Zack Stiling’s considered piece in this month’s mag (July 2019) made my heart sink. A core strength of this hobby, for me, has been driving through the gates of any rod run or drag strip, knowing that that was where the politics, religion and general nonsense of the outside world got left behind. For 48 hours or more, I know I can unwind in the comfortable familiarity of being surrounded by like-minded people, talking cars, having a laugh and ignoring the chaos and burden of modern life.
The “rebel flag” (and that’s what it always was, in my day) adorned clothes, flags, diffractive stickers (remember them?) and more than one or two petrol tanks back then, but it was just that: a symbol of being a rebel, a hot rodder, an edgy geezer, at least until Monday morning and the office rolled around. I don’t think 99% of people regarded it as anything else. I’ve seen some rare sights at rod runs over the years, but never gangs of blokes in white bedsheets, carrying burning crosses.
Are the hot rod crowd politically correct? Definitely not, and merciless p*ss-taking and insult from fellow rodders is not only common, it’s a statutory requirement! But I think I’m fair to assume that most, like me, couldn’t give a toss about race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else when someone rolls into town with their blown ’55 gasser. You’re one of us.
Thin end of the wedge it most definitely is, and no doubt next it will be “Vote Trump” bumper stickers and eventually, those horrid big V8 cars themselves that are the cause of someone’s offence.
It’s simplistic and unfair to tar a whole generation with the same brush, because so many are or want to be a part of this great hobby. But it would be ironic if, after years of repeating the mantra “we need more young people in the hobby,” that reality was its very downfall.
Nigel Swift, via email
Beautifully put, Nigel, and I couldn’t agree more. The flag of the Confederacy doesn’t have a great deal of meaning over this side of the pond; to us, it’s just ‘the Rebel Flag’, and as such is a flag flown by those of us who consider ourselves rebels, or at least non-conformists. If I see someone with a rebel flag or sticker on their car or van, I don’t automatically assume that the driver is a Klansman. I’ve never been to a car event and had anyone try to force their social or political agenda down my throat – as you say, that’s where most of us go to escape that sort of crap – and I’ll be happy for it to stay that way. I don’t care what age or gender you are, to whom you pray, what colour your skin is or any such guff; if you’re into the cars, and your attitude is cool, then you’re welcome. And if you’re flying a rebel flag, that’s OK too. DS, SM
What’s going on with your mag? It’s turning into Max Power! Hot hatches, modern stuff, old duffers’ classic cars… I’m sorry, but if it doesn’t get back to rods and customs then I for one won’t be renewing my subs. Sorry, but it’s just not worth reading as it is now.
Jim Macdiarmid, via email
I’m sorry to hear you’re not enjoying Street Machine, Jim, but are you sure we’re talking about the right magazine? Hot hatches? I think the closest we’ve come to featuring a hot hatch is an Austin Mini. Modern stuff? Again, the most modern I can think of was that ’07 Ford Ranger a few months ago, but that was a full custom Mini-Truck on hydraulics. And old duffers’ classics?! I’m pretty sure we haven’t featured a single stock, unmodified car at all! You’ll have to help me out here… DS, SM