QotW: How do you encourage a kid who’s just discovering cars?

On a recent visit with some friends that I haven’t seen in years, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the younger of their two kids, now eight years old, is really into cars. His parents aren’t, so he’s been going to the library and borrowing the latest car magazines, studying the cars he sees on the street, and correcting his dad (“Our neighbor has a Land Cruiser, not a 4Runner!”). He reminds me of myself at that age. Naturally he loves supercars and big trucks, but I this is how I know he’s a connoisseur: his favorite is a Subaru WRX.

I immediately gave him a stack of Hot Wheels, but it made me somewhat sad. “Is this a real car?” he asked of the Honda CRX. “I’ve never seen one before,” he said of the FD Mazda RX-7. “So many coupes!” he noted as he opened Nissans, Porsches, and Camaros. He’s grown up in a world of Teslas and crossovers. I want to introduce him to the classics.

How do you encourage a kid who’s just discovering cars?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the last year that had cars which interested you?“.

This question elicited some very thoughtful responses. Rainmeister wrote an excellent reply contesting the premise that could’ve been an article in itself. Many of you also gave reasons why the future actually has lots of promise in store. Art and dankan cheekily offered 2023 as their answers. speedie provided a long list of current cars that are indeed interesting. Tom Westmacott explained how teaching cars how to drive like humans can be a fascinating endeavor, while Elias found lots to be excited for in the diversity of powertrains. In this vein, エーイダン provided the best one-line retort.

Others argued for specific years. Land Ark marked 2018 as the start of internet connectivity and subscription services. Robin (and his daughter) stopped the clock at 2007 with his Honda Fit. Taylor C. pinned the date as around 2006 and gave an impressive list of future classics from that era. kyushanerd went further back, to 1997 with the EK9 Civic Type R as last of the greats.

The winner this week was Steve, who made an excellent case for why throttle-by-wire was the turning point, but also why the future is not as bleak as it seems:

From a driving perspective, when cars went from throttle cable to a delayed electronic throttle which also took the fun out of driving in other areas as well. No left foot braking for front and AWD cars as it cut the throttle for you when you needed it to be full on. Also upon downshifting, the power was not drastically reduced to allow full engine braking, and with DSG for example, just kind of let you freewheel like an old SAAB.

From a design perspective, when cars were jacked up and lipsticked into Cute Utes. Those all look the same and are just appliances. And why do they all squint at me from the rear end? Cute Utes also came with jacked up pricing, which didn’t help the finances for just appliance transportation.

Now, to counter, I too agree the future with less costly, smaller electric vehicles will drive me to purchase one someday, although not for performance, but for economy, so that I can get around town and hopefully longer distances. This will allow me to spend more money on my Miata, my two 323GTX’s (one winter, one summer garage queen) and perhaps a Mitsubishi EVO in the future. More money for gas, fun parts, and not only that, but to get away from the monotony of the daily ride in congested urban areas in the electrified appliance, with spirited drives in the country or down some rally roads up north – defeating the hum drum with a big ass smile.

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12 Responses to QotW: How do you encourage a kid who’s just discovering cars?

  1. Taylor C. says:

    A lot of that encouragement comes with time. One thing you definitely DON’T want to fall into is the trap of overloading the kid with this hobby. My daughter was somewhat into it when she was a toddler, handing me a wrench, or making some car noises, or asking me to push / drift her in the old Little Tikes Cozy Coupe or the Costco shopping cart, or pointing out Ferraris and Hiaces when we went overseas. She ultimately picked up another hobby from the significant other, which was drawing, and I have no resentment whatsoever towards that. She still gets an earful from my frustrations / eureka moments with my cars, and she knows she’s going to learn manual in the near future, but I genuinely don’t push her to immerse in automotive because I know she’s going to push back if I go overboard.

    My son was also introduced to cars through my experiences, and he’s developed a deeper interest in the hobby than my daughter. He’s not as much interested in spending extended periods of time under the hood, but he’ll eagerly ask me if he can change gears while we drive, and specifically tell me he doesn’t need a “shift notification,” as he can sense it himself. He joins in if I’m watching old Best Motoring videos, or point out the cool cars in the Tamiya catalogue. He’s got his collection of Hot Wheels / Tomica, and will go to a car meet or two with me. BUT, I can see he will lose interest if we’re at said car meet for too long, where I just stare at the cars while his attention span is inevitably going to be shorter. He’s got his list of cars he wants, and he can point out car brands like me when I was a kid.

    Ultimately what is it about cars that we like, as a kid (and not a teen, or adult)? It’s obviously not the iphone connectivity, it’s not the myriad of safety features, it’s not crossover vehicle. It’s the looks, the speed, and the sound. You get your toy car and make some car noises while your skirt around on the carpet / floor and jump some ramps made of hardbound books, that kid’s going to catch on quick.

  2. Taylor C. says:

    I had written a long-winded post, but strangely JNC didn’t seem to upload the post, so I guess I’ll just sum it up instead.

    Don’t go overboard when sharing the hobby, too much will ultimately deter them. Instead, what do kids (and not teens nor adults) like about cars? It’s obviously not the smartphone connectivity, nor the safety features, nor the crossover ride height. Kids like the looks, the speed, the sound. So, grab a Hot Wheels / Tomica and skirt it around the floor / carpet, or better yet, grab some hardbound books and launch them over like a ramp, all while making car noises. That’ll get the kid’s attention; take it from personal experiences.

  3. Zachary Jones says:

    The only way I know at this moment is off experience…my nephew is one, and I am currently buying him Hot Wheel cars for when he gets a little older.(You, when he doens’t want to just eat everything hahaha). But everytime I pull the cover off my 280z, he wants to be right there. He will sit right in his chair and watch everything you do while working on the car. This is how I am helping him discover cars.

  4. Alan says:

    A big part of how I encourage my kids’ interest in cars is also through Hot Wheels. Lots and lots of Hot Wheels.

    When they were toddlers, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Tomica die casts were their potty training incentives, and now that they’re a bit older, rewards for hard work and good behavior include day trips to local and distant Cars and Coffees, lowrider gatherings, boba spot JDM meets, JCCS, boomer-centric muscle and hot rod shows, etc.

    And yet more Hot Wheels.

    Whenever I work on one of our cars, I invite them to help. When I go to a car museum or a race track, I take them with. When I buy a new car book or magazine, we look through it together. I point out interesting cars on the street, build up their knowledge, and then randomly quiz them. The quizzes in particular are big hits.

    We don’t have much time for screens around our house, but when we do, we watch Noriyaro, old touring cars, drag racing, WRC, hillclimbing, stock cars, sprint cars, monster trucks, or anything motorsports related.

    We’re all very much about digging deep in our family, and presenting the prospect of owning and caring for special vehicles – machines that escape the attention or understanding of the detached, distressed and distracted masses – really strikes a chord with them.

    There are limitless ways to instill passion in your children, but they all start with you and your own passion. Be excited and interested, and they will follow in your footsteps.

  5. Jeremy A says:

    They’re growing up in a world of crossovers and teslas. So don’t deride those. Encourage them to be interested in the cars that are prowling the roads while they’re little. We like what we do because they’re what were on the roads when we were children. The fastest way to kill a love for cars is to tell them what they’re familiar with sucks, and to push them in the direction of an unobtainable unicorn instead. Nurture what they’re into now. Their love for enthusiast cars will start to grow and blossom later. A good example is.. myself. When I was very small, 5 or 6, my mom had a Pontiac 1000/Chevy Chevette. And I thought that was the coolest car on the planet for a long time, because riding in it felt so much faster than riding in my dad’s truck. Growing up, I realize that car had no sporting credentials whatsoever, but to a 5 year old, it might as well have been the space shuttle. I’m into totally different cars now, but because nobody came along and told me that the Pontiac 1000 sucks, and I should feel bad for liking it, my love of cars was allowed to grow and blossom.

  6. Yuri says:

    For a kid, it’s good to expose them to cars in a way they can relate. Sure, being a passenger in a classic sports car is cool, but driving them is way better. The great news is, there’s a ton of games out there that focus on how much fun it can be to drive a car, such as the Forza series, Assetto Corsa, etc.

    But the best one for exposing kids to cars and car culture is Gran Turismo, especially the latest in the series, GT7. A kid can dive as deep as they want, with full descriptions of why each car is important, a super in-depth photography mode that shows that a location can be just as important to car culture as the cars themselves (Daikoku Futo, the SPOON workshop, starting line of LeMans, etc) and the ability to make the cars theirs with a great livery editor, tasteful body mods including minutia like tow straps and different oem trim-level parts on some cars, and a broad selection of real world wheels.

    Once they start to get into it, you’ll notice they’ll probably have a favorite car or few they keep going back to (mine was the A70 Supra, Evo IV, and FTO), so when you notice that, it’s time to track them down a nice diecast of that car. If they’re a young kid, a Hot Wheels or Tomica Premium is a good choice, if they’re older and you can afford to splurge, a 1/64 Tomica Limited Neo Vintage or 1/18 AutoArt of their favorite car could let them experience their dream car’s shapes and forms in the real world.

  7. Geoff says:

    My two kids (ages 13 and 15) are just starting to get interested in JNCs, as they’ve been around them most of their lives.

    I’m working to encourage that, and to build their confidence, ability, and understanding, by helping them restore their own ’69 Datsun 1600 Roadster. A guy had about 8-10 of them in Northern NM, and I ended up with my pick of the two best of them. It’s not the biggest, baddest JNC (or even the biggest, baddest Datsun Roadster) by a longshot, but by the end of it, they’ll have mechanical, paint, and body work under their belts.

    To date, we’ve stripped it down, blasted and POR-15d the frame, stripped and re-undercoated the bottom of the body, replaced the front grill and left fender mount/engine bay part of the body with a straight one, fixed an innumerable number of rust holes, and reunited the body and frame. The next steps are to paint the engine bay and put the driveline back in.

    I’m not the skill behind the restoration, I’m sort of an Executive Producer, in that I’m trying to steer them to the correct next step, and make sure they don’t get stuck for want of money or time.

  8. speedie says:

    For me the turning point was when I started to learn about the history of car makes and why certain types of cars existed at certain times. I particularly got into period styling. I would keep feeding the interest by giving them not just overall books on the history of cars but specific marque histories like one on Ford, Toyota, BMW, etc. Books on particular models is also great like one on Z cars or Mazda rotaries for example. There is so much to learn!

  9. エーイダン says:

    Hot Wheels + Initial D/Wangan Midnight. plus what my mum did when I was a child. Wait till the last day of a car show and wait by the exit where the cars will be driven out. Maybe if he wants video games, have a house rule on….racing games only…..then give him not the controller but the steering wheel-type game controller setup. After he turns 15 child will already be using all the swear words he learned from you working in the garage so no need to offer any linguistic lessons.

  10. Elrik says:

    I found that taking them to car shows or a local IMSA race would peak their interest. They would get to see insane cars that they wouldn’t necessarily see on the streets.

  11. Angelo says:

    This is what I did, pulled out the old PS2 out of storage, put Gran Turismo 4 on it, and let the young kids play.

    Happened last Christmas, now I have my youngest brother helping me out on fixing up the old Sentra and coming with me to car meets.

  12. Miatadon says:

    Get him into home gardening and martial arts, .The future of cars is not looking good.

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