What Does Car Culture Mean To You?

Kerbside at midnight, eating noodles in the heart of London.

I was perched on the bonnet of Saj’s Daimler, with my mates’ RX-8 and 180SX parked either side of my E38. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but there is always a common theme whenever we get together: Food is involved, and it always ends up much later than we’d originally planned.


Cars are very much the focus of my social life, as is the case with most of my friends. Yet for all our common interest, we do vary wildly in our approaches to modifying.


The variety of style and taste in the car scene is so vast that it’s almost impossible to keep track of it all, even if people do like to paint us with the same brush.


Speaking from my own experience living in England’s capital, there are so many different aspects of car culture crammed into one city it boggles the mind. I’ve always been a German car fan, and BMWs have been a part of my family since i was little. I’m also mildly (read: highly) obsessed with Japanese VIP-style cars, as well as German tuning from the ’80s and ’90s.


That’s why it was only right that – at the age of 19 – I found myself in possession of a BMW 740i Sport. One that just happened to be a single-owner Japanese import with very honourable low miles. This obsession may have slightly influenced Saj over the course of our friendship too, as I managed to convince him it’d be a good idea to purchase a supercharged, long-wheelbase Daimler Super V8.


I’ll get into them in more detail in another article though. VIP is one of those styles that hasn’t been explored much in the UK, and both myself and Saj are keen to correct that in the future.


The UK car scene right now is very much a melange of styles, ranging from street drifters to supercar owners and everything in between – something I’m fortunate to see on a daily basis being London-based. That’s not to say it’s all worth shouting about. Like ‘em or not, you can’t attend a typical meet nowadays without the sound of launch control and pop and bang maps in the air as if it were the Battle of the Somme.


You could argue that things were different in the Max Power magazine era, but in reality, making a load of noise and (trying) to impress a crowd is just a part of British car culture – love it or hate it. DSG farts might be all the rage right now, but go back 10 years and it would’ve been a K&N filter breathing some kind of life into a rev-happy Zetec motor.


What’s wildly different is the way we car fans get our content. No longer are you waiting for a magazine or website to post galleries from events; you’ve got Snapchat and Instagram live streaming everything as it happens – burnouts, revving and the occasional loss of talent included. We’ve all seen the videos of Mustangs leaving car shows…

Are driving standards getting worse, or are we just documenting more of it? Cue the cries of every tuned or sporty car being labelled an illegal street racer.


That’s just part of being a car fan – you learn quite quickly to take the rough with the smooth. It’s easy to look at the past as being a golden era for tuning, but anything which generates enthusiasm for the next generation of petrolheads is no bad thing in my eyes. Be it cruising, YouTube or the supercar lifestyle.


And keep in mind this is one particular snapshot from one part of the world. How car culture differs elsewhere is something that continually inspires me. I’ve been reading Speedhunters for near on half my life, and I’ll never forget how fascinated I was reading features at lunch when back in school.


Dino’s old articles about Bee Dragon cars really struck a chord. These impractically low, heavily cambered, big-body cars were completely unlike anything I’d seen in the UK at the time. Mark, Ben and Ryan’s wild range of features from hot rods and lowriders in Japan to their yearly Nürburgring trips and SEMA coverage show the difference in how car culture has gone from groups of friends doing something fun to a multi-million dollar powerhouse of an industry.


It was a welcome escape from the loud, race ‘inspired’ hatchbacks I was used to seeing. I guess it explains a lot about my interests now too. Whether reading about Japanese car meets at Daikoku PA, canyon carving classics in California, or old road trip stories on the way to Wörthersee, I was hooked and I couldn’t get enough.


That’s the whole point of Speedhunters after all, isn’t it? To allow us all to experience more than just what we have in our immediate vicinity. To be honest with you, that’s the biggest reason why I’m proud to be a part of it.


Opening people’s eyes to the wider world is never a bad thing, regardless of the context. In car circles, it just goes to show how many of us enthusiasts there are out there, and how differently we can all approach the same subject. I know there’s a lot of argument for car enthusiasts to be whole, and always be kind to one another and appreciate what we’re all doing all the time and hold hands whilst singing Kumbaya. I disagree.


I feel as though the occasional argument, the passionate debates, the focussed events and meets, all of it is beautiful. Doing things differently is what makes us human, and it’s inevitable that there will be some conflict as a result. If people simply focussed on building their cars for themselves or to have a good time, this wouldn’t be the case. Some debate is great, and makes for very entertaining Facebook arguments.


Yet there will always be some who take things a little too seriously and focus on the negatives more than the positives that come from car culture. Social media really is a double-edged sword. It allows us a wealth of car culture that we otherwise wouldn’t see, but there are far too many people hung up on chasing likes and getting the approval or followers instead of genuinely being part of it all.


I’ll take it back to my 740i. Owning it has led to me making friends and even colleagues. I’ve gotten to know people that I otherwise wouldn’t know without it. I’d even go so far as to say it’s contributed to me writing for you here.


So that’s what car culture means to me in 2020. As deep as I can get about it, at its core it’s a group of mates in my garage, late at night, surrounded by our cars in various states of disrepair whilst eating something fairly unhealthy and chatting a lot of crap.

That won’t necessarily be everyone’s experience though, so now we’ve come full circle I genuinely would like to know:

 What does car culture mean to you?

Mario Christou
Instagram: mcwpn

Photography by The Speedhunters
Instagram: thespeedhunters



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car culture is rolling my eyes at the pop & bang mapped golfs and fiestas that overrun every meet




Pop pop is good for the soul. :p


Oh please..these goddamn valve exhausts make me hate car "culture" more & more..i hope they're going to be outlawed here soon, since it's just used by young drivers to make sure to let everyone know at 2am that they're passing through town.


Just don't forget about the GTI owners like me who think pop bang tunes are annoying and refuse to integrate that with an otherwise fine car.


As much as they may be an annoyance, they're very much a part of car culture as we know it nowadays. It's a cheap and easy way to draw attention to yourself after all; minimum effort, maximum impact.


Awesome article that really depicts how the culture is right now. I've always felt strongly about your car should built for you and no one else as its an expression of you at the end of the day, no matter how you want to express yourself. If everyone built their car for everyone else then all the modified cars in the UK would look,sound and feel the same and whats the point of that?! Differences in peoples cars and (educated) debates about these differences are one of my favourite things about car culture right now.




Thanks Damani! I'm very much agreed, the variety is great and is the essence of what makes being around cars so great.


Fantastic article, Mario. I too have been reading these pages daily for as long as I can remember and they alone have shaped how I view car culture, and my interests around it.

In Ireland, the words 'car culture' have a pretty bad rep and sadly it's often hampered the genuine enthusiasts from enjoying their pride and joy. For me, nothing beats meeting a few mates of an evening, sun slowly dipping and talking nonsense for a few hours about our shared love. Snap a few photographs and cruise home. The older I get the more I realise car culture is just as much about the people as it is the cars.

As another comment has said, cars are an expression of an individual and as long as it remains that way, I'll enjoy it.


Yes, thank you for that comment. Car culture is just as much about the people as it is about the cars.


Thanks for the kind words, Ross. I've read all about how Irish car culture is depicted in the media, even if it was wild back in the day, I feel the rep has somewhat remained a little tarnished.

That being said, reading Paddy's articles over the past decade has shown a side of Irish car culture that I hadn't seen before and is deeply impressive.


To me, car culture is about actively spending time with other automotive enthusiasts and discussing that next build or how I built my car. Car culture also gives you a sense of identity and belonging. To illustrate this cultural perspective , go to your local supermarket on any normal day and if you see a performance, classic or built car, its quite possible that the people who own them are relatable to you because they are "car" people themselves.


I can clearly remember a time I went to my local supermarket and ended up helping a guy with an E46 M3 track car that had split a radiator hose as he was pulling in. I'd never met him before yet figured I'd help, just because we had the same interest and I liked his car.


Great article.

Working with a bunch of engineers and technicians, most of us have project cars of some type. Given how much of an Engineer's career is spent on the computer, a project car gives us a chance to tinker/play/de-stress. Talk around the office would be as much about what you want to fix, or where you want to drive, as much as it would be about sports, etc.

I'm constantly amazed by how many "break-throughs" in an engineering problem is solved while the person is at home working on their project car. The act of building a car does something to fire up the synapses. Perhaps it's one part relaxing the brain, one part joy, and one part problem solving. Whatever it is, that ah-ha moment is pretty common.

Then there's also the familial bonding. Teaching my sons how to work on cars has made us closer. The look on their faces, when the engine they "helped" on barks to life, is very rewarding. Can't wait to take them on road trips.


I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of how much swearing and frustration is involved, working on cars has always been therapeutic. The process might suck sometimes but the end result is worth the bother, especially when it’s been shared with others haha!


"swearing and frustration"? Surely not! Although if you ask my other half, I do too much of the first then the second results in winging spanners at a wall.

When bolts don't shear, things fit properly and the kids (6 and 11) are helping without pestering, all is right with the world. I had an amazing day like that last week. Everything worked out, fit, slid into place and my spanner passers rarely passed the wrong one!

I've been in and around car culture since the mid 90's (and before if you count helping my dad build a hot rod and work on his Cossie) and its a way of life for me. I've seen the scene evolve though the Max Power days (ohhhh! Max Power Live! That was an, ummm, experience!) through the beginnings of drifting coming to the UK, up to the supercar patrols round cities. I love most of it - there will always be some things you don't like but for the most part, most of the people are happy to chat whether they know you or not and the car is a good ice breaker to strike up a conversation. Everyone has a different take. I'm personally not a fan of German cars for the most part and definitely faking anything in any way. Fake carbon vinyl? Burn it. Fake pops and bangs? Sorry, my Evo doesn't need a special map or a kit to flame and bang! The worst offender though is the fake brake caliper covers. I mean, WHY????? They don't even look convincing! But each to their own - I'm sure some won't like my obsession with keeping everything on my '93 Evo period correct.

What it means to me? Its my world. Even though the kids and work take up most of my life right now, when they're a bit older we'll be more involved again.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Car culture to me is about celebrating all the many different ways that people use to build their cars. I may have my dislikes for certain styles, but in actuality they sometimes would inspire others which in turn create a new kind of hybrid style.


Exactly. Some of the best builds are those that effortlessly combine a wide range of styles and features into a cohesive final product.


Car culture to me means expressing individuality, while also modifying your vehicle to be useable and daily driveable.

Car culture to me is emininating 90s tuning vibes, mantras, ideas and OEM+ asthetics, while not changing the shape or the feel or the design or the weight of the car too much.

Car culture to me is a community,

a network of people who love vehicles.

a network of people who are the last bastion of freedom.

a collaborative effort of people under one umbrella who push new ideas and thinking and styles onto the scene.

were all just car people.



Very well said. I'm also of the belief that the best mods build on a car's existing features rather than changing it entirely.


Car culture is spending more time working on your car than driving it



Great pics from all over! I just want to know ONE thing: Why are JDM guys at odds with German car guys? My buddy and his brother are JDM fanatics. Audis, BMWs, Porsche, VWs, Mercedes Benz don't hit their radar. I'm not quite that bad. I recognize JDM cars and I like alot of them but for me, personally, you can't touch German engineering. Alot of Japanese folks drive Bimmers and Asian people around me LOVE BMWs. I just don't understand the dislike some JDM folks have fir German rides. Is it just me?


I wouldn't necessarily say 'always', David, but I do agree there's often animosity between the groups. I'd put the main difference down to differing cost/benefit mentalities. Ridiculously inflated prices aside, historically, Japanese cars were cheaper to buy than German cars, yet could not only keep up but often outperform their Euro rivals.

Hence my belief that it comes down to a sort of 'them vs us' attitude of disdain towards cars that cost more because of nicer interiors and build quality for no extra performance vs Jap cars.

I may be off the mark, but that's how it's come across to me. I know plenty of Euro car fans that look down upon JDM cars too, so it's not a one way street either.



If you bump into Helen Stanley from Goblin Works, tell her I love her and the show! She is so gorgeous and she's a car girl. Hope they have new episodes this season!


Shooters shoot.

Sebastian Motsch

Car culture has been my translator and/or interpreter for decades, before smartphones with google translate have been invented. Whichever country I went to, how little of the local language I spoke - the common passion for vehicles lead to many great encounters with like-minded people. Understanding each other through gestures, facial expressions and by making sounds is a lot of fun and always leads to big smiles all around. Appreciation can be transmitted in so many ways and meeting people is the most important thing.

Today it's easier to get details about a build, by means of online translation apps, and follow-up with the people you meet via social media. The world has become smaller - but at the same time it has expanded exponentially. The articles references the good old car magazines and the anticipation that was part of the waiting ritual until the next issue was published. Today, there is too much content and not enough time to see it all. Therefore the shelf life of any prominent build has decreased. It doesn't take a months' worth of waiting to be outshone by the next best thing - but a mere refresh of your instagram feed.


You say that Sebastian and for the most part I agree, however not fully. Everything you've said about car culture transcending language barriers is absolutely right and well put.

It's not the case that a build's 'shelf-life' has become reduced, but that people are only building the cars to last that season. It is still possible to have a timeless build, in fact in the article I wrote about Alex's Mk1 Golf GTI (An Act of Commitment) I've shown exactly that.

You simply have to look past the cars getting built for every season and trust me, you'll find the people who are really taking the effort, creating lifelong builds.

Sebastian Motsch

Cheers Mario, we're in the same boat. By shelf-life I actually meant attention span of the audience. Of course there are epic builds out there that will stand the test of time and end up in a museum in a couple of decades - and rightly so.

Best regards, Sebastian.


I dont build for others, i build for myself.


even if people do like to paint us with the same brush.

maybe one of these days there will be an article on here actually shedding light on this mysterious group of people that makes life so hard for car enthusiasts. With the exception of some angry facebook moms, I don't know of any groups that consistently and actively do any harmful generalization or crusading against the tuner masses, and it's frustrating to constantly read about these vague references to people not respecting our interests. From my perspective, this super-connected era is one of the best times to be a car enthusiast, and I appreciate the look into this wonderful hobby that brings people together like any other passion, I just wish I could read about it without the inevitable "gosh it's so hard being us". It's not. Cars are everywhere, tuning how-to and social interaction is increasingly online and accessible, and there hasn't been an easier time to like cars.


Hi Matt. Well objectively, those facebook mums you mentioned yourself are one example of it, even if they're largely harmless for the most part. Police in London have taken it upon themselves to chastise every modified car they can find, even having been given the power to dispense particular owners and vehicles from a certain area or neighbourhood for 24 hours if they're suspicious of anti-social driving or behaviour. There doesn't have to be any proof. Add to that, retail parks in West London have almost all been fitted with HUGE bolt on speedbumps to prevent modified cars from getting in.

There was a local illegal car meet five minutes away from my home a couple of months ago which I stumbled upon by accident. I thought I'd drive through to have a look and leave, but what I saw was a cordoned off burnout pit with cars doing donuts and ripping up the tarmac. My concern now is that I won't be able to drive there to do shopping or get a coffee in my 7 because they'll fit the same speed mountains as in West.

Whilst yes, on the one hand it's easier than ever to like cars, it's also more difficult than ever to enjoy cars out in public because of the stigma that a few idiots out there create for the rest of us.

Christian Alberto Herrera

Car culture to me is having a heart attack every time i see my dream car in a photo.


Thanks for shooting our Cruise night in Yokohama!! Mike Garrett,
and Thanks for using that photos again Mario :)

KaliforniaLook from Yokohama Japan


The nights always look great, I'd love to come and visit when I get a chance to fly out to Japan!


It means everything, it means life


Cars really have a way of taking over your life don't they?


Car culture in Australia means, hides you’re keys hide you’re car and keep it hidden, the amount of kids stealing imports is ridiculous


The good comes with the bad, and people will always be jealous and want what they don't have. It's a real shame, car crime is huge in the UK too.

Mgr Fabrice Carpentier

Perfect article.
Good to see that peoples still loves car somewhere in a world where car guys are often considered as hooligznd


Thank you for the kind words, Fabrice.


I love cars since I remember myself but purchased the first one very late by all standards because of my location and financial status of my family. Car was always body panels in the first place to me. It is not valid for any enthusiastic car project. Still, I couldn't imagine my project with a wrecked body, so after certain ordeals, I ended up learning metal shaping in my garage. The craft needs a lot of knowledge and practice, so I'm not sure I even can reach a sufficient level and finish the project during my lifetime. I removed my Instagram page when I realised how little I can and how poorly it looks. The central insight is that I do it for myself only, satisfying my own goals and desires.

I love driving, but my daily is not the most fascinating, enthusiastic vehicle ever, not a classic, not an overpowered brapping weapon, not a cambered scraper. But I enjoy driving it daily. Also, I found that most of my car friends don't share my particular interests, so my garage days almost always are lonely, cognitive and exciting with no social effect. Car culture for me is learning and gaining perceptive experience of handcraft and driving.


Well even if cars may not be a very social activity for you, it sounds like they've helped you learn and better yourself as a result. You could argue that that's even better.


Yes, it does the change every time I come to the garage, I learn something or find a way to accomplish my current task on the project. I want to say thank you to SH because for several years you guys are the primary source of influence for me.


for me, car culture means hating on tesla and simpig for skylines


Growing up in the UK without any mates that were massively into cars the number one stop for generic car discussion was Pistonheads, therefore I grew up thinking car enthusiasts were just a bunch of ageing, cynical, wanna be smart arses that only had negative things to say about anything that wasn't a fire spitting supercar. I was glad when I found out, a few years later, that 90% of Pistonheads forum users are just salty old men who's only actual attachment to car culture were their entry level Vauxhall Astras & watching Jeremy Clarkson for an hour every Sunday.
It was, surprisingly, Facebook groups that showed me all those years ago that car enthusiasts don't, by default, act like stuck up, superior wankers. To me car culture means you have it cause YOU like it, mods or not included.

Marcellus Wallace

Car Culture (Art) and Motorsport means everything to me. It's my Life, my heart, my lung and my everyday breath. It is my breakfast and lunch. I live for it because of it.


Car culture is a romantic notion, that you can take an everyday object, a machine built for transporting people, and turn it into something special, something that becomes a part of you, something almost alive, something that you can love, care for, and yes, sometimes hate, but that´s what human relationships usually are. And in that sense, you are turning your car into something human


Here in Germany, car culture is...something that would be nice to have, there's a sense of envy seeing articles here or images from other countries online.
In Germany the culture, especially in regards to individualism, is either dying or very much dead.
The scene has kinda broken apart.
There's a small group, especially with old cars, who're all about preserving originality.
They frown upon the slightest deviation from "as it left the factory", and also mostly frown upon young people or cars under 30 years old.

Then there's the majority, directed by peer pressure, who basically put together a list of things a car has to be/modifications to be done to be accepted. You HAVE to have too big wheels/too narrow tires (often clashing with German law), you HAVE to be very low, ideally look like some giant stepped on your car (also often not going along with the law), and you have to be very loud and/or have a wrap (oh, guess. There's noise limits.)
You actually find people who'll tell you they don't like how their car looks/drives, but "it has to be done that way."
Individualism? NOPE.
That's why tuning meets in Germany are kinda boring.
It's 90% Volkswagen/Audi, and they mostly look the same.
One might be green rather than silver, but that's about it for variation with most of the scene.

Another group are people, often from rich backgrounds or with big debt, with almost stock-looking cars that just want to be obnoxiously loud.
Those are called "posers" and, along with actual streetracing, are enough of a problem that the police has formed special divisions to crack down on illegal tuning, along with tightening the restrictions every year.
It's very common for people of either of the two latter groups to knowingly go against regulations and laws, be caught, and then cry about police being unfair.
And because there's so many people who get caught installing/doing illegal stuff occasionally some legal build gets caught up in the net, leading quite a lot of people to just skip meets altogether.
Plus it's harder to get permits for meets or places to host them, because if you behave like a total ass a, say, hardware store might be less inclined to host your event if they have the police there and have to clean up endless amounts of rubber. This has killed a lot of meets, sadly, even including ones for charitable causes, because idiots had to demonstrate their stupidity.

In between you find a handful of actually interesting cars, creative builds, but it's rare because the community completely pushes for "low and loud" and doesn't seem to understand why consistently going against regulations and angering law enforcement might anger law enforcement.
Or understand the definition of "individualized car".
You tend to get so many stupid comments or ridicule for not following the masses, it stops being funny very fast because it goes from "harmless joking" to just being annoying or even into a gray area with bullying.


Friendships and a shared interest