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What’s wrong with the local custom car culture today?

Cars should bring people together, not divide them

The automotive community in the Philippines has a thriving aftermarket scene. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The country has been blessed with a flourishing automotive industry and market in the last decade, thanks to a boom in our overall economy. We are living in good times relative to the start of the 21st century.

And as the car industry grows, the aftermarket grows with it. A car is still one of the biggest purchases for the average Filipino, ranking in the top three (after housing and education).

This huge growth in the aftermarket and the enthusiast community has brought more people, with greater differences in tastes and preferences together. This is essential for growth. Cars should be a means to bring people together, literally and figuratively, bridging the gap between folks from different walks of life.

Modifiying your car is akin to expressing yourself—everyone has different tastes. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

Some like it stock, some (like me) like it modified. Creativity and ambitions, coupled with goals, also flourish as enthusiasts are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Admittedly, some modifications are questionable—even downright dangerous—which is another topic we’ll discuss next time.

There are some modifications that shouldn't be done because of the danger that they pose. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

While we strongly discourage dangerous modifications that have a clear objective and technical reason (blacked-out tints, blinking brake lights, blue/green headlights, tinted lights, and crazy lifted vehicles with wheels sticking well past the wheel fenders on raised subframes and attached with questionable fasteners that increase these rigs’ blind spot and put other road users at higher risk), I feel everything else should be fair game.

Some car modifications may look polarizing, but that doesn't give one the right to shame the owner. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Sadly, there is a growing amount of elitism on the scene, often followed by a condescending tone and attitude toward others who don’t meet one’s criteria of what is ‘proper’ or ‘right.’ These standards are, in fact, vague and ever-evolving as more trends from abroad and more cars and more aftermarket products come out.

What’s worse is it can lead to cyberbullying. And on the surface, should all our cars even look the same and conform to a single aesthetic standard? Life would be very boring indeed. Ultimately, do we really need more negativity and bad vibes in the world and in our local car culture community?

We have a right to our own opinion, even at the risk of offending other people. But it’s totally different when we intentionally attack ad hominem the person whose taste differs from ours. We can say our piece, but to randomly call out individuals and in a very public forum, speaks of how well (or ill) bred the individual making the attack is.

Not everyone has hundreds of thousands to drop on bespoke modifications. PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

You would think it is lowly educated people who do this, with poor breeding. Nope, it is people who are well educated, come from well-to-do backgrounds, with far greater spending capacity, and are lucky enough to enjoy the better, finer things in life. This isn’t just a simple clash of tastes, but is also a form of social inequality.

Some car guys have limited funds and cannot afford the best or right parts off the bat. Some lack exposure to the high-quality stuff of life. Their experience or their tastes are dictated by their immediate environment and social strata. Do you fault these people who are not of the same ‘level’ as you, shaped by different circumstances and have different tastes but want to enjoy cars nonetheless?

It's beautiful that love for cars connects people from all walks of life. Why tarnish it with negativity? PHOTO BY BOTCHI SANTOS

The Internet is indeed there. But the Internet, like the universe, is so vast: If you don’t know where to look, where to start, or what questions to ask, it’s easy to fall into misinformation where data can be erroneous, inaccurate or outdated.

Cars should be a means to unite us, bring us closer, and build bridges rather than erect walls. It should broaden our perspective of the world, not just on car modification, but allow the people we meet to enrich our lives as well.

I have met many good and dear friends in the local custom car scene who have broadened my experiences, increased my reach, and allowed me to network for my own businesses and simply enjoy a grand old time.

If you don't have anything nice to say about someone's taste, then best not to say anything. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA AND BOTCHI SANTOS

We have a responsibility to give back to the community, and ensure its well-being, growth, and continued vibrance. We can be ‘elite’ (i.e. we have the best-looking cars with the best baller parts, built with OEM-like execution, rivaling the builds we see at foreign car shows like SEMA or the Tokyo Auto Salon). But regardless of what car we drive and how well it’s modded, we must never adopt a condescending attitude toward those with admittedly questionable choices.

We can gently but firmly enlighten them if they are willing, but in the end, we must respect them—the people, if not their cars. If your opinion doesn’t bring about the greater good or help someone to be better, just move along, scroll down, and forget about what you see that doesn’t suit your own subjective standards.

Botchi Santos

Botchi is your friendly, walking car encyclopedia. He loves helping people choose the right vehicle for themselves as much as he enjoys picking the right one for himself. Expect him to write about car culture, test drives and car-shopping advice. His regular column is called ‘Car Life’.