I'll never forget the first time I met Evan Brown.
It was a warm summer morning in Long Beach, and I had just pulled up to The Hoonigans' new headquarters on an unrelated matter. The lone vehicle in the parking lot was a blacked-out Bluebird school bus towing a badass FC3S Mazda RX-7 that looked like it came straight out of a late-'90s Initial D sketch. As I got closer, I noticed the bus had Oregon plates and what looked to be a couch, loft bed, row of cabinets, two dogs, and a bunch of plants inside; sitting outside of it was a guy in a thoroughly punk tee with its sleeves ripped off, covered from the neck down in tattoos, reading some beatnik literature through a pair of thrift-store bifocals that sat crooked from a missing arm. "Either this guy is trying way too hard," I thought, "or he just doesn't give a fuck about anything." Turns out I would be wrong on both counts.
I extended a cheerful "What's up!" He replied with a quiet but friendly, "Hey man! My girlfriend's sleeping." Weird ... I didn't see anyone else around. I changed the subject:
"Is this your RX-7?"
"This thing is badass!"
"Thanks, man! Lemme show you around."
Thoroughly impressed with the car (which we'll get into in a sec) after a 5-minute talk, I got down to brass tacks—just who was this character?
"You live around here?"
"No, we just drove down from Oregon." [There was that "we" again.]
"Oh, nice. Where are you staying?"
"At the shop??"
"No, probably here in the parking lot. Or in the alley. Wherever we can park this thing [nodding toward the bus]."
No doubt picking up the confusion I was wearing like a bright yellow Dumb and Dumber-esque leisure suit, Evan opened the rear door of the bus and my understanding of him became clearer. As cool as the FC was, he'd put loads of work into this bus, fitting it with a raised hardwood floor and walls, homemade loft-style furniture (bed, desk, bookshelves, stow-away containers, cabinets, etc.), and decorating the interior small-house style with pretty much every living necessity that can't be found in a 24 Hour Fitness locker room... or the Hoonigans' bathroom. I also met his girlfriend, Alexis, who was camping out inside and who I would later come to realize is basically the yin to his yang.
"You live out of this thing?"
"Yeah, most of the time."
"What do you do for a living?"
"Whatever. Photography, graphic design, sometimes odds and ends jobs... This time I'm going to help produce content and design for Hoonigan for a bit. Then, who knows?"
Per Tyler Durden's philosophy of reaching rock bottom—rejecting cultural norms like maintaining a regular job, choosing a socially acceptable fashion style, or priding ourselves in consumerist acquisitions—Evan and Alexis were living it, enjoying the freedom to go anywhere and do anything they wanted, making what they needed, and simply not concerning themselves with the judgment of others.
And in that vein, Evan's RX-7 is a perfect fit.
Evan grew up in and around Portland, Oregon, and his first encounter with automotive enthusiasm came at a young age when a friend who was into Japanese car culture showed him some early Option and Hot Version videos. Evan liked what he saw: the craftsmanship and camaraderie of tightly knit enthusiasts who built their cars to do exciting things, and the dedication they shared to define a burgeoning high-performance art form. As a tinkerer and an artist, it was right up his alley. But a desire to see the world firsthand had him hitchhiking and jumping freighters across the U.S.—a lifestyle that limited personal possessions to what could fit in a backpack, and certainly didn't allow for things like building cars.
He made his way to New York City and found a niche doing creative work in the city's fashion industry for a while, but when the combination of getting burnt out on its pretentious nature, and getting his left leg crushed by a 12-ton box truck while on his bicycle one day, brought that adventure to an end, Evan decided to head back home and regroup. He bought a retired school bus he could later sell at a profit, packed it up, and stabbed Westward.
He reconnected with hometown friends and took another look at cars and the subculture phenomenon drifting had become as a way to satisfy his thirst for adventure and creativity. He worked odd jobs, flipped cars (even that original bus for the current one), focused on photography and videography as a way to document and share his experiences, gradually sold off his worldly possessions, and finally took the plunge on a project car of his own.
Evan had always liked the styling of the FC3S Mazda RX-7. By this time it had become a proven chassis for drifting and enjoyed loads of aftermarket support. When he found what he calls a "screaming deal" on a shell, halfway-built GM LS1/LS6 engine, and a collection of parts needed for the conversion, he took over the project and got his hands dirty. His goal: to build something that he could maintain himself, that would hold up to regular drifting abuse, and would embody the spirit of the cars that first inspired him to do it all.
The LS1 V-8 was a perfect fit, literally, in that the FC's engine bay and transmission tunnel accommodate the swap easily with a few adapter pieces, and figuratively in the 500 whp and 465 lb-ft of torque it produces with its high-flowing LS6 cylinder heads, custom-ground Comp cam and Scorpion roller rockers, and bare-bones fuel system and engine management. A complete Abercrombie Motor Sports angle kit increases steering to drift-friendly reaches, and hardware like the Ksport Slide Kontrol Drift coilovers and Villains rear steer eliminator bushings firm up the footwork. Factory mounts, bushings, and control arms elsewhere—along with Evan's choice of a sprung-hub ACT Stage 2 clutch—provide just enough give in the drivetrain to keep from breaking the car's stock differential and axles. To date, he's logged an estimated 30+ drift days on the setup without a hitch.
But, of course, the appearance of the car also played a large part. Its BN Sport-style aero looks the part (yes, they're replicas—who can afford to replace $1K bumpers each time out?). Those graphics were no accident, either, designed by Ian Dillon—his artwork can be found on several Formula Drift pro competition cars. And then there are those louvers on the hatch. FCs tend to bake on the inside when you remove all carpeting and insulation, and then cram 500+ hp of V-8 exhaust, transmission friction, and roasting time underneath them. Evan was looking for a way to vent the car's cabin a little better, and when he saw this Mazda factory accessory in an FC catalogue online, he reckoned he could use them to replace the car's rear glass entirely, saving some weight in the process.
Back to that bus... Evan built it roughly in parallel with his RX-7, and with the two done, decided to go back to his nomadic, thrill-seeking roots and once again sell his worldly possessions (at least, the ones he doesn't need to maintain the two) and travel his state, the western seaboard, and probably eventually the rest of America, enjoying the freedom to explore the camaraderie, dedication, and excitement of grassroots drifting wherever he finds it.
Evan's probably not going to become a professional drifter, even though a personality as bold as his is exactly what the pro ranks could use more of. For as much as I've learned he cares about his journey in life, the people in it, and the communities he is a part of, I don't think he really cares about that. I think he's happiest with Alexis and the dogs, friends at drift bashes, track days, and living life at large, where the only real rules are "have fun" and "enjoy."
Evan sold everything he didn't need; packed up his important belongings into a school bus, which he converted into a mobile home/office; then travelled down the West Coast from Oregon to Southern California trailering his FC. He plans to take on more adventures in the upcoming months, bringing his RX-7 to more grassroots drift events and telling people his story as well as showing off his magical school bus.