It’s always tough saying goodbye to your mates before a trip away, but it can be made better by the addition of numerous high-powered Japanese imports — especially because the high-octane fuel can be blamed for any escaping tears …

Last weekend was one of the last that I had free before making the transition to Sydney, so I thought it appropriate to rustle up the troops and have one final catch up. It was also a fantastic opportunity for my friends that haven’t met each other before to say hi and gawk over each other’s rides. 

The most ideal location for such a meet is definitely Hooton Reserve in Albany, 15-minutes north of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. There are three gigantic car parks to choose from, which came in handy on this occasion as there was some weird hippy convention going on, taking up most of the parking in the usual ‘number two’ car park. 

After a quick shuffle we were settled into the third car park, and in no time at all numerous vehicles started to roll in. It was an extremely humbling experience when several members of the New Zealand Fijian Car Club made their way into the venue. These are guys that I had never met face-to-face, so it was amazing to see them come down to say goodbye. Even with all that is going on in Fiji, the crew made the time, for which I have huge respect. 

The usual Team4UP goons came along too, which was awesome considering we’re having a team BBQ next week. Any excuse for a cruise though, right lads?

Josh Vaughan’s 1977 Datsun 260Z has come a long way since I first met him nearly a year ago. And by a long way, I mean literally, as it hadn’t left the driveway until just recently. The triple-carb–equipped L-series motor sounds beautiful. It was awesome cruising along the motorway next to this thing. 

It’s not often that I take any interest in a SR20DE-powered S14, but Mitchell Bell’s S14 sits so right, it’s hard not to. Mitchell was running Nissan 350Z wheels for a long time, but has just recently installed these 18x9.5-inch (+23) Work Emotion CR Kais. I’m a huge fan of the Zenki Silvias, and this one is perfect in my opinion. 

Last time I had a meet at Hooton Reserve, Kieran Stewart made the trip along, and we’re pretty sure it was just to show everyone how to drive on the way out to Muriwai Beach. This time, Kieran brought along his now D1 Pro Street Mazda MX-5. D1NZ banner and all, Kieran’s MX-5 always demands a presence, as you know it has some serious fight in it. The new ITB set-up sounds wicked too!

After spending all of Saturday shooting Ashnil Kumar’s Nissan Skyline GT-R R33, he was keen to catch up at Hooton. Instantly, people flocked to the high-powered Nissan as the bonnet was popped. Why, you ask? Well, it’s no longer a 2.6-litre, but instead a 2.7-litre thanks to a Jun crank and 87mm Tomei pistons and H-beam rods. That’s not the only thing that makes it cool though — it’s sporting quite possibly my favourite turbo of all time: the Trust T88. I can confirm that this thing sounds absolutely mental when on boost, and it looks like quite the handful, as T88s are known to hit hard, all at once. 

The other night on Facebook, Alex Brown of Moonlight Racing posted up a photo of his recent pellet of Boss coffee to hit New Zealand. It’s safe to say I was onto him within minutes, and a personalized delivery was arranged at Hooton Reserve. I first met Alex through NZ Performance Car magazine, and he’ll be someone whom I keep in touch with for years to come, quite possibly with a cheeky trip to Japan thrown into the mix. His ’99 Lexus GS300 always looks the goods — for the Cruise Mode feature, click here

Quite possibly the biggest highlight of the meet was Richard Opie turning up with his Toyota Starlet project, on a trailer. This might not sound like a big deal, but as the people who have been following the build will know, Richard has been building this Starlet for the last eight years, for which of those eight years it has seen sunlight only a handful of times.

The Starlet is simply beautiful, and will no doubt get an insane amount of worldwide attention once it is complete. Look at those headers! 

Thanks to all those who came, I will be uploading more photos from the people who had cameras on them. For now, enjoy my lot — I may have been super distracted talking engines … oops.

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.