Looking back on my life over the past few years it would be hard to imagine that cars had not been entwined with it from the very beginning. The truth is I had absolutely no clue what I was doing under the hood, behind a camera, or really behind the wheel up until quite recently. Looking back on it now, I guess I thought it would be just another fleeting hobby like plenty of others. As anyone involved in the car scene knows, that was NOT the case. This is my story, my observations, and my advice.
I won’t go into all the details of how it came to be but suffice it to say that it all started with Rebecca, my RX-8. I feel like everyone who enjoys cars has some moment where a switched flipped and they realized they were in it, no going back. Mine came when, after owning my RX-8 for a relatively short period of time and not knowing a whole lot about working on cars, I found myself meeting up with someone who had just moved to the area that was a member on one of the RX-8 forums that I frequented. Meeting someone specifically for car talk was a first for me, but the real moment was the next evening when my car was on jack stands in his garage while we proceeded to rip the suspension out of it to swap in some lowering springs. In hindsight, neither of us had much of a clue.
Fast forward a few months and this person had become someone who I talked with daily, turned wrenches with just as often, and we were searching Craigslist for a car to purchase together. We had decided that we wanted to race and crap-can endurance racing seemed within our grasp. The next evening we were driving home in our very own racecar to be. It still amazes me how far I came in such a short period of time. I had done nothing more than fix minor issues following walkthroughs on the forums and changed my own oil less than a year prior. Now we had a car that we had to prepare with essentially zero budget.
Even now, I find it hard to believe that we built a car for less than $500 (including purchase price) that survived countless autocrosses and two full weekends on track. The lesson that I learned from all of that was to find a way to learn. I didn’t even know what I needed to be learning when we started that project, but now I am 100% better for it. I’ve been involved in quite a few projects since then and now I’m confident in myself. This confidence isn’t just with my ability to work on cars either. It also gives me the confidence to learn by doing.
There really is something about the complexity and harmony of cars that allows for a deeper impact than other hobbies that I’ve had. If it weren’t for buying my RX-8 and jumping in head-first I don’t think I would have ever decided to try my hand at photography. I know for sure that I would have a vastly different group of friends and connections. I definitely wouldn’t have had the experiences that I do now. The car community isn’t all that different from the communities that surround other passions, albeit there may be a bit more drama in this one. What makes it stand apart is its ability to transform people, and their lives, into something completely different.
If you’ve made it this far, it may seem that I think the group of people around cars are generally great, and that is mostly true. The trends I’ve seen lately, especially in the panhandle of Florida, have made me somewhat less receptive to the car groups and meet ups that keep popping up though. It would seem that some people are trying to step up and be figureheads of sorts for the community. While that may be needed for organizing events and planning functions I think that a lot of people just discovering this wonder community are finding it hard to find their place. I get the feeling this is slowly becoming like a highschool lunch room, the new kids can’t find a place to sit because the cool kids already have their tables.
Like it or not, I think that we should step back as a community and look at if bigger, better, shinier meets and groups are really better. I know that if I had wandered into the groups that are now prevalent, bright eyed and bushy tailed as I was, I probably would have been turned off from cars as a whole. I’m glad I chose to buy a car that has a very small local scene, that I met someone who was in it for the same reasons I was, and that I’ve continued to find like minded people to enjoy this passion with. I’m glad that I got to taste what its all about on my own without anyone or any group showing me what is or isn’t cool. I’m glad that I found my own way.
From the perspective of someone who has watched this scene take shape, I really think that it could be a great thing for car enthusiasts everywhere; but I think the creativity and motivation of people just discovering their tastes in cars could be skewed or lessened with the direction things have headed. I’m not out to change the world, I just want to give a hearty pat on the back to every person out there doing their own thing and finding their own enjoyment without feeling like they need to fall in with this new scene.
I’ll leave you with what Lucas started penning as the tagline for FeaturedGarage, we are doing this not for ourselves, but
“-For the grassroots”