Han dies in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” but that didn’t keep actor Sung Kang from appearing in four subsequent prequels and becoming an active member of the car-enthusiast culture. Last year, Kang and two of his friends built a Datsun 240Z, which ultimately became the star of the SEMA Show. Due to the popularity of FuguZ—named after the potentially poisonous delicacy—Kang has a new project, the U-Dog, a Ford Maverick using a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder. The car is being built by three students from Alhambra Unified School District’s automotive technician program, as well as legendary designer Steve Strope.
Automobile Magazine: Were you always a car guy, or did the movies bring that out?
Sung Kang: When I was a kid, I had a neighbor, Mr. Huntzinger, and he was a retired Army vet. He and his wife never had kids. I would see his garage open; he was restoring this old 1963 Impala, white with red interior. We were different generations, didn’t talk much, but he would let me sit in the corner and watch him and ask questions about the restoration process. It planted a seed, and as I grew older, it was serendipity that I worked on F&F.
AM: How did you react when producers asked you back after Han’s death?
SK: I didn’t go into F&F expecting much for my character. Han doesn’t talk a lot. He probably has 10 lines in all the movies. Then I realized he’s the connective tissue, the idea that holds the integrity of the movie and characters together. Han represents the perfect car-guy bro. If you had an older brother or cousin that was a car guy, you’d want someone like Han. Anytime you’re at his place, there are hot girls and cars that he’d toss you the keys to. Han is an idea. People tell me, “You’re so much like Han,” and I ask, “What do you mean?” And they tell me what Han represents: “You’re so accepting, so chill. Who am I to sit and talk to you? And you’re just listening.” That’s Han. Everyone has a Han. Everyone wants to be Han’d! [laughs]
AM: What inspired the FuguZ?
SK: I never really participated in the car community because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a car guy from F&F. But I started noticing through people like [late co-star] Paul [Walker] that they use F&F as a really great entry point because people really share their love for their cars. And I thought, “You know what? I really want to be a part of this.” There’s a yearning for community. I just started going to Cars and Coffee and asked a lot of questions. But I wanted to be part of the dream, part of the drama, so that led to the FuguZ.
AM: You’re working on new project, a Ford Maverick …
SK: I drove that ’71 Grabber in F&F 5 in the Brazil scene. It planted this seed that this was really an underappreciated car because it’s half-Pinto, half-Mustang. Years passed, did the FuguZ, and Shell wanted to know whether I had any projects. So I said a Ford Maverick because it’s like an underdog car, and that’s where conversations started.
AM: Tell us about that project.
SK: I didn’t want to do another SEMA build as just some actor. I was approached by Shell to do something with the company’s Influencer Program [aimed at engaging youth and promoting automotive passions] and the people behind the FuguZ. It’s cool if we could do something, to go on another adventure and work with guys like Steve Strope [the fabricator building the car], but I don’t want to collect or do this as a business, but I would love to share this experience. That’s how the Maverick project started, and to share it, especially with these underprivileged students. That’s amazing.
AM: How are the students part of the project?
SK: Like the Maverick, these kids from Alhambra school district are underdogs. It’s a godsend that Shell was supportive of this build. [Shell provides financial assistance to help fund the build and video recording of the project.] We’ll be able to showcase their lives that inspire me. I look at these kids and the circumstances they’re facing—poverty, horrid pasts, really just forgotten children—that they’re able to rise up and be so positive and to know they have something to be so passionate about—wow. These kids aren’t going as spectators; they’re going as part of SEMA and will share the enthusiasm with their generation. The thing I got as a kid from Mr. Huntzinger, I can give it back. And if I can be an ambassador like Magnus Walker or Chip Foose because I’m Han from F&F, dude, what a blessing.