Automotive Enthusiasm is not mutually exclusive
Automotive Enthusiasm is not mutually exclusive
There was a time when most of us hummed car noises while scooting small diecast cars across the kitchen floor. There were toy boxes filled with all sorts of matchbox vehicles. From a bass-boat finished C3 Corvette with shiny pipes out the side, to a car-crushing monster truck sitting atop gnarled tires, the collections were as diverse as it gets. Little metal dump trucks shared space with racecars, fire trucks, and sports cars alike. I’m certain we all had a favorite that displayed our love in the form of faded colors and chips, but on any given day, each of the cars and trucks held a role in the imaginary scenarios that played out on the carpets of our living rooms. As young children, if a vehicle had wheels and made loud noises, it awoke something in us that caused us to tug at our parents’ arms in excitement. Whether passing a construction site, wandering the aisles of a classic car show, or sitting on a hill overlooking the race track, we found unexplainable joy in automobiles of all makes and models. So the question arises, when does all of this change? What causes people to feel obligated to narrow their minds and choose sides? Why is there such tension between the various genres of automotive enthusiasm?
Somewhere along the way, as we age, people begin to segregate the car world and put up walls. Rules are developed about what’s “cool” at the time and cars are lumped into categories, further dividing the community. “Shoulds” and “Should nots” are repeated across web forums as members explain to others how they ought to enjoy their own cars. Euro guys bash JDM guys while track enthusiasts patronize stance enthusiasts. It’s as if, with age, we all receive a declaration that the lines are drawn and we are obligated to choose sides. People pick a style and pledge their undying allegiance to it, putting on blinders and forging ahead certain that their style is the “right” one. Before you know it, people are putting down fellow enthusiasts simply for enjoying their cars in a manner divergent from their own with an air of superiority. They toss around tired internet clichés like “You’re doing it wrong” or “Epic Fail” to establish that their way of doing things is the only true “right” way.
Of course, this is not to say that everyone falls into this trap, and certainly no side is any less guilty than the other, but that’s the problem. This is a matter that is prevalent enough to pervade all realms of the car world and cause tension throughout. It’s important that we take a moment and reflect on the bigger picture: you don’t have to pick a side. There is no reason to limit your car enthusiasm to any single style, purpose, or brand. You can appreciate cars built for function while still applauding the beauty of a car built with form in mind. While you might prefer to dial in the stance of your car, take a moment to bask in the impressive nature of race car engineering and performance. Re-establish that excitement that you had as a child with no bias or prejudice. Open your mind to the wealth of inspiration that lies beyond the niche that you’ve found yourself in. Explore the other styles that are out there and realize that they all hold a value of their own.
Too often I read the statement, “You’ve ruined your car” as someone seeks to demean another car owner for modifying their car in a slightly different fashion from their own. To "ruin" means to destroy or cause irreparable damage - a car is ruined in the unfortunate occurrence of automobile accidents when it meets its demise and parts lay strewn out amidst puddles of oil and coolant. A car is ruined if it’s left to rot away in a field or barn, unloved and uncared for. It’s unfair and rude to claim that someone has ruined their car when they dump their blood and sweat into their build. Whether or not you agree with the style or purpose with which someone modifies their car, the reality is that the owner truly cares about their car and they’re pouring their passion into it. Regardless of the style, that car is one that is loved. It’s being used and enjoyed as it was meant to be.
In these battles, you often hear “shoulds” thrown about insinuating that there’s only one correct way to enjoy your car. There’s a general misconception that behind every car lays an intrinsic purpose or function that we ought to abide by. Perhaps you’ll read that S2000s should only be modified for performance because that’s what they were intended for, or that you shouldn’t dive into a 500hp engine build on your Volkswagen because it was meant to be a FWD commuter car. You shouldn’t body-drop your truck because trucks are meant to carry heavy loads, and you shouldn’t lower your Subaru because it was designed to be used as a rally car. The list of "shoulds" is endless and it goes against what it means to be a car enthusiast.
The reality is that cars are not developed with one sole purpose in mind. Car designers are given the task to develop a car that is going to sell. Performance, style, comfort, safety, and reliability are seen as marketing tools to promote their product and encourage buyers to purchase their car over their competitors’. Each car developer balances these factors to best meet the needs of their target customers. If a car were truly designed solely for performance you wouldn’t find yourself with AC, sound deadening, reclinable seats, or navigation. If a car were simply about style, car companies wouldn’t employ large teams of engineers who work day in and day out to produce high horsepower engines and nimble suspension. Cars are a balance of form and function. Some brands will sacrifice a bit of comfort to deliver a fast sportscar and others will sacrifice a bit of performance to build a comfortable luxury car, but at the end of the day, these cars are built to bring enjoyment to their future owners. For those of us who have chosen car building as a hobby, cars are an empty canvas with no pre-defined direction. They are simply meant to be enjoyed in any way you know how.
So let’s shed these imaginary guidelines and misconceptions. There are no rules. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy your car as long as it’s bringing you joy. Open your mind to the other styles and learn to appreciate them for what they are. Talk to other owners and develop an understanding of where they’re coming from. Take a moment to drool over a show car and a moment to listen as a racecar screams its way down the back straightaway. Don’t limit yourself to any single segment of the automotive world. We all may prefer different styles, but we’re not that different. We’re all excited by four-wheel gas guzzling machines and it’s because of this shared loved that we should all treat each other with respect and applaud each others’ accomplishments.