There’ve been a few car meets that I’ve heard about over the last few years and have only managed to attend a small number of them. For those of you who don’t know, these are fairly informal, relaxed and interesting events through which car enthusiasts of all backgrounds congregate with their vehicles. A lot of admiring, a fair bit of showing off and a reasonable amount of noise is to be expected.
Here’s a video the organisers have put together around one of their previous events.
So I turned up about 630 in the evening and there were already around 20 cars or so parked up in different parts of the site. Rolling into the car park in my oldish Toyota, the first thing that struck me, however, was the noise. Well, not noise, but music – some young bass head with his tailgate open, showing off his two large speakers and what looked like a damned flux capacitor, blasting out who knows how many decibels of a genre I’m not entirely familiar with – grime dub electro bass head fusion of some kind, probably.
Within an hour the car park was fairly close to full. Lots and lots of cars, all very different and all with a story of their own. A few slots on from me, a 1980s Toyota Corolla but not any old Corolla. An AE86 – real wheel drive, coupe, twin cam engine and becoming very sought after. A few cars on and I see a mid 1970s Toyota Celica.
The owner tells me he’s had his car for about 6 years and has done a lot of work himself. It’s all original, with the exception of the big bore exhaust which emits a deep, throary rattle with even the slightest of blip on the accelerator. It’s a nice looking thing and the last time I saw one was a year or so ago – a reddish one, in Girlington. This version is often referred to as the ‘baby [Ford] Mustang’ because it does look like a compressed version of the US car of iconic status. In their own way, Japanese cars of the 1970s and 1980s have become iconic, as well. The aforementioned AE86, and its front wheel drive boxier cousin, the AE82 Corolla have huge followings and still turn heads because of how they look and sound. While appreciation of these ‘Classics’ has very much happened organically, something that’s developed and grown especially over the last 15 years or so, the appreciation of such cars is not lost on the manufacturer, Toyota. It’s no accident that Toyota decided to call their belated latest Celica replacement the ‘GT86’ and to also keep in mind the ethos and feel of rear wheel drive Corolla coupe that was kicking around over 30 years ago.
I kicked around for a good few hours, camera slung around my neck, snapping away and talking to owners and passengers and their cars, the meet and the vibe. It was a fairly diverse crowd in more ways than one. People from all over Bradford and beyond – Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds, Birstall and other parts of West Yorkshire.
Different ages, varied ethnic backgrounds,a couple of pensioners, quite a lot of youngsters (well, under 25s at any rate) and all with their takes on what their cars could and should look like.
And that’s what I mean about it being a diverse crowd: some of the cars were barely changed (a Bentley, a few high end Mercs, Audis, Beemers…) but others had been modified with any and all of the following: looks, performance, sound, ride, comfort, handling. Taste and identity figured heavily throughout the whole thing – even when I asked some of the owners why they did what they did, their responses were layered with enthusiasm and appreciation of something that held part of themselves. Within each and every one of those cars, there is creativity and even art. Yes, that’s right: for some of those people, and even though they might not recognise or name it as such, their cars are more than mere objects of fundamental and utilitarian function. They are canvasses, bodies and forms replete with artistic and creative meaning. Whether anyone else sees any of that is another matter – all you need to do is read (usually) local newspapers to get a sense of how this kind of car based endeavour is either ignored or, more usually, demonised as dangerous and linked with the breakdown of social order… What’s important is that these cars are modified and fulfil that strangely human habit of producing things which stimulate our senses and, for whatever reason, please us.
I’ve written a couple of academic pieces around cars and am planning on writing a book based on research I’m still doing on car culture. What I’m very interested in is trying to understand why it is people do what they do with their cars and, just as importantly, how cars can allow us all to read and interpret something of their drivers.
That’s pretty much it for now… but some more photos of the meet below.
Link to Bradford Modified Club’s Facetwat page