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I Just Wanna Party: The Alpha Garage Takeover

As the saying goes, three’s a crowd and five’s a party. With Lowend Garage Chicago at the helm though, that party was bound to draw much more than the quota. Over the last handful of years, Adam Kern (the man behind Lowend) has been responsible for putting together some of the most memorable car-centric events in Chicago. He aptly said that “transport always meant freedom and expression” and those two very foundational characteristics are so often bountifully exuded at his gatherings. Unlike other shows, there isn’t a pretense for winning—but there is to make a new friend. There isn’t a prerequisite to have a concours car—but there is to expand your horizons on the sheer definition of style. 

Alpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend Garage

When Adam had called me about attending a Car Party at Alpha Garage Chicago, I knew it was going to be special, but as the date grew closer, there was a lingering hesitation. You see literally a week before, my 997 GT3 and I were involved in an accident. A collision in itself, being my first incident in nearly two decades, can certainly leave a mark. But the GT3 was a dream come true and its scar has left one that goes well beyond skin deep. Honestly if it were any other event, I probably would’ve been keen to bow out. But I calmed my nerves, grabbed the keys to my E90 M3, and we made our way downtown. 

Alpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAn all-new 992 GT3 Touring from Porsche Downtown Chicago

That last part may be a bit of an oversimplification—the drive was a bit more white-knuckled than I’d care to admit—but the last of my lingering fear subsided on arrival. I was guided past the entrance gate and into the confines of Alpha Garage Chicago, a bastion for the city-dwelling automotive enthusiast that we’ve needed since, well probably the Great Fire. We hear the phrase “more than a car” quite often, but this place actually makes you feel like they believe it.

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After pulling inside, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer variety of what Adam had brought together. The space was only starting to fill up, but cars from 1960s Americana rubbed elbows with JDM icons from the early naughts. An old school Mini from Team Stradale with a 300hp…err…butt transplant sharing space with turnkey modern exotics. The contrast was carefully curated, even the hues themselves seemed to be placed just so. I was perhaps amongst some of the best company—next to a gleaming Volvo 850 Estate and across from a lovely Dakar Yellow E36 M3—and the vantage point to watch some incredible machinery roll in. 

Alpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend Garage

The “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” that came from the visual splendor were only matched by the ear to ear smiles that appeared from the owners. Every door that opened was followed by eager enthusiasts’ hello. It was an environment devoid of pomp and circumstance, no flighty claims of skyrocketing worth. Instead, there was fond nostalgia, thirstful curiosity, and earnest admiration oozing from all corners of the garage. There was a man handing out free Taco Bell (and I obliged).

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I honestly spent way more time having incredible conversations with great people than I did taking photos. And that’s always been a struggle for me: when do I put down the camera to just enjoy? This time, the answer was clearer than it’d ever been—the coverage was secondary to the experience—the life of the party.

Alpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend GarageAlpha Garage Chicago Takeover - Car Party by Lowend Garage

As the clock struck ten, I switched my camera on to see just how many photos I took. Fifty. At this point I’d freak out and scramble through the room to make sure I got a photo of every car there, every morsel of the experience. But this event meant more to me than just the coverage. For me, this was a triumphant, emotional return from the previous week’s onslaught. For all of us, it was an event that encapsulated Adam’s guiding principle for freedom and expression.

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I know one thing is for sure: we will be talking about this event for a long time. And that, in a culture virtually predicated on “what’s next” is possibly the greatest compliment you could give.