Sightings – The Hawaii edition

The cool thing about being into cars is that no matter where in the world you travel, you’re just as likely to run into people that share the same passion. Sure, they might be into different cars or styles than what you’re used to, but the passion still runs the same and you’ve got common ground.

We decided to spend a few weeks in Hawaii for entirely non car related reasons – sun, sand, surf, hiking and escaping the cold Adelaide winter being the primary motivations. But with this common ground in mind I decided to keep an eye out and my camera ready for whatever new automotive discoveries I would make during our trip. This is a short chronicle of what I found.

Supercars were very thin on the ground. I heard rumours of a few Ferrari’s getting around, but this Aventador was all I saw. But that figures I guess – the islands are small, the speed limits are low and the roads are most definitely not suited to 700hp monsters. No, idle bliss is king here.

I like the fact that this GT3 actually did have a disabled parking permit. It must have been sneakily obtained – Porsche is probably one of the least disabled-friendly manufactures, and the GT3 is probably the single worst car for a disabled person.

No sports cars here – Hawaiian transportation is all about working out how to get your surfboard to the beach. Be it on your bike…

… on your Chevrolet woody coupe…

… in the back of your VW…

… or on top of your so-disgusting-its-awesome Buick fake woody wagon.

Speaking of surfboards, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really, really don’t like Ferrari retail stores anymore. They used to be cool when you could go in and buy a shirt or drop a few G on some genuine F1 intake valves (who actually does that?), but now they’re just going too far.

I mean, really. Who would actually buy a Ferrari 16M Scuderia Spider edition surfboard? Could you imagine the reaction of the local surfers if you turned up to a break with this baby? These are guys who famously gang up and kick tourists off the good surf spots, even the properly surfy tourists. You’d just be eaten alive with a Ferrari surfboard.

Having said that, when I walked past the store 2 weeks later it was gone, so there you go.

Hawaiians like their trucks, and they like them jacked up sky high and with oversized tyres.

Around half the vehicles on the roads were trucks/4WD’s of some kind, and probably a quarter of those had some kind of lift kit.

They just blend in with the scenery after a while.

Vehicle modification laws appear to be very relaxed – on multiple occasions I saw police wave trucks like this one through without a second glance.

This F650 Super Duty pulled into the servo when we were refuelling our Westfalia campervan.

The owner was a really nice guy, and explained how he had bought about $35,000 worth of bolt on bits to get it looking like this.

He reckoned the ride was pretty bouncy, so he mostly just used the car for fun on weekends. I’m not sure what fun he was referring to though… the only fun I could think of having in this is splashing through deep mud puddles at high speed, and I doubt this example has seen much of that action.

I did pick up on an anti-truck movement, especially in the more alternate towns, which can only be a good thing.

Although I’ve gotta be honest, it would be pretty boss to get about in an original Hummer. There were a few around the various islands we visited.

There is no permanent road circuit in Hawaii, although the larger islands all have active SCCA clubs who run autocrosses in large parking lots. Unfortunately we missed out on 2 autocross events by just a few days – I was deadset keen to enter our rental car just for kicks. I did spot the Big Island drag strip at Hilo from a helicopter, although they had no events on when we were there.

There were plenty of current generation Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers getting about. I love the way these modern interpretations all borrow heavily from the styling of their forefathers – for my tastes the Challenger, specced with the R/T pack in orange looks the hottest.

I was lucky enough to spend a few hundred miles behind the wheel of the current generation Mustang and Camaro SS Convertibles. You can expect drive stories soon.

This looks like a scene from some overtly American highway movie, but no, I actually did see this. A Challenger R/T undercover cop car pulling over a Mustang GT for speeding. Would you like fries with that? On a side note, whoever is responsible for choosing undercover police cars in Hawaii has an excellently bad-ass taste in cars. Others included midnight blue Dodge Chargers with the optional 22″ rims and several jet black Toyota FJ Cruisers, with jet black tinted windows and a single revolving blue light on the roof.

Enthusiast cars as we know them were mostly those suited to cruising the bay roads at sunset. This particular Manx buggy was fitted with a twin turbo Subaru EJ20… whoo-kay then. That plate probably should read RIP.

There were plenty of old Volkswagens about…

… some more patriotic than others…

… and this thing which was so awful I don’t even want to know what it is.

I happened upon this impromptu car show one Saturday night on the main strip through Waikiki beach.

It was just a bunch of mates who came out to enjoy the balmy evening. They had managed to draw quite the crowd by the time they departed a few hours later.

Hawaii is an odd place in many respects because it’s such a contradiction. One one hand you have rednecks driving oversized trucks, and then on the other you have free Electric Vehicle charging stations outside most major shops, and people pull up in their Tesla Roadster Sport’s and plug in while they shop. Well one guy did at least.

Fake electric Hummer? No problem!

Want to put stretch tyres on your golf buggy and register it as an electric vehicle so you can drive it down the highway? Why not!

So what about the roads? Well, Hawaii has universally low speed limits no matter where you are (50kmh on the open road was the norm sometimes), but nobody obeys the limit and there seems to be little enforcement. Oahu is out – don’t even both looking for a decent drive. The ring roads around the island are full of tourists and traffic and the mountains through the middle are too steep for roads, so just enjoy sipping from your coconut on the beach or hanging with the crowd on Waikiki.

Whilst it doesn’t have the traffic problem, the Big Island isn’t much better either. Big Island has a Governor that has pushed hard over the past decade for improved roads, which means that everything is just a big, straight, highway. Or covered in solidified lava flows from nearby active volcanoes. Or both.

The only exception to this is the Mauna Kea summit road, which is such a breathtaking drive that I’ll write a dedicated post about it soon.

But never fear – Hawaiian driving nirvana does exist, and is found on the island of Maui. There are a couple of brilliant roads here which I’ll save for a dedicated ‘Sports car drivers guide to Maui’ post.

This is what I love about travel – scratching the surface to discover a whole side of a place that is missed by most. Hawaii isn’t know for its automotive culture, but it’s definitely there if you know where to look.

There are quite a few impromptu cruises, shows and events that happen all the time but as I discovered, they aren’t really publicised on the Internet very well. Your best bet is to just talk to a local with an interesting car to find out what’s going on. There’s also a weekly automotive lifestyle publication called ‘Street Pulse’ which is available free from most service stations. Pick up a copy as it has a lot of timely information about local events.

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