The state of the college car: Part 1

Whether intentional or not, the youths still have interesting cars

7w ago
18.2K

As this current semester at college winds down, I've realized that I still am discovering new student cars parked on campus. People like to lament how car enthusiasm is in decline and blame the apathetic Tik Tok generation for killing interest in the subject. That anecdotal scapegoating seems entirely at odds with reality and I'm here to prove that the automotive landscape may not be as bleak as we suspect.

Do most young people today drive interesting cars by the standards of their time? Of course not. But neither did they 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years ago. But out of the menagerie of high mileage 2000s Japanese sedans and SUVs that populate the parking lot of any gathering of my friends, quite a few have nicknames and sport livability mods that demonstrate some degree of interest in their presentation and maintenance. You don't have to have an interesting car to begin with to really take ownership of it. I noticed far less of that mentality when I made a similar post about my high school so perhaps this sort of thing develops with age.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but through the examination of interesting representative examples we might gain a better appreciation for what form car enthusiasm has taken among the young adults of today. Not to mention what cars that we find mundane today that will be considered quite interesting one day in the future. Let's jump right in.

This 1979-1983 notchback Mustang clearly has a loving owner. Being relatively easy and cheap to own with a plethora of aftermarket support, the third gen 'Fox body' Mustang is exactly the sort of attainable sports car that people with more ambition than money are attracted to. Given even the newest third gen is now 28 years old, I see a lot more fourth gens and up receiving the go fast treatment, making this fun older model a notable exception.

The fifth generation Honda Prelude is an odd one. The previous generations were often (possibly unfairly) characterized as "chick's cars" but suddenly here's a striking looking high tech sports car bearing the same name. Predictably, it sold poorly, but is quite a cult classic at this point.

Is a 7th generation Mercury Cougar a cool car? Ehhh, not at first glance to most people. But there's a good reason to like this sort of cushy and comfortable near-luxury coupe. This one is a well preserved 30th anniversary edition that may have been a hand me down from some grandparents that appears to be appreciated by its current owner.

There are a ton of Dodge Chargers and Challengers on campus and their popularity makes sense. Even the low trim ones are undeniably cool with a commanding presence but are still easy to use on a daily basis. But only one person was loaded / crazy enough to buy a brand new widebody Hellcat. It sounds epic as you might expect and is frequently driven in a way befitting that.

That's not to say all interesting cars try to be sporty. The Mercedes B Class was sold in the US in tiny quantities and only as an electric vehicle. You'd have to be quite assured that you want a near-luxury crypto-minivan with an uninspired range to have bought one to begin with. You'd also have to be pretty local to get it here at all. Someone clearly knows exactly what they want and how to get it and that I can admire.

Speaking of forgotten low production vehicles with an electric motor, I have occasionally spotted this ungodly rare Honda Accord PHEV on campus. This is one of 1,039 9th generation Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrids sold between 2013 and 2015 only in California and New York state. Given just 0.048% of all 9th gen Accords are PHEVs, seeing one so far from home is quite rare indeed.

Lots of students from out of state bring in cars that bear the marks of their origins. This poor Ridgeline can't be older than 15 but has crippling body rust all over. Nevertheless, clearly someone has tried some homebrew rust repair, implying they give a flying flip about their ride. Spending time and money on a car probably past saving because you enjoy using it sounds like enthusiasm to me and for that, I commend the owner of this pickup.

Speaking of pickups, the second generation Toyota Tundra is near impossible to find in a single cab configuration. This particular student owned truck is even more mythical in its rarity owing to its short bed. It made no sense for Toyota to chase this niche and predictably few escaped dealer lots. Someone has unconventionally pragmatic thoughts about what they want in a vehicle.

So, is car enthusiasm dead in the youths of today? Far from it. The cars of choice are different than they were in years past but the passion is there. Even at a school with ludicrously expensive parking and better than average public transit access people find a way to love what they drive. I advocate that we embrace the huge variety of expression for people extending their personality to the cars they drive rather than condemning aspiring gearheads for not daily driving a flaky 50 year old jalopy every day.

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Comments (44)

  • You should see my colleges cars🤣, a 1971 El Camino, a 1969 Torino, 2004 Outback Sport turned into an STI, many badass Subarus, a pre runner Sierra, a beautiful 1st generation 5.9 Cummins Ram that has been fully restored, a couple Raptors, many cool Jeeps, a turbocharged SN95 Mustang, a couple of nice 2nd Gen Rams and Cat eye Duramax, a really ratty and slammed 1st Gen Jetta, a turbocharged 5 cylinder Colorado and many many more. Okay this might be cheating because I go to an automotive school 🤣

      1 month ago
    • Yeah definitely cheating but still cool. Though I might be cheating too by going to an engineering school. I know at least some of the cool cars I've seen belong to people on the school's racing team.

        1 month ago
    • Wow, that's cool!

        1 month ago
  • My “college cars” were an 87 4-cylinder Mustang and an 89 Ford Tempo, with an 88 Thunderbird V8 thrown in just for fun. When I went back to college about 10 years ago, there was a student driving a Bentley coupe… times changed!

      1 month ago
    • Yeah, there's always the kids who have ridiculously expensive cars that their parents bought them. Last year someone had a McLaren 570S and another person had a Lotus Evora. And there are a lot of other cool cars that may or may not be owned by...

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        1 month ago
  • Rear wings that double as picnic tables on shitty cars. Weirdly I’m infatuated by how far people will go with it.

      1 month ago
  • I live about 20 minutes from the University of Kentucky. A "elite" school for basketball/football players. And of course the first choice in schools of kids from wealthy families with in Ky. It's not uncommon to see kids, teenagers still, driving M series with track editions, AMG's, Audi S(x), etc. Highschool kids driving big V8 American cars, or even brand new/near brand new cars. It's sickening in a way. A friend and I were talking to some of these young kids one night trying to tell them they have no idea how lucky they are. And comparing our first cars, or cars we were driving when we were teenagers and how awful and beat up they were.

    want to know how well your community is doing? Drive by the high school.

      1 month ago
    • Almost all the cars parked on the stadium plaza where the players leave their cars on non game days were expensive to begin with and have expensive mods. No idea what it is about sports that fills the rosters with people so well off. You'd think...

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        1 month ago
    • Many of them probably hand me downs.

        1 month ago
  • Yo, that's cute cars. Now, I don't know where you're studying, presumably somewhere in the US, but I'm at the Comenius University of Bratislava, in Slovakia and these are our cars. Check them out: (see my other comments, I can only post 1 pic a a time)

    A Dodge Challenger GT

      1 month ago
    • This is Georgia Tech located in midtown Atlanta, Georgia. A lot of the cars are pretty typical upper middle class suburbia but there are some pretty weird ones too. There are cars that are interesting but I see too many of them to really take...

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        1 month ago
    • As a matter of fact, most students don't even have a car, this is a very congested city and it is a nightmare to get from one street to another even on public transport, let alone in a car. There's two kinds of students here: average -- they use...

      Read more
        1 month ago
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