All Photos by Tom Wallace We call this car the Purple Huggie-Bear

While the Big 3 in Detroit cry “bail-me out, please!” the Dub Show Tour, one of the biggest and brightest after-market/custom auto shows in America, proves that there is a side of the automotive industry that is clearly not hurting by the recession. On March 22 at the LA Convention Center, the Dub Show (which ironically took place right next to AdultCon) featuring the best in custom rides, kicked-off it’s national event series to thousands of car culture fans and a happy group of sponsors, including Monster Energy Drink, Pirelli, Midnight Club, Dub magazine, Xbox, Ford, State Farm, Metro PCS, NASCAR, Scion, Mobil 1, 2K Sports, and Kawasaki. After a quick pat-down by 4 security guys, and an airport security-like check-in that was far more stringent than LAX, we made it into the packed convention center showcasing the best of DIY car culture, and immediately proving that passion can surpass recession if the heart is there.

Obviously many aspects of American society are based on the automobile, including the form of transportation it provides, but also the identity, freedom, and status a car can have on friends, family, in the workplace, and in society. Among young people ages 13-25, car culture is an important part of one’s lifestyle, however not necessarily in the manner that most people may think -especially today’s auto execs and corresponding agencies that continue to uphold ideals that are leap-years behind the times -so far behind in fact that they didn’t see the need for a bail-out coming. GM’s “too big to fail” theory only works if you’re talking about the after-market hummers as seen at the Dub show on their monster rims, or the Dekotora pimped semi’s in Japan that can seriously cause damage.

Stereo, anyone?

Over the years that we’ve tracked changes in car culture and what it all means to a new generation of drivers, what’s interesting are the open explanations of why they want a certain type of car, what they want to do with their car/truck when they get it, or what they’re already doing with their cars, trucks, and motorbikes. While often times auto manufacturers are advertising and marketing for new car buyers, they miss the point of the popularity of used cars and old cars. Similar to buying accessories to enhance a fashion look, style, or attitude, the blinging, pimping, or customization of one’s ride with wheels, rims, a 500 horsepower engine, and now greening one’s pimped ride, brings about a certain status that shows more than how much money you’ve invested in your ride, but the depth of one’s imagination. This is what the auto industry execs missed. They don’t want you to DIY your ride.

From a youth perspective, trends in car culture have not been about getting larger SUV’s, which is now also the trend among the mainstream, but in tricking out trashed Nissans, reviving Toyotas, and old caddies with sweet, 20-inch-plus rims. As proof, bringing back the classics, like retro styles, such as the El Camino and lowriders from across the spectrum attracted scores of on-lookers at the show. From pro basketball player-turned-car-accessories-entrepreneur, Latrell Sprewell and his motion wheels, to Missy Elliot, ‘Lil Kim, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Tea, urban culture, athletes, and rock stars, have all been hyped about the bling of their rides. Now, as seen by the proliferation of car lifestyle clubs such as the Majestics, the Techniques, the Los Angeles Car Club, and others, the average American beater car can, too, be made into an automotive swan.

Young people between 16-30-years-old are among the highest demographic spending money on tricked out stereos, body kits, and wheels. Like fashion, what you ride in, is as important. The trend is similar to the changing dynamics between spending patterns and electronics: Many young people are turning to spending their money on a new digi camera than a new pair of jeans. While electronics have shifted spending patterns greatly among the youth market in just the past two years, so have cars and the after-market, import-tuning car scene. You can see it in the most popular magazines, YouTube flicks, and movies -it’s all about the car (or at least the rims and stereo). Not surprisingly, the crossover of automotive fashion has seeped into other lifestyle apparel brands: At the Dub show, there were so many car culture merch stands with unique T-shirt graphics, designs, and accessories, we’re running a separate story. The crossover is apparent in other lifestyle cultures as well, as indicated by Dub magazine featuring pro skater/snowboarder Shaun White on the cover (with his 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 in pearl white and Jeep Commander which sits on 22-inch TIS 10 wheels wrapped in Pirelli 285/35R22 tires, featuring an Alpine Touch Screen Navigation and Head Unit System, HD Radio Tuner, Wi-Fi System, and Two 7-inch TVS in the headrests).

In terms of after-market, as illustrated at the show, the main trends are found in the rims, which can run anywhere from a few thousand dollars, to $10,000 a pop. Cherry paint jobs with hot women motifs are still on the rise, as well as eco-friendly cars, Smart Cars like the Ed Hardy version, and eco-pimped Mini’s and Scions. Bentleys, Ferraris, import-cars, Smart cars, Hummers, Hybrids, motorcycles, lowriders, El Caminos, and a couple of kid Go-Karts rounded out the scene. As for after-market -from Dub to lowrider -cars were awash with not only a variety of rims, but custom wheels, hydraulic lifts, stereos with massive subwoofers and multiple speakers, plasma screens, TV monitors, Playstation and Xbox consoles for each passenger (we counted as many as 9 in one car), DVD players, custom interiors, rollbars and rollcages, nitrous oxide-enhanced fuel systems, gull-wing and suicide doors, custom frames, and so on. The real kickers this time were the cars with waterfalls, mini-screens in the headlights, and custom Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton upholstery. One even had an internal aquarium.

Overall, the after-market/custom auto scene is one subculture that touches many people’s lives across a broad range of ethnicities and income levels, not only because of a car’s utility purposes, but also for the opportunity to play out the passion for creating the perfect American ride.

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Dub girls

Amazing animal print grpahics

Dub Show kick-off in Los Angeles–seriously packed crowd. Performers included Ice Cube and Jim Jones

Amazing classics and lowriders. This Caddy included inside engine paint graphics done by car club Majestics.

Yes, there is an aquarium inside this ride.

Blue sparkling engines

Little custom-car dude in his winning tricked-out go-kart, complete with suicide doors.

New growing trend is the upholstery by high-end design brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Gucci

There was also an entire motorcycle section. This one included purple rotating lights throughout.

Cherry paint jobs and girl graphics with storylines were amazing. More to come on this in a follow-up story.

One of the most popular sections was the classic car area. You can see why.

Low-rider trucks that were so low, they looked like they were on the ground. Crazy-cool paint job.

This car%uFFFDs graphics had an entire story about a city in Mexico.

User-controlled height hydraulic suspension systems are so key.

Tires and rims–other vital components to customization success stories

Nice, um…tires!

Monster Energy Drink sponsor booth was packed.