Classic and luxury cars filled the parking lot in front of V Social Eatery Oct. 15. The sun shined on more than one hundred cars, but none drew more attention than the custom orange-painted Nissan GT-R. The car’s Maryland license plate reads “F CANCR” and belongs to Andrew Lee, 20, of Driven to Cure who has a rare kidney cancer. Ten percent of the funds raised at the show went to his organization.
“F Cancer” was the theme to the season’s last Cars & Cigars car show. The event raised $9,400 for Lee’s organization, Drive to Cure, which in turn donates money for rare kidney cancer research.
“Well we say fight cancer, or fix cancer. I would say the majority of people have a much stronger phrase but we try to keep it PG as much as possible,” Bruce Lee, Andrew’s father, said. “But we’re getting tremendous support, and we’re just thrilled.”
Andrew Lee was diagnosed with HLRCC, a rare kidney cancer that currently has no cure, when he was 19. His doctors gave him six months to a year to live. He has surpassed the year-long projection while being kept stable through a clinical trial at NIH in Bethesda, his father, Bruce Lee said. The idea to buy the GT-R came up shortly after Andrew Lee was put on the trial.
“Paul Walker was my favorite actor in Fast and Furious so I started having this love for Nissans and JDM (Japanese domestic market) cars. The GT-R was always the car I wanted to strive to get one day, and it’s amazing that my dad made it happen now,” Andrew Lee said.
The younger Lee began the nonprofit while still at school at the University of New Hampshire. He was trying to find a way to combine his love of cars with raising cancer awareness. His doctors told him rare cancers often don’t get a lot of funding because they don’t affect many people, so the idea to use his dream car as a way to raise awareness and funds for rare kidney cancers seemed perfect, he said.
Andrew Lee told his father about his idea, and his father loved it. Andrew came up with the name Driven to Cure after coming up with the motto: Built to Drive, Driven to Cure.
The GT-R was originally white with a tan interior. The engine was customized by David Baker from Baker Performance and the paint, suspension, wheels and body kit were done by Auto Performance Aesthetic Centre (APAC). Andrew Lee knew he wanted the car to be orange because it is the color for kidney cancer awareness.
“So we came up with a nice gloss orange and they were like, ‘Oh, we can make this one of a kind, we’ll put some gold pearl in it and make it stand out,'” Andrew Lee said. “The paint came out amazing and it’s this one of a kind orange which is awesome.”
Driven to Cure has raised approximately $175,000 with every dollar going to research, Bruce Lee said. Lee and his family take the car to different car shows and events to raise awareness and money.
“The license plate is really what made him famous. And when he met with the governor of Maryland, it was really cute. They got together and the governor had just been diagnosed with his cancer, a very different cancer, and he said, ‘Andrew, I heard about your license plate, how did you get that through MVA?’ And Andrew said, ‘Well, I just went online and filled it out.” And he’s like, “Governor, you’re not going to take it away from me are you?” And (the governor) goes, ‘No, no, no, it’s yours for life. But I wouldn’t mind having it,'” Bruce Lee said, laughing.
Andrew Lee and his family will be heading to SEMA in Las Vegas, one of the biggest car shows in the world. The car will be front and center and there will be a fundraiser at the show, Bruce Lee said.
Andrew Lee has also used his car to bring joy to others. He has given some people rides in the GT-R because it is also their dream car. He’s also been able to drive it on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway — one of his favorite memories with the car. But Lee enjoys driving it just as much off the speedway.
“I drive it whenever I want. Whenever I’m feeling it, I’ll drive it. It gets taken out during the week, it’s not just the weekend car,” he said. “It’s such a fun car to drive and it’s my place where I can go and kind of forget about everything too, you know? Just enjoy the car.”