Gone are the days of monopolized convention center car shows – due to a culture now rich with millennials expressing their creativity in more ways than ever before, inventive car show locations are just as important as the wildly customized vehicles inhabiting them. This new breed of boutique automotive events caters to the upper echelon of modified vehicles by promoting quality over quantity; none more so than Canibeat.com’s First Class Fitment event at Princeton Airport in New Jersey.
Set within the beautiful fall foliage offered by the northeastern United States during the month of October, this event combines styles and scenes from across the automotive board. Although the word fitment finishes the event’s name, the more common trait each one of these accepted builds showcases is their first class quality.
The functioning private airport provides the perfect active backdrop for the show, with pilots taking off and landing their aircraft all day long, while overlooking 350-plus vehicles parked alongside of their normally-quiet runway.
If the location is unique, and the cars inside that location are unique, then the awards received by deserving contestants had better be unique. With the help of Espo’s Powercoating, CCW Wheels, Hardlines by Swoops, Fortune Auto, and RuckHouse, the various trophies glimmered inside the main hangar awaiting the awards announcements at the end of the day.
The First Class Fitment show is now in its seventh year, and Dave Tormey – the event’s organizer – planned a special treat for attendees with a #RotaryRivalry section of the show. This lineup of cars inside the show exhibited various generations of Mazda’s legendary rotary engine-powered RX-7 model. Get it, seventh year… RX-7? The winner was awarded this refinished rotor mounted to the same glossy wooden base as the rest of the awards.
Everything from late model domestics to early-generation import cars occupied the show field, like this Datsun 210 fitted with SSR Longchamp XR4 wheels, a Japanese subway handle (or tsurikawa), and some period correct pinstriping along the bottom of the exterior. This refinished Datsun stood apart from other entries.
Loyal Front Street readers will remember our article on the new BBS RT88 wheel design, a concept that took a popular motorsports wheel and made it strong enough for the rigors of street driving. This set of RT88s is the exact set from our article, now mounted on this stunning F80-chassis BMW M3 belonging to our head-honcho – and Turn 14 Distribution’s Director of Marketing. The modifications to this car don’t stop at the wheels, as tons of M Performance carbon fiber pieces contrast the gleaming white paint. This may be his rowdy daily driver, but it was right at home in the car show, too.
With ever-changing automotive trends, the awards must adapt to accommodate. A newer award is the Best Track Fitment award, which is given to the car with the best overall wheel and tire fitment that could work well on a racetrack. This kind of award excludes vehicles with stretched skinnier tires that aid in the fitment of an aggressive wheel inside a vehicle’s fenders, instead rewarding those with massive tires mounted on their stout wheel setups. The recipient at this year’s event was this crazy black Honda S2000 littered with Voltex aero pieces and wide 18-inch Volk Racing TE37 wheels wrapped with 255-width tires in the front. Not an easy feat to accomplish with the slender lines of Honda’s sportscar.
Along with an abundance of cars, the show also features a section of tarmac dedicated to Honda’s fascinating scooter development – the Ruckus. The aftermarket industry has steadily increased the wide range of parts available for the wannabe-motorcycle. So much so, that First Class Fitment along with supporting vendor RuckHouse created an award solely for the Best Ruckus. Although this particular Ruckus didn’t win the award, it was one of the contenders. By mixing the rugged chassis and framework of the original Ruckus scooter with the sleek body from its older brother – the Honda Metropolitan – this Frankenstein example easily showcases the best of both worlds.
In recent years, the DC2-chassis Acura Integra Type R has garnered a cult following with Honda enthusiasts. When it was released as the race-trim of the popular economy car it was an instant classic. And as a younger generation has grown up, the years of gawking at it on posters has reinvigorated its significance within the automotive world. This female-owned Championship White example wears only the purest Honda modifications on its modest exterior, equipped with a set of bronze 16-inch Mugen MF10 wheels and Yokohama Advan tires. A pair of Recaro Profi SPG bucket seats holds the driver and her passenger snug, while a set of Mugen pedals and a Mugen Racing III steering wheel connect the driver to the chassis.
The flood of rotary machines throughout the event was not only a personal highlight for me, but also a general attraction for all attendees. Spurring this influx of Mazda madness was a trip Tormey took in his modified S2000 last year, from his Pennsylvania residence down to Texas, where a group of import enthusiasts hosted their own event named The Rice Bowl. Fast-forward a year, and the Texans – with their bold lineup of rotary treasures – decided they wanted to attend Tormey’s show in the Northeast. Add to that a handful of passionate RX-7 owners in the Northeast catching wind of said Texans making the long trip up, and you’ve got yourself the #RotaryRivalry.
An individual favorite among the sea of RX-7 cars was this red FD3S-chassis from Houston. The spotless red paint and wide Pressed Graphite Volk Racing TE37SL wheels were definitely positives, but it was the unique aero combination on the car that drew me in. The aggressive styling of the RE Amemiya AD9 hood matches the Facer N1 bumper in the front, which is supported by Feed side skirts and Leg Sport rear fender garnishes. Those touches transition seamlessly to the rear of the car where a Car Shop Glow rear spoiler upsets air overtop of the car, while an RE Amemiya Pro diffuser flows the air underneath. Truly an excellent representation of the aftermarket support this model has created for itself, and a great example of combining it all for an attractive look.
One of my favorite awards at the event is Best JDM, given each year to the attending car which most exudes the build nature of a vehicle in Japan. If you could pick that car up from the show, and transplant it into the Motherland without questions, it deserves the award. The standout winner of that award this year was one of the travelling cars, this beautiful kouki-converted Nissan 240SX from Final Form. It blended GP Sports and Chargespeed aero pieces to widen the body over a perfect set of Volk Racing TE37SL wheels; the exterior is finished in Mazda Vintage Red Tri-Coat paint complete with carbon fiber splitter from Anointed aero, and canard combo from Rize Japan.
The entire car was stripped down and rebuilt from the ground up – there’s a structural roll cage on the inside covered up by a custom carbon fiber dashboard. The only piece of electronics in the interior is this tablet, which serves as the instrument panel located just behind the Momo steering wheel. The crown jewel of the entire car is under the hood, where an R34 Neo RB25 engine is situated. Equipped with a massive Borg Warner EFR turbo, this car has the power to back up its ferocious looks. When I talked about transplanting the award winner to Japan, I could easily see this car clicking the lap timer at Tsukuba Circuit.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the 240SX carved for speed lies this beautiful Audi 50 GLS. I’m a simple guy, so simplicity goes a long way with me, and this classic German hatch embodies that thought process perfectly. Its immaculate bodylines carry onto its refinished chrome bumpers and trim, and the exterior’s navy blue color contrasts elegantly with the cream colored upholstery found on the interior. The Southern Ways – a.k.a. Epsilon – Aerosports wheels are also restored in a matching cream hue to complete a stylish and sophisticated color combination that brings this classic to life.
At most car shows, the Volvo presence just isn’t very strong, but with an entry like this wild S60 R, whatever they lack in numbers, the Swedes make up for in quality. The body is lowered via KW V2 coilovers, Elevate side skirts, and custom carbon fiber lips front and rear while it rolls on Satin Hypersilver CCW SP16S wheels. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a few more Swedish examples like this at other events.
Because this event takes place outside, attendees are welcome to bring their favorite furry friend with them as long as they’re leashed. Tons of dogs could be seen in every corner of the airport, but this little pug was the coolest one for me. Performing the best impression of an aired out show car, this pup was belly down on the cool cement floor inside the main hangar. This dog is surely a contender for the Best Air Fitment award next year.
I know I talked about this striking yellow Rabbit in last year’s coverage, so I’m going to keep it brief this time around. Winner of the Best Euro award last year, it has proven to be a well-rounded stylish car. With its bright yellow color, the Epsilon Mesh wheels and the same simplistic outlook at the Audi 50 above, it’s one of my favorite Volkswagens anywhere.
This year’s Best In Show award winner first debuted at the SEMA show last year, where it was part of the Battle of the Builders competition. This 4-inch widened Volkswagen Corrado has too many custom pieces to pick out or list, but its all-metal widened and shaved body has been repainted in a metallic grey, which changes finish depending on what light is hitting it. The completely reupholstered right-hand-drive interior hosts plenty of suede and leather accents, which continue into the engine bay, where even the engine’s cover is wrapped in matching materials. Talk about dedication and attention to detail! This car could have won any number of awards at this show from Best Interior to Best Paint; it’s clear to see why this vehicle was a part of such an elite competition at the SEMA show.
To quote Ron Burgundy, “I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era”. He was wrong – it’s not an old wooden ship. When you plant a pristine restored Pontiac GTO next to a couple hundred bagged import cars, that’s what I call diversity. The gorgeous orange hue covering its panels is the perfect fit for this restomod GTO, which took home the Nostalgia Award this year.
The vibrant Giallo Corona Lamborghini pigment covering this Audi TT Quattro instantly brought notice to the German compact, but in stark contrast to its attention-demanding paint, most of its greatest mods were kept out of view. Keen on preserving a vacant look, the TT tucked some creative modifications beneath its depths, which made it even more alluring. For example, a Garrett GT2876 turbo and front mount intercooler were hidden from view in the engine bay, while the barren interior hosted some similarly concealed treasures. Most notably of those modifications is the car’s air suspension tank, which is actually its roll cage, as the suspension’s compressor feeds air into the cage. How’s that for unique and hidden? Finishing off the understated hidden appeal of this car is a subtle black set of Autostrada Modena wheels. These are a great way to call attention to your build but make the passionate onlookers work for their enjoyment. It was a super interesting build, and was nice to see such a thoroughly modified example of the TT.
As the sun began to set beneath the tree line, Tormey invited the guests of the show to congregate for the annual awards ceremony. The guys at Canibeat have successfully created an event regarded with continuously high expectations, and it never disappoints. With every attendee in good spirits, the winners were applauded for their build excellence and another year was in the books for this incredible event. We packed up our bags and left the show wondering – is it October of 2017 yet?