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The death of tribalism in car culture

By Stephen Corby, 29 Dec 2017 Features

The death of tribalism in car culture

Think back to the days of motorsport where it was more commonplace to cheer on a badge on a bonnet over the driver behind the wheel. Is brand allegiance and tribalism in car culture dead?

OBVIOUSLY, as a typically intelligent, deep-thinking and self-aware Wheels reader, you abhor the diea of double standards.

But if you met someone who would cheerfully camp out to be the first to have the latest gadget or widget from the Apple corporation, would you consider calling them, even just under your breath, “boring and sad”?

And yet if, the next day, you met a bloke in a pub and he argued a passionate case for why the last Holden Commodore, as the fruit of the automotive design, engineering and manufacturing capability of this great country, was the best one, you’d probably consider them quite reasoned, admirably patriotic and possibly the sort of bloke you’d like to have a beer with.

Caring about some inanimate objects, and the giant corporations that make them, is deemed socially acceptable, at least in this country, while getting excited about, say, trains, makes you a sad person with too many anoraks and greasy hair.


This has been rammed home repeatedly for me recently, first by my son, who was quite taken with the Top 10 Shootout at Bathurst this year, and that last, crazy-scary-good lap by Scott McLaughlin.

What this 10-year-old cynic could not get his head around, and what I simply couldn’t explain to him using logic, is why it mattered what car this clearly amazing driver was using.

Obviously, this suggests I’ve been a bad, or at least negligent father, for a decade, and counting. But his utter bafflement at why people would cheer for a car company, rather than the human driver, did disarm me, and not just because of the inherent stupidity he was pointing out.

It was also because I barely recognise now the boy I was at his age, and for many years afterwards, because I really used to care about Holden beating Ford, and now I give not one wit.


When Brocky drove Fords, and even Volvos, I took it as a personal affront, and I’m honestly at a loss as to what I was thinking, in retrospect.

Quite simply, I was young, dumb and eager to be part of something larger than myself. I followed the mob (after being initially led along by my Holden-loving, V8-driving old man). This is how populism happens. And Trump.

My care factor for whether a Holden or a Ford wins Bathurst hasn’t just dropped to zero because I’ve grown older and wiser, it’s because my love for either brand has been thinned out, like the hair on Dick Johnson’s head.

It’s one thing to watch something you once loved die in public, but it’s even worse when you realise you’re just one small part of a larger group of people who cared, but just didn’t care enough.


The second time I was struck by man’s inhumanity to brands was after I’d written something about the new Lexus LS, and performed a video review of the car so awful that it had to be removed from the internet.

In amid the pile-on of personal abuse and commentary on my retardation, I was genuinely surprised to find that I was being attacked by people who feel strongly – and I mean “I’d have a Lexus over a German car, any day” – strongly about the brand.

People who are fired up about Lexus. Truly.

It’s like meeting someone who’ll die in a ditch over their Dualit toaster or their Alessi kettle. It’s weird, but then humans and their passions are weird, and it’s about more than just wanting to be part of something.

I have no desire to hang out with other Porsche fans (because they actually own the bloody things) or to take part in Ferrari forums, but I find myself almost uncontrollably passionate about the inanimate objects those companies make.

Fortunately, it seems, I may not have passed on the madness to the next generation.


Aged care shortage

Interestingly, my stepfather, who poured the red Holden blood into my veins by shouting at our then-tiny TV as if the Bathurst race was vitally important, didn’t even watch the whole thing this year, nor does he retain any of his passion for the brand (he owns a chipped Audi S3 and an old WRX). Why?

“Because they all look the bloody same, who cares? Nobody cares any more.”

Dear Supercars series, I think you have a problem.