Go sideways, and be free

I love that car culture is still alive. I just finished a 48-minute conversation with a stranger in a pancake restaurant parking lot that started with him asking if my car was well balanced in the bends. We talked enthusiastically about various vehicles we have owned, our impressions of cars currently being made, and about the current state of amateur motorsport. It was brilliant! This, paired with the gents from old new Top Gear building an internet Mecca dedicated to car culture and Jalopnik turning out some fantastic pieces recently, leads me to believe that we just might survive the onslaught of hybridists that threaten our very existence.

I have always maintained that auto racing is the pinnacle of car enthusiasm. It used to be that the only way to get the car buying public to purchase your product, was to display it’s amazing racing pedigree. This is how things like the Ford Mustang, the Pontiac GTO, nearly every Ferrari until Enzo passed, and even for a spell, Jaguars and Mercedes came to market. This, of course, is no longer the case. Sure, some brands still tout their racing prowess, but the general population just doesn’t care.

I’ll take the crossover, I guess. –Car Buyers of America

The last type of vehicle whose racing lineage drove marketing and then purchasing was the angry all-wheel drive models dominated by Subaru and Mitsubishi through the ’90s and noughties. The closest thing to an exception to this currently, could be drifting. Subaru and Toyota teamed up a few years ago to produce an homage to the early Japanese drift icon, the AE86. Both companies provoking fond memories of their racing past in order to sell a few cars.

Speaking of drifting, you should go to an event sometime. It doesn’t matter if you’re into cars or not, you will be when you leave. The unabashed enthusiasm of the spectators, the sound from the 900-1000+ horsepower cars, and the pure, childlike joy of going sideways exhibited by the drivers is intoxicating. You don’t even have to be a fan of racing, the winner is determined by style points and volume of tire destroyed. What’s awesome about the sport is that you can go to nearly any track, autocross course (see: Parking lot), field, frozen lake, or  anywhere else you can maneuver a car. Someone will be there slithering around in a rhythmic fashion having the literal time of their lives. The cars are ugly, loud, and horribly impractical. Put another way, perfect.

What’s more, the people are amazing. Seriously, for a sport dominated and populated by hooligans, the atmosphere is entirely family friendly. The paddocks are wide open, allowing anyone with a ticket to meander amongst the drivers and teams.  Talking with a professional driver is as easy as walking up to them and saying hello. And it’s cheap! The entire weekend of a Formula Drift event cost me $80 for two people. This is just the pro level, mind you. Attending a grassroots event is even cheaper still and just as fun. My love for cheap, underpowered cars means I might love the amateur circuit more than the pro. An entire day watching cars that cost more or less the same as a new washer and dryer, banging around terrible tracks, for under $20. Count me in.

Car culture is alive and well. This group of highly passionate people will continue to pass the love for motoring to the next generation, pushing back against the tyranny of average and complacency. They will continue to find a way to turn dinosaur consomme into excitement and smoke. I love them for this. Stay sideways my friends.

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