Every Cool Build From Minnesota’s Modest Showcase by Drive Cartel

  • Drive Cartel is an intimate group of passionate and warm-hearted car enthusiasts working together to elevate Minnesota’s car scene.
  • Modest Showcase is Drive Cartel’s flagship event and car show, and for the second consecutive year in a row, has been hosted indoors at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.
  • Pit+Paddock’s Sam Du was invited out as a guest, where he helped the judging panel and hosted a Q&A session.
  • Best of Show award went to Aaron Stehly and his immaculate, hot rod-level VW Mk1 Golf.

There was a look of shock when I told my friends and family that I was headed to Minnesota for a car show this summer. You don’t often hear about cool cars or events out there, but the truth is, there are quite a few hidden gems with even cooler stories behind the builders. Most project cars aren’t just dropped off at one of many shops because there aren’t many. These projects are pieced together over time in small home garages. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Minneapolis-St. Paul on four occasions now, and each time, I’ve always been surprised at how the scene has evolved. The folks of Minnesota have come a long way, from hosting tiny shows in mall parking lots to filling up well-known convention centers, which I witnessed at the most recent Modest Showcase hosted by the Drive Cartel group.

Modest invited me as a guest speaker and judge, and I couldn’t have felt more welcome. The small team at Drive Cartel put their heart and soul into their flagship show, now their second Modest Showcase that has taken place indoors at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. As someone who’s been involved in working car shows and events for almost twenty years, I know how hard it is to work with big corporate venues of that size and have enough help to ensure everything goes smoothly. It’s no easy feat, and you’ll notice that there’s no huge sponsor for Modest Showcase. It’s an event run purely on passion and providing something to cheer about for the Minnesota car community.

As for the show cars on-hand, they’re not at the level of an established series like Wekfest, nor do they pull the massive crowds of people like a Tuner Evolution. It’s a show in its infancy stage but still brings out a solid mix of clean project cars. My top pick would have to be Aaron Stehly’s 1975 Golf, which won Best of Show. As a former Volkswagen nut, Aaron’s Mk1 rivals Europe’s most esteemed VW builds. He takes a hot rod approach to his Golf, which would take pages and pages to list all the custom work and little touches he’s added. From the shaved ‘n tucked engine bay to the perfectly restored exterior and custom red interior, there’s nothing that hasn’t been thoroughly thought out and executed to perfection. What’s cool about his car is that unless you’re a VW guy, you’re going to miss 90 percent of what has taken him several years to complete, which is why his build slipped under the radar at last year’s SEMA Show; however, was awarded a cover feature in the latest Performance VW magazine.

Next was my dark horse pick and recipient of the Pit+Paddock editor’s choice award. Sam Kluver brought out his Mazda RX-7, and it was simply so rad to check out, as I could tell it was a high-quality FC with JDM parts. Sam put a lot of care and love into it, but it also had noticeable battle scars, which I would learn that he often drifts the car. It’s not your typical car show winner, but that’s what makes seeing his rotary build under the convention center spotlights so satisfying.

One last shoutout, and that goes to Art Petrakov of GrimmSpeed. His 2004 Subaru Forester XT really stunned me as it wasn’t another one of those wagons on air-ride — far from it. The two-tone is nicely done, the suspension is static, and it’s also rocking a big-turbo upgrade and rear-wheel drive conversion.

I’ve tried to include every other cool car from the Modest Showcase here, and as you can see, there are some quality builds that you might not have known about Minnesota. I hope to be back in the area in the coming years. If it’s for anything like what the crew at Drive Cartel has accomplished, I can only imagine things will continue to get better and better!