By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Every Sunday night this summer, hundreds of customized-car owners gather in the parking lot of Longworth Hall in Queensgate. None of the import car owners is speeding; in fact, they're all driving real slow to show off their rides.
Carlos Santiago customized his 1996 Nissan 240SX with a turbo engine kit, 18-inch÷ wheels, suspension packs, surround sound with a 900-watt ÷amp|
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Under bright lights, vehicle owners pop their hoods so onlookers can check out their engines. Some of the cars have neon lighting showing from underneath.
The gathering attracts mostly men ages 16-30 from Indianapolis, Louisville, Dayton and Columbus, as well as Greater Cincinnati.
All are eager to gain bragging rights.
"We usually have about 600 to 750 cars with as many as 1,200 to 1,800 people," said Chris Doss, one of the promoters of the weekly event.
This weekend, Cincinnatians can get a taste of this growing auto-hobby culture when Cincy SlamFest Import Car and Lowrider Show comes to Longworth Hall. The Saturday and Sunday event features more than 750 show cars and street bikes, music, hundreds of vendors, National Custom Car Association contests and an afterparty at Motion nightspot.
It's sponsored by DossBoyz Inc. and is expected to attract thousands from across the country.
But the regular Sunday cruise-ins also are happenings, with DJs spinning all kinds of music and refreshments - but no alcohol. "It's all good wholesome fun," Doss said.
Some of the car owners work two or three jobs to earn the money to customize their cars, with some spending as much as $5,000 to $10,000.
On a recent Sunday night, 27-year-old Westwood resident Carlos Santiago, had his 1996 Nissan 240SX parked in the Longworth Hall parking lot. Even from a distance, his unusually colored car was attracting a lot of attention.
Sunburst Gold is the official name of the color, Santiago said, but depending on how the sun hits the car, it can look green or gold.
A licensed automotive technician, Santiago has done the customizing work on his vehicle. That work includes a custom turbo engine kit, 18-inch wheels, suspension packs, a surround-sound audio system with a 900-watt amp.
Santiago's fascination with cars started at an early age.
"I was 13 when I started working at a garage,'' he said. "I got my technician's license at 18.''
Santiago estimates he's spent $18,000 to $20,000 making his car special. His investment paid off recently when his Honda won a third place in two-door model classification at a competition in Chicago.
The local cruise-ins started about 18 months ago in the parking lot of Walgreen's in Corryville on Thursday nights. There were only six to 10 cars then, recalls Peter Naramore, 22, of Blue Ash. As the gatherings grew in popularity by word of mouth, they moved to a parking lot at Dave & Busters in Springdale, and finally to Longworth Hall.
Naramore owns a 1991 Acura Integra with lowered wheels and exhaust and "a couple" of engine modifications.
"It's a hobby for me,'' he said. "I have fun working on it."
Naramore also gets his car fix by hosting a forum on the Web site CincinnatiStreetRacing.com.
"We talk cars and everyday life," he said.
About the Cincy Slam
Where: Longworth Hall, 700 W. Pete Rose Way, Queensgate.
When: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (that's when the afterparty begins at nearby Motion nightspot)
What you'll find: About 750 of the nation's top show cars and motorcycles, competing in 110 classes ranging from hydraulics to burnout. Also: vendors selling all-manner of cool stuff, more than 20 live DJs, break dancers, fashion model expos, wet T-shirt and bikini contests, and an afterparty.
The dough: $10 general admission; vehicle registration is $35 for Show N Shine and $55 for Competition.
More info: (614) 374-4159 or www.cincyslamfest.com.
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