Brian James #SpeedSuspects

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Brian James works in technology- but he says when people ask him what he “does,” he likes to specify.  “In LA, it’s such a popular question: ‘what do you do?’ I always like to ask, what do you mean? Because we do a lot of things.”  Brian definitely is a man who does and has accomplished a wide variety of things… But one thing has always stayed consistent throughout his life: the Viper. Brian’s first memory of automotive fascination was around the age of four, when his father came home with a small toy model of a formula one car.  “That formula one car was Ayrton Senna’s 1988 Dayglo Mclaren- and this just became my favorite toy.  It was just that one toy in my toybox that I always chose to pull out and race around the house with. And from there I just remember gravitating towards more toy cars. Eventually my dad started to get me VHS’s of formula one races and Nascar races and all kinds of different automotive documentaries… Then from there it just became this obsession that went with me throughout my childhood and into my adulthood.”

Enter: the Viper.  “The Viper, for the 90s kids, was like the Viper and the Diablo. Those were the two cars that I think everybody had in their bedrooms in the 90s… There was this really cheesy tv show called ‘Viper,’ it was kinda like a knock-off of ‘Knight Rider.’ It was about this cop, he had this red viper and he pushed this button and would transform into this silver futuristic viper... It was actually pretty cool, at least from what I remember as a kid. I used to watch that with my dad, and the Viper just kinda surrounded my childhood.”

The Viper truly does seem to surround not only Brian’s childhood, but his entire life.  In fact, a Viper would eventually be the first supercar he bought himself- but it wasn’t his very first car. Brian’s first car was a 1989, very used Volkswagen (he said the odometer actually stopped working at 399,999 miles!) that he lovingly revived. “It was an absolute bucket, but I really enjoyed driving that car… It never left me stranded.” As Brian’s tech career progressed, he says he didn’t necessarily set out with the goal of earning enough to afford a supercar- he just put his head down and focused. “That just kinda happened because I like working. I like pushing myself in anything I do, whether it’s my career, or my side hobby, or anything I do. I just really put my head down and focused on my tech career.”  

When it came time to buy his first supercar, Brian thought of the Viper, but actually didn’t immediately choose it at first.  “I grew up and I always bought the Viper in things like Gran Turismo, or any game I’d play, I would always buy a Viper.  But then when I became old enough to actually afford a supercar…I started to do a bunch of research, and the Viper does not get a lot of praise by most mainstream automotive media outlets.”  Brian made a list of other potential supercars to purchase.  But then, the Viper unexpectedly re-entered his life.  In Brian’s words: “It’s kinda like it chose me.” Here’s how it happened: 

Brian was going over his list of potential supercars to choose one day with his girlfriend, when she commented that she just didn’t feel that any of the cars were truly the one for him.  “She said: what about a viper? And I thought: that’s kinda a crazy idea. Immediately, from what I had read about them, I thought that sounds crazy. Like, I’m not trying to get killed, so I told her that just sounds wild.”  But she found a listing nearby, and cut to just a short while later: Brian officially became a Viper guy.  “Sure enough we drive out there, I go check it out, I hop in the car… I just did one lap around the block, and it was like a life changing experience. I don’t even know how to explain it. The entire experience was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I had a smile from ear to ear on my face and I got back, and I looked at her and I looked at the sales guy and I was like, ‘This is it. I don’t care, this is the car for me. Let’s buy it, let’s do it right now. And I bought the car that day and I drove it home. That’s how I became a Viper guy.”

So, why the Viper? Why this car, out of all the cars in the world? “This is gonna sound cheesy, but the viper makes me feel alive.  It reminds me that life is about experiences and that you should live unapologetically, and with passion, with purpose.  That’s the viper: it’s passion, it’s purpose. It doesn’t apologize for what it is, or what it’s trying to be, it just is, and you either take it or you leave it.  And I think that that’s just a really good reflection of who I am as a person.”

He didn’t regret his decision. Brian is clearly in love with the Viper, it’s obvious from the way he talks about his favorite drives. For example, about a particular week in Monterrey with his Viper, Brian recalls, “It was the first time I was at car week with my own supercar- that was a pretty special moment for me. Just kinda like, realizing that dream. Because you just kinda don’t ever think that you’ll ever get there. Y’know, you have these cars on your bedroom wall and you never think you’ll be able to own one yourself, then you turn around 25 years later and your dreams have become reality, which is pretty wild.”  

Now, Brian is driving a different model Viper (a Ferrari Rossa Red model he designed himself with Dodge’s 1 of 1 program) and doesn’t plan on parting with it. “I think that, y’know, my garage has grown in the last couple years, some cars have come and gone, but I think the viper is the one that will never, ever change. I plan on taking it either to my grave or passing it on to my future kids, but I’m just never selling that car.  It’s just so special to me, and I don’t think that anything on the market could ever replace it.”

So, having followed him like a fiery shadow throughout his childhood and adult life, we asked: what does Brian plan to do with his Viper now?  “Just continue to find ways to make the automotive world a part of my life in a way that’s impactful, and I think racing is a great way to do that. I am Black American, and I think that racing and just the automotive industry’s-it’s a pricey industry, racing is very expensive to get into. As a Black American, I want to find a way to expose more people of color to the world of racing and the automotive industry in some way. I don’t know what that looks like quite yet, but I think just being a part of it and being out there and representing as a person of color is just super important, so that when a kid like me -that looks like me- looks at something like Formula One or looks at something like go-karting, hopefully they see, ‘Oh there’s somebody who looks like me there, that means that I must be able to do it.’ And that’s certainly not something that I can say was present when I was a kid.”

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