Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend among import car owners. Back in 1999-2004 these “Rice Rockets” or “ricers” were modified to mimic the cars seen in the movie The Fast and the Furious. During that time, some of these import cars used to actually be fast. They had turbo kits, nitrous oxide, custom wheels, aftermarket body kits, and high-end stereo systems. It would seem the days of the traditional ricer (that might actually be fast) have come to an end.
Now, the import car scene has changed. Cars are still being modified, but the emphasis is not on speed, drag racing, or going fast. Instead, they have become more of a fashion statement.Today’s import car owners modify their cars in such a way as to make them worse, adding body kits that don’t line up, rims that don’t fit, engine “mods” that make the Check Engine Light come on, and then cover the car in a bunch of stickers. I want to try to understand the psychology behind this.
Most people start driving around the time they are in high school. Their first car is often a hand-me-down or is purchased very, very cheaply. It’s not unusual for someone’s first car to be an older import car like a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla or a Volkswagen anything.
These cars are usually pretty worn out. The seats are ripped, they have high mileage, and because they are older cars, they don’t have a “cool factor” to them. As a young person, you don’t want to be seen driving an uncool car where your friends will make fun of you. So what do you do?
These hipster car owners turn their vehicles into a rolling fashion statement. They add anodized purple tow hooks to a car that makes at most 94 horsepower at the wheels. Actual race cars that set speed records at Bonneville Salt Flats use tow hooks, daily driven Hondas do not need them. So why add one to your car? Placing a high-speed part on your laughably slow car is ironic. It subtly draws attention to the fact that the car isn’t nice, new, or fast.
In the movie 8 Mile, Eminem’s character “Rabbit” disses himself in a rap battle before his opponent has a chance to, leaving the other rapper stunned with nothing to rap about. In the same way, hipsters modify their cars to be pieces of shit before their friends can draw attention to the fact that they are driving a 1994 Civic with 248,000 miles on it.
They KNOW their cars are slow and uncool, so they exaggerate and draw attention to this by mocking actual fast cars. Look at my spoiler! Look at my tow hook! Look at my 4-inch exhaust!
In NASCAR, the cars are often covered with stickers of sponsors and parts used on the car. In the hipster car culture, cars are covered with stickers of funny sayings and Internet memes, because lots of stickers (like a race car) are another way to bring attention to the fact that their car is NOT a race car.
And yet, behind every “hellabroke,” JDM, Bacon, Mustache, and I <3 Boobies sticker, there is a car owner who wishes deep down that he could actually afford to have some kind of hellaflush, stanced import car.