Car Enthusiasts, Unite: A Public Service Announcement by Charles Kha

I found this article while browsing a car forum early Saturday morning.
This is written by Charles Kha, SpeedHungers Editor-in-Chief, and it seems to be reposted by some bloggers.

Following words written by Charles Kha:

It’s not easy to be a modifier these days. While our scene has finally gone from underground obscurity to mainstream acknowledgment (modified cars have infiltrated television, toys, video games, movies, fashion and music), we are now facing a growing number of obstacles.

On one side enthusiasts face tough lifestyle decisions that didn’t exist before. Do we want an exhaust or an iPad? Do we spend the weekend at a track day or a music festival? These new temptations have all had an impact on the aftermarket industry, which has also been battered by the financial crisis.

Then there are the seemingly never-ending pressures from society. While our car culture may be recognised by the mainstream, it doesn’t mean we’ve been accepted. The media continue to circle above us, waiting to pounce the moment there’s a car crash involving a modified car or young driver. This in turn compels politicians – vying for the public’s vote – to put pressure on the Authorities to clamp down on us with stricter regulations and harsher penalties.

When you look at all the above as a collective, it’s easy to see why many believe the outlook for our scene is dire. Indeed, many of the conversations I have with readers at a car meet or with industry folk at events revolve around the future of this generation of modifiers. And while consumerism, the rise of hybrid technology and pressures from the Authorities have all had impacts on our scene, I’m certain none of these will cause our demise. Modifying cars has been around since the automobile was invented, and so too have these social and political pressures. Technology will always advance and the Authorities will always be influenced by the outcries from the public and media.

In my opinion, the real threat to our scene is ourselves. Let me explain. As our scene exploded into popularity, so too did the number of styles that fall under the late-model modified car umbrella. There are now dozens of interpretations of how cars should be modified. To some, matte black is the shit. To others, candy paint is cool. Some like massive wings, others delete them. This diversity is supposed to be the greatest thing about our generation, but it might well prove to be our downfall.

The biggest problem is how enthusiasts are starting to view one another. In the past, there was always an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality; where late-model car modifiers stuck together as a unified front, irrespective of whether we drove mini-trucks, Honda Civics or Lancers. In our scene’s infancy we fought together, as a unit, for recognition.

In Australia, we were up against some of our street machine and hot rod predecessors, who viewed anyone with a Japanese modified car as a tasteless rich kid, with no idea of what innovation and build quality stood for. In the States, it was the domestics who laughed at the import tuner generation, labelling them as a bunch of ‘rice boys’ playing around with grocery getters. Back then we all fought tooth and nail to establish our scene, to gain credibility and to earn recognition. Having finally accomplished this, we’ve now begun to turn on ourselves.

If a car show enthusiast accidentally jumps onto a drifting forum, chances are he’ll be annihilated within minutes of his first post. If a drag racer tries to show off his latest creation on a forum full of J-style worshippers, there will probably be a pack of keyboard warriors ready to flame him for building a car that’s only fast in a straight line. And what’s even worse is that traces of racism are starting to surface as people pigeon-hole specific car trends to ethnicities.

Even if an outsider can appreciate the style and beliefs of those in that forum, it’s rare for such acceptance to be reciprocated from that forum’s community. If your car isn’t modified the way they think it should be then f**k off. That’s the mentality I’m seeing today. Not everyone on a forum does this of course – in fact the majority are innocent bystanders – just a few bad seeds are enough to scare away those of differing modifying religions. And this is the equivalent of erecting huge walls around each online community to keep intruders out.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but an opinion doesn’t entitle us to turn on our own kind. Any of us can insult someone online and take comfort knowledge they won’t be punched in the face. However the old adage ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ still applies; we might not face recourse for our actions directly, but we’re still inflicting damage to our scene as a whole.

Perhaps i’m just dreaming of a far-fetched automotive utopia, where modifiers of all types can appreciate each other’s tastes – even if it isn’t keeping with your own personal modifying ethos. Where an airbrushed, chrome-wheeled show stopper can rub shoulders with a sleeper GT-R and still be appreciated for what it is. But if you think about it, such an oasis already exists.

One of the most ironic – and frustrating – things is how so many enthusiasts now draw inspiration from Japan’s car culture. This whole ‘JDM’ thing has been revolutionary; it is actually the first time a single trend has swept to all corners of the globe, overriding the unique modifying flavour each country used to have. You can be in Finland, Hong Kong, South Africa or New Zealand and you’ll see J-style cars cruising the streets.

But what people need to realise is that “JDM” is not the definition of Japan’s scene. Not even close. Japan’s scene isn’t just about functionality over form; it isn’t solely based around performance over aesthetics. It’s not about modifying ‘purity’.

What’s great about Japan’s culture – and it’s this aspect we all seem to overlook – is that anything and everything is accepted. If you want to see horrific rice boy creations, go to Japan. If you like a hundred neon lights, over-sized chrome wheels and a fish tank in the boot, go to Japan. Airbag suspension on a scooter? Japan. Triple stacked wings, pink paint and ludicrous body-kits on a van? You guessed it, Japan.

Photo by James Evins

If we’re going to to draw inspiration fro the land of the rising sun, we shouldn’t just look at their hard-tuned street culture. We should look at Japan’s scene as a whole: how they can appreciate and embrace such an eclectic array of styles. We should be throwing out the welcome mat whenever we find someone who likes modifying, rather than slam the door if their ride doesn’t meet your stringent criteria of how it ‘should be done’.

I know forums are designed so you can meet like-minded people and build communities. But as our scene’s growth has risen, we’ve begun segregating our own kind; creating niches within a niche. The hated have become the haters.

That’s the real danger. Even if the Authorities put speed limiters on everyone’s cars, the media continues to paint us with that social menace brush and our race-tracks make way for residential developments, modifying cars will still continue on. While our scene may never have the attention to detail of the hot rod builders, or the faultless quality of street machiners, what we do have is our innovation and diversity. And if we strip that away from ourselves, what are we left with? Nothing.

-Charles Kha, Autosalon Magazine, Issue 85, 2010.

so, how do you think?

2 thoughts on “Car Enthusiasts, Unite: A Public Service Announcement by Charles Kha”

  1. Pingback: Makenzie Aguiar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *