focusing on getting our 4 car drift team to USAIR for ClubFR’s Final Bout event happening this August where we’ll be debuting a few new cars including my sedan as well as a 1JZVVTI Altezza.
I hope my contributions to Autobatsu will help promote pride in building your own car through soulful car build features and interesting lifestyle stories which envelope our common love for cars. Until then, please make sure to follow @autobatsu on Instagram and Twitter as well as on Facebook to stay well connected!