Harbour Island is a beautiful three-mile-long stretch of land in the Bahamas, home to incredible pink-sand beaches, the best fried chicken stands known to man, a nightclub run by a Bahamian guy called Hitler that I'm not even lying about, and luxury houses and boats that belong to rich foreign guys. You might know it as the place where Colton Harris-Moore, the "Barefoot Bandit," was caught in 2010, after two years of stealing cars, boats, and planes ended with him crashing a Cessna into a swamp and being chased down by the FBI in a hail of bullets.
Because the island is only three miles long, there's little point in owning a car, so everyone drives around in golf carts. It makes the island feel a bit like a country club if weed, rum, and dancehall played a more central role in aging rich men playing golf and talking about money. Most of the carts are battered old utility vehicles, but, as with anywhere in the world, some people are more emotionally invested in their vehicles than others. So it's not uncommon to see a hot pink golf cart with jacked-up monster wheels proudly cruising past the island's open-air basketball court-cum-nightclub.
I had a walk around in the glorious, glorious sunshine and spoke to a couple of people who have customized their carts.
VICE: Strong cart. What's the story?
Tracy: I had actually seen this cart at Disney World, the ultimate home of fantasy, and absolutely loved it. I found out that it was based on a '57 Chevy, and my husband surprised me with this for my birthday.
Nice. What alterations have you made?
The steering wheel is custom, it's been modified from a two-seater to a four-seater, and all the upholstery is custom so that it matches the color of the body.
Do many people on the island get cart-envy, seeing you drive around in this beaut?
You know what I love about it? I've lived here for so long and always had the plain, utility-style golf carts, and never had a car, so it's just really fun to drive around in something like this. People always smile at me as I drive by, and I forget that I'm in the golf cart. I think, "Wow, people are so happy to see me. It's so lovely that people are smiling and waving so much," then I remember that it's all probably because of the golf cart.
Ha, no, not at all. It's very "me." I like to make people smile, and the cart is a perfect way of doing that.
Hendrix: You seen my seats? Check out my seats!
Yep, cool seats. That's why I wanted to take a picture. That and the fact that you have a gold golf cart with gold wheels.
Yeah, everyone knows my seats, man. People love these seats. I've had these seats on here for a while now, and everybody loves 'em.
I can see why. What prompted the gold rims?
Ah, they're not real gold. That's just spray paint, but it looks good. I always wanted gold rims, but what's the point in spending thousands on some gold that's gonna get all scratched up when you can just buy a can of spraypaint?
Good attitude. Why do you think so many people customize their golf carts over here?
To be an individual, man. Ain't too much money going 'round here for locals, but people like to stand out, you know? And you're out in your cart like other people are out in their cars the whole time, so if you got a few spare bucks, you'll change up your cart a bit—make it a little bit different to all the rest.
I'd heard that there was a much larger customization scene on the wealthier neighboring island of Spanish Wells, so I took a boat over there the following morning. Here are some facts about Spanish Wells:
- Until recently, the island had exclusively white residents, which stems from the fact that old people there believe black people = crime. Something that must really, really suck for them, living in the Bahamas.
- Everyone has a throbbing, vein-popping boner for Jesus.
- Most men have their teeth removed at 16 to prevent toothache while they're out fishing at sea, and there's only one dentist on the island, meaning everyone has the same, sub-par Hollywood grin.
- The phonebook is four pages long.
- About 50 percent of the people there have one of the same two last names because of the unfathomable level of inbreeding.
- All the colorful houses are perfectly manicured in that deceptive Disney way that makes you think there's at least one Fritzl-esque basement somewhere beneath the purple picket fences.
So yeah, it's basically Appalachia-On-Sea. Let's see how their golf carts compare!
The first store I came across was a dive shop, which also sold eggs, fireworks, and dressing gowns (you can't make this shit up). The second was Dion's Golf Cart Workshop, which was closed, unfortunately, due to the fact that it was a Thursday, and who in their right mind is open for business on a Thursday?
Sadly, that meant I couldn't have a tête-à-tête with the man responsible for the majority of the island's tricked-out whips. A saving grace, however, was the ice-cold, flamin' ride sitting seductively out front; enough to let me know that this was the right island to find grown-ass men spending silly money on motorcycle engines and paint-jobs for their golf carts.
VICE: Hey, sweet flame-job, bro.
Thomas: This is the fastest golf-cart on the island, dude. I put a V-Twin engine in there, so I can get this thing up to 60 miles per hour if I push it. You gotta get the flames on there to let people know what's up, you know?
I guess so. Isn't that kinda dumb, though? I can't imagine a golf cart handles 60 miles per hour too well.
No, it's alright, man. I had the suspension jacked up, so I can pull donuts, wheel-spin round corners and all that kind of stuff. And it's completely fine. They don't look too stable, but if you know how to drive like I do, you're good.
Fair enough. What else have you got going on?
Well, I got the rims, I got this custom wood-effect dashboard put in there, I got this sweet overhead speaker system, and I put this racing wheel in to finish it all off.
Wait—you race this thing?
Nah, ain't nobody around here to race. Even if there was, there'd be no point; I'd win every time. Nobody's got a cart anywhere near as fast as mine around here. I mean, there are other guys who've switched up their engines, but they ain't tuned like mine.
Aren't you worried someone's going to steal it?
No, dude. Spanish Wells is safe for that kind of thing. Also, if someone stole it, it's not like I'm not gonna recognize it driving around, you know? You can hear this thing from 20 blocks away. People get their carts stolen over on Harbour Island sometimes, but they normally just get stripped and sold for parts. That kind of thing don't happen over here.
VICE: What's with the Ninja Turtles paint job? Is this an old promotional cart, or something?
Chet: No, my oldest kid turned five a few years ago and got really into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I had this painted up for him.
Ah, that's nice. I bet it feels pretty good driving around in a Ninja Turtlemobile too, though, right?
Yeah, it beats just having a plain old cart, I suppose.
Have you done any other customizations?
No, nothing major. You see people putting in big engines and body kits, and all that kind of thing, but I don't really see the point. This island's small enough to get from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. It's a relaxed place here—there's no need to worry about doing up your cart too much, in my opinion. Not like on Harbour Island. I heard stories about guys doing wheelies over there.
VICE: So why do you love the Red Sox so much?
Gerald: You're kidding me, right? I'm a pinstriper through and through.
Yeah, I was joking. Cool cart. Did you have someone do it up for you?
No, I don't get into all that—I prefer working on this myself. There's actually not too many mods on here, either. I put all the stickers on myself, got a new foot mat, a bigger engine, new tires and changed the steering wheel. That's it, nothing too extreme.
You're not going for the boy-racer thing, then?
Oh, they're guys in England who put big engines and gaudy body kits on cheap cars and cruise around trying to impress people.
Oh, OK, I know what you mean. People call them "ricers" over here. And no, I'm certainly not trying to do that. There are a few kids on the island doing that kind of thing, though, and it seems to be happening more nowadays. I don't know who they think they're going to impress, speeding along the bay in a little golf cart.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton
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