If you are the kind who has a PlayStation 2, flat screen TV and a million ISK sound system installed in the back of your newly polished sports ride, with a 240-horsepower engine and neon lights on the dashboard, and you love nothing more than to hang out in car parks admiring Mustangs, Corvettes, Chrysler Prowlers and Subaru Imprezas while showing off your brand new alloy wheels, the Live2Cruize group probably needs no introduction. If on the other hand you couldn’t care less if your grandma was driving a faster car, as long as your vehicle fired up each morning, you will likely not have heard of the group before.
Established in 2001, the. founders, a girl named Villy and her man Palli, claim they did it “just for the fun of it.” The organisation has since grown from initially being two vehicles into a huge subculture with an active website and roughly 3,000 members, open to everyone interested in talking about cars and spending their free time cruising around the city. Live2Cruize is a mixture of all sorts of car enthusiasts with one thing in common. Having an unconditional love relationship with their rides.
Even though the large parking place was somewhat crowded, one member told me this is just an average turnout. “None of my friends can really be bothered to listen to me rambling on about cars. So I attend these gatherings,” he tells me and informs me that he owns three cars at this moment. Well, three and a half if the pieces found in Borgarfjörður are counted. The Live2Cruize elite can often be spotted at the Esso gas station downtown, in front of drive-throughs and at squares around the country, surrounded by impressed chicks and bragging guys, that is if they aren’t too busy rebuilding their vehicles inside garages, spending three to four million ISK on spoilers, stereos, turbo engines and other gadgets for modifications.
“Maggi, don’t you go bursting of pride,” someone yelled, as Maggi was about to show us just what kind of stuff he kept in the trunk of his black and orange 2004 Mazda 3. No grocery bags, rather a huge amplifier and beat-box filled all the space. “This car holds the Icelandic record in noise. It can make it up to a 147 decibel level,” Maggi tells me. That is only three decibels lower than a jet engine taking off.
“Wanna hear it?”
Such an incredible offer is hard to resist, so I got in the back of the small car. The dashboard lights up when Maggi turns on the stereo and cranks it up. The noise was well above the recommended health level. I even felt a whiff at the back of my neck and my whole body started shaking like the stereo was right inside my chest. To make these few minutes bearable I covered my ears with both hands.
“Isn’t this a little loud!?!” I tried to yell but my lips moved without sound.
“Wow, you think it’s that loud? I don’t even notice this noise anymore,” Maggi says when the badly missed silence returns.
“The stereos in this car are worth 1.5 million ISK. I have a TV, PlayStation and DVD, and a wireless remote control. I have also modified the car a lot. I lowered the suspension, so much that it almost touches the ground. I can’t even drive down Laugavegur because the street is too bumpy and I definitely can’t use it during the winter. It’s all about the looks you see. This car today is for the most parts a show car, it came in second in the most transformed car category in the last competition,” he adds, clearly very proud.
Yes, they compete in car appearance’s just as in any other beauty pageants. The Car Day in Akureyri (June 17) is the most anticipated event.
“The Live2Cruize group somewhat divides into two groups. The “show-but-no-go” owners who are all about the looks, and then the ones who don’t care about how their rides look, just how powerful they are,” Hjalti, another member tells me. Maggi and his pimped-out ride would be ranking high in the first group. My next driver would be atop the second one.
“I have been stopped 40 times for speeding and lost my driver’s license four times,” Teitur, a Nissan Skyline R32GTR owner, informed me, a rather scared passenger, as I fastened the safety belt. He had agreed to take me on the “rúntur”. The fact that I have never been a passenger in such a monster and know little, if anything, about these kinds of vehicles, was probably just as well. Otherwise I would most likely not have gotten in the backseat.
“It’s 450 horsepower. It goes from 0-100 km/h in four seconds flat. It is one of the most powerful streetcars in the country today,” he adds and starts speeding up Sæbraut while I grab the roll cage inside. Making a risky turn we end up speeding down Hverfisgata and of course, Teitur shows me just how powerful his car is.
“Isn’t it expensive driving around?” I ask.
“I guess I would say so, seeing that I spend about 80-100,000 ISK on gas every month. What is my occupation? Well, currently, I’m unemployed.”
But it’s not all fun and games. The increasing number of fatal car accidents has lately caused a stir in society. A group like this one, which many would automatically link to speeding and illegal racing, will automatically be linked to tragic traffic accidents.
“Of course there are always black sheep who can’t control themselves. You aren’t buying a car that powerful if you aren’t going to use it. But we are totally against all street racing. If someone is advertising an illegal race on our website, he or she will immediately be kicked out of the group,” Villy tells me and offers me a seat inside her Subaru Impreza GT, a silver monochrome 1999 model with the license plate Scooby, 18” gold-plated alloy wheels and a gigantic spoiler. “We bought the car brand new, but hadn’t driven it more than about three hours when we parked it in the garage and started rebuilding. There is little left of the original.”
I state, “It’s a powerful car. As are many of those here out on the car park. I just can’t believe you aren’t racing?”
“We have pushed the drivers to the drag racing strip and told them to vent there. What we have been fighting for is to get a better speedway so people can race and use their cars to the fullest. That would reduce the illegal racing on the streets. Another thing lacking is proper driving instructions. It is quite obvious that kids today aren’t getting the proper training to handle the cars they are driving. Now some 17 year olds are cruising around in a 220-horsepower car and don’t have a clue what to do when driving on ice or gravel for example. We must demand better instruction because when the cars are so powerful you won’t stop drivers from speeding.”
Hjalti, now driving me around in a Volkswagen Touareg SUV agreed on the lack of facilities, as did others I met at the car park. When cruising around town Hjalti tells me he isn’t much for speeding. “I’m more of a gadget-nerd and my ultimate goal isn’t breaking records on the speedway. It’s to break the Icelandic record in noise, modification and those sorts of things.”
“So, is it a macho thing to have a cool car?” I wonder.
“Well, I at least wouldn’t be caught in just any car. I’m not secure enough with my manhood to drive around in a Yaris for example. But if forced, I would put a bag on my head and sunglasses. But in Live2Cruize you can arrive in an old Skoda or a brand new Porsche. It really doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome. For some the car is an issue, others are just looking for good company.”
Curious, I ask, “Do you know how much you have spent?”
“Like I say, I’m one of the electronic fanatics and have probably spent around 1.5-2 million ISK on all sorts of gadgets. Recently I owned three cars but sold all but one, a Subaru Legacy. Although it maybe cheaper to buy the cars brand new, it is more fun to modify them by yourself. Putting in the stereo, connecting the TV and the PlayStation. I still haven’t found the dream car yet though.”
“But do you really use all the accessories?” I ask further.
“Yes definitely, although 50-60 percent of it is just for show and to be able to tell your friends that you have a PlayStation. It’s nice to be able to play a game while someone else is driving. But I know some guys who are totally exaggerating the whole thing and have TVs in their trunks. I mean, why would you need a TV in your trunk?”
I ponder a moment and proffer, “Stand out in the cold with your buddies watching a movie rather than lying on a cosy sofa, just ’cause you think it’s cool?”
“Exactly. There are always people who cross that line.”
With that said we arrive at the car park again. One after another the cars are starting their engines and driving off with the proper noise and hand-brake turns. Some will call it a night, others will keep on cruising, following the other pimped-out rides to the next car park.
For me, it was just about enough of engines, numbers, stereos and phrases I couldn’t understand… for one night.