A LONG-HELD belief is that bureaucracy will eventually spell the end of the modified car scene as we know it. People in our scene are quick to blame politicians, police, relevant transport authorities, the EPA, greenies, Tracy Grimshaw, and whoever else is flavour of the month for our hot-car dramas. But recently my personal thoughts on this have changed dramatically: I believe the true issue is staring us smack-bang in the face. It’s us.
Over the past 12 months I have witnessed our beloved car scene stand on its own balls, inundated with bitching, negativity and hatred towards each other’s prized possessions. It makes me sick in the guts.
We’ve allowed this to become a problem. Social media has given us a platform to express an opinion, but it also makes it possible to spread negativity seemingly without consequence. What we once might have just muttered to ourselves inside the privacy of our own home, or behind someone’s back at a car show, we now spew forth online.
Let’s be clear: I’m not saying people shouldn’t have an opinion – far from it. But so much of the online commentary nowadays is way beyond that – it’s ridicule, bullying and public humiliation within our cherished ranks.
I follow a heap of Aussie modified car social media sites, and the Street Machine Facebook page is one of the most popular, with over 400,000 followers. A number like that of course exposes you to a broad section of the community, but the hater issue spreads far and wide; it doesn’t seem to matter whether the page has 10 or 10,000 members.
Case in point: A modified car page will post a pic of an HQ with a reverse-cowl bonnet scoop. Fairly standard fare for the scene nowadays; they’re a good-looking scoop that suits most cars, and best of all they’re probably the easiest scoop to make 100 per cent legal, with the bonus of ample usable height. Oh, but the hate that pours in is incredible: “That scoop looks shit”; “Should have left it stock”; “That’s how you wreck a good bonnet”. Look, I don’t want to alarm anybody, but do people realise that a modified car is, in fact, modified? The sheer horror some people express over the fact that a modified car, on a modified car page, is actually modified defies belief.
And scoop-hate has nothing on wheel choice. Crikey, an SM Facebook post of a recent feature car had the owner slaughtered for the wheels it was running; the amount of negativity piled onto this bloke because of it was embarrassing, and to be honest made me question where we are heading as a movement.
Best I don’t get started on putting a Barra or LS into something that isn’t a Ford or Holden respectively. I personally love the concept of mixing things up for the greater good of performance – and paying homage to our hot-rodding forefathers – but that whole subject is a rant of its own.
The old ‘right to an opinion’ gambit of course rears its yawny head every time a hater is challenged, and sure, in a democratic society we are entitled to that. But does hiding behind that justify being plain derogatory, or unable to engage your mum’s old saying: ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’? And it isn’t age- or gender-specific either; keyboard warriors and those lacking tact or self-censorship come in all shapes and sizes, and will nearly always never have the means or skills to build or show us anything better. But hating on others’ choices and hard work is free, right?
I will vehemently defend my love of our old-school custom and street machining heritage from the 80s and earlier, but I never thought I’d see the day that I felt the need to be defend our current, live, modified car scene.
Thankfully a sign that all is not lost recently came in the form of the Street Machine Drag Challenge members page on Facebook. The outpouring of help, support and assistance offered up to Challenge entrants from random hot car folks and businesses alike is what I remember the scene being about – not a cross-pollenating mess of restorers and haters who claim to be modified car buffs yet hate ‘classics’ that are modified or feel the need to slaughter their fellow enthusiasts.
Some cop-hate posts were the only blip of negativity on the Drag Challenge members page, but if someone’s driving a highly modified car that we all know stretches the friendship with legality and they get let off without a defect notice, fines or loss of points, then maybe it’s best to just accept how lucky that owner was and keep any unjustified hate to a minimum, rather than make a mountain out of a molehill because it’s more ‘fun’.
Of course, nothing is likely to change; it’s a negative side effect of the otherwise positive attributes of social media. But it really boils my blood when the positive changes in the scene we’ve had lately – such as the recent SA historic vehicle registration overhaul, and the general ability to use and enjoy our cars more than ever – are indirectly being sandbagged by the negative actions of an increasing number within our ranks.
At the end of the day, we make up such a tiny percentage of the car-driving population (just look at the anti-asbestos dramas going on with car importation; the number of people it affects is huge within our own ranks, but is merely a speck generally speaking), and as such, if we can’t get our own shit together and at least appear united as an enthusiast group, how on earth will we ever be taken seriously by regulators, or the public at large? The powers-that-be can read, too.
So next time you’re ready to dump a wheelbarrow full of crap onto someone’s pride and joy online, maybe ask yourself if it’s really necessary or better for the bigger picture, and think about how derogatory comments within our ranks might be perceived by the wider community. Maybe it’s a better idea to take the high road and just scroll on by.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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