CAR CULTURE: Mass Produced Individuality
Gearheads around the world have been in love with cars for a hundred years. Automobiles do more than just provide mobility; they are kinetic art. For some, the love of cars starts with Hot Wheels as little kids. For others. cars are a family activity that brings parents and progeny together. In adolescence, young racers use cars to compete for glory and respect. Some older petrolheads restore cars, which provides a tangible connection to the past, keeping history alive.
On the most basic level, the most common shared joy of motoring is the road trip. A meandering journey with loosely defined stops for food and fuel, with a specific end-point, but certainly not a schedule. Just being uot on the open road is a pleasure. And like Sally Carrera said to Lightning McQueen in Pixar’s 2006 masterpiece ‘Cars‘ folks didn’t go on the road to make great time. “…They drove on it to have a great time..”
Drive down the street in a Jeep, and you’re sure to get ‘the wave‘ from someone else in a Wrangler who knows as you do that it’s the coolest thing on the road. Drive your WRX into a coffee shop parking lot after midnight and you’ll get ‘the nod‘ from other Subie drivers, through their vape clouds. Part of what makes car culture so compelling is the diversity. There are hundreds of subcultures; traditional hot rods, rat rods, JDM tuners, muscle cars, off-road trucks. Someone out there shares your love for a specific type of vehicle, and seeing you cruising by brings them joy.
Cars are nicknamed by enthusiasts, and even christened by their owners. They have an importance far greater than transport from Point-A to Point-B. For enthusiasts, cars become an extension of their personality, or a way to express their individuality. Whether its a teenager with a booming system cruising the strip, or an old school hot-rodder with a big-block V8 rumbling down the highway, cars can be as individual as their driver. This is something a beige Camry driver will never understand. The appeal of the car, what makes it a symbol of personal freedom, is that even something mass-produced can be one of a kind. Individual expression through customization makes them unique.
Cars are a part of our culture including art (Andy Warhol’s art aars), movies (Roger Corman classics), music (‘Drive’ by PRISMA), games (TOMI Digital Derby) and clubs (TRAK at R-Club). One definition of ‘car culture‘ is the shared beliefs, values, purpose, customs, language, arts and achievements of a particular group of people that have an affinity for the automobile.
There is no single car culture, and that’s what makes it so intuiting.