AS I sit in locked-down suburban Sydney, halfway across the world on a salt lake in Utah, hundreds of maniacs are at Bonneville Speed Week, putting their machines to the test at death-defying speed.
Speed Week is high on my automotive bucket list, along with the likes of the Yokohama Mooneyes show, Hot Rod Drag Week, Goodwood Festival of Speed and many more.
I’m not going to be able to experience any of these events firsthand any time soon, but I’m taking solace in a fairly niche genre of entertainment – auto enthusiast travel documentaries.
For example, my mates at Mighty Car Mods have ploughed a stack of effort into creating a series of feature-length docos shot around the world, including shows based in Europe, Cuba, Japan and the USA. I’ve enjoyed revisiting these flicks in recent weeks. Rather than making me depressed about my restricted state, they have me fired up to think of the travels I’ll have once things settle down.
There is an incredible world of car culture out there to explore, in just about every corner of the earth. To find out more about what’s possible, I had a chat with Blair ‘MOOG’ Joscelyne to find out why he and his partner at MCM, Marty Mulholland, love automotive travel and where they want to go next.
Why do you think people are watching your travel movies at the moment?
I think our lives can feel very cramped and restricted during lockdown, but your world opens up when you watch documentaries. It can remind you there is a huge world out there to explore once we’re past this rough time we’re going through now.
What do you love more, travelling or exploring the car culture?
Sometimes getting to the country can be half the adventure, like going to Cuba. We were lucky to get in there when we did, actually. Mighty Car Mods isn’t like a TV show where there is a crew, an agenda, and a producer, so there is quite a lot of adventure about these trips.
So, you’re a couple of automotive backpackers?
For me, I roll into a place with an open mind and am open to all experiences. When we did the trip to Europe for Turbos & TÜV, we didn’t have any accommodation booked or a producer telling us where to go. We got to the top of the Stelvio Pass way up high in the Alps and the road was blocked by snow, so we had to find somewhere to stay as it was going to freeze overnight. We literally found a random B&B just as it started getting dark! We’re not precious about where we stay but when we’re in an area that gets massively cold the pressure is on!
What made you guys want to check out the various car scenes around the world?
The attraction is you can meet someone on the other side of the world who doesn’t speak your language or have any idea where you’re from, but you both have a level of understanding through cars, and I think that is greater than words. I think by learning about them in a way you both understand, hopefully you’re a better and more informed member of your car community when you get home.
You’ve done three travel documentaries showing Japanese car culture. What keeps taking you guys back to Japan?
I love Japanese culture so I love spending time there. I love the food, the etiquette, the people, and their lifestyle. You can be in the middle of nowhere and the truck stops are super-clean, and even things like eating on the road is kind of a ritual where you stop and you eat; you don’t see many drive-thru places.
We’ve seen you do a couple of movies involving drifting, but are there any other automotive sub-cultures there you’d like to explore?
I’d be really interested in checking out some of the pure luxury VIP cars and, like a lot of people, I have a large interest in the Bōsōzoku motorcycle culture because I love how wild and expressive that scene is. They aren’t scared of breaking out and doing something really crazy and different, like one guy we saw who made his mufflers look like Mickey Mouse, which would get you slayed in Australia. But they have fun building cars and bikes and have a sense of humour about it, which ties in with our show really well.
Have you and Marty got a shortlist of places you want to go once borders open up?
We’re really interested in checking out the small-car scene in Malaysia, and I also really want to try ice driving whether it be in Canada, Norway or even New Zealand. I am really interested in how people make their cars perform in snow and ice, because we just don’t have that over here. I’m also really excited to go coast-to-coast in America. I know it sounds cliché but I have only ever spent limited time on the west and east coasts, so I’d love to see what the middle of America has to offer.
How do you pick places to visit? Is it an interest in the country, or are you aware of car culture in random countries?
The viewers of our show will often invite us to their country to check out a show or tuning scene, to drive their cars, or experience the car scene in their neck of the woods. When a lot of people from certain countries chime in, we take notice of that. We have been hearing from a lot of people in Malta and Malaysia, so we’ve decided to go to those places as soon as we can. Sometimes we’re just following our passion, like buying a tiny car in Japan for a few bucks and going grassroots drifting. Other times we throw our destiny to the wind, like in Havana. We got there without any contacts but we wanted to sample some of the amazing cars we saw driving around, so we walked around the city and found cars which we’d leave notes on asking the owners if we could drive their cars in exchange for money. Some people said yes, some said no, but we got to sample the local car culture there, which was amazing.
Have you ever found yourself in sketchy situations while exploring the car scene?
Driving some of the cars in Cuba was a bit concerning because even though they weren’t that fast they just felt sketchy. Some cars literally had A-pillars held together with gaffa tape and rust! On the other hand, one time I was in the mountains of Japan in the passenger seat of a Nissan Silvia, in the wet, illegal street drifting, and it was only after I got out I realised how bad that could have gone. When we went to LA for the first time and did the video on the car scene there, we went to a random meet in a carpark and had an experience involving the police and dog squad, and then a fight broke out, and the police actually had to get us out of there! It was a totally unorganised meet and was a very exciting situation to be in this total takeover of a carpark, but it also became pretty concerning very quickly.
If you’d like to check out some of these videos they can all be found on the Mighty Car Mods YouTube channel, and have been linked chronologically on their website here.