Extras, Outtakes, and More Details From The Meguiar’s 2000s “Import Tuner” Shoot…

To preface, I don’t know what you do for a living and I don’t know if you’re glancing at this post from work, but there may be some photos in this set that are ummmm… NOT SAFE FOR WORK. You have been warned…

I had an unnecessary amount of fun putting this project together. From start to finish I couldn’t have been happier with the results. To be fair, it was quite a bit of work and a lot of planning involved but it’s oh so satisfying when everything comes together the way I envisioned. Once I figured out what photos I wanted, how the cover needed to be laid-out, and all the little details, I had a good feeling it would be well-received. Everybody loves nostalgia, especially car enthusiasts. Just to be able to look back at a time when everything felt new and their were no rules is amazing. The early 2000s represented a very different time in the automotive tuning community. There were no ‘standards’ set and people were really free to express themselves with their cars. Now it seems like more of a popularity contest than anything. Everybody just wants to be ‘someone’ on social media. Everyone wanted to stand-out and be someone back then as well, but there was no social media yet. The only platform for comparison was real life interaction and you didn’t have thousands and thousands of people to compare yourself with everyday. There was less pressure amongst your peers because the sample-size was much smaller. Sure the styles were a bit over the top back then but honestly, it’s not like everyone has it figured out in 2021. We’re all just in a bigger pond now thanks to the internet. I don’t want to go too far off into a tangent about this entire subject so let me get back to the Meguiar’s project…



As I mentioned before, when I first took on the “Portrait of an Icon” project for Meguiar’s, this particular era and theme was the first thing I thought of. I loved this period in our automotive tuning history because it was around this time when I started getting heavily into cars. I remember the excitement I had when I saw a new issue of Import Tuner every month on the newstands. Hell, I even remember when they first announced Import Tuner coming out and back then, it was just a extension of Turbo magazine. Super Street was around already but it wasn’t quite the “cool” magazine yet in 99-2001. For enthusiasts my age, Import Tuner was everything. It represented the style of that era perfectly. The cars were wild, the girls on the covers became household names in our industry, and the execution of the magazine was just the epitome of style. If it weren’t for Import Tuner, I probably would have never gotten into this field that I am in now. It was a dream come true when I was able to become a regular contributor for the magazine years later…



Putting this all together for Meguiar’s was an item on my bucket list that I probably would have never thought that I’d be able to check-off unless I had a time machine or something. To be able to shoot a cover for Import Tuner of 99-01 was a dream I thought would never come true. This is as close as I’ll ever get. Import Tuner is long gone and the style from the early years changed so much in the time that it was in publication. I wanted specifically for these photos to look like the first year of Import Tuner’s existence. It’s a very distinct look and has to be executed in a particular way. I didn’t want it to be a caricature of Import Tuner or something that ‘looked like it’. It had to be SPOT-ON. It absolutely had to be indistinguishable at a glance or else the job was not done. I will have failed by my own expectations. I had the exact car I wanted, a model who had experience that understood my vision, and all the skill to put it together. I just had to put all these ingredients into the pot and make some good ass soup. And, with the utmost confidence, I can say I feel like I did it. I knocked it out of the park. The soup was good. Whatever analogy you want to use….the job was done.






Meguiar’s only required a limited amount of assets from me to complete this task. They literally only want one photo executed with the theme in mind and an ‘easter egg’ somewhere within that represented their product(s). I gave them ten photos. I just feel like it tells the story better when I can provide as much detail as possible. With those ten submitted, I still had a bunch of extra photos left-over which I guess you can consider as ‘outtakes’. Mainly the shots with Jenn Q were for the specific idea of trying to find the best photo for the faux Import Tuner ‘cover’. We used a lot of inspiration from the covers of the magazines I had but actually physically laying an image down with that specific formatting isn’t as easy as it looks. Thankfully I had someone who understood what I wanted and also had worked with me before so she provided me with all the patience I needed. We even arranged for multiple outfit changes just so we could get the right colors down and to achieve a look that represented that era honestly. During the planning stages, not only did I have to make sure that Sean Stell and Jenn Q could be scheduled to meet on a date that worked with the studio I rented, I also had to coordinate outfits with Jenn. While I was picking outfits with her over text, I was also recreating logos so I could cut era-specific decals for Sean’s Civic. His car was the perfect choice. Like, I couldn’t have picked a better car unless it was LJ Garcia’s actual FEEL’S widebody Civic that graced the cover of issue #2. When he told me that he also had Racing Hart C5 wheels for it, I knew this would be special.



The only thing we were truly missing to make this even more believable was an old Autometer Monster Tach with a giant shift-light. But it’s okay. I think we all went above and beyond to make this a reality so I can’t be disappointed.



These are all the photos from the shoot that hot afternoon that I felt were usable and matched what I wanted. They are just here now for you to see because there were better photos to use ultimately. Some had technical issues that made me not want to use them or there were just too many things reflected off the car that made it difficult to clean-up. Not to say that I couldn’t have done it, it just would have taken an insane amount of time to do. The photos of Jenn that are in this post all came out great, otherwise I wouldn’t post them, but…. a couple of them I opted not to use for the project because they uhhhh…show a little too much perhaps for a 102 year-old automotive detailing company? I don’t know what their limits are when it comes to models used in content that represents their brand. A part of me was honestly slightly worried that they wouldn’t be happy with this idea because a model is so heavily-featured in it. I didn’t inquire however, because this concept was important for me and I really wanted to execute my vision thoroughly. If you know me, you’ll know that I don’t really like the idea of having too many restrictions placed on my work. Thankfully it appears as though we are in the clear…








The studio that I rented for the shoot was smaller than most, but I couldn’t really beat it considering the low costs. Most bigger studios have a larger area for the ‘infinity wall’ which would have made shooting both car and model much easier, but again, I was trying to be cost-effective. This is a paid-gig but everything associated with the job like shooting, equipment, etc. all came out of my own pocket. Even with the limited space, I think we collectively made it work. I also don’t know how many photo studios would have been cool with Sean working on his Civic outside either. He spent a good amount of time adjusting the ride height and mounting his rear wheels before we started shooting.


Even though we were only shooting a ‘cover’, I also wanted to get photos of the car itself and all of its details to use for a fake magazine feature layout. The cover had to be believable but I thought it would be a lot of fun to offer a glimpse at what the car would look like inside the magazine had it been realistically featured. I only came up with the idea to do these faux feature pages because Sean mentioned that his engine bay was also pretty period-correct. It wasn’t shaved or overly-done. It just had good parts on it and the bay itself wasn’t in terrible shape by any means…






If I was going to shoot the engine bay, then I had to get interior shots as well. I didn’t have the contents of this imaginary issue quite laid-out in my head yet so integrating interior photos into the feature seemed necessary. I’ve seen Sean’s Civic in-person a few times before this day at various events but I can say with honesty that I never actually looked inside. I had no idea he had all this stuff…






The “Import Showoff” decal was a must for me because, like Import Tuner, it was also pivotal in helping me get into modified cars back then. Cutting this decal for the shoot is another homage to a staple of that era. I also had the file already because I had done some work with Ken Miyoshi from Import Showoff in the past…

The Racing Hart decal was a little bit more difficult because I couldn’t find clean artwork of it online to vectorize and cut. I found the best one I could but it was so degraded and small that I had to redraw a lot of it. It’s just in the background but I still wanted it to look decent. If you saw the decal up-close you’d quickly understand just how shitty it was. I’m just happy it worked and isn’t too obvious…


I just want to take the time now to once again thank these individuals for being so helpful in making this come to fruition. Sean was super stoked to be a part of this and incredibly thankful himself, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without him and I really appreciate him taking the time to drive all the way to Orange, CA, lowering his car at my request in 97-degree SoCal heat, and getting the car so clean for the shoot…

Jenn and I haven’t spoken in years. We were at one point pretty close friends but life happens and we sort of went our separate ways to live our own lives. When I was trying to conceptualize this shoot, I thought she’d be a great choice to have as the cover model because I remembered that she got into the import scene because she saw these Import Tuner covers growing-up. She’d later be on the cover of an actual Import Tuner magazine but never presented in this early 2000s style. So I guess you can say the both of us came full-circle when it came to this being a bucket-list shoot. This has helped us become friends again as well so this was a meaningful project for us to work on together…

I invited Ryan Der to come by the shoot after work because I knew this was something he’d enjoy seeing. I like bringing him with me to do all kinds of stuff like this because he always has youthful excitement about him that reminds me to be excited about shit as well. There are times I feel like I’m so desensitized because I’ve seen so much over the years that I forget to be in the moment—to be excited, you know? Der helps me appreciate what I do. And he’s always helpful with everything else too in terms of logistics. The guy is so organized it drives me crazy but I also need that type of organization, lol…

Before I wrap this up and put it away, I wanted to show you guys the alternate cover. The first cover I came up with ultimately became the best of the two, but I had a back-up just for the sake of having one. I loved the first cover I did because of the colors, the layout, and the photo of Jenn Q itself. It just looked the best also in terms of composition for a magazine cover. The alternate I never showed anyone else before I posted it because I already felt like everyone involved would agree the one I chose was ‘the one’. I liked this alternate cover, don’t get me wrong, otherwise there would be no reason for me to put so much time into it. I just didn’t feel as strongly about it. Also, there wasn’t enough ‘car’ in the shot. If you’re trying to sell a magazine with a car and cover model, you got to have a good ratio of both. I liked the photo but it was just so much door and rear quarter panel that you wouldn’t really even know what car it was if you were casually looking. The colors didn’t ‘pop’ as much either. 

I think if you guys really studied the first cover I put together, you’ll like this one too since it has minor details about it that are different….



Anyways, it’s 6 AM now and I got to drive home now and get some sleep. This was such a treat to put together. I’d go as far as to say that this was probably one of my favorite pieces of work ever on a personal level. I loved every minute of it and I think it shows. Thank you so much to all involved. Thank you to RJ de Vera and Meguiar’s for believing in my vision. Thank you to all of you for understanding what I wanted to convey and appreciating my hard work. The pleasure was all mine…

Categories: Behind-The-Scenes, Civics, Exclusive ContentTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. this was dope a f , yes the cove ryou pick certainly sent me back to my collection which i still have ( which is quite alot )

  2. I’m glad everyone in this project still held onto all those memories.

    Sean Stell especially for believing in himself seeing the scene fade out, but still holding and building his car for an unbelievable 20 years. Well executed and could possibly be the single Feel’s widebody themed EK to have been properly built in the U.S. which is surprising in its own right. Thanks for building and owning this car dude.

    LJ’s lost history.

    Hope it helps others build in this classic style. Again appreciations to all who helped in this project including Meguiar’s for still remembering about the Sport Compacts.

    And to Joey Lee, you might just now be starting the new SPOCOM revolution.

    While your at it you’re jump starting back some modeling careers here on The Chronicles. 😉

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