It was my last weekend in California and while I was recovering from the exotic overload that was Monterey Car Week, I hopped at the first chance to go to an "underground meet" in Orange County. Having experienced the craziness of the Sunset Plaza GT meet I had high hopes and curiosity to see what a night meet in California was like compared to the ones I regularly cover in Japan.
It was different alright.
We were on our way to the first location when we saw a number of loud modified cars heading in the opposite direction. The way these meets work is they never stay in the same location for too long, so as to not attract any unwanted attention.
The second location was in a random parking lot of a shopping plaza. There were signs of closed Chinese restaurants, Korean dry cleaners, and pharmacies illuminating the circus of cars. It was a seemingly endless flow of cars coming into the unassuming car park.
Immediately there was a Chevy Silverado doing one wheel burnouts filling the midnight OC air with tire smoke and abused rubber. It was like a domino effect — as soon as he was done the next guy lined up in a Mustang, no less, to give it a go.
It was quite interesting to see so many cars of various stages of modification from completely stock to completely turned up. The pair of Supras that came in were a friendly reminder of Japan.
On the complete opposite end of the scale, seeing a Ford Crown Victoria doing burnouts was more entertaining than I ever thought it'd be.
The noises of the cars varied too, from bearable to grating in the case of some of the mongrel Infinitis and Nissans there. (Sorry, VQ fans.) It didn't matter about their exhaust notes though, as the whooping of the crowds from the screeching and smoking tires would drown anything out.
There wasn't much time to go around and look at all the cars because it was already time for a new location. As soon as red and blue lights were visible on the road next to the second location everyone ran for their cars.
I had never seen such a large crowd of people move so quickly. I've always wanted to go the running of the bulls in Pamplona, but after seeing everyone run to their cars and drive away from a lone police car I don't think I need to go anymore.
Going from the second location to the third was just as crazy. With plenty of riled up drivers on the freeway in hot pursuit of the next location, cars were zigzagging through traffic. I'm not entirely sure why; you're supposed to zigzag to avoid crocodiles, not police cars.
The third location was at an industrial area. With long stretches of road in between factories and warehouses, it was the ideal place for midnight hooniganism. It makes more sense to do these sorts of things here rather than at a strip mall right next to a main road.
In a different take on cars and coffee, there were still doughnuts aplenty (pun very much intended). I have to admit, I was impressed at how controlled everyone doing doughnuts were. I guess only those brave and skilled enough would step up to the plate. There are enough videos online of people losing control at trying to impress their mates with their imaginary doughnut skills at these sorts of meets.
It did get repetitive after a while. One can only stand and watch for so long while people take turns burning rubber and making smoke in an intersection.
After a while I could feel the cancer growing in my lungs. Then, all of a sudden, a flare appeared sparking more interest. Like moths to a flame people started running towards the flare and would stand in the middle of the intersection hoping to get as close to a car without getting hit by it.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone somewhere made the decision to halt the donuting and have a drag race right then and there. It was between a Mercedes S500 and a Honda Civic of some sort. I couldn't see it clearly as the cars were engulfed in a sea of camera phones waiting to record the race. Once that was done, it was back to doing doughnuts around the intersection.
The whole night was just a lot of waiting for a lot stupid things happening. It was a good laugh, at the very least. But this particular one was quite tame compared to others seen on the internet. There were no crashes here or too much police intervention; even if I was hoping for some action, I think that's probably for the best of all involved here.
Yet it seemed like a whole other world compared to the lax atmosphere of the night meets in Japan. Yes, there are crazy and loud cars but the owners are never this rowdy. I only got spend a couple of hours at this meet but would love to explore more of this culture in the future.
Originally the title of this post was "Is This How You Do Meets in America?" But Jalopnik EIC and noted American Patrick George says yes and no; these kinds of things can and do happen, but definitely not at every car meet, and this behaviour is often frowned upon by a lot of other enthusiasts. It can lead to bad shit happening.
It's definitely not something I'm used to but was great to see regardless. It was like going to the circus, only sillier, and with cars.
Tire writing on a pick up truck, naturally.
A bit of Japan there
Where there's smoke... there's a Mustang
A Holden Commodore, sorry Pontiac G8, doing what it does best
Lots of tires got abused this night
I'm not a drift photographer, I apologise
This particular 350Z limped home after going through its tires
Somewhere back there were two cars lining up for a drag race