QotW: How do you tell a “car enthusiast” from a car enthusiast?

Many people claim to be car enthusiasts, but are only superficially interested in things that go vroom-vroom. Sometimes what really appeals to “car enthusiasts” is the perceived status that owning a loud, flashy, expensive thing confers on them. Many go through that phase but some never grow out of it. Some give other car enthusiasts a bad name when they do stupid things on public roads. They range from mildly annoying to incredibly dangerous.

How do you tell a “car enthusiast” from a car enthusiast?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What should be the last purely gasoline-powered car ever produced?“.

The end of traditional gasoline cars is certainly a painful subject for many of us. And we don’t believe you have to be anti-environmentalist to want and drive a classic car. But like it or not, global trends are pushing the industry to electrify.

Is it better to have no cars than electric cars? That is the perhaps tongue-in-cheek response from Alan. Lakdasa and Franxou are probably right that gasoline sports cars will continue to exist as low-production niche products. Some readers had actual cars in mind, like daniel‘s hope for a Mazda rotary-powered sports car or nlpnt‘s simple refrain of Miata.

Those are certainly excellent choices, but the winner this week is thatdirtykid, who went with something a little less expected:

To echo and add to what Franxou said, a sports car. Specifically a sports car that is designed with driver engagement in mind. Not chasing lap times but something that is built purely for the drivers enjoyment.
From toyota the MR2 is a fun option, though I was really hoping they would bring back the Celica with a 2 door Corolla GR type drive train as homage to arguably one of their greatest motor sports entries the GT4.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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16 Responses to QotW: How do you tell a “car enthusiast” from a car enthusiast?

  1. Long Beach Mike says:

    At a car show, the “Car Enthusiast”, seeking status among his peers, will give anyone within earshot his opinions in the form of answers to questions nobody asked.

    Meanwhile the car enthusiast, seeking car related knowledge, will be asking other car enthusiasts questions.

  2. AE86 Racer says:

    A real car enthusiast goes to car events, such as car shows, meets and race events, even if they and their car are not participating in them.

  3. Ian G. says:

    This past weekend, I attended The Amelia (a motorsport event like no other). During the RadWood and Caffeine & Cars event, we ran upon an Alex Zanardi Edition Acura NSX. So I was loudly telling my buddies about it and the owner happened to be there and could not be more excited to hear that I knew about his limited edition car and showed me all the trim, name plates and badging that made his car special. Then he asked me if I wanted to get in it and that made my day.
    Car enthusiast/owners love showing off their cars and talking about them to any ear that would listen. Car enthusiasts that attend shows genuinely love talking cars and being around cars. We drove 3 hours at 6 am to attend this show until 5pm and drive the long drive back home. We did partake in all the events we could and even sat in the car auction for these (some of them) million dollar cars just so we could see how the other half lives. As long as it was cars, we were there. When I got home I just kept looking at the pics I took, followed the rest of the concourse events on their social media. My non-car enthusiast fiancé didn’t quite get the reason for the excitement but that’s fine. I have the pics, memories and was surrounded by car enthusiasts during the show and loved it.

  4. MWC says:

    i sum it up like this: you’re either a Car Guy, or you’re a Guy that likes Cars.

    I use to volunteer at the now defunct Vancouver Molson Indy race. i took Holidays, flew there and worked non-stop setting up the track, building tire barriers, anything they needed. the food was crap, the hours were shit – i loved it. One of the race promoters said something that relates to this QOTW. He said “there are 2 types of people at the race, there are race fans, and there are event fans”. It was odd to me that people will go to the race just to ‘be there’, immersed in the event, the midway, the pits, the smells and sounds all of it all and really have no interest in who or what is on the race track. So bizarre to me then, but i get it now.
    Same thing here – you like cars, you buy a car and you go to a show or an event and see what type of people want to include you in there day – because of this car. its social networking at the grassroots….or you don’t give a rats-behind about a show, because the sheer look or sound of a car swept you off your feet and planted its fire in you and you want nothing more than to own that feeling forever…there is no wrong answer, we are all at the right place for us – its the beauty of our passions.

  5. Tofu Delivery says:

    Anyone participating in a takeover/sideshow/donuts on public streets is not a car enthusiast.

  6. speedie says:

    I went to a Porsche concourse event many years ago with a friend who I thought of at the time as a person who was “interested” in cars. While we were perusing the wonderful cars on display we overheard a conversation between two owners on whether they should remove the yellowed cosmolene from their engines, or if it should stay to give the car more concourse points. My friend thought this was the craziest conversation. Within ear shot of the two owners he said: “Who gives a crap, just drive the car and enjoy it.” He was true car enthusiast in my book after that.

  7. Styles says:

    I think that the greatest pointer as to whether they are a car enthusiast or not is whether they call themselves a car enthusiast. Down here in NZ we often get bogans who like to indulge in anti-social automotive behaviour claiming that they are “car enthusiasts” trying to sound less loutish than their true selves – boy racers. Meanwhile, in my experience, a true car enthusiast claims no such thing.

    Also, check out their garage, a “car enthusiast” might have a nice car in it, a *true* car enthusiast will have one or more car, often in various states of assembly, stacks of wheels and tyres, multiple tool-boxes, and likely a bunch of old part that “might come in handy some day” lying around!

  8. Fashion Victim says:

    To me, a true car enthusiast works on his own car when problems arise, he does not trust others to do the job the right way. He finds out as much as possible about his car, and can identify a part just by looking at it, because he has taken out and put in that part before. He owns car(s) that he likes and not for clout or approval from others.

  9. Mattt says:

    Tires 195 or narrower and drums in the rear.

  10. Franxou says:

    I always hate categorizing stuff like that, I even wrote a long rant that I will keep for myself and give you the short one:
    I played with toy cars before I could walk, learned about cars as soon as I could read, but I grew up in a poor family and with no car-nut friends nor access to a garage of any kind. I learned to drive in my family’s 10 years old Ford Tempo. Pretty much a non-enthusiast car if there are any, was I not as much of a car enthusiast as the other kid in high school who was gifted an Integra GSR from their parents? Lots of people were surprised when I ended owning a 240SX, mostly because nobody thought I was into cars. I ended up owning a string of cool and uncool cars, depending on my needs and my room- and money-budget of the moment.
    There are all kind of things to be enthusiastic about: driving, owning, knowing more lesser-known things, being into some style, knowing how to work on, knowing all the spreadsheets, betting on the value of cars, tinkering the littlest detail to get that hellaflush look, the list is endless…
    Being a car enthusiast is just that: being enthusiastic about some shade of the car experience!

  11. Maikeru says:

    A car enthusiast is the enjoyment of the drive, appreciation of the car as it becomes you’re companion in your everyday journey and loves to car talk about cars.

  12. Alan says:

    The qualities that qualify a real car enthusiast are pretty much the same that identify a true aficionado of any hobby; in a nutshell, they dig deeper.

    A real enthusiast is generally more captivated by historical machines than the New Hotness ™.

    A real enthusiast researches, learns, and applies practical and more esoteric knowledge.

    A real enthusiast can drive a manual transmission (if not physically prevented from doing so).

    A real enthusiast works on their own vehicles, at least partly (not just oil changes and brakes).

    A real enthusiast values quality driving time more than preservation. There’s a balance here, and special machines deserve special treatment, but static cars cease to be cars by a variety of criteria.

    A real enthusiast works on their own vehicles, at least partly (not just oil changes and brakes).

  13. Taylor C. says:

    I think the “car enthusiast” is the one who can fire off all the specs for all the latest hypercars and their horsepower / top speed ratings. I used to be like that when I was a kid, albeit I’ll know specs on the more-attainable cars as well. Some “car enthusiasts” could be the affluent ones that only buy collect their cars, and just have the cars sit. Then there are “car enthusiasts” who buy and flip nice cars, and I feel this short-term ownership does not genuinely allow in-depth connection with the cars.

    However, in order to remove the air quotes from the title, I think one really needs to have the love and desire to DIY, to have their car on jack stands at times, to own their cars for a number of years and develop that bond. Those cars in their ownership have a mechanical aspect that continues to intrigue the owner. The car(s) in the person’s ownership might not be perfect, might not be concours, or might not be super expensive. The car enthusiast should know how to drive manual, but doesn’t have to be a regular at the track.

  14. james says:

    Styles and Alan’s responses personify the true essence of being a car enthusiast

  15. thatdirtykid says:

    I am a little late to this conversation, but maybe that’s for the better as my take may be more response than just answer.

    I fall into the category of enthusiast that loves wrenching on their own toys and developing the intimate relationship you gain while disassembling, diagnosing, researching, reassembling and tuning a machine. I possibly (probably?) enjoy that part of ownership as much as I do using my cars. The satisfaction of cruising in something I built or fixed is one of the greatest joys of driving.

    Although that is the type of enthusiast I am, I do not believe that is the only kind of true enthusiast. No I am not going to justify clout chasers who are more interested in the status they gain by owning something. People participating in street takeovers which primary purpose is “look at me” or any other various acts of using an automobile as a tool for growing ego. I am here to defend the breed of enthusiast who may not be blessed with the confidence, had the influence to break the barrier to learn how to be hands on, and even the guy who just prefers to let someone else do the wrenching. I think a person whos primary joy they receive by owning a car comes from the pure enjoyment of driving is as true an enthusiast as any. Even if said person has Ferrari GTO money, if they buy a car like that and enjoy driving it more than they enjoy what people think thats good enough for me.

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