Social media has become the dominant communication tool for our generation. It’s a fantastic way to keep in touch with friends, follow what your favourite celebrities are up to, and to consume your interests to your heart’s content. For the car scene, that has unfortunately resulted in a ludicrous game of one-upmanship, where people buy and modify cars based on what will get them the most attention online.
During London’s supercar season, what used to be an impractical show of wealth has escalated into a gaudy parade of arrogant, fame hungry rich kids vying for the attention of children with mobile phones. There are plenty of people doing things for themselves in the car scene, but they’re so often overshadowed by loudmouthed show offs in chrome-wrapped cars they couldn’t care less about.
Last year I took the slightly bonkers Jaguar XFR-S for a trip into the heart of London’s supercar scene. The idea was to see if the ostentatious Jag could hold its own amongst the plethora of more exotic material on show, but the thing that I took away from the night was how crazy these supercar spotters could be.
This year, the whole spotting thing blew up, and it’ll only be a matter of time before one of these kids gets hurt, or worse, killed. They run around in the road with complete disregard for their own safety, motivated only by getting the same shot as a dozen other people. We very rarely share these videos anymore, partly because once you’ve seen one Aventador spit flames, you’ve seen them all, but also because it encourages this ridiculous behaviour.
We all like a keepsake when we see a cool car, but it’s not worth killing yourself to get a 10-second clip for YouTube. And if you’re getting the same shot time and again, and shots that anyone could get, your channel will never truly take off. There are some great YouTube channels and Instagram accounts that offer something a bit different, but the sea of repetitive revving videos has been grating on me for a while now.
I’m not naming any names, but I’ve attended a few driving events that vloggers have attended, and the standard of driving is shocking. Most of the good guys have camera mounts in their cars, but some big names cruise about holding cameras. It’s incredible none of them have wrecked yet, as I’ve seen them holding phones while filming themselves driving, holding cameras out of the window and weaving across the road as they check they’ve got a decent angle.
It’s cool that there are petrolhead personalities around, but when it gets to the point where getting a shot is more important than just enjoying the car, you have to wonder what’s in it for them. It’s all about getting views rather than enjoying the car.
There will always be idiots who ruin it for the majority, but as petrolheads we have a responsibility to show that we can enjoy our cars while remaining responsible; it’s hard to justify your fast driving is safe when 30 seconds ago you were sending a Snapchat of your 0-60mph sprint.
No, this isn’t a new thing, but it seems more relevant now than ever. As the effects of cars on the environment come to the forefront of people’s minds, those of us who choose to drive cars tuned for performance rather than economy are looked down upon. In fact, there are many people who consider our very hobby an insult; the fact that you could covet something that destroys the environment is just plain offensive to some.
It’s funny that as the debate about autonomous cars switches from curious future mythology to genuinely viable product, petrolheads are experiencing a golden age of performance cars. Here’s hoping that the future’s bright for us, and that new car technologies can continue to excite us as the anti-car brigade keeps shouting.
One of my favourite things about the car scene is that, for the most part, everyone’s respectful. No matter what you like or what you can afford, you can be pretty sure that people will appreciate the effort. Well, that’s true in the real world at least.
Social media is great for many things, but what it’s bad for is giving keyboard warriors a sense of detachment that allows them to be unnecessarily cruel. You also get circle-jerk jokes that are constantly recirculated by people desperate for attention. It can make going online to talk about cars quite intimidating, and is part of the reason we spend a lot of time moderating content and comments; you don’t have to like everything, but you don’t have to be insulting about it either.
I don’t know how many people are going to agree with me on this one, but it really winds me up that people are so narrow-minded. Once upon a time cars had about six moving parts, a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive. Pretty much everything was the same, but then technology moved on and new stuff entered the scene… but attitudes haven’t moved with the times.
Load up YouTube and it’s no effort to find highly tuned cars that spit out four-figure horsepower numbers, so it’s easy to become jaded and think anything with less than 500bhp is woefully slow. It’s not. The Toyota GT86 is a prime example; it has 197bhp, and while it’s by no means fast, it’s ridiculously good fun to drive. Numbers can’t tell you that, but you can’t talk about the GT86 without multiple people piping up about its straight-line performance. Yeah, it might be more fun with more power, but it doesn’t really need it.
When automatic gearboxes were first introduced, they were slow, juddery and indecisive, so it’s understandable why people considered manuals to be the enthusiast’s option. It’s just not inherently true anymore. Yeah, sometimes cars are better with manuals, but sometimes the shift is rubbish and adds nothing to the experience.
For an industry that moves along at such a pace, it’s incredible how supposed enthusiasts’ attitudes are so resistant to change.