Photos: MIKE WIENE | @TQPMEDIA
My Name is CJ, and I drive this SpaceX-themed Model 3 named Casper. I was born and raised in Monterey, CA and moved to Southern California in 2005 to attend Long Beach State University and have been there ever since mainly because of its custom car scene. I’ve been into car culture for as long
as I can remember and growing up in Monterey had its perks if you are into cars. Everyone knows about Monterey Car Week, so being a part of that every year made my love for the culture grow. I started attending events like HIN (Hot Import Nights), the first-ever Bimmerfest and other local meets in the Bay Area toward the end of high school. I would say that seeing builds that would always stand out from the rest like Jon Sibal and Ryan Castro’s BMW E36s probably influenced me the most regarding style. Currently, I work as a web developer within the automotive industry and have my own car mod install business specializing in Teslas. My life revolves around the car world, but outside of it I spend my free time with my wife and two dogs.
DIY TO REALITY
I have always been a DIY guy and have been involved in DIY-modifying cars for over 20 years. I’ve become known as a modification trend innovator in the Tesla car scene. All the modifications on my Tesla have been done out of my personal garage. For me, practice makes perfect, and I’ve practiced a ton on my personal vehicles which were mainly Euros. My list of past rides includes a 1996 E36 BMW 328i (mildly modded / daily), 1995 E36 Turbo, BMW M3 (full show build), 2003 20th anniversary VW GTI (fully modded) and a 2012 VW GTI Autobahn (medium modded). I’ve performed hands-on modification installs for Euro, JDM and now Tesla and EV cars. I eventually started my own company in 2019 called CEEJ Customs. It was founded to give back to the Tesla community and provide affordable prices to help fellow enthusiasts personalize and build their car vision into reality.
The Model 3 came about because I wanted something new that no one had modified yet. I bought the car in mid-2018, and from the start, the vision was to build a full-blown show car. The first weekend I had it, I began with the basics; chrome delete, a few carbon accessories and basic lighting updates. Suspension and wheels came next, and I went with the lowest springs I could find since the dual motor didn’t have anyone making air struts just yet. Once options came out for dual motor, I quickly jumped over to air. People in the community have called me a trendsetter. I guess it’s true.
I have done a lot of world’s first with this car, and I see them spreading out all over the modded Tesla scene. The most difficult aspect of the build was all the custom work I did to it. I’ve had four frunk setups over the past four years. All of them were custom hardlines and tank designs. Another challenging project was my interior lighting setup. Having to remove almost every interior panel in the car and break and re-glue all the plastics back was a challenge. A build is never really done as you’ll find things you want to change, or new parts come to market. Casper has already been through four different iterations, and I plan on redoing everything again next year.I have taken almost every single part of this car apart several times. At first, it was tough because there weren’t videos on people doing it to reference—everything from tapping power for accessories to removing parts and panels. I learned a lot and broke some stuff, but that’s all part of the experience. I would say it’s a lot easier for someone starting now to DIY mods since almost everything is on YouTube at this point.
NOT FOR EVERYBODY
Aerodynamic kits are hit or miss in my opinion, so I’m particular in choosing what enhancements I add to my ride. I came across ADRO and their clean design and performance ethos just vibe with me. Let’s start with the front lip. This piece is my favorite ADRO piece for the Model 3. The angular design gives the Model 3 an aggressive look and is instantly recognizable. The side skirts incorporate vertical fins in front, making them unique. I like the details of how the rear end of side skirts tapers off, providing a sleek, lightweight look that feels sophisticated and sporty.
The ADRO rear diffuser brings the rear end to life. If you look at the lines and edges of the diffuser, there is cohesiveness with the rest of the aero parts. The vertical flanges on the diffuser balance the aggressive front lip. The trunk spoiler is clean and complements the entire kit nicely. It’s a better version of the OEM spoiler. I like how they added the ADRO badge detail as well. Finally, the newest ADRO part for my Tesla Model 3 is the side camera covers. These haven’t been released yet and will be available for sale later this fall season. The boomerang shape has a distinctive design, and I believe this will resonate with the Model 3 community. According to ADRO’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD), the analyses showed a 3.25% reduction in total vehicle drag and a downforce increase of 846 N, resulting from installing all four ADRO parts – front lip, side skirt, rear diffuser, and spoiler. I love that this kit is form and function.
JUNK IN THE FRUNK
Other than the ADRO kit, I would have to say it’s my frunk setup for my air suspension display that I’m proud of. I feel it’s the most unique setup out there. It has the world’s first LED clear hardlines, SpaceX Falcon9 tank with tons of lights, a starlight tub and infinity mirrors. It’s the ultimate frunk show display.
RUINED Tesla is a car club/show team with chapters all over the US. It all started as a hashtag (#RUINEDTESLA) in the fall of 2019, when the Tesla purists would tell us we ruined our cars by slamming them to the ground. It was founded by a group of the first modified Model 3s on air suspension. With an active and expanding membership base, we strive to remain tasteful yet refined as we develop our wealth of technical knowledge with encouragement for DIY. By sharing our love for automotive style and sustainability, we move to keep car culture alive as we advance beyond fossil fuels. I was one of the founding members of the crew “RUINED Tesla” and am the current SoCal Chapter Director.I think the Tesla community is split between the Tesla purists and those who want to mod them.
Most of the guys in the show circuit came from either a Euro or JDM background, and you can tell by how they mod their Teslas. I would say that the people in the modded community are very welcoming and nice overall compared to other communities I have been a part of in the past. It’s usually the people outside the community that hates on our cars. It’s getting better as time goes on. You keep seeing modded Teslas everywhere now, and bagged ones are a dime a dozen. Bagged, wrapped and RUINED would be the best way to describe my Tesla. For me, Tesla changed the game for customizing vehicles and looking forward, I would love for my next project to be the CyberTruck. I do have a reservation on a dual motor that I made the night of the release. I already have some cool ideas that I want to do to it, so keep an eye out for that. The notoriety from this Casper build has been great and I would like to thank my sponsors for their continued support over the years, especially with the team at ADRO for helping me take it to the next level!
2022 TESLA MODEL 3 “CASPER”
OWNER: CJ Cardinalli