photos by: the author
What Makes a “Car Guy?”
What is it about car people? Car guys, specifically I’m talking about and what is it about us that makes us all generally into the same stuff?
To be fair, there are a fair amount of different cliques within the car crowd. You’ve got your old school guys, you’ve got your purely factory stock crowd, import crews, drifters, tinkerers, exotic lovers, pro-mod, resto-mod, pro-touring, beaters, rat rod folks, low-riders, greasers, racers, AutoX’ers, demolition derby lovers, road racers, drag racers, motorcycle guys, Harley owners, Corvette owners, Mustang/Camaro fanatics, MoPar/NoCar groups and those are the just ones I came up with off the top of my head!
All those groups and many I missed, all of which have their own inside jokes, lingo and way of being. They just have their own flavor that you easily pick up on right away when you hang out for more than 30 seconds at a time. They are all different, yet in so many ways they are so similar. They all seem to fit a mold that was determined sometime around conception. But we all know when we are in the presence of another car person and when we are with a poser who thinks they are a car person, but they just can’t quite pull it off. Like that guy who insists his new cold-air intake makes fifty more horsepower, we all know that guy.
But for those are true car people there are some stuff that we just get. I started writing this editorial after allowing my wife to cruise my Facebook page (I’ll turn in a man card at the end of this). The first comment out of her mouth was, “is your entire Facebook feed seriously all cars?” Yes. Yes it is. I gave her the look that says; what? You want me to apologize or something? And then quickly snatched my phone up and swiped up as fast I could to see what sort of car stuff I’ve missed.
My theory is that despite all our cliques, clubs, groups and subtle differences, we are much more alike than we are unalike. I can tell you this because I’ve been on virtually every side of the automotive equation. I’ve been a builder, automotive journalist, freelancer, car show worker, auto-x volunteer, racer and general tinkerer. I’ve seen and met so many car people it’s become almost like a second language to me. So what’s funny is that many of my observations are through the eyes of my better half because I’ve been so ingrained into the culture that I miss so much of the not so obvious stuff. To her, its blatantly painfully clear that we can be spotted from a mile away.
Now barring some minor preferences and plain law of averages, I believe that there are just some universal things about car people and while this isn’t a comprehensive list, the following are things that I’ve noticed that are some fairly impressive commonalities amongst us car folk.
A love of all things mechanical. I’ve noticed a lot of us just love mechanical “stuff”. I was hanging out with a car friend of mine recently and we get to talking as you do. Eventually we start talking about firearms and guns and how much fun shooting tiny little holes in pieces of paper really is. This lead me to ask this friend why is that so many car guys just flat out love shooting. He gave me the thousand yard stare like he was flipping Yoda or something and says, “We just love things that go bang!” And he’s right! Think about it for a second. There’s just something to having the drive to know how mechanical things work, I think firearms is just an extension of the inner engineer in all of us.
We have a uniform. So, the story goes that my wife joined me once at an AutoX to see me go round the cones (Ok, more like annihilate) a few times. She looked around and noticed that every single one of us had a white car t-shirt and khaki or tan colored shorts with tennis shoes. Seriously, look around sometime.
We can’t remember a name, but I remember your car and could pick your engine out of a crime photo lineup. For the life of me, I cannot remember a name. Faces and cars I’ve got all day long. John who? Oh you mean the guy with the Blue Chevelle with the 6-liter LS swap, full AutoMeter Cobalt gauge dash, the T56, nice seats, 9-inch rear and the greyish Forgeline wheels with a polished lip and matching Baer brakes… ya the one where the hood doesn’t quite fit just right but he can’t move it because otherwise it will make the other 3 corners not line up perfect? Ya, sure… John, whatever you say.
All cars, all the time. It doesn’t matter whom I’m with or what I’m doing, eventually the conversation gets steering towards car stuff. Mainly because I’m the one steering it that way but hey, I digress. It almost never gets old talking about cars. Whether is bench racing, watching car shows or racing on TV, sh@t-giving or sh@t-taking or just talking about what parts we can’t afford, I can’t imagine a conversation that got stale because of cars.
We have a love of other forms of transportation. I have a ton of friends who really love snowmobiling. I’m from the great frozen north, so many of you may not get the appeal of driving around in basically a four wheeler with skis but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. These same guys love boats, motorcycles, ATV riding into the forests, UTV’s and basically any form of powersports on the planet. Basically put, if it has a motor and goes vroom-vroom, we love it.
We see potential where others see junk. How many times have you sat and stared at a project and seen in your mind’s eye exactly what you’d build? If we were honest, we could say out loud that it’s a pile of junk and will take more money than legally should be allowed to fix up a car, but that’s just the talk of a quitter and someone with no ambition!
I’m sure there’s quite a few more on that list, but I can say that I’m proud to be counted as one of the many in the car culture.
Eric is an automotive journalist with an eclectic taste. He has written text manuals and creates dynamic features with exciting photography and engaging writing. He holds a masters degree in a different field and lives in the blustery state of Minnesota. He builds cars on the side and enjoys road racing as a weekend warrior. His current project is an LS3-powered RCR SLC.