Inside Perth’s car community

The Darker Side

I guess you only need to look as far as the news these days to see what the general reputation of the Perth car community is, and frankly, it’s not pretty. Whether it is a story on hoons, a story on a racing incident or a feature about people getting their vehicles impounded, the news seems to only ever promote a strong and critical one-sided agenda of publicising only one side.

On September 16, the Perth car community came under fire after the recent Troy Candy meet, which resulted in more than 16 vehicles being seized for hoon-related offenses after the meet turned ugly, causing major danger to the public. For most, this was viewed as a job well done by police. But for the 99% of those who enjoy the car scene but were not there, it was a kick in the guts.

It seems to be a common misconception in the news media that car meets usually involve a bunch of P-platers on a Friday night gathering in a carpark to cause major mischief, or a car meet turning into a public burnout display. Unfortunately, at times, this does happen, but it’s important to note that the automotive community of Perth and surrounds is much, much more than this. Whether it be massively organised meets and cruises, smaller cruises with a group of mates, arranged ride days with motorcycle clubs or just a cruise down the coast with a few friends, the car scene is more than meets the innocent eye. For those in it, public scrutiny not only results in a bad reputation but an even harder time with police, especially for those with vehicles modified in any way.

In this feature, we will be exploring and identify the flip side to this negative stereotype through the analysis of three case studies. These will be; through how groups such as Custom Cars and Coffee WA aim to unite people with a common cause through a safe and controlled environment, how the car scene has united at times of need- such as for the late Brendon Verschuer- and how being associated around cars can benefit you socially.

Case Study One: Custom Cars and Coffee Group

In any community, people share common interests and these are the fuel to the fire for most people’s passions. In Perth alone, more than 50 different automotive groups exist, some big, some small. Some of these are niche and some are widely accepting. For most, these communities and groups offer not only a safe place, but a sense of belonging.

Custom Cars and Coffee’s impressive atmosphere. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

To be considered a car group or car club can be quite a broad topic. For some in Perth, clubs can be more exclusive, or require a form of membership. Take the ‘BMW Club of Western Australia’. A more intimate group, for the more mature-minded owner, membership is required to this club. As part of the membership, owners receive individual stickers and invitations to private functions and car cruises, such as ‘show and shines’ and ‘track days’. Other clubs, such as events hosted by ‘Royal Car Scene’, or even ‘North of the River Club’ are public, and allow anyone and anything to attend their events, whether they be cruises or events. Clubs can also exist based on owning a certain type of car, such as the ‘Perth Chrysler 300C Owners Club’, or ‘Perth Steel Bumper Car Cruises’, these clubs are designed to welcome and accept individuals who have specific vehicles. I personally am part of many of these, and in most cases, you surround yourself with very similarly minded people, whilst also having an opportunity to learn from others who know about the same car as you. Despite the wide variety of clubs, they all share the same ambition, to fuel the inner rev head in you.

Arguably Perth’s biggest group, Custom Cars and Coffee was formed seven years ago by organiser Jamie Fuller and his family. For him, starting Custom Cars and Coffee was a way he could not only provide the car scene at the time with something it was missing, but was an opportunity to start and host something different.

“At the time, Perth’s car culture was either Sunday afternoon coastal cruises with old blokes, or Saturday night carpark meets with burnouts and P-platers,” says Mr Fuller.

“There was never any clubs or groups which accepted, basically everything really.”

Owner Jake Chescoe showing a fellow enthusiast his VF SS Ute Photo: Anthony Matteo.

For Jason and his family, the idea behind Custom Cars and Coffee was to provide an event open for all, with the idea that you could come down to the meet spot, park up, grab yourself some food and a coffee and enjoy the morning looking at the variety of cars and motorcycles on display. At the time, most car meets involved a cruise to multiple stops, so this was something different at the time.

“As the years rolled on, it became more and more popular,” says Mr Fuller.

“As the popularity grew, the space available decreased, so today we operate out of two of Perth’s largest open spaces for car shows: Perth Motorplex and Midvale Speed Dome.”

A video from the August meeting of Custom Cars and Coffee. Video: Jason Fuller.

Not only do they provide a welcoming and open event for everyone of all ages, but they also provide opportunities for local businesses, as well as previously raising funds for charities.

“Up until the start of this year … I would on behalf of the group, donate to the Asthma Foundation of WA through the funds we raise through hosting our events. Last year we donated over $4000,” says Mr Fuller.

“However increased operating costs and additional insurances have made the size of the donation this year more challenging.

“Instead, we are looking at offering the opportunity for more vendors to come down and operate during our events.”

One of the coffee vendors at Custom Cars and Coffee. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

Currently, to fuel the ‘coffee’ element to their meet, the club has four mobile coffee vendors and two other small businesses, as well as at least one food van.

“We want to have more local businesses down at our events, as it’s a way we want to give back to the community, through providing a platform for local businesses to grow,” says Mr Fuller.

For the Fuller family however, what makes the event special is the atmosphere.

“Custom Cars is a really unique event, it provides a safe platform for people, of all ages and demographics, to come down, show their car off, no matter what it is and just feel welcomed,” says Mr Fuller.

Show attendees admiring a Honda CR-X. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“We have a really family-orientated platform, I often see families walking around, pointing at cars and this really makes me happy because this is something I never shared with my Dad … and hopefully it starts the fire in the youngsters bellies [a passion for cars].”

Showcasing the number of cars and people on display at Custom Cars and Coffee. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

For most, Custom Cars and Coffee is the best event around because it doesn’t encourage you to be an idiot. It is not how most media outlets portray car clubs, and works really hard at establishing itself to have a family friendly environment.

For Perth JDM member Lachy Bird, he tries attending every time CCC is on.

“I love coming down,” says Mr Bird.

“Although they are on a Sunday morning, I try every month to come down.

“The variety of cars on display is amazing … everyone and everything is welcome. Everyone is really well behaved and best of all, it’s a beautiful way to start your morning.”

For any automotive enthusiast, it is really satisfying to see such a positive event. Open to all makes of vehicles and bikes, it is a positive event that you should get around.

Case Study Two: Coming Together as One

Brendon Verschuer’s RBR33 Nissan Skyline. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

No matter what the passion is, those who share it enjoy coming together and getting to know one another. This is the same in the car community. No matter what someone’s social skills or social confidence are, people often express themselves through their cars and bikes. Through doing this, not only do they get the opportunity to meet new people, but to establish a reputation for both themselves and their car. And this was the case for the late Brendon Verschuer, owner of a Nissan R33 Skyline, with the famous number plate ‘RBR33’.

Brendon Verschuer. Photo: Verschuer Family.

Inheriting a passion for cars from his Dad, Brendon was a quiet kid who loved cars, no matter what they were. A regular attendee at car meets, Brendon was a hard-working teenager who worked two jobs to afford modifications and parts for his pride and joy.

“He worked as a grounds keeper at the Armadale golf course, and then when he wasn’t working there, he was working at a local computer shop,” say his parents Guy and Julie Verschuer

“When he first got his P Plates, if he wasn’t working, he would be washing his car and going out for a drive to unwind … this was his special ritual.”

For Brendon however, what made him special was his unique ability to unite and accept people.

“Brendon was polite, friendly and trusting … he helped a lot of people,” says Mr and Mrs Verschuer.

“He was never angry and was very well mannered, he and his brother had a great relationship, a healthy one and I think he carried this relationship over to his friends.

Brendon’s family property, where ‘Brendon’s Bay’ is, his final resting place. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“He was very well known, yes because of the uniqueness of his car, but because of how trusting and accepting he was … you could have never met him and he’d come up to you, introduce himself and shake your hand, that’s the kind of boy he was.”

Unfortunately for the Verschuer family, their lives were turned upside down on 26th November 2018, after Brendon tragically passed away, not behind the wheel, but at home. Passing in the presence of his beloved family and Skyline, he left a huge void in the hearts of those who knew him.

At his passing, his parents, who were not on social media, had to somehow share the news.

“We asked our son Josh to post something on Brendon’s Facebook to let all his friends know, and we were just overwhelmed with the response,” says Mrs Verschuer.

Guy Verschuer (left), Julie Verschuer (Middle) and Josh Verschuer (Right) standing by Brendon’s Skyline. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“We put up a post explaining and verifying to people what had happened … it received over 500 likes and over 100 comments, dozens of shares.

“What was clear through this was the size of the impact he’d had on others.”

After confirming the details of his passing, Brendon’s Facebook went into melt down, with people posting tributes, messages, photos and support by close friends, car mates, colleagues, family members, and even people he’d met only once. After seeing such a response, the family decided to have an open funeral to allow people to say their final goodbyes.

“We put up a post prior to the funeral with details about it,” says Mr Verschuer.

“We expected a couple cars sure, but nothing of what happened on the day.”

His funeral was immense. More than 30 vehicles formed a parade behind his Skyline, his family’s HSV and his family’s Falcon, cruising in harmony and formation from the funeral home to the crematorium. No silly driving, just respect. Coupled with this, special commemorative events were organised in his memory to not only unite those who knew him, but to celebrate his life and the passion he often regularly practised.

“We had [and continue to] have huge support from Michael Usher, president of Royal Car scene, who co-arranged a meet in his honour. It was amazing, the turnout was massive,” says Mr Verschuer.

Josh Verschuer (Right) and Brendon Verschuer (Middle) making adjustments in the engine bay at a cruise back in 2018. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“When we arrived at the ‘Cruise for Brendon’ as it was called, most of the Hillarys Marina carpark stop was full.

“When we parked up in his Skyline, everyone was respectful, offering condolences and hugs and basically wanting to just get a glance of the car and have their moment with Brendon’s car.

“… no one was stupid, everyone was there for Brendon, and you could feel his presence. Even the police were respectful, as they knew what the purpose of the event was for.”

In the end, more than 200 cars linked up to the cruise in Brendon’s memory. For the family, not only was it overwhelming, but extraordinary to see just the sheer impact their son had made. The hardest hit however was his brother Josh Verschuer, who drove the car on this night.

“I always went to meets with him, so it was really hard to go to a meet without him physically there,” says Josh.

Brendon and Josh Verschuer in attendance at a meet in 2018. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“Being there, surrounded with his mates and others who loved him, I could feel him there in my heart.”

As a family, the Verschuers could not be more grateful for everyone who not only attended the meet, but the funeral and who continue to share his memory, who represent Brendon’s ‘Gone but never forgotten’ stickers, and for those who talk about him and give him a special place in their heart.

“We couldn’t be more thankful,” says Mr and Mrs Verschuer.

“Every individual made our suffering that little bit easier because we could see Brendon living on inside them.

“It was so staggering to see the automotive community, a group which is so negatively stereotyped, come together in such unity in wake of such a tragic event.”

As a family, the Verschuers want to continue to honour their son’s legacy, finishing the build he set off to complete. They want to drive it and enjoy it, just like Brendon did, and for Josh, to honour the vision his brother had.

Brendon’s tribute stickers. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“We attended so many meets together, whether it be a Skyline meet, a Royals meet, or even Custom Cars and Coffee, we did it together because we loved cars. I for one want everyone else to share this experience.”

As the stickers say, Brendon, is gone but never forgotten. Every day is a loss, however a unique coming together at your passing showed the power and unity the car community in Perth has. Gone, but never forgotten.

Case Study Three: The Personal Impact

Whether you’re a meet regular, enjoy a casual cruise with mates or just enjoy working and tinkering with your pride and joy, the passion for cars is fluid. Whether you have a brand-new Euro, a classic Aussie Holden or Ford, a historic, a 90’s Japanese legend or a classic American, so-called rev heads individually share the same passion, the same love for cars.

For most, the best part is not sharing this passion, not getting out and about, but meeting people and making new mates through the common passion.

For event regular Nicholas Garnett from the Perth Subaru Alliance, cars have always been a passion of his, even before he got his license.

“I always loved Holdens when I was growing up,” says Nicholas.

“My brother had a passion for Japanese cars however, Skyline’s, Impreza’s, Mazda’s and those alike and this rubbed off on me when I was looking for my first nice car.

“I looked at heaps of Holden Commodores, but they did not give me that sensation, then one day, I test drove this Silver WRX, and I was in love and the rest is history.”

Car enthusiast Nicholas Garnett: Photo: Anthony Matteo.

For Nicholas, car meets are more than a coming together of people with a common interest, but an opportunity to not only see people and their cars, but to meet new faces and make new friends.

“When I left school, I did not know many people, and this was tough because I was a bit of an emotional wreck,” he says.

Nicholas feels many of his mates he has today have been through meeting people at car events. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

“But through the common passion of cars, I began to meet new people, who share a common passion … so it means we usually share some similarities.

“It is these couple people you meet which start the ball rolling for you.”

As social groups exist at these meets, it’s quite astonishing to see individuals walk up to cars or even these groups and embark in conversation, even if they have no idea who any of the people there were.

“It is definitely one of the most unique and fascinating things about the car community,” says Nicholas.

“Whether it be a group of mates out together, or a larger meet like Custom Cars and Coffee, people are there for a common purpose. If you don’t know each other, introduce yourself … nothing bad can happen!

“I can safely say that the majority of my best mates I have today, I have met through the car scene, it’s really amazing.”

For others, the most common thing is that car events are a break from reality. Whether you’re having a tough time, or are a little under the weather, car meets are often seen as an escape. You always seem to have things that make you laugh, things at meets that make you smile, things that shock you, and things that impress you. Whether this be laughing at someone’s actions, being impressed by a car, or just enjoying the moment, everyone can attend meets, no matter the strength of your passion, and grasp the same feeling.

For these so-called rev heads, a link is oftenly made between someone’s personal self and their passion. Cars are a way that a person can individually represent themselves, through modifications, their driving style or even the way they present their car. Whether it’s an expensive car or not, people are united by this common cause.

For Jason Fuller, the best thing about the car community would have to be the individuals themselves.

“Without like-minded people, me and my family would not continue to do what we do,” says Mr Fuller.

“Without people wanting to come together, of all ages, to experience an event like no other with the established reputation that we have, people will always continue to embrace his and other like-minded events, to share about and express their passion.”

The car community is a place for people of all genders, backgrounds and walks of life, to share in a common passion. Photo: Anthony Matteo.

For Guy and Julie Verschuer, not only do they want to continue their son’s legacy, but they wish to preserve his memory.

“Whether its myself or Josh driving the Skyline, it sends shivers down our spine. Every time we take it out to stretch its legs, we have cars wave at us or take photos when we stop, it’s amazing the legacy it has in the Perth Car Community,” says Mr Verschuer.

“We want to keep it alive. We plan to finish Brendon’s car, getting it to how he wanted. We’ve built and completed ‘Brendon’s Bay’, the workshop Brendon always wanted where the RBR33 lives, complete with a hoist and his favourite photos. Now we want the car to be completed and we also want to get a mural done, all before his first anniversary.”

For Josh Verschuer however, the emotion is still there, but the power of the memory is just as evident.

“I am still shocked at how many people miss and remember him … just look at his Facebook profile and the people with his stickers.”

These case studies demonstrate there is more to the car community then what the news media portrays. It is a community which is strong, vibrant and alive. One that has a lot to offer. Yes, people sometimes do the wrong thing, and the bigger picture is that a passion for cars can be a force that unites people. Whether it’s at a unique event like Custom Cars and Coffee or other similar nature meets, or a casual drive or ride with friends, I think it’s important that everyone at least attend one meet in their lifetime, it may spark something for you. As part of writing this article, I had the pleasure of experiencing a variety of events. This resulted in me having the opportunity to meet and speak to some new people and learn a thing or two that I did not know about. Unfortunately, as tragic as it was, I think everyone should know and see Brendon’s story as an inspiration to be the best person you can be, and to just be accepting of everyone, no matter what they drive or who they are. Brendon’s loss has left a huge void in the hearts of those who knew him personally, I for one. I guess you also never know, it might be the next person you meet at that next meet that could become a mate. So, I guess I’ll be seeing you on Sunday morning at the next Custom Cars and Coffee?

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