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Tuning: Joining the Dub Club


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by Conor Twomey

I know it sounds crazy, but there is something you should know about this car show: It actually has very little to do with cars.

The “Dub Magazine Superseries Celebrity Car Show and Concert” is a showcase for some of the finest “pimped out” vehicles on the planet, including a host of celebrity cars as well as custom vehicles from the companies that transform ordinary cars into one-of-a-kind rides. For those of you unfamiliar with Dub Magazine, it started out less than two years ago as a publication comprised of interviews with celebrities who want to generate a little publicity by showing off their blingmobiles. Since then it has rapidly evolved into the cornerstone of this whole new genre of car customization, to the point where Dub now even has its own line of accessories, sound systems, model vehicles and, of course, car shows and concerts.

Unlike the majority of tuner cars, the modifications made to the vehicles in Dub Magazine are generally not performance related. Usually the original car is a top-of-the-line model with a V-8 or V-12 engine and is therefore not really in need of more propulsive power.

Keepin” it wheel

Dub Show 2004Instead, the emphasis is on the looks and in particular the wheels, which must be “Dubs” if you want to be taken seriously. “Dubs” is the street name for any wheels with a diameter of 20” or more and anything sub-Dub just doesn’t cut the mustard, I’m afraid. There’s even one wheel manufacturer called “TIS” which stands for “Twenty Inches Strong” and their USP is that they write the size of the wheel in the center cap so there’s no doubts about your size.

Dubs generally tend to be chrome-plated with a clean mirror finish, so as to garnish more attention as they glisten in the Hollywood sunlight, and the designs vary from simple five and six-spoke wheels to bizarre asymmetrical patterns. If that’s not enough spangle for you then you can always opt for some spinners — usually six-spoke wheels with a second set of spokes that keep spinning after the car has stopped. They were made popular by NBA basketball player Latrell Sprewell after his brother (a custom-shop owner) put one of the first sets on his car, and they’re occasionally referred to as “Sprewells” as a result. The newest Spinners to hit the streets feature a simple spoke design on a black background plate (there are no holes in the wheel) that make the car look like a giant “Hot Wheels” toy when it’s stationary. When it’s moving, the weighted plate doesn’t move, creating the illusion that the wheels are stopped as the car glides by. It’s very dramatic and amusing to observe — a bit like automotive moonwalking, if you like.

The exterior finish is usually very clean, with a rich custom paint-job and some nice finishing touches like dark window tints, chrome mirrors and a hand-made “Struts” grille. Inside, the emphasis completely on luxury so expect multiple LCD screens and DVD players, video game consoles, massive bass-heavy sound systems, sumptuous fabrics and leathers (ostrich skin is the trim du jour) and perhaps some personalization in the form of monogrammed seats or embroidered floor mats. Okay, a lot of it isn’t exactly in the best taste, but you still have to admire the workmanship and skill that goes into its creation.

Outdoing other Dubbers

Dub Show 2004Naturally, everyone on the Dub scene is trying to outdo each other, so wheels are getting bigger and more outlandish. It’s now reached the point where someone has managed to cram 20” rims under a MINI, 24” wheels underneath an S-Class and monstrous 28” alloys into the wheel-wells of a HUMMER H2. Combined with super-slim tires, achieving such an extreme look can get very expensive. The wheels and tyres alone can cost as much as $20,000, before you even consider the work that has to be done to make them fit.

Fortunately for the pungently wealthy owners of most of these vehicles, “twenty Gs” is pocket change so you’ll often find a unique hydraulic suspension installed to make their ride driveable. Not that most of these cars get driven much. Terry Holly, proud owner of a magnificently finished pearlescent white Chevy Avalanche, rarely takes is truck out onto the highway. Instead, his vehicle (and the equally eye-popping Chevy Silverado and Ford Sport Trac of his two brothers Ricky and Desmond) sit in a garage under a cover between shows. This might seem like a frightful waste of $50,000, especially when you consider the bothers aren’t a wealthy rap trio. But to Terry, who’s actually an accountant, it’s money well spent. When I tell him he must look like a gangster driving around in it – a comment meant that literally and not entirely approvingly — he’s pretty pleased. “I really appreciate that, man,” he says, grinning. Apparently, that’s what Dubbing is all about.

When you drive a Dubbed vehicle, you’re telling the world that you enjoy the finer things in life — at least this is what the ladies at the show that I spoke to told me. A man driving such a machine has usually got a few bucks to spare, as well as an appreciation for the finer things in life. He enjoys the attention and respect of his peers and fellow motorists and he likes to look good. Mind you, many of these girls were every bit as, er, high-maintenance as the cars they’re drawn to, so at least they won’t look out of place in the passenger seat.

Dub Show 2004As I wander around the hall, the thump of Twista performing live in the background, I suddenly notice that most of the cars here are American-made machines. The trucks are obvious — no European or Japanese carmaker (with the exception of Porsche) builds an SUV that dares to compete with the wild ostentation of the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, or HUMMER H2. But why is the Chrysler 300 so popular? Why so many Dodge Magnums? Could it be that only an American car can look right Dubbed out? Did the 300’s designer, Ralph Gilles, deliberately target the hip-hop generation? (It’s surely no coincidence his own 300C rides on body-coloured Dubs.) Whatever the reason, fashionable celebrities have taken the handsome 300 to their bosoms, with P. Diddy, Shaquille O’Neal, Loon and Snoop Dogg amongst the list of proud owners. All the advertising in the world can’t buy that kind of street cred.

Once Nina Sky have finished their gyrating set and the parade of giggling cellulite known as the “Bikini Jam” is over, the crowd begins to dissipate and head home. They’ve been entertained, they’ve had a glimpse of the “playa” lifestyle and they’ve taken away ideas to adapt for their own rides. The Dub Celebrity Car Show and Concert is not just a car show, it’s also a fascinating insight into the lavish world of hip-hop, basketball and celebrity in America . The vehicles here are custom-made bling with wheels, meant to convey a message rather than passengers.

Like I said, this show really has almost nothing to do with the cars.

 
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