We have some good news and some bad news for you folks this week. The good news is, we’re announcing our Spin To Win Grand Prize Sweepstakes winner! The bad news is, if you’re reading this announcement, it means you, unfortunately, were not the $10,000 winner, so, sorry. At any rate, this year’s sweepstakes winner is a die-hard Euro enthusiast and someone we’re excited to provide with 10,000 reasons to make another build come to life. We’re proud to introduce to you Xander from Buffalo, NY, our sweepstakes winner, and give you a look into the life of the lucky man that took home all that cash. 

Every year, we host this Spin To Win sweepstakes. There are tons of daily prizes that range from gift cards to swag to discounts on parts, but only one official grand-prize winner. Of course, due to the legal restrictions around sweepstakes, there has to be an alternative ‘no purchase necessary’ cash prize of a lower value, which means there is a possibility that the winner isn’t a customer or even a car enthusiast. In that case, they usually opt to take the cash offer and remain anonymous. Fortunately, this year, the random grand prize winner was Xander, who exhibits a true enthusiasm for pretty much anything European and will be taking the $10,000 in ECS bucks to throw at them all, or a new project entirely.

The home workspace where all the wrenching happens

Speaking to his Euro-enthusiasm, just take a look at his current fleet. He’s cultivated a broad interest in everything Euro, especially platforms that are as engaging to build as they are to drive. In his stable currently sits a 900WHP Porsche 997 Turbo, a BMW F80 M3, and a project R50 MINI that has been his latest adventure. With this kind of stable, it’s a wonder he has time to spend with his family or take any vacations considering he does all his own wrenching at home, yet somehow, he manages. With such a time-intensive hobby, it may come as no surprise that Xander displays extreme amounts of enthusiasm for his interest and energy to throw at it.

During our conversation, Xander was excited to share with us more than just who he is, but where his interest began. An enthusiast for more than two decades, he was highly involved with the emerging forums in the early 2000s and has always had a penchant for ripping his cars apart in efforts to make them exactly how he wanted. Anything he owns goes under the knife, regardless of how new or old, as Xander can’t leave his cars alone. A sentiment we’re sure many of you share, but only some execute for one reason or another. Xander, however, is not scared to ruin a factory warranty.

This tendency is best exemplified by the 2002 Bugeye WRX he purchased brand-new with cash he saved while he worked for a car wash during school. The Bugeye spent all of about one afternoon unmodified. Even before he brought the WRX home, he had staged coilovers, a turbo upgrade, exhaust, software, and more in his garage simply waiting for it to arrive. The day it pulled into his driveway for the first time was also the last day the car was stock before he dug into the project and transformed it. 

Since his early days with JDM vehicles, Xander transitioned toward European cars for their driving experience and the community around them. It was several VW GTIs of varying generations and some E30/E36s that led him down the rabbit hole of luxury performance, though, none of them seemed to stick around for long in his life. He would find something interesting, explore it, and move onto the next project just searching for exactly the right combination of cars to keep in his future garage. 

After a MK6 Golf R eventually found its way to him, Xander realized he was in the right area, but left wanting for more. The R was fast, but not fast enough. It was nice, but it just gave him that hint of what he knew could be taken to a new level with a bit more patience, and quite a bit more money. That’s what motivated him to step into the world of Porsche 911s and BMW M-cars, and how he arrived where he is today. 

Before he purchased his current 997 Turbo, he cut his teeth with a base 997 Carrera. Growing up, his father introduced him to Porsche with a 993 that Xander was fortunate enough to drive on occasion. The sheer thrill of having something capable of over 175mph drove him to consider owning a 911 of any generation a dream, which was realized more quickly than he ever expected. With the Golf R replaced by his first 997, Xander knew he’d found his home in the world of Porsche. Shortly after, the base Carrera was replaced by a Turbo Cab, which sits now happily with upgraded turbos, a Fabspeed exhaust, RWD conversion, and more to make it the 900hp rolling burnout machine that it is today.

The fleet

As with any dream, though, is presented this paradox: you either dream and never see it realized, or you dream and do, but are left with the question ‘what now?’ Unfortunately, as some like Xander can attest, that moment of existential crisis is quickly obscured by a new dream; something else to fill the unquenchable void that sits at the core of a motivated individual. Now, he had a new dream.

Funny enough, that dream wasn’t a modern Porsche, which Xander explained just doesn’t have the ‘soul’ or ‘manual transmission’ that spins his gears. His new dream came in the form of a $1,300 MINI Cooper R50 sporting a three-pedal gearbox. After years of daily-driven duty, hand-me-down ownership, the one-family car was pastured and left to deteriorate in a yard. Xander rescued this MINI and rekindled his love for a fun, connected, engaging, driving experience that the MINI provided. He decided this yard-find MIN is exactly the kind of problem he needs in his life. This dream became based around that MINI and a plan to return it to its former condition before taking it on a lengthy lap of the U.S. beginning and ending at Buffalo, NY. 

It was during the restoration of this MINI where Xander purchased the very parts that won him this sweepstakes. The MINI received all new suspension, bushings, a cooling system, all the fluids, consumables, and more. Now, after a small investment and a huge amount of work, his MINI is almost ready to make its longest trip ever. While he was making the plans and drawing up the route, Xander received that exciting call from our sweepstakes hosting company with some substantial news: he won $10,000 in ECS credit to spend on even more parts. Sometimes, when you dream, even the wildest part of your fantasies pales in comparison to the random chance of reality. 

With the new development, Xander is spoiled for choice. In the case of someone with an eclectic variety of car interests and a love for project builds, that can sometimes be a bit of a hurdle. When asked about his plans, he confidently exclaimed that he was going to find a new project and dump all the ECS credit into building something cool. By the end of the conversation, though, he’d described at least a half-dozen ways he could spend that cash and be happy. Some of the ideas included a set of HREs for his F80 M3, or building the MINI beyond a mostly factory daily driver. When it comes to car enthusiasts, this indecision is inevitable. Once you have the mechanical skills to tackle pretty much any project, the number of options you have available to choose from becomes nearly limitless. Which makes the old sentiment ‘with money come problems’ ring incredibly true. 

Regardless, when it comes to the problem of not knowing what fun project to approach, we think this is a problem worth having. The only question remains: how will Xander use this prize to add even more excitement to his life? Fortunately, he was kind enough to share with us his plans and will continue to give us updates on what he ends up deciding. You can be sure to follow along with his projects, MINI adventure, and upcoming builds right here at ECS Tuning. Who knows, maybe you’ll see a check-in with the build and road trip in a future edition of Tuned In Weekly.