Before I begin, allow me to state that I love the car community. A group of people getting together to express their collective passion for the automobile is something I will never have ill intentions for. On a Saturday morning, there is really nothing I’d rather do than go to a car meet and engage with like-minded enthusiasts young and old. Some of my favorite automotive memories come from these types of events, or simply conversing with knowledgeable people about a given topic. However, like any community or collection of people, the car community is not without its flaws. I’ve noticed these flaws become more prevalent in recent years, and I wanted to address some issues head on. My wishes might ultimately be idealistic, but I’ll express them nonetheless.
Unfair judgment is a behavior that has found its way into a number of aspects of the car community. It’s fueled by some unnecessarily excessive competitive drive, and it has created a very intimidating environment for newcomers. I am fully aware that cars are a topic of mystery for many people. Many people don’t really know what they’re talking about, and that’s completely ok. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most technically inclined enthusiast you’ll ever meet. Sure, I understand a decent amount and I can talk cars to a relatively high degree. But, once you reach the inner workings of a car and start talking about things like valve timing, you might as well be speaking Mandarin to me. The key to this is, while I don’t know everything, I don’t pretend to know everything. I don’t expect other people to know everything, either. I try to soak up information as much as I can, but at the end of the day, no one is ever going to have all the answers. I have been to car meets where owners give you sideways looks if you can’t talk in detail with them about whatever turbo they’ve strapped onto their NA Mazda Miata. This is a shame to say the least. I’ve had friends express interest in attending car meets with me, but with many of them it never happened. I was overjoyed at the thought of sharing my hobby and passion with someone new. Did I care that they knew next to nothing about the car world? Absolutely not! As long as they displayed an interest and respect for what they were looking at, I would be happy to bring them along and show them a thing or two about the automotive world I love so much. Acceptance is the attitude I wish the car world would exhibit more often. People should not be too intimidated to go to car meets just because they think members or owners will judge them. Point blank: there is no need for that kind of exclusivity. Anyone wishing to see what the car world is like should be welcomed with open arms.
Another major flaw with automotive culture, and one that bothers me more than most, is the current numbers-obsessive attitude among enthusiasts. Allow me to explain. The internet is a wonderful place, full of great and incredibly useful information. However, it’s also where a lot of unnecessary and uninformed fighting begins. While newcomers addressed in the last paragraph don’t necessarily know a lot, there’s a stark difference between not knowing a lot and pretending to know more than you actually do. More and more these days, you see people who base their opinion on a car solely off its performance numbers. Forget how the car actually drives and makes you feel; all they care about is a 0-60 figure or a Nurburgring lap time they’ll never be able to replicate. This is especially amusing when comparing cars from completely different segments, and basing comparisons on simple stats such as how quickly a car launches from a standstill. The following is a recent example that caught my eye.
The other day I saw an interesting debate on a Facebook car club whose name I’ll keep to myself. This debate involved the Aston Martin Vulcan being compared to a Nissan GT-R. If you know these cars, you know they’re two completely different vehicles, in completely different segments, built for completely different purposes. The Vulcan is a highly exclusive, track-only beast built to deliver incredible thrills on racing circuits around the world. The GT-R is a high performance road car, built to provide an exhilarating experience for drivers while also providing many of the comforts and luxuries a day-to-day car needs. The aforementioned debate between these two incredibly dissimilar machines literally revolved around this one question: “why buy a $2 million Aston Martin when this Nissan can do 0-60 faster for a 20th of the price?” Sure, the Nissan GT-R is a blisteringly quick car off the line. Its 2.5-ish second 0-60 time will embarrass most supercars, and does indeed trump the Vulcan’s quoted time of 2.9 seconds. However, saying the Vulcan is built for 0-60 times is like saying a ballerina is built to run the 100 meter dash. It’s just plain wrong. The Aston is a downforce car. It’s built with incredible high speed stability and aerodynamics that allow the car to lap tracks quicker than pretty much anything you’ll ever see with a license plate. It can navigate corners faster than most humans can process, which is why Aston provided lessons in one of their own GT4 race cars before dropping owners into the Vulcan’s cockpit. The GT-R is a car most people can get in and drive with no problem. The Vulcan is a car that demands your respect and attention 100% of the time. Sure, the GT-R is an incredibly quick car, and will be the fastest thing many of its drivers have ever experienced. However, on a race track, where the Vulcan belongs, the GT-R would be eaten alive. A race between them would be laughable. Those who compare these two cars do not realize quite how different they truly are. They also perfectly demonstrate my point that numbers don’t tell the full story of a car. Seeing stats on paper and experiencing them in reality are two completely different scenarios, and I hope more people grow to realize this. A world where less people base opinions solely on numbers (lacking underlying context or relevance) is a world I can only dream of. So, if you’re one of these numbers people, I have one simple request. The next time you’re at a car meet, before you tell the McLaren 675LT owner that your “friend’s” GT-R is a better car, please think before you speak.
The prevalence of judgmental attitudes and uninformed numbers-reliance is visible all over the car community. From car meets to internet forums, and especially the YouTube comments section, it’s often difficult to avoid this unpleasantness. Are these the only problems in the car world? Of course not. But those other problems can be addressed in another piece. For now, I leave you with this. The automotive world is a beautiful place filled with passion, excitement, and (of course) incredible machines. It deserves a community full of respect that’s ready to share its wonders in a positive way. I don’t want exclusion, judgment, or arrogance. I want a community that will welcome newcomers the way it has potential to, while avoiding pointless arguments or discontent. A community willing to accept and teach is something we should all strive towards.