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Daniel's 2006 Nissan 350Z

Editor’s note: Daniel Spielman has a garage full of enthusiast vehicles, including a 2016 Subaru WRX STI and a 2018 BMW M3. However, his Nissan 350Z was the vehicle that got him hooked up with Team Hybrid.

 


 

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From a young age, I've been obsessed with cars, and I've wanted the 350Z since they showed off the concept car at the LA Auto Show. I purchased my car new, off the lot, in 2007. When I started building my Z, I realized I needed help with the direction of the build, as well as some connections in the industry. I started researching prominent car clubs, and I got hooked up with Team Hybrid. 

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For this car, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration and advice from my team and friends with the same car. I’ve modified all aspects of the vehicle: motor, forced induction, suspension, body kit, etc. At one point, I had three different turbo kits because I couldn’t decide what type of power I wanted to make with the car. I’m currently riding on BFGoodrich® g-Force Sport COMP-2s (265/35/19 in the front & 285/35/19 rear) because I wanted the best performance rubber available for the street.

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There’s always room for improvement, but the reactions to my car have been positive all around. I still need a tune for flex fuel, plus upgrade the fuel pump. I also want to work on adding more to the interior.

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After doing all the work on this car, I just love pressing on the gas and feeling the power from the turbos. Nothing compares.

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I’d love to thank my father, who recently passed away, for all his support and encouraging my passion for cars. I probably would have given up on building this car if it wasn’t for him. I’d also like to thank Team Hybrid, without which I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish my goals for the car. Specifically, I’d like to thank our founder and president James Lin, the Hybrid management/family for their guidance and leadership the past 9 years I've been a member, plus being such a positive influence on the import tuner community, and the beautiful Hybrid Hunnyz. Lastly, plenty of Hybrid Luv to our team title sponsors: BFGoodrich Tires, Meguiar's, K&N Filters, AMSOIL, Whiteline, Password:JDM, NRG Innovations, Mishimoto and Optima Batteries. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with a legendary team.

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Photographs courtesy of Paul Delapena.

See more Team Hybrid builds here, and follow Dan’s Instagram at @danspielman for more car enthusiast content. 

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Build

Grant’s 2017 Mercedes Sprinter 4x4

Editor’s note: Grant Wilson’s automotive interests run the gamut. He built the world’s first V8-powered Exomotive Exocet. He also started OffroadSubaru.com and built — in his estimation — “the most badass 2015 Outback” with custom steel bumpers and swing out. He also fabricated an entire aluminum flatbed for his Tacoma to fit a Four Wheel Camper like a glove. And now, he builds badass vans.

 


 

I have been fixing, building, and modifying stuff since I was 13. I just enjoy building things, and after GoPeds and other scooters, stuff just gets bigger and more expensive. 

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I went with a Sprinter because it is the only real option if you want a newer van that is 4x4. The Quigley 4x4 Ford Transit option is overpriced and just as mediocre as the factory option, so it was a no brainer to just get something with a full warranty.  My local dealer also would not service the Quigley, so that pretty much solidified the decision. 

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I love my van for the fact that I can use it to get to killer camp spots and not have to set up a whole bunch of stuff. With two large dogs and a wife, the space is great, and the ease of everything is awesome. As for modifications, I have done a ton. I did a full buildout of the interior with aluminum framing I welded, then I filled it in with painted birch. There’s a Dometic CFX75DZ fridge on custom slides that is  integrated into the cabinets, a Trail Kitchens van kitchen, a 30-gallon water system with hot water heater, Blue Ridge Overland Gear interior accessories, Flarespace Rear sleeping flares to run a bed side to side, a Fiamma awning, and a Maxxair fan for living amenities.

On the outside and for power, I’ve got full Aluminess bumpers with a Warn Zeon 10s Platinum winch, BFGoodrich® All-Terrain T/A KO2s (285/75/16), 300 watts of solar, 200Ah of batteries, a DC to DC charger, a diesel air heater, an air compressor, tank and horns. I chose KO2s for my van because I have a history of killing tires. I have cut through Coopers, Atturos, Falkens, etc. BFGs are the only tires I have owned that I didn’t destroy, so I decided to go back with them, and couldn’t be happier.  

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My end goal with this build is just to be able to get to as many killer camp spots as possible.

 


 

See these killer camp spots from Grant’s eyes — plus more details on the van — on Instagram at @sprincentvango.

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Adventure

In Focus: Ernesto Araiza // Mad Media

Editor’s note: If we’re honest with ourselves, we all want visual proof when we really send it. All the better to brag, share, and marvel at the things we do. We’re celebrating that with In Focus, a series with the pro photographers and videographers that document the off-road world.

First up, we have Ernesto Araiza of Mad Media.

 


 

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved in the off-road world?

I’m from Ensenada, Baja California, where off-roading is pretty much the sport that defines the city. Before I was born, my family was already involved in racing, so they raised me with this passion for off-road racing. 

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How does one become an off-road photographer? How did you get your start?

I started taking photos just as another fan, but it didn’t take long to realize that this could be an actual job that would open doors for me and allow me to make a living off of racing. I started practicing and learning the rules and fundamentals of photography. Today, everyone is a photographer with apps like Instagram, but once you master the rules — and with a little bit of talent — anyone can become a professional off-road photographer.

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Is this the dream job?

I mean, the dream job for me would be to actually go racing and get paid, but since that’s off the table I think this job is really a dream come true.

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What IS Mad Media?

Mad Media is my second family, and it’s a group of incredible, talented people that shares a common passion to create beautiful content and unique media. You could say that we consider off-roading our blank canvas. 

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What do you feel is important about the work you do? Why do you do it?

Like any other form of art — like music, painting, or architecture — I express myself through my work. I want to show how beautiful off-road and motorsports are. I grew up watching Baja races, and I want people to appreciate what we have and how unique this sport is. I also have say that this is a job that doesn’t feel like it most of the time, so it’s worth doing it.

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Are there any projects, videos, or personalities that really stand out as personal favorites? Or most memorable moments?

Some of the personalities I’ve had the pleasure to work with are the legends: drivers like Larry Ragland, Walker Evans, Larry Roeseler, and Ivan Stewart. They were my favorites when I was a kid, so working with them and getting to know them is just fantastic. I have so many memorable moments, from spending good times with my friends at Mad Media, to traveling the world shooting some of the biggest events like the Dakar Rally.

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What makes for a good photo or a good video?

The most expensive your camera is, the better the photos! Just kidding. Like any other job, there are rules that you need to learn. Once you master them, you can make good things happen. In my case as still photographer, things like light, composition, timing, location, and camera settings are the main concerns when shooting good photos. 

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What's your top tip for budding photographers who want to capture this scene? Or for people who just want to take better pictures of their adventures?

If you want to go pro, grab a book and start studying. If you just want to improve a little bit, just take a moment to see your surroundings. If you're taking a photo of something you like, what if you move to the other side to see a different angle of the same object? You might be surprised at how much a photo of the same subject changes with just a subtle camera angle shift.

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Catch Ernesto’s work on Instagram at @araiza11, and make sure you keep an eye on Mad Media’s channels.

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Build

Devin’s 2012 Hyundai Veloster

Editor’s note: Devin Klem grew up helping pick out wheels for his dad’s old Audi, going to car shows with his brother, and collecting Hot Wheels. Needless to say, Devin was destined to be a car guy. But it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led him to his current — and favorite — ride. Now, he wouldn’t give up his 2012 Hyundai Veloster for anything.

 


 

My dad and brother sparked my interest in cars. When I was growing up, they were into the scene, so I just became a part of the loop. I went to shows with them and even helped pick out wheels on my dad’s old Audi. As for my brother, he would take me to events and drive me around. I had a bunch of Hot Wheels, too. It’s too bad I opened them all. 

I had a 2004 Volvo C70 in high school, and I didn’t do much to it besides keep it alive as much as I could. One day, it died, and I had to limp it to a dealership. I hadn’t done any research, but I needed a cheap and reliable car, quickly because I had just graduated high school and was about to start college.

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I had a choice between my Veloster, a Mazda 3 sedan with hail damage, or a Mitsubishi Mirage. It was kind of a rushed decision, I know I made the best one given my choices. I’m glad I have my Veloster, and I wouldn’t give her up for anything.

I love everything about my car. I don’t think one thing tops another — everything gets equal love because it all works together. So far, I have just been keeping it healthy, changing fluids regularly, and spark plugs every so often. I lowered the car on Eibach springs, changed over to yellow Koni adjustable shocks and struts, added a rear torsion bar, an oil catch can, a 60mm throttle body upgrade, and a K&N Typhoon short ram intake. I upgraded my brakes to ceramic pads and larger rotors, and I also upgraded the brake lines to steel braided lines, since the passenger side line was rubbing away.

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I also decided on BFGoodrich® g-Force Comp-2 A/S tires because I knew I wanted a semi-sticky tire, but nothing that would wear out quickly or cost a fortune. The salesman at my local tire shop told me about track days in Mitsubishi Evos and Mustang GTs, about how they hooked up well and lasted a while. I was sold.

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Driving on these tires feels amazing in any condition. I can place the vehicle however I want in a turn, and the tires have responded really well even as they wore down. When summer came around, they got real sticky and it felt amazing. I was doing things in the car that I didn’t even know the car could do.

Right now, I just love going on road trips and going on spirited drives on twisty backroads late at night. I just love being in my car at all times — I never have a bad time when I’m driving. 

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The end goal isn’t a crazy build like most. I have realized that this car isn’t a very good platform for anything substantial in power, so this will end up being my daily driver and I will build something else later. However, I’ll continue caring for and modifying small things to keep it forever. I hope to get over 300 thousand miles out of the car.

 


 

See more of Devin’s Veloster — and other car content — on Instagram at @blue__veloster

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Adventure

Canguro Racing

There are professional race teams — you know, the ones with million-dollar race trucks and multi-million-dollar support budgets — and then there are the professional amateurs. These are the guys who — by hook or by crook — will find a way to race because being with friends, being in Baja, and competing against other knuckleheads, is absolutely the very best use of their precious time and hard-earned money.

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Canguro Racing is one such team of professional amateurs. There are six core members of the team: Darren Webster, Dave Connors, Kurt Williams, Marc Van Tassell, Ryan Davis, and Will Carroll. They’ve been racing together for years — another rarity in desert racing. Plenty of folks race for the bucket list experience, or do it a few times until the financial costs and personal tensions sour the experience. But for the better part of a decade, from a Class 5 buggy to a Stock Full/8100-class Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series named Monica, these friends have been going fast in the desert and finishing races.

 




Incidentally, our friends @Desk to Glory chased Canguro Racing in the 2017 SCORE International Baja 1000 and made a video about the experience. Read about the Desk to Glory story here.






To get a sense of how a team like this can stick together, all you have to do is ask who does what. For instance, Darren considers himself just a humble parts procurer and wrencher, but Marc says, “I swear this guy can sell or buy anything on the internet.” And despite the fact that he’s a “laid-back SoCal boy” who “wears flipflops everywhere” according to Marc, Dave and Will both have gotten stung by Darren’s artful sarcasm. “Even after all these years, I still fall for his crap far too often,” says Will. 

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As for Dave, who is a driver, logistics specialist, and social media guru, is renowned for his ability to get things from A to B. “He has a freak talent for this,” says Ryan. Of course, it helps that he has “a photographic memory of every dirt road in Mexico,” according to Will. Along with that expertise comes a certain stubborn, competitive edge: “Dave likes what he likes and compromises to everyone else's wishes. Please read some sarcasm in that last statement,” says Marc. 

Kurt, on the other hand, is the guy who greases the wheels — literal and figurative. As the owner of Cruiser Outfitters, an aftermarket Land Cruiser specialist, he knows how to wrench, but more importantly, he’s got connections to sponsors. He’s also an understanding and positive team motivator. “There’s a reason people like to be around Kurt. He’s gregarious and smart,” says Ryan.

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The money and first aid are taken care of by Marc, who’s a doctor by day, although he cautions, “I'm just a dentist, so please call 911 if anyone clutches their chest.” And despite the fact that he’s the team owner, that doesn’t make him immune from his teammates’ barbs. As Will says, “Marc is the team sugar daddy and designated driver, as he is known to lose whatever is in his stomach if he has to look at a GPS screen. Also, he looks forward to getting a haircut in Mexico, so that should say a lot about his personality.”

Now we get to Ryan, who is the crew chief and communications guy. Though he carries the huge responsibility of making sure the vehicle is race prepped, he always has time for a joke. “Ryan wants to make you laugh and uncomfortable at the same time, usually by involving his body parts,” says Darren. “He’s the team comedian,” agrees Will. “He’s always making us laugh.”

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The last man on the list, Will, is also the only guy without a USA address. He’s currently based in Japan, but it’s for a very good reason: he’s the Toyota-whisperer. “Preacher of The Toyota Way,” says Darren. “He’s a Toyota guru and an amazing wrench. All of our big breaks have happened with him behind the wheel, so the right guy can fix them,” adds Dave. Marc agrees: “He’s a human factory service manual. He is a Toyota Oracle.”






As should be evident, Canguro Racing is a team held together by deep, mutual love and appreciation, and a healthy dose of amiable disrespect. It’s a good thing, because racing introduces all sorts of questionable situations that you can only survive as a group with humor and perspective.

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Marc, for instance, remembers one time where he cemented his driver-only role during races: “Kurt was with me the first time I got sick in the race car. He pulled over and listened on the intercom while I filled my helmet with my stomach contents.” Or the time Will, despite being the Yota Yoda, killed the race car at the Mint 400. “We never tease him about this,” Marc deadpans.

But then again, this group of friends has wheeling and exploring together for decades, so the racing is just the cherry on top. “We all share a love for blasting around in the desert via our personal Land Cruisers —nothing sanctioned or professional, just long days behind the wheel making dust,” says Kurt.

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“Most of us have known each other nearly twenty years. We have grown up, explored, camped, and driven thousands of miles together before we ever sat in a race car,” adds Will. “We’ve spent hours in the garage working on each other’s trucks long before we were racing in Mexico. Because of that history we know each other better than any team out there.”

And while blasting around in the dust was fun, racing in Baja was a dream for several of the guys. “As a kid I wanted to do two things with cars when I grew up. Race Pikes Peak and race the Baja 1000. I never thought it would happen, but here I am with 5 Baja 1000s under my belt,” says Dave. “Some of the guys are into it just for the experience,” he continues, “and I love that part, too, but I also always want to win. Desert racing provides a secondary satisfaction of finishing which can satisfy a lot of that even when we don’t win." 

And despite Dave’s love of competition, Canguro Racing made the peculiar choice years ago to trade their faster Class 5 buggy for a stock Land Cruiser. “Our drivetrain and sheet metal have to be stock. Beside big shocks and big tires, the mechanicals of this vehicle are the same that a soccer mom uses today,” says Darren. 

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But given this group’s history together wheelin’ in Land Cruisers, it was actually a no-brainer of a decision. “We went from our Class 5 to a slower and far more reliable class for no other reason than because of our shared love for Toyota Land Cruisers,” says Dave.

Marc adds, “I've loved Land Cruisers for a long time now. I think getting there — the journey — is like 80-90% of the fun. Land Cruisers embody how much fun the journey can be. I love going places, and the bigger the challenge to get there, the bigger the reward. Add in the factor of doing these things with your buddies against professional teams and beating them — it’s just awesome.”  

 


 

Canguro Racing will be tackling the Jackpot NV Freedom 200 (July 7); Knolls White Knuckles (August 25); Wendover Return (October 13); and of course, the SCORE Baja 1000 (November 17-18). Follow their Instagram for updates as they prep and race.

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Build

Matt’s 1971 Chevrolet Camaro RS

Editor’s note: It’s not a full resto-mod, and it’s not a full-on Pro-Touring build, but Matthew Bellamy’s simple Camaro RS keeps up just fine. Of course, it helps that he’s got an insane knowledge base and parts catalog to reference as a sales associate and technician with Detroit Speed & Engineering.

 


 

I got interested in cars with my dad and being around him while he worked on the family vehicles at home. The passion grew more once my cousin got into cars and began driving. 

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I have always loved Camaros since the beginning of my passion for cars. My uncle had this car sitting out in the backyard. I took notice of it, thinking it was a Corvette at first because of the rear tail panel on the 2nd gens. After doing some research and learning about the car, I began to have a strong desire for it! I asked my uncle if he wanted to sell it, and after 2 weeks, he said yes.

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I love the body lines and overall shape of the early 2nd generation Camaros. They were a little more thought-out by GM from an engineering perspective, compared to their older first gen brothers, and they setup well for an autocross car. My car has the full Detroit Speed Speed Kit 3 installed in the front. This includes the upper and lower control arms, a sway bar, bolt-in coilover kit, steering box, and other steering components to freshen up the front. This setup allows me to get a better alignment and geometry, which makes the car handle on the level of a modern late model. For the rear, it has a DSE bolt-in leaf spring kit with double adjustable racing shocks on all four corners, along with more structural stiffening upgrades to take out ball roll.

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The suspension is matched up with Forgeline GA3 wheels on sticky BFGoodrich® g-Force Rival S tires. There’s just no other tire out there that has the grip — and the forgiveness — to give a driver full confidence on the course.

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I plan to keep the like this car for now, but there are a few more upgrades on the way. I have the DSE Quadralink suspension, mini-tubs, and a roll cage for upgrades this fall, and eventually, I would like to do the full DSE subframe to complete the suspension.

Even so, a lot of people tell me they’re surprised by how good the car does on just leaf springs and some bolt-ons. Plus, the simplicity of the car and the wheel and tire combination just really sets this Camaro apart.






See more of Matt's Camaro on Instagram at @bellamymotorsports

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