(Source: speedhunters.com) – When you think of Barbados, the first thing that will probably come to mind are pristine beaches and five-star resorts. I bet you would not think of car culture, let alone a thriving JDM tuning scene.
I had no idea what was in store for me when I headed to the independent island nation earlier this year for Red Bull Global Rallycross. A couple of my peers had told me about how much the locals love stage rally, and that every year there’s a big event that drivers from all over the world are invited to compete in, so obviously rallycross would go down nicely here. But what about street cars and performance tuning?
How is it possible you ask, that there could be a thriving car culture on an island that’s only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide? Well, I was about to find out for myself…
After I started posting a few photos on Instagram from Bushy Park Speedway, which was recently transformed into a world-class racing facility and is definitely the best race track between the Caribbean islands, a few local enthusiasts sent me direct messages, inviting me to come and check out their local nightly meet.I was intrigued, and because I had my own rental car I figured it would be cool to see what they had to offer. Although, I have to admit that I was quite sceptical, because up until this point all I’d seen driving around the island were jalopies.
It was pretty late, and I’d just gotten back to the hotel after a full day of shooting at the track when I received a call from a guy named Jade telling me a meet was happening, and that I should stop by. He gave me the address, so I headed out to this fuel station in the middle of the island.
As soon as I pulled up I saw a group of guys standing in the parking lot waving me down. My hair was kind of out of control by then, so I guess I was easy to spot.
Right away Jade introduced himself to me, and to his friends. These guys have a car club called JDM Squared and they were really looking forward to giving me a taste of Bajan car culture.
It wasn’t long until more people showed up with their cars. Apparently they put out an island-wide notice that I was going to be attending the meet that night.
So what’s up with all the right-hand drive Japanese cars you might be wondering? Well, in Barbados they drive on the left and many of their used cars come directly from Japan.
However, it’s not a free-for-all like in some countries. You can only legally import a car that is up to five year old – anything else requires ‘special methods’ as the locals told me.
On top of that there is a 200 per cent import duty on cars. While that’s not as bad as Singapore, it’s still not so easy on the wallet for the average car enthusiast.
Then I came across this – a 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage Colt fully converted to a baby Evo. Under the skin is a Lancer Evolution VI front sub frame and a Lancer GSR rear sub frame, with power coming from a 2.4-liter 4G64 with a GT3582R turbo. I thought to myself, what an interesting mix of cars.
This is Nealiho, one of the car photographers on the island and an avid hunter of speed. I knew it was going to be a good night when I saw him bust out this awesome photo-stance right in the middle of the gas station forecourt.
There are only three tuning shops and one dyno in Bardados.
But the quality of fuel delivered to the island varies so much that most of the tuning that goes on happens on the street with a heavy right foot.
As I walked around the carpark this EK4 Honda Civic Ferio Si sedan immediately piqued my interest, and apparently it’s one of the faster front-wheel drive cars on the island. The owner’s name is Junior Moore, and he pretty much did all the work to this FF monster himself. It has some goodies that would make any Honda tuner salivate, including a Darton-sleeved B18C block with Wiseco 84mm forged pistons and DD Tech Stage 2 camshafts, just to name a few of the upgrades.
While the Bajans are real Honda fanatics, they also love Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions of all generations. Evos provide relatively cheap speed, but they also have the looks to boot.
From what the guys told me, Bajan’s like speed – especially straight-line acceleration. This then, is pretty much what everyone tunes their cars for.
At one point the government allowed some of the local enthusiasts to close down a highway to run full quarter-mile drags, but for whatever reason that’s not allowed anymore.
These guys genuinely love their cars. It’s a way of life for them.
There’s almost no reason to have such transportation on a island this small, but these guys are the few that actually put miles on their vehicles for nothing more than the fun of it. The general population just does not understand.
Just like in Singapore, the enthusiasts here know exactly how many cars of a certain make and model there are on the island. For example, there are only eight Honda S2000s and just two Nissan Silvia S15s – both of them Spec Rs. The scene is that small.
What I also found interesting was that pretty much everyone knows what is under the hood of each other’s builds.
As the guys explained to me, a build may start out as a sleeper, but before you know it everyone on the island will know what you are running.
At the end of the day it’s all in good fun, because those who race just do it for bragging rights anyways. When there’s money involved it’s not so fun anymore.
It’s so amazing to me that we live in an age where you can experience Japanese tuning culture on a tiny island in the Caribbean, even though none of the guys in the scene here have stepped foot in Japan.