When I think back on my time working on The Chronicles, I can’t really think of one single event series that helped make me a “household name” in the Honda community more than the famed Eibach Honda Meet. Of course, the Wekfest series has a lot to do with my success as well, but I think that Wekfest helped to broaden my audience throughout the car community, especially in recent years. The foundation of The Chronicles was built around Hondas and mixed within that core is the Eibach Honda Meet. Entering its 13th year now in 2017, I thought it would be a good idea to chat with its creators, Ryan Hoegner and Matt “Rodrez” Rodriguez. When I first started this whole side project, my list of people to talk to was relatively open. Charles Trieu is always randomly texting me in the middle of the night giving me ideas on who to feature here on The Epilogues but I wanted to make sure that I contact the people that were most influential in my personal development as an automotive journalist. My goal is to tell the world about my friends and those who helped me get to where I am today. While we may not talk every day or be nearly as close as we once were, I still consider these human beings to be my friends. We are all older now and priorities change, we don’t always get to see each other or do the same things, but I can’t deny their roles in my lives. They may never know or realize it but I am who and where I am today because of them…
I grew-up in San Diego, California. Los Angeles car guys will never acknowledge this, some may not even believe it, but San Diego has always had a really devoted group of car enthusiasts who produced some really great builds. L.A. just gets all the credit because it is, well, “L.A.” The street races down in San Diego were always pretty wild and car culture thrived in the late ’90s and on. Some of the best Honda builds I’d ever seen growing-up came from San Diego, and that includes the times when I was older and traveling quite often to Los Angeles for events. There were only a couple of tuner shops down there and everyone generally knew who everyone was. There were cliques and different car crews but being that it wasn’t nearly as big as L.A. was, people knew each other. When I started building my Honda Accord, I didn’t really know any other Honda enthusiasts because I came into tinkering with cars through Toyotas. I just stumbled into Hondas because my dad had this Accord and he had blown the motor on it. He wanted to ditch the car and buy something else, but I kinda took over the reigns of it and decided to do an H22A swap. My friend from high school was pretty familiar with working on any kind of car at that time and I thought it would be a good little project for my dad to get involved with so we could get closer. We worked on the car off-and-on for a couple of years but by 2005ish, it was in a near completed state. I pulled the car out of the paint shop and reassembled everything, put some fucking stickers on it that seem lame now, and mounted a mint set of 16-inch Sprint Hart CP-R wheels on. The car looked pretty good. Message boards or ‘forums’ as we liked to call it, were huge during that time. Back in 2005, social media was still in its infancy and all we really had was Myspace. If you wanted to interact with other car people on the Internet, you had to do it on these forums. There was no Tinder either so you couldn’t masturbate into each other, which is pretty much what dating seems like these days, and you had to actually meet people in person. Okay, I’m going off topic, but let’s just say things were very different a decade ago. Anyways, my car was fresh out of paint and looking pretty good, I thought, and I decided to take some pictures of it to post on a popular forum called Honda-Tech.
Is Honda-Tech still around these days? I couldn’t really tell you…
So I drove to this school nearby my house that had a wide-open parking lot, parked my car in an angle which I thought was aesthetically-pleasing, and pulled-out my 4 mega-pixel digital camera to take some photos of my Accord. I had just changed the 4 AA batteries it required so I had plenty of power to fill-up that 256 MB memory card. Again, things were quite different in 2005. I took a few photos, went home, resized them, and posted them on Honda-Tech, bracing myself for hostility and Web-hate (which was common on Honda-Tech), but low and behold, people actually liked the car. I drove the car to work every day just because it was a fun car to drive with the H22 in it, and always parked it in view so nobody would try to mess with it. Theft was quite common in San Diego, especially since we were so close to Mexico, so it probably wasn’t the best idea to leave the car outside every day. I worked at an auto parts store at the time, some of you might know it, it was called “Kragen Auto Parts”, which is now O’Reilly Auto Parts. I was the guy who asked you what engine you had when you asked me for new wiper blades for your car. One day, a fellow Honda guy I knew, Aries Dionisio, comes strolling into the store. For even more background history, Aries was one of the more well-known Honda guys from San Diego. He was from the famed AM7 car club and had this amazing Mugen BB4 Prelude. I actually bought my Sprint Hart CP-R wheels from him and those wheels were the reason why I even decided to build the Accord in the first place. Aries walks into the store, we say ‘what’s up’ to one another and he tells me that he was in the neighborhood to order some chicken wings next door from the Chinese food spot. He walked over to Kragen to talk to me because he wanted to let me know that Honda Tuning magazine was interested in featuring my Accord. I was surprised because I didn’t think anyone gave a shit about my Accord but I guess one of their freelance photographers spotted my car on Honda-Tech and was interested in shooting it. That freelance photographer was Matt Rodriguez, better known to the Honda crowd simply as ‘Rodrez’. He was a San Diego-based photographer just looking to shoot cars at the time and wanted to meet-up to possibly shoot. A couple of months later, I meet Rodrez for the first time at Showoff Classic, then a popular car show in its own right at that time, and we arranged to shoot. I can go on and on and tell you guys so much more about this period of time but there is so much to cover so I will keep it brief. Long story short, not long after that, Rodrez began inviting me out to hang with other Honda enthusiasts from San Diego and we eventually became friends. With his help, I eventually began writing for Honda Tuning some years later and as he continued to move-up in the company, I would work closely with him shooting and writing features for the magazine.
Rodrez was not only a talented photographer, he was also very into Hondas himself and built this beautiful Civic hatchback. Up until this very moment in time, it is still one of my all-time favorite Civic builds. He just had a great eye for detail and the car was just executed in such a understated, yet incredibly impressive way. It was painted this burgundy hue which was very unique in its own right and everyone knew Rodrez’s ‘EG’. His Civic was the coolest fucking thing that I had ever seen when I first got into Hondas because I had never seen a B-series engine with individual throttle bodies running an APEX’i PowerFC. It was amazing to me. We would meet-up and go to car meets together with other SD locals like Loi Song from Sportcar Motion. None of those guys ever judged me for having an Accord or not knowing enough about Hondas at the time. They just welcomed me into their group. Those were great times, probably some of my favorite times, since everything seemed so fresh at the time and I wasn’t too deeply involved in the industry. It was much more of a hobby thing then and not so much ‘business’ at all. One of the meets we would cruise to was this Honda-only car gathering known as the “Eibach Meet”. I missed the first year of the show because I honestly didn’t know anything about it. I really didn’t know any Honda enthusiasts during the Eibach Meet’s first year, and it was a year or so before I even met Rodrez. I really didn’t even think to request the time off to go to the first Eibach Meet because my car wasn’t done and it just sounded a little strange for Eibach Springs to have a car meet because they didn’t seem too connected to the Honda community. I only started going after because I knew Rodrez and found out that he was actually one of the people that helped to organize it.
The other guy helping out with the event was actually the man responsible for creating it, and his name was Ryan Hoegner.
Hoegner actually worked for Eibach Springs so he decided to host a meet there one day. The Eibach facility was pretty big and he wanted to host events there to help raise some brand awareness for Eibach. That is why it is still called the “Eibach Honda Meet” today because it all started at Eibach with one of its employees. It was a Honda-exclusive event because both Ryan and Rodrez were simply Honda die-hards. It took me awhile to really get to know Ryan. He’s just this sort of buff, cross-fitting white guy who you wouldn’t really think was into Hondas when you first meet him. You’d think he was into domestics or something along those lines because, well, to be perfectly, politically-inappropriate… he looked like a white guy who drives Mustangs. Every time you see him you’d see him in shorts, wearing a baseball cap, and talking very proper English. He didn’t fit the mold I guess you could say. The car guys I knew who were into imports from San Diego were either some sort of Asian or Mexican. That’s all I knew. Forgive me for being ignorant. Whenever I did interact with Ryan, it was always very brief. Mind you, this was only during the Eibach meets or the lesser-known NWP4Life (another popular Honda forum) summer evening meet-ups, and he was always busy. You deal with enough assholes per event and you start to become pretty short with people, whether you even notice it or not. He seemed intimidating so I just always never engaged him in conversation. As the years went on, of course, I got to knew him a bit more and Ryan is still one of the pivotal figures in helping The Chronicles stay what it is. The Eibach Honda Meet moved away from the Eibach Springs facility because it just simply outgrew it. The event became an incredible success and with that comes more people who want to be a part of it. The Eibach Springs facility is still used for car meets every now and then. If you follow The Chronicles, you may be familiar with one of those meets. Towards the end of every year, I throw my anniversary meet there to celebrate another year of me not having to get a ‘real job’ and the first person I see every morning there is Ryan Hoegner. He takes the time away from his family to come open the gate for me to have my little meet. I appreciate him for doing so year after year, more than he will ever understand. We chat whenever we run into each other, talk shit about anything in particular, tell some badly-timed jokes that only older guys who grew up in the ’80s and 90s would understand, and we usually end things with a ‘thank you’ or a ‘see you later’. Nothing really more than that. He even says ‘good job’ sometimes but says it to me in a really ‘dad’ way. Haha. I’ll have my meet at Eibach Springs, he’ll tell me I did a good job and then tell me to take out the trash, so in some ways, I guess he is my dad, but like, a white dad that’s kinda almost the same age as me, who also has a son who will be better at basketball than me at any stage of my life.
I’ll see him at an industry party during SEMA in Las Vegas and he’ll just stick out like a sore thumb…
He probably never had to watch “The Fast and The Furious” because he already saw “Point Break” and knew the basic plotline of the movie…
The guy will also put Blitz Type 01 wheels on just about fucking anything that has an engine…
That’s just Ryan.
Both these guys are family men now, which is pretty crazy to me still. I think Ryan has been married as long as I have known him, but it’s crazy to watch his kids grow-up through photos on Facebook. Ryan still generally looks like the same Ryan I met over ten years ago but his kids just keep getting bigger. Rodrez on the other hand, was a bachelor when I first met him. Living in San Diego, I would often run into him at various bars or night clubs in the bustling Gaslamp Quarter downtown. Over the years, he met himself quite a nice lady who would eventually become his wife and they would later start a family together. I even got to go to his wedding, which was pretty cool. Interesting how you go from shooting cars to becoming pretty good friends and being there for the important moments of their lives. I can’t even believe it has been that long. In the span of the 13-years in which the Eibach Honda Meet has been around, some of the most important transitional periods of their lives have coincided with the growth of this event. It’s easy to forget that these are every day, very normal people who are just living their lives outside of cars. But, if you ever ask them about their hobby, they’ll tell you that they have never stopped being ‘car guys’. Priorities just shifted but their love of cars has never, ever, wavered. Like the other people you’ve read about previously here on The Epilogues, they are REAL car guys.
Unlike the previous stories here on The Epilogues, we’re going to get to know all about the TWO people responsible for creating the West Coast’s premier Honda-gathering.
- NAME: Ryan Hoegner (Left)
- KNOWN ALIAS (Social Media or Otherwise): “Vtecvoodoo” for those still on Honda forums or simply “Ryan at Eibach”
- CURRENT OCCUPATION: Business Development Manager at Eibach
- WHAT YOU ARE KNOWN FOR (Why do people know you for doing or accomplishing): I was on a variety of different Honda forums (Honda-Acura.net, H-T, Hybrids, NWP4LIFE. I organized a lot of events ranging from the Eibach Meet, Honda & Acura Club dyno days at Import Builders, get-togethers at Shine Street, and meets at Norm Reeves Honda. I’ve also had a pretty wide-range of Honda builds that have been pretty decent: 2 ITR’s, 2 EK’s, 2 EG’s, S2000, Integra, and even a CR-X nobody saw much of.
- HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE “CAR COMMUNITY”: Since 1994
- AGE: “29”
- HOMETOWN/CURRENT LOCATION: Corona, CA
- NAME: Matt Rodriguez (Right)
- KNOWN ALIAS (Social Media or Otherwise): “Rodrez”
- CURRENT OCCUPATION: Content Director and Social Media Manager for the Super Street Network.
- WHAT YOU ARE KNOWN FOR (Why do people know you for doing or accomplishing): Probably from being a regular on the forums back in the day (Honda-Tech, NWP4Life)
- HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE “CAR COMMUNITY”: 20+ years
- AGE: “20+ years”
- HOMETOWN/CURRENT LOCATION: Orange County, CA
With their busy schedules, it was pretty difficult to set-up a time to meet-up. Both these guys work in very different areas of Southern California and their schedules are usually packed. Work, family, and kids take-up a majority of their time these days and they often don’t even have a whole lot of time left for cars. I wanted to get photos of each of them at their houses to show-off their respective car projects, but with their schedules, it was nearly impossible. I also wanted to get photos of them together too, because, well, it just makes sense too since I was talking to the both of them. By some stroke of random luck, there happened to be an hour gap where they would both be in Orange County on the same day. Rywire was in the area so it served as the perfect location.
What I like to always start-off our conversations with is getting to know a little bit more about who they are as people. I mean, I know them of course, but I think it is important that they talk more about themselves. These older car guys especially have been around way too long and didn’t really ever have the resources to really tell their story. I wanted to talk about the Eibach Honda Meet but these two were car enthusiasts long before the idea of having this event even came around. Both came from very different upbringings in different parts of California, but you’d be surprised to know that they both got into cars, Hondas-specifically, in a very similar fashion.
“I got into Hondas in the early ’90s with my best friend.” Rodrez says. “We were longtime skaters and his brother got an (DA) Integra one day and started modding it. We were fascinated. He took us with him to the street races in San Diego for the first time and we were completely hooked. Cars became the focus. Not long after that, I started building a car and street racing (because I was young and stupid), and that was pretty much it, I was a lifer.”
Ryan also had some help when it came to developing his fascination with cars.
“I think my (now) brother-in-law actually got me into cars. When he was dating my sister, he always had something pretty cool. I took his convertible Corvette to prom. Afterwards, my buddy and I dropped-off our dates at the hotel and took off for Newport Beach. We were cruising Balboa in tuxedos like a couple idiots—It just seemed like a great idea at the time.” Ryan recalls. “When I was a senior, my longtime friend Tom Chu and I were playing volleyball and his brother showed-up with a couple of his buddies to play with us. Two of them had CR-Xs and the other a black EF hatchback…”
“All the cars were lowered on wheels with an exhaust and it completely blew me away. This was 1993. I knew that’s what I eventually wanted…”
“…A couple months after graduation I bought a red 94 Civic SI brand new at the dealership and that’s where it all started. I think I paid $12,500. No AC and no power doors or windows.”
I think it is way too easy most of the time to forget that these guys actually own project cars themselves. We’re so wrapped-up in our own worlds and what we are doing that we just simply overlook the rich history that guys like Matt and Ryan have being in this car community for so long. If you can get them to talk about it, they can sit down and chat with you all day. I almost feel like they even forget that they still have project cars right now because they’ve been so busy fulfilling their other roles in their everyday lives. It’s nice to give them the freedom to talk about it because it reminds them that they still have this escape whenever they can manage to squeeze-out some free time for themselves. There’s also nothing like a trip down memory lane to help re-invigorate the automotive soul.
While Ryan got his first start in a brand new 1994 Civic, Matt got into Hondas with a Civic hatchback—but of the previous generation. It wasn’t anything special. He kept it pretty mild because it served more as a placeholder for what he really wanted, which was a 1991 Honda CR-X.
“The CR-X was a long-term build that I used to daily drive, street race, track and attended a few shows with.” Rodrez says. “It was my first swap and one of the first (ghetto) bolt-in B-series swaps in San Diego at that time. Eventually, I stroked it to a 1.9-liter and it was a blast. I got into quite a bit of trouble with that car, almost went to jail twice, paid entirely too much money to the city of San Diego’s judicial system and decided to sell it. After that I picked up a stock 5th gen hatch that also served as my “everything” car from daily to track to show and eventually I sold it off to get an S2000.”
That 5th gen. Civic is the car that I mentioned earlier on and the only car I had seen Rodrez build when I first met him. His CR-X was a car that I had only seen in photos. Most enthusiasts hold a certain amount of sentimental value to everything they build but after he sold his Civic, he didn’t seem to miss it at all. I think myself and other friends of his missed it more than he did. Whenever anyone would ask him about it, he would just sort of shrug it off and say he didn’t miss it, and that he could build another one if he really wanted to.
Ryan is similar in many ways to Rodrez in that regard. They both agree that any car can be built again, but he seemed to have a favorite out of the many, many Hondas he’s owned through the years:
“They were all pretty special to me because they represented a very fun time in my life. The best of the group would have to be my 1993 Civic (Which Rodrez still likes to harp on today because it was red, but for whatever reason, had white mirrors). It was ahead of its time and just did everything very well. The brakes and suspension were ridiculous and the motor ripped. And it was totally reliable. I drove it from Irvine to Santa Monica 5 days a week for a year.”
You wouldn’t believe it, but these two still have multiple automotive projects on the queue—they just never talk about them very much. Having their proverbial plates filled with full-time jobs and family life has slowed these projects down considerably, but they are certainly in the making. There just isn’t a set deadline because there’s no real reason to rush.
(Matt) “A friend of mine is currently storing my S2000 for me. We’re still collecting the rest of the parts I need to finish it up and at home, I have a ’92 Integra GS-R that I’m piecing together in my garage. I’m taking forever on them and friends always ask when they’re going to be done but to be honest, I just needed a break from everything. I took a few years off from doing anything with my personal cars after Honda Tuning was shut down. I finished a Honda Fit that I inherited from a previous editor at HT to complete a contract with Honda and then I followed that up by working with Acura to build a V6 TSX. At the same time, I also built a CR-Z for Honda and had my own personal car, which was an 8th generation Civic SI. I did a Japanese FD2 front/rear-end conversion on it and a built K24 block. It was fun and all but it got a little obnoxious to drive being that it was pretty loud and I didn’t want to constantly worry about being pulled-over. I eventually sold it and bought a 2012 Acura TL SH-AWD to commute in. All those years, I never really slowed down and I felt it was just time to step back, especially with my second son being born in that stretch of time—I just wanted to focus on my life, spend time with the my kids and get into a new home. Recently though, I started working on them again but no specific finish point. I’m lucky to get 30 minutes here or there to work in my garage because it’s kids and family first, then my job, both of which I take very seriously, and cars are a distant 3rd.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of cars, but like I said, I had been going 110% for so long I needed to just step back for a bit and regroup.”
(Ryan) “My current project is an ’82 Porsche 911 and ironically, I am building it like I’d build a Civic hatchback, haha. We’re converting the suspension to coilovers, adding bigger brakes, gutting the interior, adding modern fuel management, and building the motor. Sound familiar? It should be a blast and something the Porsche guys don’t see often. Remember Len Higa? He was one of the OG Hawaii drag racers back in the day. He has a Porsche shop called ‘Sleepers Speed Shop’ and is helping. I also have a ’64 Impala. It’s been done for a couple years, but I am updating the cooling system in so I can take it on longer drives. Right now I am working on my K-swapped ’98 Integra Type R. It’s getting tuned next week and should be a bad bitch—I hope so anyway. That thing has been an emotional roller coaster ride for 2 years now. I’ve almost sold it on three different occasions due to numerous issues including a couple blown motors. I don’t get sick of cars really, but they can be pretty frustrating. My free time is almost non-existent these days. Otherwise I’d have more freedom to work on my cars. We’re always busy at Eibach and I also coach baseball and basketball when I’m not working. Our kids (17, 13 and 9) are growing up fast so we’re trying to do as much possible with them these days.”
“I always tell the younger guys the best part about cars is that you can always leave for a bit and comeback. There is no age limit. Buy a house, have kids, establish your career, and then comeback. There’s plenty of time to play with cars.”
I can totally relate. I’ve owned one of my cars for over ten years now and have barely begun to work on it again. Not having that rush to finish on anyone else’s deadline is quite enjoyable to be honest. There’s no shortage of car events year after year so it isn’t something that you’ll miss because the car scene will just up and disappear one day. I guess maybe there is that fear that people will forget about you or something but if you’re really a car guy and building cars to enjoy for yourself, does it really matter if anyone notices or not? It’s important to remember that many of the older car guys aren’t out here to set trends or “break necks” or whatever else you’d expect from that want to be socially-relevant. With over 20 years of experience in this hobby, I think these guys have just about seen it all.
I just recently saw Hoegner’s ITR at the most recent Eibach Honda Meet, the event which I got these guys together to discuss in the first place. It was good to see the Type R again. Everything was finally put together, the interior redone and the engine operational. I was actually there the first time the engine blew-up. A connecting rod had snapped and went right through the block, it was quite a scene. I didn’t even know the motor broke again after that but everything looked perfect at Eibach. One of the sideskirts randomly flew off on the way to the event, but like Ryan says, the car can be a bit frustrating at times. That’s just how things go with that R.
Now, onto the topic at hand: The Eibach Honda Meet. Many of you Honda aficionados may have gone to one before. Hopefully many more, being that it has been around for thirteen-years. For those that haven’t been fortunate enough to attend, uhhh, why the fuck have you not? Perhaps learning a little bit about the history of this great event series will convince you to go. Those of you who stopped going or are currently going and know nothing about it, well, this is for you too. Here’s the story straight from the mouths of the guys that started it all…
(Matt) “The Eibach Meet was created and established by Ryan. Working at Eibach, he had access to the facility parking lot and had already organized some events prior to that with other companies. I actually met him through Honda-Tech but I finally met him in person at a Shine Street (a local tuning shop back in the day) event that he put together. I, at the time, was pushing an automotive clothing line that me and my friend created. I remember when the first Eibach Honda Meet took place, I wasn’t sure I’d even make it because I was headed way up North to have my Civic looked at by a body shop for a color change estimate. It was a really far drive from San Diego to deep L.A. then over to Corona, but we somehow made it down the always-crappy 91 freeway just in time to catch the last few hours. It was a really good turnout for that time, with something like 100 cars. After the event, Ryan and I got to talking about its potential. I had some ideas, he had some ideas and he asked if I wanted to help him do the next one and I was in 100%.”
(Ryan) “Like Matt said, prior to joining Eibach, I had already thrown 20+ events. I don’t know why I started doing events, but I must’ve liked it. I had hosted a couple larger meets at Shine Street and then Norm Reeves Honda hosted a couple for me. We actually had Doug from Hondata and Oscar Jackson lead a tech seminar at each one, followed-up by a Q&A session. We really should do that again now that I think about it. Shit, now I have another event to plan!”
“Our facility at Eibach is perfect for an event so when I joined the staff, it was a no-brainer. Matt and Ben Howard (an enthusiast from out East) helped a ton spreading the word on the forums. In the old days we’d actually have a sign-up list that would go 7-8 pages deep on Honda-Tech. I honestly don’t remember how the event turned into a Honda/Acura only event, but I am glad we did it. We called it the ‘Eibach Meet’ simply because it was at our facility and they were kind enough to let us open it up to the public.”
(Matt) “Back then there weren’t a ton of meets and of the ones out there, none catered to our vehicle type (Honda/Acura) specifically. It was almost like having Honda-Tech and NWP4LIFE in person. People just wanted to get together, show what they’re working on, and see what other people were doing with the cars while putting names to faces. It was so natural that it would have been very odd if it failed to bring people out.”
“Everything was fairly new at the time, I would have probably done anything to help the Honda/Honda-Tech community. I just wanted it to grow. I think that mentality is still there for me, but on a different level now.”
And grow it did.
I remember the earlier events having a very organic, homegrown-feel. Everyone generally knew one another from the forums and when you did meet anyone new, you’d probably have talked to them online already so they didn’t seem ‘new’, if that makes sense. There was this familiarity that existed which really made the whole concept of having a meet fun. It was never competitive, no one was out to “kill the game”, everybody showed-up just to have a good time.
(Ryan) “The early events were pretty easy. Just show up and hangout. There was no crowd control, permits, or lines of cars for a mile. The people made the event. All the bigger names in the ‘scene’ were friends. They attended so everybody else did. Basically everybody from NWP. All other advertising was done via forums. We’d make sure there was a thread on all of the popular forums and it sold itself.”
(Matt) “That was social media for the car crowd back then and it was the fastest, cheapest way to get the word out. If you’re spending every day on a Honda-specific forum and a couple of guys that spend way too much time there are offering you a place to bring your car and meet like-minded people to see what they’re working on, it’s going to pique your interest as an enthusiast.”
The meet would only remain a small gathering for a short time. After its third year, it just blew-up. I remember seeing and hearing people camp-out overnight just to get into the Eibach Springs facility. As big as that venue was, space became limited and people were doing whatever they could to get their cars inside the event. They would park their cars at the gate, sleep in there cars, any and everything you could think of that people do now for say, a limited shoe release, Honda enthusiasts were doing it. Guys from all over the country began pouring into Southern California and it quickly became one of the “go-to” events in the nation. If you were a serious Honda builder, you knew that you had to make the trek, no matter where you were from, to see this event because the best of the best Hondas were on display.
(Matt) “It’s always been cool to see guys traveling from different states just to be part of this. Some don’t have any events in their region so they take matters into their own hands and make the long trek—how can you not respect that? I knew it was gaining momentum when I was getting messages on H-T and NWP from people outside the country asking for dates, hotel info, etc. They would send me links to their local forums where guys were snaking all of the pics they found on the U.S. forums about the event and creating threads about the meet. That was definitely cool to see.”
What was once the “Eibach Meet” would only remain that by name, because both Ryan and Rodrez found themselves with a limited space to work with. For the event to continue its positive trajectory, they had to find another venue to foster its growth. The city of Corona was supportive of their early efforts, but local police quickly grew weary of the hoards of Hondas flooding their streets. Those who couldn’t find their way inside the Eibach facility would take measures into their own hands by parking anywhere they could. Things were getting rowdy and the two really had no choice other than to move to another city.
(Ryan) “Towards the end of our run at Eibach HQ we’d gridlock the city for a couple miles. It was insane. After the event we’d have to pick-up trash for about 3 blocks in every direction to keep our neighbors happy. This would take 3 hours sometimes. Corona wouldn’t grant us another permit so it was time to move.”
(Matt) “I didn’t want to leave the Eibach facility because it was so familiar and it was really the heart of the event at that time, but those lines, the police, the drama; it was necessary for both the growth of the event and mine and Ryan’s mental health. I think in those first 5 or so years, in my head, I wanted to keep it tight knit and not some mainstream event. That changed as I saw how many people were bummed that they couldn’t be part of it because we ran out of space.”
“We were literally turning more people away than we were taking into the lot, which obviously is bad business, but more importantly, it alienated a large group of the very enthusiasts that the event was intended for. It was a lose-lose situation.”
“The big difference, and I know people hate this, was charging to register and guarantee a spot. The thought behind that was that it would keep the riff-raff out. If you’re paying money to park your car there, then you truly want to be there. The other part of that was that registration presented a form of actual organization. You had a list of people that paid, that were guaranteed their spot, and everyone else had to park elsewhere. No more bum-rushing the gate or cutting people off because you thought your car was better than theirs.”
With all that success comes criticism of course, and there were definitely those who had something to say. That just sort of comes with the territory. If you’re doing anything meaningful, people will talk whether it be good or bad.
I spent a lot of my earlier years helping to promote the Eibach event because they would give me a booth space to help promote The Chronicles. We worked together to help one another. I would even do some of the flyers for them and when I posted it, a flood of negative comments came my way, and it wasn’t even my meet. Imagine the type of messages and insults were being hurled at the guys who were actually running the event…
“I mean look at it now, whenever the flyer is up, a bunch of people jump in to tell you it’s a rice-fest or that nobody builds Hondas anymore.” Rodrez says. “Also, after it started catching-on and really growing, I distinctly remember a group of guys doing their best to bash it and trying to get people to not go—even creating makeshift ‘mountain run’ events the same day to pull people away. I didn’t quite get it but hey, free market, free country. I always wanted to keep it a Honda-only affair. We did try a spin-off event with all makes and models but it just wasn’t the same. I think the timing has to be right and proper balance of interest and influencers attending in order to make that work.”
By the advice of their friend Andy Kimball, the duo made their move to Irwindale Speedway. This facility was massive and could house a much larger grouping of Hondas. On paper, it sounded like the perfect place. With change came some unexpected difficulties however, and even with the new registration process, holding the event at Irwindale proved to be a challenge:
(Matt) “I’ve mentioned it a few times in interviews, but I hate even thinking about it; the first year we stepped away from Corona and went to Irwindale was a huge mess. We just didn’t have the means to handle that many people at the time and we got our asses kicked that year. However, on the positive side, it let us know that far more people were interested in taking part beyond just the cluster of enthusiasts in Corona. There was a whole other group of people, much larger, that were just waiting for us to go somewhere big enough to corral everyone. The way it went down was a nightmare, but opened a new door and definitely kept us in check. It reminded us to get way more organized because it wasn’t just a neighborhood gathering anymore.”
(Ryan) “It was rough that year in Irwindale. We were way understaffed and not prepared enough. Also, the facility just wasn’t quite right. We learned a bunch though. There were a lot of people who didn’t get in which created excitement for the following year.”
‘There were a lot of people who didn’t get in’ would be a gross understatement. I remember being there and by 2 PM of the event, the entire street had shut down because the line of Hondas trying to get in and stretched onto the highway. The exit was completely blocked with car enthusiasts and the police ultimately had to come shut the event down. No one could get in or out and it was truly a spectacle. Because of the melee that ensued, Irwindale would be a one-and-done event. They never returned. From 2014 on, the event was relocated to a massive lot in the more remote city of Lake Elsinore, CA. It was a longer drive for many but with a dedicated staff on hand willing to control the crowds and get everything flowing smoothly, the Eibach Honda Meet would move forward without so much as a hitch. The recent years have been the most peaceful ones. The event continues to be a huge success and the two have taken it all in stride. There comes a point where they know they have to start planning the meet every year, and it is stressful, but it isn’t anything that would make them want to stop the momentum of their event.
“The Eibach Meet is etched into my brain. Every November or December, it’s time to get the ball rolling for the next one and it’s just a natural thing now. I don’t really talk about my work too much but even my mom knows that May is ‘that big event you guys do.’ It’s just become a part of my life. I never think about not doing it anymore. Ryan and I will usually text one another and we’re constantly bitching about planning problems or roadblocks we run into, but after it’s all over, we’re glad we did it…and we’re glad we don’t have to think about it for the next 6 months or so.” Matt says.
Though I was around for much of their still ongoing thirteen year run, there were always questions that I wanted to ask them that I probably wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t now working on The Epilogues. I guess this project allows me to ask questions that most wouldn’t think these guys would answer since they generally keep to themselves.
I, myself, have always wondered if they even realized the type of impact they’ve made on the Honda tuning community. If there goal was to help push the Honda community forward, they’ve definitely accomplished that. You can’t unite such a huge collective of Honda-owners together and think that you haven’t made a difference. In their eyes, was it a landscape-changing event though? One does wonder, seeing as how it is a staple-event in the American Honda community…
(Matt) “Not in my eyes. There were a thousand meets happening all over the place when we came along as well as shows that people loved and I think people understood the distinction. From my perspective, having competed in a few cars shows previously, I liked the idea of a meet because you’re not obligated to be there for 8 or more hours. You can leave whenever you want, you don’t have to pass a screening and it’s first-come first-served, so if you don’t have the $3,000 wheels on your car or a crazy JDM bumper, you’re still more than welcome.”
“The Eibach Honda Meet is literally for everyone, so you see cars like Rywire’s nutty Integra and you see the guy with a 9th gen. Civic SI that just did his first spring and exhaust install. There’s no difference in their level of enthusiasm, one is just far more established and knowledgeable because he’s been doing it for so long and soaked-up so much knowledge; but we all start somewhere.”
(Ryan) “I think what we did was create the blueprint for a meet. Most of the stuff you see guys doing these days like VIP parking, general parking, staged roll-in, etc were all ideas we had to come up with to handle the crowd at Eibach. It’s something I am very proud of.”
That blueprint has been a popular one. New events spawn every year and some have come during their run that have been just as popular. In terms of Honda-centric events, is there anyone out there that they would deem a worthy competitor or a rival? Would an event like Honda Day be something along those lines?
(Ryan) “I don’t think we really compete with anybody. We have a very special niche and some of the other promoters have theirs. We are the originators of the all-Honda event, but we don’t own that space. I’m very happy to see the other guys doing well.”
(Matt) “I just don’t really see it as a competition. There are more than enough cars and Honda enthusiasts to make multiple events happen everywhere each year. I’ve known Javier from OGS/Honda Day for quite a while and they’ve been killing it on the east for so many years. He’s actually come out to the Eibach Meet a few times to check it out and we’ve met for lunch so I could pick his brain on everything from money matters to organization. There’s a bunch of events that have popped-up over the years, not necessarily because of the Eibach Meet, and some are doing really well. I say do it; take that momentum and grow your event to give the enthusiasts something to look forward to, especially if there’s nothing in your region.”
I do miss the early days of the Eibach Meet. I mean, how could you not? Everything was just so much more easygoing and more like a friendly gathering. That homegrown, very ‘natural’ feeling was what made the meets so great. I think that the event in 2017 is proportional bigger than it was over a decade ago but the most recent Eibach Meet, which happened just a few weeks ago, still breathed a little bit of that same air. It was their first time in Fontana at the Autoclub Speedway but seeing all those familiar faces there made the event feel very much the same way it did in the early years. Like Ryan said, it is always more about the people than anything and it is those people that bring about that ‘homegrown’ feeling. No matter how big it grows or how many more people come, the core is still the same.
(Ryan) “Maintaining that homegrown feel is very important to me. I want our 6,000 friends and 50 vendors that attend every year to have the same awesome experience. We’ll never sell-out. I can’t tell you how many potential sponsors I have turned down because they are not a good fit for what we represent.”
(Matt) “I think there’s an older group of guys/girls that have been attending the meet forever and they know that Ryan and I are die-hard Honda nerds and why this is what it is. I also think there’s that newer generation that has no idea who the two old guys are that are yelling at everyone during the event but they’ve heard about the meet and they just want to be part of it. That’s cool too because I feel like there’s never been a corporate feel to the Eibach Meet. It’s always been just a group of Honda fans hanging out for an afternoon. If next year’s meet is presented by Extenze or Starbucks, then start to worry…”
“I laugh when I read that people think that the meet has lost its core feeling and isn’t what it once was. They want it to be a tight-knit little get-together at the Eibach facility. They either weren’t there or weren’t paying attention when the streets were backed up onto the freeway and police were popping people left and right. They don’t remember the lack of parking for spectators and they definitely weren’t the ones trying to reason with angry police that wanted to shut everything down because a bunch of Hondas took over the city and caused so many problems. They also want it to be screened so that only the JDM or high-dollar builds are allowed in. That would be a car show. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what we’re doing here. We’re making something for everyone. Look, at the end of the day, you can’t make everyone happy; it’s just not possible. Some people will drop off and others will come on board—it’s a natural cycle, like anything else.”
Being exposed to the Honda community since the early 90s, I always wonder what the ‘older guys’ think of the current state of the Honda scene. Like, how does it compare, in their eyes, with the scene when the Eibach Meet first started. Hell, how does it even compare to the ’90s? In that bracket of over two decades, they must have seen some crazy shit. I think being an elder statesmen in this hobby of ours leads to quite a bit of patience when it comes to watching trends come and go. It makes me wonder if they are just observers or angry old men shaking their canes at the young-ins. Also, if they had to pinpoint an era that they would consider to be their personal favorites, just what time would that be?
(Matt) “I find it comical when people say they wish things were like the ’90s/00s, before all of the widebody and low-offset stuff because back then it was all about clean and functional.”
“I’m like ‘sir, people were putting vents on the quarter panels of front engine vehicles and grafting Supra taillights onto EVERYTHING.’ You’re delusional if you think the gaudy shit wasn’t floating around back then too. It’s always been the good with the bad, the silly with the serious, regardless of the era.”
(Ryan) “I really enjoy the current state of the community. The low-offset bullshit seems to be going away. There are a number of really nice restorations taking place. A lot of the old guys are coming back. It’s not slowing down anytime soon. Not all the builds or trends are for me, but they weren’t in the 90’s either. You’re just not going to like everything out there. I try to keep an open-mind and know that this is some kids car, not mine, and he’s probably stoked about it.”
(Matt) “The attention to detail now is unreal compared to the early Eibach Meet days. You see these builds coming out of nowhere that just blow you away.”
“Everyone has their favorite era but for me it was the mid-late ’90s. Mostly because it was very transitional with all of the swaps happening in people’s garages, the forums just starting to establish themselves and all of this great info floating around the web for people to learn from. The big uprising of OEM-centric builds that borrowed bits and pieces from the Type R and incorporated enough aftermarket to maximize performance was just fun and interesting to me.”
(Ryan) “Mine was the late ’90s and early 2000s. There was a ton of innovation. You had to actually try things and figure stuff out. And Hondas were EVERYWHERE. You had a lowered Civic next to you at every light.”
Obviously, the ability to create anything that meets any measure of success is satisfying, but what I wanted to do was dig just a little bit deeper to find out what their favorite aspects of the Eibach Meet was. Like, what really keeps them going? Success is success after all, but there must be something intrinsic that keeps them going. Oh, and is there anything that they might miss from the ‘good ol’ days’ of the smaller meets at its original locale?…
(Matt) “My favorite thing about the event is when all the vendors and registered cars are all set up and spectators start pouring in—just seeing how big the event looks at that time is pretty exciting. Going from maybe 300 cars and 10 vendors back in the day to 1,000 cars and 40 vendors is just a cool feeling.”
(Ryan) “Believe it or not, I love the drive home. I can finally exhale knowing we hit another home-run and all the work was worth it. I also enjoy seeing all the OG’s and new OG’s year-after-year at the event and the vendors that have been with us for years. I honestly don’t miss much at all when we were at Eibach. To be honest, it was more work and stress.”
(Matt) “The one thing I miss about the smaller events is that I had a chance to go check out some of the cars and chat with people. These days it’s really tough to get away from whatever fire we’re putting out or situation we’re dealing with. As soon as I start chatting with someone I haven’t seen in a long time, boom, someone’s on the walkie-talkie asking for assistance.”
When it’s all said and done, there’s no where else to look but forward. Where does the Eibach Honda Meet go from here and will this run end anytime soon? The latter is unlikely but with a new location and yet another great year. The future looks plenty bright.
(Ryan) “I thought we had plateaued years ago but it just isn’t happening. Now with the move to Auto Club Speedway, we have a ton of room to grow and it’s actually a destination. We’re talking about adding another attraction to the event which could keep bumping-up attendance for years. The only hurdle at this point is time. Matt and I are both very busy. We might need to get some additional help in terms of planning and social media somewhere down the line.”
(Matt) “More and more cars are coming out of the woodwork every year and I love seeing more people getting involved. Listen, we’re not pushing this as some state-of-the-art, groundbreaking event. It’s a simple get-together for Honda fans to enjoy the day with one another. I say take it for what it is and just have a good time, mingle, meet some people, check-out what they’re working on and see what the vendors have to offer our market. Get out from behind the computer screen for a day. With the 2017 event being probably the most-successful and well-received, I think we want to keep the Socal event at Fontana but we took note of a lot of things that could be improved upon and discussed them after the event. It’s important to me that those items are tightened-up. There’s always something to work on or improve, but for the most part, the simple formula has been working and I don’t want to stray too far from it. At least not while people are still having a good time and looking forward to the next one.”
Well, I guess that’s that. I could tell you more about these guys as individuals but we’ve probably talked way too much already. Above is a photo of Ryan and Rodrez goofing-off and messing with Big Mike’s Prelude. I don’t know, it just seemed appropriate.
Ryan was a bit short on words but he’s actually quite the personality. You just have to get him to talk and he’ll entertain you for hours. I’m excited to see his Porsche project come to fruition because he seems genuinely excited about it, and we don’t see him excited ever, unless he’s yelling at some asshole kid who’s doing something stupid at any of the thirteen previous Eibach Honda Meets.
We may soon see a Porsche 911 on Blitz Type 01 wheels, lol. My fingers are crossed in anticipation.
In all seriousness, there are no more appropriate words I can say to him other than a simple ‘thank you’. He’s always been a believer in what I do and has never hesitated to help me out whenever I needed something.
Rodrez is probably one of the most private people I’ve ever met so I am deeply appreciative of him taking time out of his busy schedule to open-up. It really is a rare sight and I hope you guys understand that. He’s never short on thoughts, he just doesn’t always choose to express them openly. The guy is a man of few words and only speaks when absolutely necessary. I think that has also helped to keep him in this industry so long. Rodrez just generally stays to himself, gets his work done, puts out maximum effort, and lives his life.
He’s also the guy who helped get me into the automotive magazine business. I don’t know if I would have ever found another way in if he didn’t go out of his way to vouch for me. I can say I am an automotive journalist today because of Matt Rodriguez. I even learned how to shoot cars by watching him work over the years and watched him go from a struggling freelancer to the Editor-in-Chief of an incredibly popular magazine. Before you get to your thanks, I also extend mine. Thank you.
It’s all your’s guys, have at it…
(Ryan) “As I said before, it’s the people that make this event what it is. I’d like to thank all of you for years of support! I’d also like to thank our staff and all of the vendors, especially the ones who have been with us for 10+ years. Can’t forget Eibach for saying yes in the first place!”
(Matt) “I just want to say thank you to everyone that’s attended even one of our events, I appreciate them giving it a chance, even if meets or Hondas aren’t really their thing. All of the vendors that have worked with us are a huge reason we even have the means to put this together, so I really appreciate them and the attendees that support them. Thanks to Ryan for bringing me into all of this 13 years ago. Also, to the guys and girls that help us run the event and are always so cool about dealing with the good and the bad, you guys are the best. There’s a bunch of them but DPK David, DPK Jared, “Too Tan” Leslie, Josh Ching and his father, my wife, Salem, Mike Arpon, Wayne “The Gunz” Edwards, and a few other regulars are always down to help out. It would be physically impossible to run the event without their help. It’s just too big and too much space to cover. They never complain and they go above and beyond. Also, DPK David and I started a side business of directing traffic called ‘Tango and Cash.’ That last part is false, sorry. That’s it from me, this is more talking than I ever do so I’ll shut up now and I really hope to see everyone at the next one. Thanks!”