Autocon 2011: Part One

Words by Matt Willis

Autocon 2011 was on our radar for a long time, and I’m sure it was on everyone else’s too. The event was being promoted everywhere I looked – every media outlet, all over Facebook, and flyers were being handed out several events prior, including the SEMA Show. They did a fantastic job of getting this event advertised in every nook and cranny of the car scene.

We attended the very first Autocon last year. It was kind of a cool gig; it took place in this discreet underground parking structure, with a fair amount of quality cars, a small model lounge and great lighting. Riding on the success of their first event, they decided to go one-up and get a bigger venue this year: MCAS El Toro.

I’m not too familiar with that station but I do know it was closed back in the early 90s. With the introduction of the nearby commercial John Wayne Airport and a housing boom in Irvine, many new residents complained about the noise. The agriculture in the area also suffered as planned expansions to the base stirred up controversy among farmers. After the Navy decided to close the base, they moved all the operations to MCAS Miramar in San Diego, and El Toro has been pretty much a question mark ever since. Ken Block has used El Toro for his infamous Gymkhana stunts  and it is also the main stage for the US version of Top Gear. Farmland still exists around it, as well as new parks, housing and city infrastructure. The base itself still exists, with all the hangars and runways included.

Well, Autocon took place in the parking lot adjacent to it. It wasn’t all too thrilling of a venue, at least not as dramatic and fun to shoot as being underground…haha. We arrived a little before noon, and cars were still rolling in large…which was a bad sign considering roll-in was supposed to start at 7AM. When we finally passed all of the show cars and made it to the general parking area, we went up to the registration booth hoping to get our credentials. The whole place seemed to be in disarray…cars were backed up all around the parking lot, some were backing out and letting other people in, and nobody was really directing traffic or checking entry at the gates, so if I wanted to bring my stock Integra and show it off I probably could have. Meanwhile, the two chicks running the stand were talking between themselves about ice cream or some shit while we were waiting for an answer…kind of struck a nerve. Then apparently another gate got opened and cars started rolling in from the East…so now these chicks are freaking out, telling this other dude to close the gate, and the dude is like “what gate? I’m ain’t closing it!” and then ran off somewhere else. Once all that settled down, we were then told that they were out of wristbands (for registered spots, I guess) so now shit is getting even more backed up. Ready to get in the general admission line, we asked again about media access and finally she pulls out a list and “stamps” our hand. Then, we just walked right in, nobody was even checking for wristbands or stamps or tickets or anything. We didn’t even need to bother in the first place. The whole deal was really chaotic when it didn’t have to be. Yeah, a new venue with a roster almost three times as big as their first event…I can sort of see the difficulty, I just think it could have been handled better…

Finally! We were in. It immediately got much better. The first thing I noticed was sheer variety of cars. The entire spectrum was covered here and there was something for everyone. The layout was decent…it was reminiscent of Extreme Autofest in San Diego, where cars are lined up in “pockets” depending on who they were showing for. Various booths were positioned along the way, and a main stage was set up at the eastern end of the area. There was also a vehicle stage for judging/showcasing which I thought was unique. In addition, there were a slew of food trucks outside and there were free balloon rides all day if you wanted to get a bird’s eye view of the show. I was only able to stay for a few hours as I had to race back down to San Diego late in the afternoon, so I quickly began snapping shots…

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Nuisance FC RX-7…

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I liked this GTI, although I wish the rear fitment was more similar to the front…

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The infamous Buddy Club Fit we’ve been seeing a lot of all year…probably one of the most extensive Fit builds I’ve seen…

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This coffee-color Matrix looked great…seen it before, but not in a long time…

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…and this TL is the same one we saw at SEMA and Autofashion…love this purple/copper color scheme as well…

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Rockstar Challenger…

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Satin red BMW wagon and matching bike from VIP Modular…

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Loved the SPOTLESS bay on this Z32…someone put some serious work into this thing…

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Going out on a limb when I say “I like this Jetta”. For once, a VW build that doesn’t scream too loud…

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Simple E46 on CCWs…

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There were a few NSXs in attendance.

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We spotted this Lucra LC-470 cruising around. This is basically a Cobra-like kit car that comes with a 5.7-liter GM V8.

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We’ve seen this EK at a number of events. Last time I saw it, it was sporting an R wing, and has since been replaced with an ARC one. Love the change, and still love the SE-37Ks…

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One of the best-looking RSX builds I’ve seen in ages. Shocked…it’s a pre-2005 model too…

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This 8th-generation Civic wasn’t too shabby either…

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Mazdaspeed 3 from Royal Origin…

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Tim ran into the GTR driver that went to El Mirage with us a couple years back…he’s since upgraded the exhaust and wheels…

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Accord coupe…

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I loved this neutral gray M3 from LTBMW. There were so many desirable subtleties on this car…the carbon fiber trim and rear valance, the stainless exhaust and BBS LM wheel with a traditional finish. The E92 is probably my favorite generation of the 3-series…

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They also had a sedan on display with TE-37s, exhaust and rear wing. Aggressive tires too…simply awesome…

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Beautiful E-class on bronze LMs…

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370Z with AMUSE bodywork…

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Michael Mao’s NSX…

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Never seen this Civic before. Great to see someone rocking the 96spec…

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VIP’d GS over by the Autofashion booth…

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What a beauty…

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This 3-series Sedan reminds me of the FIA WTCC 320si…very similar style…

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Jon Sibal’s Challenger was in attendance…you may remember it from SEMA…

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This first-gen Q45 was insane…I love the red though…and the giant inflatable Santa behind it…

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Here’s something you don’t see too often…a modified 7th-generation Celica…sort of like 7th-generation Civics haha. Doesn’t look half bad, but the wheels just don’t work IMO…

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The DTM/9K S2000, previously seen at HIN and made its debut at SEMA, was resting at the Toyo Tires booth…

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More VIPs lined up…

That’s all for today, more to come tomorrow…stay tuned… – Matt

This entry was posted by fullcoupe.

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