Hong Kong's Car Culture Is A Fascinating Mix Of Heroes And Junkers

Hong Kong has a population of around 7.5 million. It’s one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world, with around 16,948.9 people per square mile. They’ve got a ridiculous tax system on cars and you can’t drive left-hand drive cars on the road unless you have a “special movement permit.” Naturally, it has a pretty interesting car culture, and not just for the notorious junkers—though there’s definitely that too.

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All these complications would put a lot of people off from owning a car, but for the true gearheads in Hong Kong that’s just a small challenge to overcome for their love of cars. And they sure do love their cars.

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I was in Hong Kong for five days and my time was split between sightseeing, eating, and checking out the car scene. The sights and the food are much better reasons to visit Hong Kong—the cars are just a bonus.

I enlisted the help of my friend Aaron Chung to show me around the car scene. He’s a local automotive photographer and he’s helped out before. The first stop on this trip was to check out the Sunday Morning Drive. It’s basically Hong Kong’s equivalent of a cars and coffee meet or a Daikoku Sunday morning meet.

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The meeting point was in the Central District of Hong Kong near the International Finance Center. From here cars will go on to one of Hong Kong’s many popular meeting points; Tai Mei Tuk, Shek O, and Luk Keng.

Ferrari 458 Speciale, a reminder of simpler times

Apparently people have been meeting at these places since forever. A quick Google image search will bring up some incredible cars such as McLaren F1s, CLK GTRs, and Porsche 911 GT1s. Those were back in the day. Nowadays it’s mostly 911s of the non-GT1 variety, Subarus, and Aston Martins.

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To be fair, the DB2 Drophead Coupe by Graber you see up top was a rare and beautiful sight. Different cars show up to the different SMD points, it’s not common for cars to go from one point to another in the same morning.

Porsche 911 Speedster at Shek O

But what unites the three popular meeting points are the roads that lead up to them, Shek O in particular. They’re all at the end of tight, winding roads while Shek O rises above the rest by literally being on a mountain. These guys could’ve chosen any other car park; there are definitely bigger ones available, but you just know they chose the car park at Shek O because they wanted to drive up a mountain road every Sunday morning.

A very nice Subaru Impreza STI S203... 1 of 555

Hong Kong seems to have several car clubs as well. While we waited at the Central meeting point, both the Lamborghini and McLaren clubs had drives going on at the same time. The McLaren drive was about half a dozen cars driving together while the Lambo crew were heading to the Hyatt Regency in the North. We opted to go join the Lambos instead.

The meeting point at Central
“They were already there officer”

When we arrived at the Hyatt Regency there was also a MR2 Club meet happening with a stray R34 GT-R, an FC RX-7, and a widebody FD RX-7. Seeing all these colorful sports cars with varying modifications down below was almost like an appetizer course to what was parked up at the valet of the hotel. Rows and rows of bright Lamborghinis, plus one McLaren who probably didn’t get the memo.

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Amazingly, there was a Verde Zeltweg Ferrari 16M parked in the garage of the Hyatt. It was perhaps the most stunning example of a 16M I’ve seen. There’s just something about dark green Ferraris.

Random MR2 gathering
Find the odd one out

After a short visit to the Hyatt we headed further North to Luk Keng to try out our luck. There were a few Japanese sports cars again. They’re particularly fond of Type R Hondas in Hong Kong. I think I saw more Type Rs there than I have in Tokyo. There were also a few Porsches and Lotuses.

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However, it was the Citroën DS Station Wagon and the Tommy Kaira ZZ caught my eye. The DS Wagon is just a pure charmer and seeing one out here in the middle of nowhere outside Hong Kong, of all places, was a pleasant surprise.

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The Tommy Kaira, however, shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was. I got a sense most of Hong Kong’s gearheads are fans of JDM culture and grew up with all the Japanese manga, anime, and video games.

Citroen DS Wagon
Seeing a Tommy Kaira outside Japan was an odd experience

You’ll get what I mean if you wander around the streets and bridges of Hong Kong looking for cars. You don’t need to venture out to these meeting points to see a whole host of cars from different eras and areas of the world. Everything from classics to European exotics, JDM heroes and even a velvet covered Hummer can be seen randomly around the streets of Hong Kong.

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I spent most my time walking around Wan Chai area on Hong Kong island, which is where most of the streets spots are from.

We randomly came across this Mercedes CLK63 Black Series
Stop, look and listen

I mentioned bridges as well because it seems to be a popular vantage point for the local spotters. The roads do get quite busy and with multiple lanes on each side it’s easy to miss a car if you’re on ground level. It didn’t take long to see a nice mix of cars including a first-generation Aston Martin Vanquish, a Ford Focus RS, a couple of Mitsubishi Evos, and an early ’90s Rolls Royce Silver Spirit which was a reminder of the British background of Hong Kong.

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You’ll also notice some of the modified vans. Hong Kong seems to have a van culture as alive as Japan’s.

Mitsubishi Evo IV
Aston Martin Vanquish S with dual HK/Chinese plates

We checked out some of the showrooms around Hong Kong too because while there are some interesting cars out on the road, all the good stuff are hidden away in private garages and stores in showrooms spread throughout the city.

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For obvious reasons most of the showrooms wouldn’t allow photos to be taken except a couple: Classics Racer and Pagani Hong Kong. Luckily Pagani Hong Kong had one of the three Huayra Dinastia on display in their showroom located in an industrial area. They estimate there’s around 30 Paganis in Hong Kong today, and at the peak there were around 30 Zondas alone. The reason being is their availability in right-hand drive. It was just a shame I saw none on the road.

Pagani Huaray Dinastia
Inside the Classics Racer showroom

Classics Racer may be familiar to some of you—they were the guys who took five Subaru Imprezas on an incredible 6100km tour around South East Asia last year, starting from Hong Kong and finishing up in Malaysia via China, Laos, and Thailand. Unfortunately the Imprezas weren’t in the showroom, but there were some equally interesting cars such as a time-attack Porsche 911 from Japan, a Ford Escort Cosworth RS, a mint Datsun 240Z, a Nissan Skyline GT-R, and a right-hand drive Lamborghini Countach. That was bizarre to see, as I’ve only seen left-hand drive Countachs in Japan.

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Thanks a tip from Jalopnik’s David Tracy and his brother Mike, the latter of whom lives here, we headed off to Kam Tin Road in search of some of these notorious forgotten junk cars. If you ever had any doubts, it’s a real thing here.

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The first tone we saw was an Isuzu Vehicross in some bush. The Vehicross is odd enough as it is but this one had a weird two-tone paint scheme with painted bumpers. As we explored the area a bit more we came across more sad sights including a Mitsubishi GTO, a Lexus GS F, and a blue Nissan 240Z.

An abandoned Isuzu Vehicross

I asked if the 240Z was for sale but unfortunately it wasn’t. There goes my Wangan Midnight dreams.

Wangan Midnight anyone?

Before we realized daylight was fading away, so we headed back to the city. Hong Kong is one of those cities that still buzzes at night. Shops don’t close until way late into the night so there are still people out and about at 11 p.m. There’s still a chance to see some cars driving around at night, if not parked outside a fancy hotel or near some restaurants.

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I couldn’t go to Hong Kong without visiting the famous Peninsula Hotel. Luckily there was one of their green Rolls Royce Phantoms parked outside as well as a green Huracan at the valet.

At least it’s green

After returning back to Tokyo from this trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about Hong Kong. The variety of cars on the streets and at the meets, the East meets West culture and atmosphere, the ease of getting around the city since it’s quite compact—it’s a fascinating place, very much worth a visit.

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It’s now one of my favorite places to visit, I’ll definitely be back again soon for the food, the sights, the cars, and more food.

Source : https://jalopnik.com/hong-kongs-car-culture-is-a-fascinating-mix-of-heroes-a-1823251884

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