More than a means of transport, over the years, several cultures have popped up associated with cars and each of them has a considerable fan following.
From small hatchbacks to massive lifted trucks, different car cultures bring together fans and owners from around the country. Nowhere is car culture more prevalent than here in America.
But, this obsession with cars may be doing more harm to the planet than we think. A quick look at some car buying websites will reveal the extent modern cars go to improve efficiency to minimize their effect on the environment.
While electric cars may seem like the future, letting go of growling V-8s and turbocharged Japanese tuners will be a lot harder than you think, rethinking car culture as we know it.
In a way, car culture allows people to show off their personality and brings together like-minded people from around the country regardless of profession or age.
While there are some interesting car cultures around the world, America remains the king of car cultures.
Early American car culture
How these cultures formed is a very interesting topic in itself. Some of the first car cultures came into existence during the moonshining era when moonshiners started modifying cars for better performance.
Back in the 1950s, early models like the Ford Model T were readily available in the market and enthusiasts started modifying these for linear performance over all else, birthing the modern drag racing culture.
Drag racing and hot rods eventually paved the way for NASCAR, which is still one of the biggest motorsport events in the U.S. Speaking of NASCAR, it can also trace its roots back to the early moonshiners, pitting their modified cars against each other on oval dirt tracks.
Soon after, the first speedway was built in 1950 called Darlington Speedway. Several other speedways around the country followed and the Cup Series began, kickstarting NASCAR culture.
Muscle cars and V8s
Car culture in the U.S also caused the birth of several new business models we take for granted today like drive-through restaurants and drive-in theaters. Malls were also constructed around cars soon after.
Next came the muscle car era with massive V-8s and no regard for emissions or fuel-efficiency. Straight-line speed was the name of the game and almost all Americans became infatuated with the idea of large and powerful cars. Despite the 1970s fuel crisis, Muscle cars live on and even today, several new models are available for enthusiasts.
While muscle cars, hot rods, and NASCAR usually steal the limelight for American car culture, let’s now take a look at some other unique lesser-known car cultures in America.
As the name suggests, lowrider cars sit a lot lower to the ground than traditional models. Lowrider culture started around the late 1940s in Los Angeles, California. Most of the initial models were lowered by cutting the springs and dropping the spindles, making them cruise slowly while sitting as low as possible.
To complete the look, most cars also received special lowrider rims with very low-profile tires. Soon after, in the late 1960s, the cars were adapted even more with hydraulics and modified frames to change ride height according to preference.
Airbrushing also became a large part of the culture and most cars received some unique designs to go with them, making lowriders stand out from the crowd.
Even in the 1990s, lowriders had a significant impact on pop culture and are associated with hip hop and G-Funk culture, appearing in several music videos of the time. The culture is still alive and well even today and has expanded to many countries outside the U.S like Japan.
Donks or hi-risers as they are usually called are heavily customized cars that are the opposite of lowriders. In this case, customers significantly increase the ground clearance by modifying the frames and adding large-diameter wheels with low-profile tires.
Donk car culture started down south and eventually spread across the country with their massive wheels and colorful paint jobs. Most owners also deck out their cars with expensive audio systems. To accommodate the large wheels, most cars get lift kits similar to off-road SUVs and pickup trucks.
The car that is usually associated with Donk culture is the fifth generation Chevrolet Impala, as the logo was similar to a donkey, coining the Donk name. Along with the Chevrolet, several other cars like the Oldsmobile Cutlass, Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix, and more are associated with the culture and get these modifications.
Even today, the Donk car culture is still going strong with many owners converting large SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade with large wheels and lift kits.
The future of car culture in America
As long as cars are around, car culture will still be a prevalent part of the American lifestyle. Taking inspiration from all the cultures over the years, modern car enthusiasts culminate to become an all-inclusive car culture.
As of 2021, cars have become a social lifestyle, becoming sought-after icons on Instagram and other social media, and bringing people together. While they are not as crazy or wild as they used to be, older cultures like lowriders and donks have evolved in the modern era, spreading out to a wider audience.
Social media has also helped owners to communicate with each other, talk about cars, and generally have a good time. There are car meets happening almost every weekend and cars ranging from small old-school hatchbacks to large luxury barges can be found at these meets with an enthusiastic owner near them.
So, what does car culture mean to you?
No matter what we think of it, car culture is here to stay, and it will continue to be a part of the American lifestyle for the foreseeable future.
However, with climate change looming over the horizon and electric cars taking over the market, car culture could see a significant shift as we move away from internal combustion.
Existing car owners will also have to adapt to the new normal and follow emission rules that come along with it. But, models like the Tesla Model S Plaid at least give us hope that the speed machines will live on.
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