Car Crazy in Honolulu
We may hate to commute in Honolulu, but we love our cars. Meet some of the everyday Honoluluans who race, collect and adore their automobiles.
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Suburban Speed Demons!
For drivers looking to satisfy their need for speed, the lower parking lot of Aloha Stadium is fast becoming the perfect gathering place every fourth Sunday. Jennifer Lee oversees the Hawaii solo-racing program, which is also supported by the SCCA.
Stadium officials began allowing racers a chance to use the parking lot in 2006. Lee and her husband, both engineers by profession, are among those who race. But she says many non-car enthusiasts also enjoy the opportunity to compete. While some drivers show up with performance cars, many bring ordinary cars: Mazda Miatas, Chevy Impalas, even econoboxes such as the Honda Fit. It’s the drivers who make the difference, getting the most out of whatever they drive as they whip around the cones.
“We offer an ever-changing obstacle course with straight-aways, turnarounds, switchbacks and slaloms,” says Lee. “You get four runs and try to clock the fastest time against other similar cars in your class.”
“We have a wide variety from all over the place,” says Lee. “We have the kids who just want to go fast, the parents who want their teens to learn their own limits and the limits of the car, and we have your typical moms and dads who heard about us and wanted to check us out for themselves.”
Lynn Hartnett is one of those typical moms. Although her children are grown and her carpool days are over, the special-education teacher at Salt Lake Elementary yearns to put the pedal to the metal.
“With teaching, there’s so much stress and so many issues you can’t resolve,” says Hartnett. “With racing, you get scared and nervous, but you also overcome it. When I’m racing on the course I feel like I can conquer the world. It’s an absolutely amazing release.”
Hartnett, who now races in a Mini Cooper, first hit the Aloha Stadium course in a faithful yellow VW Beetle. She says learning to navigate the track has made her a better driver out on the road.
“There are a lot of bad drivers out there,” said Hartnett. “Now I can avoid them. I have better instincts, better peripheral vision. More people need to get out there and learn to drive.”
All in the Family
While not all drivers want to race their cars or devote time and money to maintaining rolling antiques, many feel a fan’s devotion to particular makes and models, and share a common bond with others who appreciate their four-wheeled wonders.
From Acura to Volvo devotees, car clubs in Hawaii run the gamut, with the Aloha Mustang and Shelby Club being one of the oldest and largest.
“There are a lot of people who love their cars no matter what they drive,” says Mustang owner Don Johnston. “People who join clubs have a passion for their wheels that goes beyond just driving. The car is the common denominator that brings you to the club. The friendships keep you there and allow you to be part of a family.”
Every year, the Mustang “family” organizes or takes part in dozens of events ranging from parades and picnics to major fundraisers for local charities. But Johnston says it all boils down to sharing the love for what he and other Mustang owners believe is the best car ever built.
“It’s the ultimate car. It combines affordability, sportiness and unique styling that allows a customer to consider it a daily driver for the family, as well as a true performance car.”
Johnston also says the love affair between driver and car is simple to explain.
“Cars equal independence. They have given us the freedom to move since the first cars rolled off the line.”
This shared appreciation transcends the devotion some people feel to a particular make or model. Despite the fact most of his antique car-club members are now in their 60s and 70s, Fred Weisberger says they can relate to all car enthusiasts, even to the young, fast and furious racers of today, who drive around in hopped-up and tricked-out rides.
Join the Club
SSCA races at Aloha Stadium
“There are so many different venues for people to find their niche, and we have great respect for all of it because we were teens too once upon a time,” says Weisberger. “We all have the same general illness—a love of cars. They’re just going with what is out there today, and if you really open your eyes and look at it, the work they do is just phenomenal.”
Whether a beauty or a beater, it’s easy to understand why a true enthusiast’s car is his or her baby, regardless of its age.
“When you jump into the seat of a Model T, you’re taking a drive back in time,” says Weisberger. “You’ve gone back 80 years, which is the Stone Age for cars, in terms of technology, and it’s quite an experience.”
“All the new cars today look like big, rolling eggs to me,” says Nitta. “The ’50s and ’60s, now those were cars. There are no words for an old car. It’s like a beautiful woman. You see it coming from a mile away, and it just stops you in your tracks.”
Authors note: Howard “Dash” Dashefsky is a former sports car and convertible owner who now drives a standard SUV to carry his two daughters, surfboards, golf clubs and bicycles.