I used to think that it didn’t matter how you enjoyed cars, so long as you were enjoying cars.
I thought that there weren’t enough of us to become factional about it, that any kind of car enthusiasm was a good kind of car enthusiasm.
I thought there were bonds that tied us all together, that those who polished old Triumphs had traits they shared with those who modified Vauxhall Corsas and those who took sports cars to top speeds on airfields.
That if you were the Middle Eastern client who bought 11 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwings and had modern AMG mechanicals dropped into it, that was fine. If you were the Japanese designer who subsequently bought one and gave it an urban camo, that was even cooler.
For why? Because you were enjoying cars. You were one of us. Whether you were playing music from an Astravan in a deserted supermarket car park on a Friday night, or dipping a Suzuki Jimny in mud up to its door handles in a disused quarry, we were all in it together.
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Well, I was wrong, Instagram has made me realise. I’m only on it to try to make my cat a global superstar, really, but some of the videos the app suggests to me are not of a cat falling off a shelf. Instead, it’s somebody else losing their dignity.
All of the things I mentioned above? I’m still fine with them.
But I’ve seen so much more that makes me despair. Maybe it’s a Ford Mustang crashing coming out of a cars-and-coffee meet. Perhaps it’s a Lamborghini haring down a shopping street at 60mph. Two LaFerraris racing from a set of traffic lights on the road. A fully grown, superficially normal-looking adult near a French motor race, jumping like an excited toddler, boozed-up and spraying an unknown liquid (eeiuu) into a passing open-topped sports car whose owner doesn’t want to do a burnout. Or it’s someone just revving, and revving, and revving, a stationary supercar, inane grin on face, noise annoying bystanders, both car and owner saying: look at me, look at what I have, look at what I can do.
It is, in short, people being very, very annoying.
Were some people always like this, but there was no internet, so we didn’t see them? Or is there something very 2018 about overtly conspicuous consumption, about behaving like a div and thinking it’s just shamazing? Don’t ask why, just double tap to like.
Do I sound like a bitter old man? Maybe. But heck, I liked Max Power magazine, and still love those who modify cars and bikes because it’s about taking something ordinary and trying to make it special. Whereas much of ‘now’ is taking something special and making it one-dimensional and crass. Look at the flames from my Lamborghini exhaust. Listen to my Lamborghini exhaust. Imagine the heat of my Lamborghini exhaust. Oh, my Lamborghini is on fire.
I think, ultimately, I still believe that if it’s your car, you do what you like with it. My worry is what the wider world sees, and what it thinks as it bears the consequences of what we do. It’s only a few posts on social media? Sure. But in an age where there isn’t a lot of nuance, if some of us are too fast, too loud, too obnoxious, we all wear the label.