I’d always been of the opinion that blokes who drove about in tarted up hatch backs were idiots. Spotty cap wearing hood rats who tear about any suburban town centre in under powered cars, those originally designed for their mothers to park on the zigzags during the school run.
It’s true to say that most of my road life as a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist and driver has been blighted by the grinning buffoon in the blacked out 1.0 Nova of death. It hasn’t been an easy relationship sharing the road with these guys, there has been numerous near misses, most of them in the suburban satellite towns of Colchester, Chelmsford and Dartford, the true boy racer badlands of our time.
From an outsiders perspective the modding scene seemed utterly pointless, even a little dangerous. The wet herringbone brickwork of the bypass business park played out a ludicrous scenario of idiocy that was so far removed from anything I knew, and that’s rich coming from me.
I hated everything about their culture, and to a certain extent still do. Hanging around at the MacDonalds “Drive Thru”, the shit Drum and Bass emanating from the peeling blacked out windows, the sticker on the side of the Fiat Punto that reads “Mutha Fukka from Hell”. I turned my nose up at the stupid fart noise that came from the exhaust, the crunching as the Vauxhall Corsa, already sitting two inches from the tarmac, grounds out over a speed bump outside B&Q.
My aspirational middle class snobbery moved into overdrive at the mere sight of their cheap clothes from JD Sports, the MacKenzie T shirts and Reebok classics. It all riled me as much as Jeremy Clarkson and the two sycophants he presents that idiot BBC TV show with. Awful.
The closest I’ve ever came to being a part of this culture is owning an XR2 I brought it off my Dad (naturally aspirated Weber carb). Not exactly an “Alan Minter”, but it was lowered, noisy and great fun to drive. My girlfriend at the time called it “The Beast”, it did 25mpg, the cabin reeked of petrol fumes and I swear the fuel guage could be seen to move, but yes, it was a little bit bad. And yes I did feel a little bit “Rad” grounding it in petrol station forecourts, undertaking on roundabouts and borching along the A120 of a morning like a prize fucking tool that I was and hopefully still am.
It was fun. However I was never the real deal. I resisted the need to “Debadge”, tint the windows or indeed make any modifications that would plunge my lovely XR2 even further into the depths of suburban cuntishness.
The thing is, as the years have gone by I’ve started to see another side to this culture that I’d previously missed.
The poorly fitted bodykit, the aftermarket spotlights from Halfords, oversize wheels scraping the wheel arches and doors with no handles may seem a bit tacky, but it’s also creative. The creativity is in making something unique and different on a limited budget and with limited resources, the place where all BBC4 documentaries about music and art begin.
I’ve started to admire their attempts at being truly individual. Yes the results may look ridiculous, sometimes laughably so, but you’ll never see two modded cars that are alike. For me this is where creativity is at. Spontaneous, evolving, cheap to produce and free at the point of delivery. Not like the tedious BBC or those boorish art galleries in places like Brighton or Bath.
The ideals of trying to be different, of doing something your own way and of constantly trying to improve your way of life should be celebrated, not laughed at. There is a sense of anarchy and independence about the modding culture that if it were middle class would almost certainly be something to gloat about at the local gastro pub (Locally produced “Bangers” with a herb and organic mustard mash). Moreover, the ability to experiment with design and technology is something that should be championed, there’s more than enough conformity in the workplace as it is.
There’s comparisons to draw with the personal computer. The MacBook is somehow seen as the mark of creativity, especially amoungst the Volvo and Bugaboo brigade where it is the must have device. Yet it’s widely regarded that Apple Mac PC is fairly conventional, certainly from an outsiders perspective they all look the same. That’s the irony in the Apple “Think Different” campaign, there’s nothing different about Apple Mac in the same way as there’s nothing different about the boring cars that Apple Mac users drive.
Who else has got a opalescent pink lowered Citroen Saxo with oversized wheels and a rear spoiler from a Cessna? Who else is going to have a ThinkPad T43p (Old IBM model, stolen from the Great Portland Street office) jacked up with another 2GB of RAM and loaded with a blazingly fast cloud desktop?
Modding your PC to your very own specification is little different from tuning your car.
So let’s hear if for the boy racer. Creative and individual.