Zen Garage ain’t just a community of people passionate about cars, it’s about exploring and celebrating creativity and culture, something that’s reflective of Ghost Games’ Need for Speed. We chat to the founder of the community, Justin Fox, and his involvement with the game as a consultant and building a car for the game.
Respawn Ninja: Tell us about yourself and what Zen Garage is all about.
Justin Fox: I have a background in design, graphics, interactive, we and branding and I’ve founded a few communities, namely; Australian Infront – a design community, JDM Style Tuning, VWGolf.net.au car forums, and more recently Zen Garage.
I’ve always dreamed of getting offline and owning a physical shop. Zen Garage kicked off in 2011 in a run-down warehouse space in Sydney’s inner west. We opened our doors to a community of passionate enthusiasts about automotive culture, but Zen isn’t just about cars. Zen’s aim is to explore and celebrate creativity and culture. Whether it’s found in cars, bikes, art, photography, music, skateboarding or anything in which one can reach a moment of Zen.
While the word Zen might mean different things to different people, we’re pretty sure that everyone will have Zen moments throughout their lifetime, whether it’s nailing the apex on the track, passing that impossible level on that game you’re playing, or just having quality hangs with your mates. Those Zen moments are what we live for and what it’s all about.
“Those Zen moments are what we live for and what it’s all about.”
Last year we made a tough call to shut our warehouse space down and since then we’ve been running Zen online and via our stall at the End of Month Meets (EOMM), which are large 1000+ car meets which we run in Sydney at the end of every month.
Respawn Ninja: So how did you get involved with the recently released Need for Speed?
Justin Fox: In February earlier this year, EA Games flew me to Ghost Games in Sweden to consult on the new Need for Speed title, which at that stage wasn’t even named yet (I actually suggested that they just call it ‘Need for Speed’). Being at Ghost, playing rough renders of the game, and hanging with friends from Japan and the States… It was quite a trip, literally.
When we first got to Ghost, we were ushered into a board room, the light darkened and we were guided through a presentation on screen. One of the first slides was a photo from EOMM showing a carpark at night packed full of cars. At that stage I actually put my hand up to let the guys in the room know that was a photo from my car meets, and there’s one on tonight and I can’t make it cause I’m in Sweden! As if to dodge legal use of the photo, they insisted they were only using the photo for internal purposes (lol!). It was a great ice breaker.
Respawn Ninja: Zen Garage was something you’ve founded and grown. What was the feeling like when you saw your brand in a game like Need for Speed?
Justin Fox: To be honest it’s been such a hardcore year not being able to say anything about the game since February as I’ve been under non-disclosure agreements with EA Games. And to make it worse, they asked for the Zen logo files quite early on in the year too, and not knowing for sure whether or not they would make it to the final game has given me anxiety attacks!
It’s been so hard to contain the excitement at times. When the Beta came out I got a lot of messages from people who were sending me screen grabs of the Zen logos in the game. At that stage I still refused to believe that they would be in the game until I got my hands on a final version, which we did a week before the game’s launch. It was only then that I had a huge release, a true moment of Zen!
Respawn Ninja: You have been given the opportunity to build an S15 for Need for Speed – can you tell us about the project and the people involved?
Justin Fox: We knew EA were getting Nakai-san (one of the icons in the game) to build an RWB for SEMA, but we were blown away when EA Australia invited us to build a car for Need for Speed. Apparently, apart from the car for SEMA, we’re the only other country to get to build a car for NFS.
Since the game now features real brands and parts (as opposed to crazy made up wheels and body kits etc.), the concept is to actually use the game to customise the car, then each week we present options to the community who will vote for parts which make it to the final car. We then source those exact parts in real life and apply them to our real car.
The budget is tight, and four weeks is damn tight, but with the help of the amazing individuals and companies who support me I’m positive we can make this something special.
The new Need for Speed gives you the option to choose between the Honda Civic Type-R, Ford Mustang Foxbody, and the Subaru BRZ Premium at the start. Which one did you pick and why?
Justin Fox: We almost had a fight over this! I’m a Honda guy, and have owned a fair few Civics and know some mates who have some of the fastest Civics in the world, but there was no way I was going to play NFS in a front wheel drive, especially knowing that we only had a few hours to win the S15 in order to get working on our project car.
We then fought over the Mustang and the BRZ, but in the end the BRZ won out, why? Because the BRZ was actually a car which we considered for this project at one stage, and besides I think the Mustang looks ugly (so I ended up hitting the X button to continue!).
From November 16th, Zen Garage will be working with Need for Speed to build a Nissan S15 Spec-R from the game. The car will be customised and worked on for four weeks where fans can vote on what modifications will be applied to the car. Fans also have the opportunity to win Need for Speed gear by just voting.
Photos by Selectnine Photography