If you aren’t familiar with the name Mark Arcenal, it’s time to drop some knowledge on you. He’s the man behind popular brands Fatlace, Hellaflush and illest. A car enthusiast from day one, he hustled for over a decade in the corporate world but followed a dream. After starting an online blog called Caffemocha in ’97, the website evolved into Fatlace, which became his career.
But we’re most particularly interested with a name he helped put into our vocabulary—HellaFlush. It started as a little saying, which transformed into a popular website, brand and show series. And it didn’t just appeal to a few kids with home-built drift cars. HellaFlush didn’t discriminate against any make or model. All you had to do was have the right wheel offset and ride height and you were in.
SS: How did you come up with the term HellaFlush?
Mark: I didn’t actually. In ‘03, a friend of mine, Jerry Pham, mentioned that our drift cars were “HellaFlush!” I told him I was going to buy that URL. The website became a place where we would show off our cars and other friends’ drift cars around the world.
SS: What inspired you growing up?
Mark: I was always into slammed VW Bugs and Buses, BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) and later got into JDM. My sister and all her friends were into lowriders with their Acura Legends on Daytons and air. It was a time when everyone was into their cars so you had many ways to go. I always liked racing so I stuck with the look. In the early 2000s, I got into drifting and built drift cars, keeping the wheels close proximity to the fenders. My Audi A4 wagon was that style too but we didn’t coin the term yet. The idea was to always be flush and have the car as wide as possible. It made the most sense.
SS: Can you define the perfect HellaFlush look?
Mark: The perfect fitment is to run wide wheels, -2/-3° camber on a flattened wall without having to yank on the fender.
SS: What cars have you built?
Mark: A slew of VWs—’58, ’60 and ’62 Bugs, ‘64 Kombi, ‘84 GTI and ’03 Eurovan. There were also an ‘84 BMW 318i, ‘94 Integra, ‘98 Audi A4, ‘00 A4 Wagon, ‘00 Honda S2000, ‘08 BMW Wagon, a bunch of Land Rovers and a few more that I’ve probably missed. Presently, I’m building a ‘62 VW Panel, ‘69 Datsun truck, ‘72 Nissan Skyline GT2000, ‘89 Nissan Skyline GT-R, ‘90 Porsche 911 964 C4, ‘95 Nissan S14, ‘97 Civic EK, ‘06 Range Rover Sport (wife’s car) and a Nissan Armada to tow the cars to the track.
SS: There are a lot of car shows out there; what’s different about your HellaFlush and Slammed Society shows?
Mark: HellaFlush shows bring people with a similar styling together. It’s like having a be@rbrick party and everyone brings their favorite be@rbrick. Slammed Society on the other hand was created for everyone. It’s like an umbrella for HellaFlush, Time Attack, drag and cruising to all display their cars.
SS: What’s your take on the HellaFlush scene’s growth?
Mark: It’s not really a fad because it’s been with us for quite some time. It’s a style of tuning. What I do think is a fad is the over-exaggerated style of some. Mega camber isn’t the definition of HellaFlush.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the whole idea of flush and stance came from but in the European car community, it’s been going on for decades. With that being said, we thought it would be cool to give you some insight from three different personalities you normally wouldn’t read about in Super Street.
When European car owners think about suspension, the most popular brand is none other than H&R Springs. Like what Duracell is to batteries, H&R’s suspension products have been the most commonly used parts in Europe since the ‘70s. They offer a massive product range for all makes and they heavily support racing teams around the world. We contacted Roland Graef, the man who started H&R Springs North America, to give you a fresh perspective.
SS: How did you get started?
Roland: I used to work on my dad’s car when I was 4-5 years old. It was a ’64 Squareback and I would get the shop light for him. Then when I was old enough, I started doing my own cars. I built a mini-truck in the ‘70s but the car that got me in the industry was a ‘82 Cabrio with a Zender body kit, lowered and BBS RS001 wheels. I’ve built project cars all the time and then I started working for places that I kept buying parts from. I always wanted to work for a German company so I helped introduce H&R into the US in ’97.
SS: As one of the oldest suspension companies, how did H&R come about?
Roland: H&R was the first to offer a TÜV-approved lowering spring. It came from Mr. H and Mr. R who were both performance enthusiasts. They modified their own cars and saw other people wanted the same things. Companies made industrial springs but didn’t specialize in performance cars. H&R came together, went through all the formalities to get the springs approved by Germany and built a factory. Then it kept evolving.
SS: What are your ultra-low coilovers?
Roland: These are for real hardcore enthusiasts. They are really low and you really have to like it. You have to know how the stuff fits, what to look out for when driving low. It’s not for everybody. People who do it know what it takes to drive an ultra-low car. But they drive pretty well for what they are. We tune the suspension in-house so all you have to do is put them in and drive them.
SS: How do you come up with the lowering specs for each application?
Roland: We try to lower the vehicle as much as possible while still being drivable and usable. It all hangs on suspension limitations which is why we offer three different kinds of lowering springs, plus the different coilovers. But if you have a 3” gap between your fender and the tire, you don’t want to lower it 3”. You need to be able to drive the car too. You have to realize the car looks lower when you’re driving it and has to hold up to the real world. This doesn’t always hold up for show people but we make products for people who drive everyday.
SS: Tell us about spacers and why they’re cool.
Roland: We’re the first company to offer a spacer program. People were making steel spacers before but we came up with a specific alloy with a high tensile strength. Spacers really helped with three things. First, wheels that are buried inside cars look stupid. We want to build cars that look correct. With spacers, you could make your car look right without changing to aftermarket wheels. And you could install everything yourself. Second, with winter driving it helps widen the track, thus making the roll center longer. Since people used stock or narrower wheels on winter cars, spacers would keep the car looking correct and safe. Finally if you upgraded to a coilover, spacers moved the wheel and tire out so it wouldn’t rub against the suspension. The program started around ’93 and became bigger as time went on.
SS: How do you feel about the scene?
Roland: The scene is always getting more sophisticated more educated. People are asking better questions and I think the people are getting to know more. The market as a whole has gotten bigger too. It won’t be as big like in Europe where it’s second nature to buy your car from the dealer and “boom”—lower it. But there’s a lot of diversity and a lot of products that fill different people’s needs. Look at how many coilovers we offer for example— six lines. Everyone has different tastes and needs.
Air Lift Company
Contrary to what you might think, air-ride has been around longer than the show cars you saw in the ‘00s. The Air Lift Company introduced the original rubber air spring inserts in 1950. Now, they’re tearing up the scene offering complete kits for Euro, JDM and domestic markets. So we spoke to Corey Rosser who’s a manager for its performance division and has been a reason why the company is in the sport compact scene.
SS: Give us the lowdown on Air Lift.
Corey: Air Lift Company is fortunate to lay claim to a lengthy history of product development devoted to the purpose of engineering light vehicle air suspension products. Air Lift’s products began to hit the marketplace beginning in 1949. Post-war fascination with the automobile was at an all-time high and Air Lift was busy pioneering the use of air spring inserts in coil spring suspensions. Time, as they say, does not stand still and neither did Air Lift. Staying ahead of the curve, we introduced the use of sleeve-type air springs on pickup trucks in the ‘60’s. Then followed the use of air helper springs for motor homes in the ‘80’s and performance air suspension products for custom lowered vehicles in the ‘90’s. Today, Air Lift offers products for nearly everything including RV’s, commercial hauling, street rods, Euro and modern muscle.
SS: What’s your take on stance today?
Corey: The stance movement has revolutionized the market for a lot of aftermarket suspension manufacturers and has allowed air especially to become more universally accepted. With air it allows you to get that “show stance” you want without damaging fender lips, wheels and more thanks to its adjustability. I think it’s something that’s here to stay for quite some time and will begin to spread into other markets besides Euro and JDM.
SS: Does the performance of air really match up to standard suspension?
Corey: We design our suspension to ride and handle better than OEM. We test all high-end coilovers against our kits to ensure we are making air perform the way it was meant to. It’s a tough hill to climb going against coilovers but we have a team of engineers whose only goal is to prove that air is truly performance.
SS: Besides VW and Audi applications, what do you make for us?
Corey: In the Japanese market, we make kits for ‘92-00 Civic, ‘90-97 Accord, ‘98-02 Accord, Prelude, ‘95-99 Mitsubishi Eclipse, Scion xB and tC. We also are getting ready to introduce a line of universal struts that will be able to be used on a majority of Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, Infiniti and Nissan sedans and coupes.
SS: How long have you been involved with air suspension?
Corey: I am entering into my twelfth year in the suspension game (all of them with Air Lift), and it’s amazing how far companies have pushed the limits with suspension in both air and static. One of the main things I have learned is that you can’t sit still in this market—it’s ever-changing. Air suspension at the end of the day is more performance than people think and we are on the road 250 days a year telling that story!
Jason Whipple along with Brian Henderson started a company called Rotiform in ’09. In just two years, they became a household name in the European scene while gaining popularity with JDM heads as well.
SS: Can you give us a little history about Rotiform?
Jason: Rotiform was started in mid-‘09 by Brian and myself. We both grew bored working for others, doing the corporate thing. We were looking for ways to express our creative sides and really drive the bus the way we wanted. We knew that we had a style and culture that could be made into a viable business—so we scrounged up a little money, got our contacts and factories in check, and quit our cushy jobs to give it a go! Two years later here we are. It has been the hardest two years of my life, but nothing comes close to the feeling I get when I see someone driving on my wheels out on the streets. It’s really an amazing gratification. As far as our specialty… well the only specialty that really matters to me is giving our customers exactly what they want. I think that’s why we have been so successful with the stance crowd. We listen. We understand. We live it. We know that 3mm of offset can make or break the way your car will sit. We pay attention to details like that—so in a way, that is our specialty. It doesn’t matter if we are building a wheel for a race car or for a Civic on airbags, we treat it the same way. SS: Where did you personally come from with your passion for cars?
Jason: I have been playing with cars for over 20 years now. My first car was a ‘81 Civic 1300 dx hatch. It was awesome. I drove that car so hard, eventually smashing the oil pan while “rally” driving it on a gravel road. From there I got into VWs. I made some engine mounts for the VR6 cars called “Turn2” in the early 90’s. Then I started hanging out with a guy named Oliver Kuttner in Virginia who really was the catalyst for me automotively (is that a word? It should be.) He took me pro racing in the IMSA WSC class. We built a few cars to run in that series and in the 24hrs of Daytona—life changing experience for me. After that, I moved west and started working for BRITS (the AP Racing importer for the US at the time) selling real race parts to real pro race teams. Add in a stint doing WRX and 3rd-gen RX7 parts for a while. Then it was on to STaSIS Engineering for some Audi racing and tuning love and… well, here I am.
SS: What wheels inspired you?
Jason: I am an old school guy. I’m sprung on cars from the 80’s and 90’s. Old classic three-piece Ronals, old OZ splits, crazy IMSA GTO cars with wheel fans, group B rally cars—that is when designers and engineers really had freedom to take things to the next level. As far as inspiration for wheels we make now, Brian and I don’t have any set method for finding it. It can come from a 1980’s Pontiac or a baby stroller. Either way, we put our spin on it creating a wheel that fits in the Rotiform portfolio. We design what we would want to run. We are not targeting any particular scene. We can do full race or full chrome.
SS: What’s your take on stance?
Jason: I love it and I hate it. For the people that “get it”, it is really an amazing and industry changing scene. These are guys that really care. Everything matters—everything counts. They know the details are so important, and that is really refreshing. I am tired of seeing cars with a whole catalog of parts thrown on it. That’s what I like about the stance scene, it’s not about the parts—it’s about the look and feel of the car as a whole.