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The Cars of HMA 2017

John Schommer
Thursday, December 28, 2017

 

As your humble Forza community writer, I have had the pleasure of bringing you stories about cars and car people for going on six years now. 2017 brought even more opportunity with stories on some of the biggest names in motorsport to compliment stories from the Forza community and the cars of Forza games.

 

When I was asked to interview influential figures in the car and racing world for the Voices of Motorsport project for Forza Motorsport 7, the year got even more awesome. So, this year as we take a look back at the stories of Heavy Metal Affliction from 2017, I will include some additional adventures that made the year the best yet as Johniwanna.

 

So let’s kick off the time machine and go for a ride.

 

January

The year was off to an awesome start with an interview with Ken Block. Block had recently released the epic Gymkhana 9 which had some hat tips to Forza Horizon 3 embedded in it. Block shared some of the details of how his epic stunt videos are made and talked about his love of all things rally among many other topics.

 

While Block is obviously a hard act to follow, we made the rest of January worth the effort of exercising your eyes with a feature on Jackie Heinricher who we featured in 2014 driving in the Ferrari Challenge. Heinricher is now racing Lamborghini’s in the Super Tropheo series. Then, when one of the first trophy trucks, the “Hay Hauler” showed up in the Blizzard Mountain Expansion for Forza Horizon 3, we had to feature it. It’s worth noting some of the details of this truck’s story have never previously been told, so it’s worth a read if you missed it.

 

Forza fans had their own car to cheer on in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. The Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, with livery by our own Ayo Jube, was raced throughout 2017 in the IMSA Weathertech series. This edition of Heavy Metal Affliction brought some perspective to how the partnership happened and what the team’s expectations were at the beginning of the season.

 

 

February

There are few brands known for the prestige and performance than that of Bentley. When the Bentley Bentayga came to Forza Horizon 3, not only did it become one of my goto racers in it’s awesome KISS livery, we got a chance to work with Bentley and tell you a bit about the company and the development of the Bentayga to get February started.

 

Now,I’ll be the first to admit that I never had much interest in Smart Cars, but when I got to know Oliver Whittaker and his ownership history with these little city cars, I found a new respect for the brand. Since you can’t even get a Smart For Four in the U.S., this was also an insight into a cool little ride that some of us might never get to see. Much more common, is the Subaru WRX STi, but not this special model. The WR1 is owned by Englishman Stuart Pearson. It’s another car you might never see in real life but worth reading about, especially if you are one of the many Subaru fans out there.

 

While Bentley has made its mark as a product of the U.K., which interestingly enough made for three stories from England in February, we come back to the States for a in-depth look at America’s most prestigious brand, Cadillac. Cadillac’s has always been known for their luxury, but their association with performance is now on par with some of the best cars in the world. The 2016 CTS-V was in the Playseat Car Pack for Forza Horizon 3 and was the showcase for this month end story on the hallowed marque.

 

 

March

I mentioned the Voice of Motorsport project in the intro, and by now I had already spent time talking with Gymkhana master Ken Block and Team Penske IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden. In March, I met with Red Bull GRC racer and all-around driving master Tanner Foust, in the sound studio and later saw my way to Atlanta to meet with his one-time Top Gear U.S. co-host Rutledge Wood.

 

Thanks to Ariel Fuentes of Argentina who shared his 1978 Chevy Nova with HMA back in 2014, we got a look at some more car culture from the South American country that was home to the great Juan Manuel Fangio. This collection of short stories shared different aspects of some Argentinian love of cars that is globally understood.

 

Next up, we all have our own unique car obsessions. For Jason Shulko, it’s the Chevy Beretta. This car lover has a cool collection of the sometimes forgotten mid-size sport sedan from GM. Shulko has raced them and collected the special models to compliment his eclectic garage full of Americana motors.

 

“If you are going to spend money to attend one show, go to Geneva.” Said Justin Osmer Senior Partner Manager for T10. We took an in-depth look at this year’s event and got some insight into what makes it the best show to attend.

 

Closing out what made for a long and awesome month, we got a look at a De Tomaso Pantera that is the pride and joy of a young Forza fan. Then we closed out March with a deep dive into the design and production of the TAMO Racemo from India that made its way in to Forza Horizon 3.

 

 

 

April

April was a little light for HMA, but the 4,300 pound 1973 Ford Gran Torino of Kevin Caveny made up for it. The second Torino to be featured in Heavy Metal Affliction isn’t a Starskey and Hutch replica like the previous one, but a well-kept survivor that shows why the Torino is a worthy subject.

 

 

That’s not to say it wasn’t a busy month for me. By the end of April I had spent a week in England where I sat down with Charlie Turner of Top Gear magazine. I also made a top secret trip to the McLaren factory where after entering through a series of elevators and tunnels I met with designer Mark Roberts is a hidden studio that made me feel like James Bond himself.

 

To close out what was already a mind-blowing month for a gearhead like me, I travelled to Los Angeles to talk with Porsche Factory driver and Porsche fanatic Patrick Long. We followed that interview up with some more time with Josef Newgarden who was already on his way what would be his first IndyCar championship. Meeting with Lyn St. James who has her own storied history in American open-wheel racing was incredible preparation for covering that weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

 

 

May

Along with May flowers, the month brought me to Los Angeles again to meet with my personal hero; Porschephile Magnus Walker. He had me sweating as he showed up fashionably late, but the time talking in person with the Urban Outlaw seared its way into my memory. Surely Matt Farah is no slouch to take second chair to Magnus, and a ride in his highly-tuned Focus RS ended up selling me on a new Fiesta ST. Pat Devereux of American Top Gear magazine made great conversation to close out a truly amazing day.

 

Getting right back to HMA, within Turn 10 we have our own aspiring rally driver in Phil Bergman. His 1995 Subaru Impreza is a full-blown rally racer that he has now seen through several events and found his way around mechanically.

 

 

Before we met 14-year-old Will Kinnard and his bone-stock bracket racing Nissan 350-Z, I would travel to Atlanta once again this time to meet with race-drivers Katherine Legge, and Shannon MacIntosh to capture their comments for Voices of Motorsport.

 

 

My final VOM adventure took me to Detroit. Here, my sound man and I went deep into the bowels of the Chrysler factory to a sound-proofed test room where I chatted with with none other than Ralph Gilles of Fiat Chrysler. The close of that trip took us to a rustic sound studio outside Detroit to talk with ex-Turn 10 Partner Manager and now Road & Track Editor Kim Wolfkill.

 

June

Not a lot of trucks have seen their way to Heavy Metal Affliction fame, but this K5 Blazer owned by Forza fan James Dean was certainly worthy. We followed the next week with a story about Colin Chapman’s car company Lotus, and the amazing Lotus 3-11, that you can find in the Mountain Dew Car Pack for Forza Horizon 3.

 

After years of writing about the most historic race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I finally found my way to the event in France. Over the course of four amazing days that included planes, trains and automobiles to get there, I walked the famed Mulsanne Straight while cars qualified and took photos of the world’s greatest race while helping run the Forza Racing Championship event we held on site.

 

 

Working with Shannon MacIntosh for VOM and also the FRC, where she played emcee, created some great material for a chance for Forza fans to get to know the racer and Porsche Experience instructor in her own Heavy Metal Affliction interview.

 

 

July

During what ended up being one of the hottest summers on record out here in the Pacific Northwest, I met Ferrari NW Chapter President William Howard. By his title alone you can tell Howard is obviously a Ferrari fan. His 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia is more than just a special day car, he drives it everywhere and it is about to hit 80,000 miles, making it one of the highest mileage 458s in the world.

 

 

Forza community member Kru Jones has made a name for himself as a tuner in the world of Forza. In the real world, the guy has owned an impressive list of cars, including his baby, this mildly-built 2001 Acura Integra GSR.

 

 

August

Facebook has been a source for many story leads, and when I saw this uncanny build doing it’s thing locally, I knew I had to track down the owner/builder Keith Northrup. The Trophy Rat did not disappoint when the Turn 10 crew and I got up close and personal with it.

 

 

In August, I got to know the guys at Hoonigan Industries as we prepared for the Hoonigan Live Stream event to which I played host. Sitting around with Hoonigans Hert and Jon Chase as well as Turn 10 Design Director Jon Knowles talking cars and Forza was a blast. Not to mention being up close and personal with the actual cars.

 

 

I guess that went over well, because a couple weeks later I was back with the Hoonigans sharing the Forza Motorsport 7 demo and racing with them. Unfortunately, my racing skills did not out do what Hert and crew were able to bring, but a good time was had nonetheless.

 

Getting to know these guys was put to good use in a couple feature stories. First off we featured Jon Chase and the killer Tri-Five by Fire gasser drag car. Then we closed out the dog days of summer with a feature on Hert and his Twerkstallion.

 

 

September

It was a long awaited journey as we built up the hype on the Turn 10 Ford GT. But when Turn 10 Big Boss Alan Hartman’s Heritage Edition Ford GT showed up at the studio, nothing could beat the sight of the thing in real life. So this story on Hartman and his Ford GT tried to convey some of what made this process so special.

 

 

Over the summer Formula Drift finds its way to Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington. While covering the event, I met up with Aussie Josh Robinson and got a good look at his awesome drift Ute. This 2016 Holden VF Maloo, has been built from the ground up for drifting and has been seeing Robinson through his drifting dreams.

 

 

October

In July, nearby Pacific Raceways plays host to the premier vintage races for the region. Among the many cars that compete, “Gilbert” the racing Beetle is my far and away favorite. I spent some time with owner Steve Smith to learn the car is one of the most documented racing Beetles in the world.

 

On the same topic of vintage racing, Forza fan Scott Warner built this 1965 Mustang Fastback in the style of what the privateer racers of the 1960s took up against the factory sponsored teams. This highly researched, built to spec, race car is a treat to the eyes as much as a weapon on the track.

 

October also brings the annual Microsoft Car Show, which has led to several Heavy Metal Affliction stories in the past. This year was the best show ever, and when I saw this Cadillac CTS-V Wagon owned by Adam Cramer, I knew I had to share it with you. Cramer heads up a unique car club called AVANTS, and their slogan is “Drive Everything.” Read up to learn more in case you missed this edition.

 

 

November

Hosting the most diverse line-up of cars featured in HMA ever is the month of November. We started out with what is arguably one of the most famous drift cars of all time; the Mona Lisa from Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. This is one of the surviving movie cars from the film, and it’s 2017 renovation made it even more awesome.

 

What may seem as the Mona Lisa’s polar opposite, is the 2014 BMW i3 owned by Xbox Global Marketing Manager Chris Bishop. I was actually quite taken by the i3 and spending some time in it assuaged some of the fear of EVs that bodes heavily in our future. For example, did you know the i3 is rear-wheel drive? Me neither, and there is much more good news featured herein.

 

2017 also marks the return of Alfa Romeo to the American market, and with it the hallmark model the Guilia. Fred Russel is a profound car nut of the Alfisti persuasion who has spent his life in the pursuit of loving the all-time winningest brand in racing. His new Guilia Ti Sport Q4 heralds his personal enthusiasm toward being able to love not only classic Alfa models but the new fleet as well.

 

To round out this crew of diverse car types, we take a trip back in time to 1951 and James Bernstrom’s Hudson Hornet. The Hornet, if you didn’t know made a mark on NASCAR racing that has yet to be bested. Bernstrom’s Hornet bears the Twin-H Power NASCAR engine and is a restoration that took a nation of Hudson parts sources and mechanical know-how to build and it is nothing less than magnificent.

 

 

December

When I joined the aforementioned AVANTS car club I soon met Kevin Flynn via a post about a Bring A Trailer car auction he had just won. As the next piece in his well-thought through car collection, his 1992 Lancia Delta Integrale Evolution nails the “driver’s car” spot impeccably.

 

We started out 2017 big with Ken Block and we close on a similarly high note with a two-part interview with Mike Spinelli. In the car journalist world, Spinelli has been creating awesome content through the biggest venues in online and print media. In part one we get to know Spinelli’s path to greatness through Jalopnik, 0-60 magazine, and the /DRIVE network. In part two you will learn about the cars the man has owned over the years and his pride and joy, a 2002 Jaguar XJR 100.

 

 

These past 12 months have been a journey that I will never forget. Sharing the stories of the cars of Heavy Metal Affliction is something more than a job, it has become a part of my life, one that I cherish and am thankful for every day. To the fans of Heavy Metal Affliction, I shout out a huge “THANK YOU!” May 2018 continue to lead us all to the cars and stories that have made these years so valuable in my life, and hopefully yours too.