According to You: What makes someone a car person?
This is not a question for the faint of heart, but the Hagerty Community came through with some great answers. Subjective questions like this bring about a treasure trove of thoughts, experiences, and knowledge, and the end result is an article that I hope leaves you enriched. We have so much to learn from others, and it’s not just about re-jetting a carb, learning to heel-and-toe, protecting a paint job, or acquiring an NOS part. It’s everything, and we might not know everything in this world, right?
So let’s see your responses to the age-old question in car communities: What makes someone a car person?
A Conversation Stopper
@Bob: A car person no matter where, what activity, event, or people they are with, will see or hear that different-from-normal vehicle and their conversation stops. Their head turns to see what car it is.
Akin to varying degrees of education?
@hyperv6: Being a car enthusiast comes in levels and degrees. Much like a college education.
- You can have your passing interest in some that admire cars in general. Not always an owner.
- You have those who actually own an interesting car.
- You own the car and participate in the hobby socially.
- You own a car and participate in the hobby not only socially but hands-on, working and restoring.
- You not only participate socially but physically in racing and other events with your car. You also will own other vehicles as in more than one play car or support vehicles to support your hobby.
I have always been in the hands-on groups where you restore, repair, and occasionally race your vehicle. I recently got involved with a Corvette club. Nice people who love their cars but many are just there for the social aspect. Nothing wrong with that but most are not mechanically inclined. They go out to eat. Raise money for charity and are kind of like Shriners with larger cars. I have never been exposed to that kind of enthusiast. Yes there are some hands-on guys but most are not club members and it is just a different experience. Most are older and memberships are declining like many other organizations.
There are really 101 kinds of owners and auto fans out there but this is the basic group. All of these types have declined in recent years and the groups are getting older. Why for many reasons. Often the cost has gotten so high many kids just have no interest. The days of a solid ’65 GTO for $1500 are over and even an affordable Honda is not cheap to build.
Blood, Sweat, Tears
@Luvs A Goodstory: Hello. I can agree with Sajeev’s list of “car person” attributes. I give a resounding H##L YES to the “two ears one mouth” plea. I would just add that more than 50 percent of the effort going into the car needs to come from the owner. I will not define effort, other than to say it ain’t measured in $$$. If you aren’t there you are a “Collector.”
@DP: I concur with the >50 percent effort criteria. Years ago, I was at a hot rod/street rod drive in event on Main St. in a small town nearby. Lots of nice looking vehicles, some still in progress, & I talked to several owners. I asked one owner about his vehicle, the history, the story behind the build, etc. When he revealed that he just buys them & drives them, I had a couple of thoughts. First must be nice to have expendable cash to do that, but second what fun is that? You’re missing out on 90 percent of the whole experience!
Enthusiast Starter Pack:
@Jonathan: A definitive description will be almost impossible to define. The starter criteria from Sajeev addresses the question quite well. Here are a few more thoughts:
- When you have a few minutes of quiet, your thoughts eventually focus on cars.
- You can picture the four-cycle process taking place inside an engine.
- You purposely select the best route for driving, especially if it is not the shortest path.
- When you were young, you sketched cars and race cars.
- As a kid, family members eventually just started gifting you car stuff on birthdays.
- At some point, you learned the differences in cars by their exhaust note or headlights at night.
- You understand that different cars have different interior smells.
- You have turned off the radio to hear the engine.
This list will have no end, and the other comment from Sajeev about helping others must be repeated. During my lunch break today I was able to do this, and it is one of the more satisfying aspects of being a “car person.”
Keep It Simple
@Tom: If you simply want to own, drive, race, or modify cars, I call you a car guy.
@TG: I would say the minimum requirement is that you see cars as something beyond a disposable means of conveyance.
Car Guy vs. Car Enthusiast
@BMD4800: A car guy is not the same as a car enthusiast. All car guys (or girls) are enthusiasts, but not all enthusiasts are car guys. Enthusiasts like cars, the social aspects, shows, etc. Being a Car Guy (or girl) is a lifestyle.
I’m a car guy and always have been. Got my first car at 15, second (as in I owned 2) at age 17, third at 18, 4th at 19. By age 22 I had 5. 25 I had 6, at age 30 I had 7. 7 cars, all but 1 was pre-1975. Every home I’ve owned is purchased based on this way of life. Enthusiasts don’t get it, but Car Guys do.
Are we gatekeeping here?
@Desmond: There’s really no answer I can give that isn’t gatekeeping to some extent. Maybe I should frame it as “what it takes to be my kind of car person” instead: I think it takes more than an interest in cars. It takes a genuine desire for knowledge about the subject, and an interest not based on the aspect of social signaling.
I think there are an awful lot of “car people” who are really more into status symbols than they are into cars. After all, cars are among the most visible signifiers of social and economic status in today’s world. Anyone who thinks having a certain kind of car would make them somehow cooler, anyone who is more into badges than engineering, anyone who makes a big deal about “pedigree,” anyone looking for a monetary return on investment, those are not my kind of car people. If the personal automobile were to become obsolete as a status symbol or means of storing value, those folks would move on to some other material object.
My kind of car people aren’t necessarily know-it-alls. But they don’t claim a deeper knowledge than they possess. They don’t go saying one brand of vehicles is superior simply because it’s what they like. They don’t refuse to acknowledge the flaws in the cars they do like. They don’t waste time bench racing or starting pointless arguments. Instead, they appreciate cars for what they are and what they can do.
Their name isn’t as memorable as the car?
@John: All of the reasons almost anyone can name I’ll agree with. But the real proof is what my wife says, because I only know folks by their cars and their names are WAY down the list, lol.
@Jeepcj5: I’m the same way. Anytime someone asks me if I know a person, I ask them what that person drives.
Look in the mirror?
@DUB6: I like some of these as—when I was reading them—I realized they were describing me in large part.