Learning To Appreciate Again

I’ve got something that I need to get off my chest.

This is much of a stream of consciousness rather than any structured objective description, so I apologise in advance if this seems to head off on a tangent.

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At the start of the year, Paddy wrote an excellent piece articulating pretty much exactly how I’d imagine most members of the Speedhunters team have felt at one point or another. Actually, I can only really speak for myself with any real authority, but I’d imagine that the Irishman and myself aren’t the only ones who have had this sense of aloof deja vu creep over us when eyeing up a new build, potential feature car, or something we stumble across at an event.

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As Speedhunters we spend many of our working days absorbing a continuous stream of car culture from all corners of the globe. If we’re at a meet or event then it’s there in front of us; when we’re chatting amongst each other the theme is almost always cars and car culture – what’s happening, who’s building what, what’s next, and what do we need to stay ahead of. If we’re in our respective offices we’re either editing images of cars, writing about them, or researching them.

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When I pick up my phone my social media streams are pretty much entirely populated by people who I know through car culture, or people who I follow because I have an interest in their chosen mode of transport. My emails? You guessed it – littered with conversations about upcoming events, potential leads, and builds that I’m keeping a check on for first dibs as soon as they’re unleashed.

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When you consider all that then it’s easy to see how one could become temperate towards things which, just a few years ago, might have completely blown me away.

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I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to working in the industry either. Something that Paddy also touched on in his piece was the prominent rise of social media. If you’re reading this then your social feeds are just as likely to be rammed to the gunwales with people you know or follow through car culture. Each and every one of us, in 2017, has a gigantic wealth of scrollable, flickable, and double-tappable visual automotive stimulation at our fingertips. It’s a fantastic time to be a petrolhead.

Yet I feel it’s a double-edged sword too.

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You see, in my opinion, the online world and real life are two very different, but parallel, universes. A build you stumble across online that, by all rights, should stop you in your tracks and elicit a more in depth investigation, is highly likely to be surrounded by a feed of similarly exaggerated attention-grabbing machines. There’s a strong chance that it’ll be mildly admired, absorbed and forgotten in an instant. Only the truly craziest, biggest budget, most imaginative, controversial, or headline-grabbing cars end up standing out above the rest, and not always for the right reasons.

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Now imagine that any one of those impressive builds drove past you in the street in a sea of unnoteworthy and monotonous pedestrian machines. It’s very likely to have a more profound effect on you, and invoke a much more positive, or at least a more lengthy contemplation and considered reaction.

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This is something I’ve experienced myself. For example, I’d admired countless RWB Porsche builds online, pretty much to the point where they stopped becoming particularly interesting to me. A wild, wide, race-inspired, GT-winged, classic Porsche that would’ve once been a poster car when I was growing up (if RWB had been around way back then) had become something that made my thumb hover momentarily before swiping up.

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But then I saw my first RWB in the flesh last year and the effect it had one me was very different. It wasn’t my favourite RWB; in the scale of RWB builds it didn’t even register in the top 10, but it was there, in front of me. And even surrounded by hundreds of equally high-level show cars, it made me stop and appreciate it for far longer than had I seen it on a computer screen.

Just imagine if it’d been driving towards me on the street in everyday traffic. That effect would no doubt be further amplified.

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I think this, in part, is why it can be sometimes frustrating when we bring you stories of some of these builds and the response from some in the comments section is somewhat dismissive. Don’t take this the wrong way; opinions are fantastic things, and they’re the entirety of what makes human interactions interesting. I don’t think any of us are asking for an army of sycophants to praise our every move, but at the same time I think we’re all guilty in one way or another in forgetting that the context in which we’re absorbing this information and these images is very different to the context in which the subjects are enjoyed, and where we might have encountered them – i.e out on the roads, being driven, in the real world.

I digress, because online versus real life wasn’t the discussion here, although it’s relevant to my point.

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The risk is that when you start to feel nonchalant about the impressive then you enter a spiral of failed one upmanship on behalf of car culture as a whole. The mentality that if someone’s done something before then you can’t do the same thing again if you want to stand out. You have to do it again as a minimum, but then you need to build upon it with something bigger, and better. This leads to the ‘recipe’ that Paddy spoke of – the basic ingredients that you need to use to even be considered a worthy feature car.

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Paddy asked the question ‘have we seen it all before’? If by ‘it’ he’s referring to the big, headline-grabbing features of builds and car culture then my answer is, probably yes. People have put huge, wide wheels and overfenders on almost every car you can think of. The craziest engine swaps we can think of have already been done. We’ve torn apart the rarest cars and rebuilt them in the most controversial ways we can imagine. And we’ve pushed the envelope with big power to the point where 1,000bhp in a street car sounds like a lot, but it’s no longer an unimaginable feat.

However, I don’t think we should necessarily continue to consider the ‘it’ to be the big, headline-grabbing features. I think the ‘it’ should more prominently take into account a measure of quality and innovation, and things done with thought, reason and consideration. A car shouldn’t need lairy paint, huge fenders, wheel dish you could get lost in, and a bonkers 1,000bhp quad-rotor engine swap to be considered ground-breaking. If we could adjust our measures of appreciation to take in those builds that maybe aren’t the fastest, biggest and loudest, then I think we’re a long way from having seen it all.

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Individualism is a truly fascinating part of car culture, and it’s something that’s being overshadowed by a fear of what you ‘should’ be doing and, in turn, what other people think.

In my opinion, there’s a lot to be said from learning to appreciate the nuances in everything.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
Facebook: Jordan Butters Photography
jordan@speedhunters.com

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32 comments

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1

I couldn't agree more.

The builds that stand out to me have always been the more subtle ones, not the loudest, widest, lowest or fastest.

2

i agree, as well. But it is a situation that happening in all forms of culture and counter culture. girls looking at fashion magazines wanting to look like glamm hoes. Snowboarders performing bigger and more dangerous stunts, risking necks. if you get a tattoo now better be a hole sleeve from the best of artists. If I slammm my car it best be scrapping and useless, all for a "like". The art of being "subtle" will be a refreshing movement that i hope will win over culture in general, and your photographs.

3

That's the funny thing, much of the vw and Euro scene is subtle and oem. People are already screaming (online) because they're bored of seeing what to them appears to be a car with no modification without even thinking about the fact there's actually a lot but they aren't aware of it.

4

Is the rat rod inspired car a VW Beetle? Would have anymore pictures?

5
ريتشارد هاموند
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6

"huge fenders, wheel dish you could get lost in, and a bonkers 1,000bhp quad-rotor engine swap." I think that to some degree, we're all guilty of wanting that. Personally, the individualism is really what I look for now. That, and ultimate dream cars. I really like to see when someone truly flexes their creative abilities to really flesh out their dreams. And restraint is a beautiful thing, something very hard to pull off well.

7

Jordan, appreciate your thoughts on this, and I find myself in agreement.

However, as a marketing tool, project cars with big budget backing are expected to have a certain amount of exposure and appeal to new audiences. There is an entire industry that is now supported by these projects (people who you know and enjoy, whose livelihood depends on this). Think how SEMA, TAS, PRI, and countless other shows try every year to get "bigger". There is an inevitable correction coming, the smart people see this coming and are already "fighting" to be the most relevant, the most talked about, the most successful, with the goal to simply survive within the long term market. The ironic thing is that by becoming bigger/faster/stronger they only become less relevant to the every day Joe and thereby help to hasten their demise.

So while my favorite projects tend to be well-thought out enthusiast builds, done mostly by an individual relying on his own intellect. This is not what will keep your marketing or larger aftermarket supplier friends putting food on the table, this is not what will help the automotive aftermarket remain large enough to influence laws that will protect our hobby from the inevitable onslaught that will happen with the of self-driving cars.

While feeding this automotive aftermarket beast leaves you feeling numb inside. Remember that it is that very beast that we must put our hope in to carve out our place in the future. If that beast is not big or powerful enough, you can say goodbye to the grassroots automotive enthusiast culture we know and cherish.

My .02 cents

8

:: CLAP CLAP CLAP ::
yeah sometimes just building something well and reasonable is far better than burning everyone's eyes out with audaciousness.

9

Jordan, you worry too much. Go sit down and enjoy a nice cold beer. All you're describing is "desensitisation". If a stimulus is repeated at high frequency, then over time the stimulus becomes less effective, requiring greater amounts of stimulus to achieve a reaction. Eventually no reaction may be possible because of over-stimulus.
The answer is simple. Spend some time to go and smell the flowers.
I build cars. Loved cars since before I can remember, and still do. Working on cars all day might seem like overkill, and to many it is if thats all they do in life. The answer is to enjoy other things in life as well. Get nuts about food, discover wine and beer, spend time with the incredible woman you partners you through life, get involved in other peoples dreams, help out a friend doing something completely out of your zone...
Get the picture? Now go do it before you burn out and turn into a turnip. I enjoy reading your articles too much.
Cheers!

Author10

Ronnie – You raise a good point – desensitisation is one part of it certainly, although the online vs real life aspect is an added level to the desensitisation. Like we're more desensitised online than in real life. An interesting point to consider anyway, I feel.

To be clear, these weren't examples of how I am feeling, more points for everyone to consider. I like to think i have a good balance of things, personally. I enjoy wine and beer sufficiently, and I was lucky enough to convince said wonderful woman to marry me a few years ago. :).

11

Wise man...

12

One of the more articulate and well written article on SH for a while.

Well done.

13

Great article, I agree with your point of view. My favorite feature cars are the slightly, well thought out and detailed builds(more often than not built by the owner). Maybe adopting a criteria of taking detailed shots of the feature cars will help filter out the audacious 'built for a show' type of cars.

I also feel that following thesocial media overload of cars tends to water down the impact a nicely built car has. Yesterday I saw a perfect lotus esprit turbo driving slowly in a narrow road by night and it stopped me in my tracks, a feeling I don't get when seeing picture after picture of rare and desirable cars

14

The phaze 2 EG, DC, and DA photoshoot i think in 2010 at eibach after the meet changed the honda tuning community forever. The cars werent even that wild if u think about it, but those cars kept me in the honda game. Every so often there are simple cars that have a profound impact on the car world. They will come come again, keep your chins up. Classics never die.

15

Have you got a link to pics of that photoshoot?

16

@KiwiMotoring
Google phaze 2 eg da dc. The specific shoot is hard to find but its there. Google joey lee along with it. And all 3 of the cars were in HT back back in the day too

17

Love that you put a crown vic in the last shot.

18

It's a combination of three things:

1. MONEY has ruined the spirit of creativity. Why would you do something creative like make your own kit when you can buy a pricey Rocket Bunny kit and fit in with the "cool kids"?

2. TRENDS swing like a pendulum. You can witness it in music, movies etc. Big budget horror flicks are beaten by the Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Kurt Cobain killed the hair bands. The trend of the overwrought, over-Instagramed, over fendered dinosaurs will transition into beautiful birds.

3. SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION. Yeah, this is the uncomfortable part for most people. Everyone's heard about the parent who gives a kid a whole pack of cigarettes to smoke until the kid refuses to smoke one again. What do you think this over-stimulation of EVERYTHING is? All the sex, drugs, free music, online shopping, pirated anything...anyone could possibly desire.

What's after that? It's different for every person, but it's not going to be more cigarettes.

19

Disagree with your first point here! If anything money (of lack of) spawns creativity. The grass roots guys want to rebel against the high dollar builds, it drives a wedge further between two sides and I've seen more and more builders with a punk attitude as a result.

Author20

Point 1 is an interesting one. We have the means and technology to be creative more now than ever before. Design, prototype and the manufacture process is more accessible to all than it ever was. Although the path of least resistance is also now the most travelled, by a long shot. Maybe a reflection of our desire for instant-gratification?

21
Andrej Jovanović

Nicely put. May I add - there is still a lots of cars that could be featured, made in some shed somewhere, with small budget, but with lots of love & dedication. Not perfect cars or builds, but unique and full of background stories that can be told and inspire someone else to pursue his dream. That is what Speedhunters and every other automotive blog/portal should be for.

22

*elicit ;)
Great article, thoroughly enjoyed it! Speedhunters is the place I come to because you do such a great job of focusing on car culture as a whole, including stuff which is going to appeal to the everyman driver. Project 2000 being a fantastic case in point :)

Author23

Just making sure you were paying attention.

24

Deep Jords! I saw an almost stock W205 C63 saloon on the motorway last week that was lowered over its OEM wheels, all black everything. Looked killer coming up behind me in the rear view mirror. Then it rolled past me with what looked like an Akrapovič exhaust system, which sounded perfect. It's little moments like that which make you realise how cool even subtly tuned cars are. Obvs I probably wouldn't be as excited about seeing your S2000 out in the wild, but you get my point! haha.

25

Comparison is the thief of happiness and nothing is more important than to see and know the beauty that is right in front of you.
Thank you for this and as other people have pointed out this goes far beyond cars.

26

Maybe it's because SH stories are so templated and written for teenagers. You get teenage responses: "Meh... I'm a dumb teenager."

27
MPistol HVBullets

my biggest issue - and it will always remain - is when folks modify a "car" to the point it is no longer driveable..... sure they drive it anyway, but nothing about that to me is really cool - at all......... call it an opinion if you want, but the reality is you've made a 90 degree hammer..... sure it's still a hammer, and it looks radical and different..... but does it function like a hammer any longer? And that's my biggest gripe with the "culture".......... and honestly, so many modern cars are so good, that when you mod them, they just get worse

Author28
Jordan Butters

I don't think you can knock that aspect specifically. Remember the next guy's reasons for fitting huge wheels and -6 degrees of camber might not align with yours.

29

The internet has spoiled us, or spoiled me at least. After seeing n+1 crazy powered cars with huge wheels, you start not to care about the rest. Nor to modify your own car. You cant top THAT build, so why bother with something inferior?

Author30
Jordan Butters

Perspective adjustment is something we could all benefit from. Thanks for reading!

31
Okumi Yankee Viravaidya

Really love this article; Jordan.

What I love about car culture is everyone has different style and personality. Noting right or wrong, just enjoy and appreciate what you like. No need to stand out, or being trend setter.

32

Exactly. It's just our passion is a physical one. Loving cars is like a long distance relationship. When you're just seeing them through a screen it can be a little underwhelming, but in person, they make you sweat, lose your focus and they sound 10x better gawd dammit.

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