When I think of Hot4s & Performance Cars magazine, I think of Tempe Tyres, Team Jetspeed, and Sick Division.
At the time when the X3 Hyundai Excel was really exploding in popularity as an accesible new car purchase, it never was a platform for the aspirational sex-spec modder until Sick Division came along.
Trying to look back at examples of the bodykit maker’s machines have proven difficult. The two hero cars I remember from the Hot4s shoots and ads were yellow and lime green, sporting MOMO wheels. You get glimmers of their kits on old kit seller’s websites, or this looming car show video from 2001.
They copped a bit of flak for basing their work on such a make and model, but I wish I could read up more about the founders and stories from their time in business.
In my twenties I couldn’t stand the VL Turbo. In my thirties, I gotta tip my hat to the Australian cult classic that taught me the flutter.
Back then you picked a side. If you were into V8s, Ford or Holden. Maybe you went Euro, or you chose small capacity in Japanese rotors or four bangers - Aus-delivered, as grey imports were still somewhat rare.
It was hard to place the Commodore. It attracted a different crowd from the V8 Commodores or Falcons. The turbo kids wanted the Japanese motor in something Japanese. So it crafted its own following - who then modified with candy paint, Calais lights, and the infamous Aussie-style of the ‘cooler poking out below the front bar.
When you were still able to cruise the happening night spots like Melbourne’s Chapel Street, aside from the sound you always noticed VLs approaching. There was usually a minimum pair of them traveling together, with a minimum of five passengers in each.
I’d picked the JDM side during that era, and was compelled to scoff at such machinery. But I look at the VL Turbo now with fondness. Before the Barra Falcons, what turbo car could we really claim as our own, with a cultish following to match? Give me one in BT1 yellow and steelies, with that single-spoke steering wheel, and I’d happily dose all day.
When I picked up my first car, the owner hadn’t bothered to vacuum the dog hair lathered over the rear seats. I pulled out into the street, and sunk as I failed to realise that this base-spec Laser had no power steering. As a work colleague’s hand-me-down, it was a gracious gift from my folks, but it just wasn’t what I’d imagined as my foray into motoring.
I thought I’d lined up two very sensible and viable options for a first ride. Either a tidy AE82 Twin Cam Rolla from Ringwood’s Car City, or a privately listed Aus-delivered AE86. I’m thinking the Sprinter must have been listed for about $4k 😞.
Struggling to convey the benefit of older JDM Toyotas, and making a minimal contribution from Saturdays working a car wash, the low-ks and nineties build of the Ford won out. So just before my Ps test, I had a KF Laser in the driveway. 1.6l carby. 13 inch rims. GL trim.
And you know what happens when a 18 year-old wants in on the car cruising community and drives a Laser hatchback. The TX3 rims go on, but they’re still outsized by an 15 inch subwoofer in the back. Four channel amp playing bass-test CDs to shake the number plate. De-badged - make ‘em think it’s a Ghia? Who knows.
Monster tachos and yellow shift-lights were a thing back then. I did’t go quite that far, but a smaller gauge certainly still found itself on the A-pillar. My defence, which I thought was quite reasonable, was that the GL didn’t have a tachometer in the factory dash. Well, factory dash with the green backlights swapped for bright white ones of course.
I cringe now but what a wonderful car. What first car isn’t? The reservations I had on pickup day subsided day two, and for most days before the driving test, I was driving the thing up and down the driveway, simply because I could.
I recently moved to Hobart from Melbourne. I organised the trip on the Spirit, and it wasn’t until I reached the port that I realised it was a week before Targa. Getting onboard with a bunch of all-out race cars - I took it as a sign to remain hopeful. I was leaving a city with a vibrant, diverse car culture. The Tassie car community might be smaller, but it would be there.
And I’m sure it is out there, I just haven’t met it head-on yet. Busy with new work, new home, new surroundings, I’ve only been a casual observer of what’s occupying Tasmanian roads. My first impressions:
- The most popular car is the first and second-gen Subaru Forester. They’re everywhere.
- Also seen more often than expected: Tesla Model 3s, and AE95 4WD Rollas. What other car blog will pair those models in a sentence.
- Data suggests the state has the oldest fleet in the country. If you couldn’t guess from the Forester, I fact-checked by witnessing a running first-gen Mitsubishi Nimbus. Surely no-one’s seen that since the nineties.
- So many cars labelled with stickers. Not nice laser-cut ones on glass. Big rectangular ones for who-knows-what, cheap stock, and applied on paint!