Middle Child.

Born too late to explore the earth, born too soon to explore the galaxy. 

Born right in time to import goods from Japan and write half-cooked articles that are actually just a coping method for not being able to process most of my thoughts any other way. 

Usually, around this point in writing an article, I completely lose my steam and I begin to worry if it’s going to make sense to anybody that isn’t living in my brain (what a terrifying idea that is) so I start to digress and consider whether or not I should bother to write the article at all. 

Ultimately I plague my friends by sending out text messages saying stuff like:

“Hey, I think I need to write an article about how I’m watching so many of the people I used to look up to grow up and get out of cool cars, and how it seems like the new generation of enthusiasts just makes Tik Toks and high five each other over their replica parts and sadboi stickers, not to mention the prices for all these Japanese cars have spiked so much they feel damn near unattainable.” 

And then I think to myself that maybe I’m being a bit too dramatic and harsh, but also that I might just be onto something. Regardless I come away realizing that I should really write the article I was originally falling away from. Trainwreck levels of digression aside, it certainly does feel like I have become the “middle child” as a car enthusiast, as I’m not quite sure where I fit in anymore.

Ah, that’s it, the root of all of these ideas.

So I suppose at this point I absolutely annihilate a Google Doc with the hope that I show you an honest representation of the thoughts that bang around inside my brain.

I began arriving upon this realization when Dylan and I spent some time talking about the season of our lives from a few years ago where our “fun cars” were actually just our “car cars” in comparison to now where we own our project/passion cars as well as reliable daily drivers to slog us through the workweek. For sure knowing that you have a reliable method of transportation helps to take away the “please for the love of God let my car start this morning” anxiety, but in a big way it has also taken away a bit of the bite of owning an enthusiast car and driving it every day. 

Unless you’ve daily driven a car that’s a rarity or relatively impractical it’s hard to explain just quite what I mean by all that. But you are just going to have to take my word for it, all the stress and unpredictability aside, it was definitely some of the most day-to-day fun we ever had.

On this same thread of thoughts, another burning idea that I have been processing is the skyrocketing prices of all of the Japanese cars that I have loved for years, and how even though there is definitely some sticker shock when I see some of the astronomical pricing, we have to be realistic because they’re getting old now.

A 240sx that was $4000 in 2014 does not mean it’s gonna be $4000 for the rest of time. These cars are not getting any newer and they certainly are not getting any more common and without a doubt that is a major part of what makes them so cool, but realistically, what does this mean for the culture? What is going to happen to the next generation of enthusiasts as all the eighties and nineties cars we all celebrate and adore become more and more prohibitively expensive? 

This is the crossroads I am at. Despite being able to understand the logic behind the value of these cars shooting up, I am fearful that it will cause long-term damage to the culture as these cars become less and less attainable for me and you but somehow invade pop culture and show up in Travis Scott music videos. You know, the guy that did a digital concert in Fortnite? 

Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I just typed that. 

And once again it becomes a battle of both heart and mind because part of me loves that these cars that are so iconic and important to me are getting recognition and the culture is growing, but in the exact opposite direction I am terrified of what it will do long term as this sort of thing attracts so many people that are more interested in hype and attention than they are the roots of the culture.

Really how many more replica wheel companies and windshield banners from hype brands that just steal other people’s designs and sell cringe sweatpants can we stand to see before we throw our hands up in defeat and give up?

See there I go again being overly dramatic, but hey these are just my honest and disorganized thoughts, sue me or something.

Just a few days after I started writing this I talked to my friend CY from Funky Garage about the ideas I was mulling over and one of the things that he said that stood out to me the most was that he feels like he is driving around in “time capsules” with the cars that he owns. Coming from a  guy that owns Silvias, Chasers, AE86s and more, I definitely understand where he is coming from. 

When I owned my R33 my desire for it was to try and capture as much of the nineties as I could, and when I owned my AW11 MR2 I applied the same logic but with the eighties as my muse instead. I certainly made some mistakes and committed some automotive sins (here’s looking at you giant replica TE37s)  in the process, but as I grew as an enthusiast my knowledge of the culture and appreciation for quality grew as well and eventually I arrived at my desire to treat my cars like time capsules as I felt that was the best way to respect the culture these cars represented. 

So after the word vomit that has been this article hits the table, where does it leave me?

Honestly, I’m not quite certain. 

I’m sure that a few of you will read this and think “Ok boomer” and go back to scrolling through ESR’s website for your next set of pothole landmine wheels. Others will probably read it and agree with me but then immediately return to being gatekeeping assholes that attempt to completely block newcomers from the culture. 

So I guess all I’m trying to say is that we have to do better.

Wow, that’s literally all I managed to come up with. 

But seriously we do, I know I do. 

We need to continue to celebrate the styles and cultures that excite us, we need to celebrate quality and do our own damn research, and we absolutely need to stop slamming the door on the new generation enthusiasts. We need to aim to inspire and encourage them and be grateful that a whole new generation wants to partake in the culture that we say means so much to us.

I guess the best way to do this is by being the best versions of ourselves that we can.

We can’t talk about valuing cars and the culture behind them if we don’t do anything whatsoever to protect this hobby and allow it to grow.

So let’s all do better, together.

Damn, I almost managed to wrap up this dumpster fire, but then I had to go and ask for feedback. 

And thankfully I asked for feedback from one of the most honest people that I know. 

When I sent this article to my good friend, and dedicated car enthusiast, Sandra, for advice I didnt really realize what I was getting myself into. Sandra has been a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and honesty for me so instead of hitting me with a participation ribbon and a “nice” she gave me some critical feedback, especially around what would have been my likely conclusion just a mere few sentences ago. 

When I asked her for advice she said,

“Overall I liked it, while I was reading it there was a lot of like ‘omg lol this is dramatic’ but then you said that you were exaggerating and being dramatic so it was funny and well thought out. I think it’s relatable and light-hearted so that no one takes anything too serious. The article is good, that ending line is not sitting well with me though.”

And honestly, she’s completely right. 

“Let’s all do better” is a great sentiment, but honestly if I was to actually end like that I would be doing a disservice to anyone reading this by not including any hard advice on what “doing better” actually looks like. 

So maybe we should start by not calling ourselves car enthusiasts if all we really are are culture pirates. We can start by doing research, asking questions and holding ourselves and our friends to higher standards. We can still hold each other to high standards, dislike replica junk, and appreciate quality all while still managing to show each other kindness and respect. 

I asked Sandra what she thought “doing better” looked like and she told me this,

“We have to encourage people to actually talk to each other and introduce themselves and make friends with the other people in our local car community. What I hate about our local car community is that it’s like no one wants to be friends with anyone. People just want to be better than everyone else, but not to be friends with them. No one wants to share the culture, but everyone wants to be a part of it.”

If we truly appreciate quality then we need to apply that mindset to more things than just car parts and wheels, we need to have quality friends and we need to be quality people. The type of people that aren’t afraid of being honest, being critical or being kind. People that look out for their friends, respect the cultures that interest them and give everything they do the very best that they’ve got.

I dont think everyone needs to be friends, but I do think people need to be friendly until given a valid reason to not be. And as for gatekeeping, it’s like Ryan Benoit from DodoLogic said on a recent episode of SerialPodcastNine, there’s arrogant gatekeeping and then there’s gatekeeping with tact that serves the purpose of protecting or guarding the intricacies of a culture. With all that, we need to see the elements of quality that bleed through and consider just how important the idea of quality really is.

So maybe that’s where we have to start; with a hard question.

Am I a quality person?

So here’s one last attempt at finishing this article before I go completely insane:

After nearly wrapping this all up Sandra told me, 

“I think you should circle it back to how you feel like the middle child of the family. Wishing that the younger siblings would stop hitting the nay-nay and covering every square inch of their cars with HardTuned stickers. Asking our older siblings for advice, but they’ve been going through it too long to care anymore. We’re left in the middle, feeling a bit neglected and alone while we collect the pieces and try to hold onto what we have left of our hobby and passion. We hope our parents (car companies) will finally pay attention to us and just make stylish cars again which are manual, rear-wheel drive, and attainable. Instead, we’re met with a “because I said so” attitude and forced to accept this new generation of cars that take a lot of control (and fun) away from the driver.”

And then she added,

“Or rather, just say that you wish that people would understand the true value of these cars and why they’re so important again. Not just because 2Fast2Furious is trending or because these cars can be a profitable investment, but because these cars come from a time when people just loved driving and the culture refleced that. Maybe add how you wish that these sweatpants and sticker car brands that just try to bite onto that swag, would create something that actually adds to car culture instead of just make some quick profits off hype, noise and a generation that doesn’t really know any better.”

And honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m not going to.

I’m grateful to have a friend that was able to understand the points I was trying to get across in this clouded, confusing and disjointed monologue of my honest thoughts.

That’s it.

If that’s not a clear example of having quality people in your life, I don’t know what is.

Quality applies to more than parts.

See you soon.


Published by Alexander Turnbull

Automotive photojournalist, traveller, blogger, and meme enthusiast. Enjoy car life.

4 thoughts on “Middle Child.

  1. It was a good read, really enjoyable it resonated. What is the vehicle above the Celica? thought it was a Mark 2 but the front badge looks like a Nissan. I daily drive a Stagea .

  2. Great read and agree with much of what is said. However although prices are becoming unattainable and new cars aren’t exactly coming, I look at it as a slightly positive light. Many of these cars were trashed and not appreciated for years because of them being so cheap, the true enthusiasts of the time,culture and style will still be here. Yes it will cost them a bit more money than on previous years, but the cars they build will be greater, cleaner and more unique. Fly by nighters be gone. Let the greats live on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s