It would be easy to imagine what the female presence would appear to be at an event called Heelz N Wheelz, but for the long running car show that took place on February 19, at the Portmore Town Centre, one group of car enthusiast was hoping to change what might be an unfortunate stereotype.
Nestled between the rows of the predominantly male owned colourfully modified cars, awaiting entrance into the judging ring for several of the competitive category the show is famous for was the Vitzsocietyja collective. On the surface, their name denoted a simple theme, owners and lovers of the Toyota Vitz hatchback, but it was a bit more than that. Vitzsocietyja was created and run by a woman, Sukeisha Daley, the very reason why club member Felicia Bartley was attracted to join.
“I ran into the group while they were doing a road trip. I had just bought my car a few weeks before,” said Bartley.
The sight of the herd of similar Toyotas and Daley brought Bartley into the welcoming fold of Vitzsocietyja. She was immediately encouraged to begin her long journey of customising her car, that still continues to this day with her partner Robert Morrison.
A rather unexpected journey that has seen her win trophies for Hottest Whip and Best Female Ride at various other car competitions across the island, even though she had purchased the Vitz on the considerations of its reasonable price tag and low running costs.
“I’m here to support Sukeisha and my team, Vitzsocietyja. I’m not entering Heelz N Wheelz this time because I’m still working on my car,” said Bartley.
One look at Bartley’s 2012 Toyota Vitz and it would not appear incomplete. Sitting on deep dish 15-inch wheels, it sports a reworked body.
“I changed the entire front of the car and modified the headlights,” she explained.
Bartley didn’t just stop there, adding her own touches here and there to make the car even more unique inside and out. The interior is just as modified as the exterior, having all the lighting upgraded and placed in non-factory locations such as the footwells. The doors themselves, along with many of the plastic trimmings, were hydro dipped to give them very colourful designs. The standout element were the skulls, a complete contrast to the blue and pink colour palette used inside. Three white plastic skulls sit on the dashboard, while the shifter knob is replaced by a blue one.
“That’s why I didn’t enter,” Bartley replied when asked.
“I’m getting ready to put a cemetery in the trunk,” she said with a coy smile.
Whereas most of the male owned cars had their trunks filled with audio and video equipment, Bartley plans to follow her club leader, who won Best Interior at the event due to her Beauty Salon themed installation.
“I came up with the idea and am just waiting for it to be completed so I can put it into the car,” Bartley said.
As for Heelz N Wheelz itself, Bartley had nothing but praise, explaining this was her second time and pleased that the event has been back on track with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions last year.
“I always enjoy this car show,” she said.
Event organiser, Andrew Lee-sing was also delighted to be back in business and commended the automotive community for turning out en masse to support Heelz N Wheelz.
“Everybody has welcomed back the show, as it’s long awaited. They are already asking when is the next staging,” said Lee-sing.
The show was first held in Portmore in 2008 and has continued to be one of the longest running competitive car shows on the island, only pausing recently for the COVID-19 pandemic and restarting last year. Lee-sing explained that he had to switch business models to keep the brand alive, moving to automotive parts and services in the interim. The change has proved viable and he will retain that activity. However, time was not wasted during the break and Lee-sing used the first event of 2023 to implement his new ideas, including better organisation of the layout to accommodate a consistent by separated flow of foot and vehicular traffic. This allowed patrons to walk freely around the venue to see all the cars while competitors could easily drive their vehicles to the judging area.
There will be two more Heelz N Wheelz events for the year, his smaller Pop Series, and a larger full show both further down in the year.