The State of the College Car: Part 2
Whether intentional or not, the youths still have interesting cars
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. I previously published part 1 of this series and today we'll be looking at some more evidence that car culture is alive and well.
Note the Pontiac G6 GXP in the background
One bias I've noticed is that people who disparage those who bling out their vehicles with dumb wraps referencing meme culture or comic book characters. Though I'd never want a vehicle I drive to be covered in cheap stickers and random neons for the sake of attracting attention, I don't think we should put down aspiring enthusiasts who like that sort of thing. There are arguments to be made that they like the attention, not the car, but assuming this is true of everyone is not helpful.
Of course, for every well loved vehicle used to its fullest, you'll find criminally neglected cars showing such extreme signs of absolute automotive apathy as to make you sick to your stomach. This filthy CRV with some ineffectual duct tape bodywork was a particularly egregious example.
In past decades, an old British roadster was the poster child of a disposable fun car that you didn't take that seriously. But today, you have to be deeply committed to drive a 50+ year old car that was known for being flaky and temperamental when new. This self proclaimed "MGK1D" is doing it the right way, not the easy way.
Of course, some enthusiasts care more about just having a good time with what they have rather than carefully preserving an old and fragile something or other. This bull horn equipped Mercedes reads like a parody of the status obsessed and I love it.
Given college kids often have stretched budgets, it's often the less well appreciated cars that are within their reach financially. 300ZXs aren't particularly valuable but they sure are fun. I get the impression that this is one isn't a nice example being run into the ground but rather a total basketcase that's been brought back to serviceable condition. It pulls off its ratty look rather well.
Of course, sometimes some just plain weird cars wind up in the hands of someone who takes care of their car but isn't exactly car obsessed. I always love seeing underappreciated cars just driven and taken good care of. I get that impression from this BMW 318ti. In the US, these are very uncommon sights as no one really wanted to pay a premium price for a relatively cramped small and ungainly looking hatchback that wasn't fast enough for the RWD to matter much. This student owned one is certainly the best condition one I've ever seen.
I embrace all forms of car enthusiasm that promote an appreciation of the car itself and not just as a tool to gain followers on social media. Whether that's laboring over your broken MG late into the night or bagging your newish BMW, just go out and enjoy your car for what it is and what it means to you. Don't obsess over what others think about you. I see ample signs that many young people today still possess a fiery enthusiasm for cars of all sorts, even if it takes a much different form than it did 20 or 30 years ago.