Here Are The Niche Car Cultures You Said Deserve More Respect

I learned about a couple of car scenes I’d never even considered could exist while writing this.

byAndrew P. Collins|
Here Are The Niche Car Cultures You Said Deserve More Respect

I'm stoked to see more of you getting in the mix in our comment section. The weekly "Quick Question" audience-asking post we dropped Tuesday—What Car Culture Niche Don’t Get No Respect?—might be the most participated in one yet. Here are the answers that caught our eye.


We opened up our question prompt by citing donks as an under-appreciated scene, and right off the bat one commenter added a nice anecdote to illustrate why donks are indeed awesome.

There used to be a Donk/Slab shop down the street and I would stop by and chat with the owner from time to time. The cars were not my aesthetic, but the culture of the shop was so much fun. Chris was the owner and the nicest guy. Nothing was serious. There was an air of "what if."

I once got a piece of ACM composite material that was mirror finish and had lizard print embossed down into it. I had no use for it, so I took it down and they knew EXACTLY what they wanted to do with it.

One of the things that makes me laugh about this scene is the airbrushing of nostalgic breakfast cereals and candies from the 70s and 80s. Near my office, we have a Trix car and a Kit Kat car. I know I've seen others. I have no idea why that was the trend that stuck, but it's fun to see how they easter egg details in the car that call back to the cereal. The Trix car has little rabbit prints in the different colors of the cereal on each of the tiny bolts on the edge of the (giant-assed) wheels. Crap like that makes me smile.

But the fun matters. When I would go to the typical "hot rod" show in the 1980s, the white beards who built those trailer queens (most didn't even have functional engines) were so crabby and dismissive. ~ David Williams

Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em

This comment cracked me up, because I thought I was the only one who actually appreciated it when non-Si Civic owners put "SOHC iVTEC" emblems on their cars. While we're here though, and this is not meant as an admonishment to ScottyB, but if we could back away from the "pimp" terminology in this context that'd be great. Not to be Ned Flanders, but, there are better ways to articulate this idea without a slightly gross association.

The one I always love are the people that "pimp out" what they have. You have a 2007 Corolla with a small HP 4 cylinder, why not throw a spoiler and a sticker on the side with your engine code and SOHC like its impressive. Kind of like a smoke em if you got em! ~ScottyB

Bring Bosozoku Stateside

Bosozoku style, without getting into the whole history, basically involves putting ridiculous (and I mean, far beyond non-functional) splitters, spoilers, and exhaust pipes onto cars and motorcycles. The aesthetic is kind of like a caricature exaggeration of how a layperson might imagine a tuner car. It's one of Japan's car scenes that never really got major traction in America.

Bosozuku...give a whirl on google. Like giant 70's matchbox cars meets speed racer. ~Bird2112, also mentioned by Robert Margolin-Ross and others

Do People Still Do Car Audio Competitions?

I used to be so obsessed with the idea of having enormous speakers in my car. I did, too: two 12-inch Pioneer woofers and the box they lived in took up most of my '89 RX-7's cargo space. What was I thinking? Anyway, it was very hip at the time. Are people still into that?

A couple scenes that get "no love"

  • Big wheels - they're NOT all donks.
  • Minitrucks - been around over 40 years, still get called lowriders
  • Car audio - it's not all bass competitions. ~Mr. Miller

Very Important Petrol Usage

This commenter brings up an interesting point at the end here—has there been an American equivalent of the JDM VIP scene? Like, where they use Chrylser 300s and Lincoln LS sedans, slamming them and giving them window curtains?

Vankulture and VIP. I know VIP is big in Japan and was popular for a bit in the states but I'm sad it didn't take off. I assume the lack of big rwd japanese sedans is the cause. But I'm sure some Lincolns and 300s can be made into some cool VIPs. ~minivanisalwaystheanswer

Baby Bubble Fords

I remember my colleague Peter Nelson trying to convince me that Ford Contours are cool ... I'm still not sure if he succeeded, but clearly, he's not the only one with an affinity for this era of Fords.

Back in the early 2000s, I was one of a cluster of superfans for the Ford Contour/Mondeo/Cougar platform, and it was a true "if you know, you know" clique that NO ONE else understood. Sort of a crossbreed between import tuner culture and old BMW fans with a heavy dose of brand affinity.

I loved the three Contours I owned. They all had great handling, fit me like a glove, had really common-sense interiors, and the ones I owned were progressively more powerful and fun to drive (4cyl auto to V6 auto with suspension mods to pre-SVT V6 manual). ~Jeb Hoge

Humble Mechanics

I have been lucky enough to find a few groups of folks who like wrenching, even when it's not on something glamorous (or even interesting, like a cool project car). I agree with the sentiment in this comment—gangs like that can be a great time!

Wrenching on the mundane isn't glorified. No one cares unless it's some car 99% of people can't afford and that some 75% won't even see in their lifetime outside a google search. Even an engine swap gets clicks. What about just keeping a malaise era engine running?

I stopped participating in the local car scene when I moved up state. Tried to get back in, and everyone's in their own little echo chamber, and ultimately I moved on in life. The only group that I didn't experience that in was from shade tree mechanics.

That guy's Camry needs a CV axle replacement? Stu's old S10 needs a radiator swap? Alice's mustang needs some brakes? The church's Econoline needs an oil change?

And the dumber stuff: Billy's kid wants to drop a Civic beyond reason or Billy himself wants to stick a 6" lift on his old Ranger? They got the parts, a pittance for time, and a case of beer while we wrench? "Cool, let's hit it. It better not be light beer!"

I miss that old group, and I text them to keep up. No BS, just good folks. No one cared how they used their cars, just that they used them. ~Firestorm252

Special Delivery

It never even occurred to me to think about the idea that cargo vans might have their own subculture scene, but I guess they're out there!

Step Vans!!! I've owned 3 of em over the years. ~goyohi

Going The Distance

I like that username "This Guy" started is comment with "I'm going to be that guy ..." Which is it, amigo, "this" or "that?!" Ha, kidding of course. And I actually agree that both high-mileage and high-efficiency cars are cool.

I'm going to be that guy, but hybrids and hypermilers is a small-ish and unloved car scene. Sites like Prius Chat are very popular with that ilk. It is as much niche as lowriders, and people are genuinely proud of their rides, high mileage, the age and number of miles on their cars (199,999; 299,999; and 399,999 cars.) And many have chassis mods to improve handling, and many are lowered, you know, because drag coefficients. Anyway, it's a thing. Toyota reached out to Prius Chat to have the community determine the proper plural form of Prius - it's Prii.. ~This Guy, also mentioned by W.O.