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It Started with Hot Wheels

Quan Tran. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Twenty-seven-year-old engineer Quan Tran got a thrill from racing Hot Wheels as a kid, but he says cars “really became an obsession when I started driving at age 16.”

When it came time to buy his first vehicle, Tran recalled how much his father had loved the Pontiac Firebird he’d owned years earlier. “That’s what made me want to get an old American muscle car, so I could be cool like my dad,” he says with a chuckle. Instead, Tran inherited the antithesis of a thundering, high-performance sports car: his mom’s stodgy Volvo station wagon.

“I didn’t really want it, so with their permission, I sold it and worked odd jobs for a couple of summers to save up for a 1968 Ford Mustang,” he says. “I’m sure they let me get it thinking it would be too much for me, always breaking down and needing to be repaired, but it only made my obsession grow.” Tran became fascinated with Euro and Japanese sports cars from the ’60s and ’70s after watching vintage car races at Laguna Seca Raceway with a family member a few years later. “That race rewired my whole perspective on cars.”

Today, Tran has accumulated a small collection of prized automobiles: a 1978 Porsche 911 SC, a 1978 Datsun 280Z and a 1972 Datsun 510. (There is also the 1993 Toyota pickup that gets him from point A to B. “That’s the donkey cart, Old Reliable,” he jokes.)

Tran relishes taking the Porsche on multiday rallies with other car enthusiasts. “The whole point is to pick a route and go explore it with like-minded people,” he says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among the drivers.” Those personal connections are what drive Tran’s hobby. “More than owning cars, I like the experience of working on them, driving them, doing things with them. With each car I own, there’s a subset of friends that I’ve made directly because of the car, and that’s why I value them.”


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