Posted by Matthew E. on Sep 29th 2020
What is automotive culture? What does “car community” even mean? These are a couple of the questions I’ve wrestled through this week as I’ve set out to immerse myself in “it”. This realm is multi-faceted yet intricate, diverse yet approachable; it is defined more by a feeling than captured by words. I can say with confidence, that Mercedes-Benz is uniquely rooted within it all.
For this article I use the word community to mean “a group of people that have a shared goal” and in my experience within the ownership community of Mercedes-Benz classics, that common goal revolves around keeping the cars alive while celebrating them. A line from James Chen during a Petrolicious taping has stayed with me over the years stating, "cars are like poetry in motion and the best way to celebrate them is to drive them". Sticking to that truth, I’ve observed that the car community within the umbrella of automotive culture has made room for all types of cars to be celebrated.
What does the automotive culture mean to you? One perspective that I am most intrigued by is from individuals who don’t find themselves drawn to automotive culture at all. For those select few, there are specific cars that draw them in; meeting people who share that same passion simply becomes the inevitable byproduct. Classic Mercedes-Benz at all levels have inevitably created that passion driven owners throughout history, I simply want to know why. Some owners I’ve interviewed say that their Classic Mercedes-Benz have allowed them to discover a sense of identity while isolated in their garages; others have said that their cars have unlocked a community group which they had been oblivious to. At scale, the topic of culture is vast, and consists of more intricacies than can be conveyed in one sitting. I will say whether you have a W198 300SL Gullwing or are simply a fanatic of the foreshadow cast by German engineering, there is some part of automotive culture that fits you just as you are.
The cars are great, but the people are greater...is that even true? Take a moment and think about what the R107 450SL means to you, or the W123 Diesel, or even the W120 Ponton—any model produced can have the ability to carry an inherent intrinsic value and undeniable following. The car community, more specifically, the car show community creates a draw for a myriad of reasons that are specific to each individual. Car show culture reveals itself in different ways across the globe, however the mere quantity in Southern California is what makes this region unique. One can visit a local Cars and Coffee for diversity, Cars and Chronos for exotics, Supercar Sunday for quantity, or Malibu (location to remain anonymous) for something private; all of which can happen in the same weekend. California car culture fits right in line with automotive culture as a whole; it evokes a feeling even greater than the sum of its parts.
What is it that strikes you most about automotive culture? Is it the cars, the people, the feeling, the nostalgia, or simply the curiosity about a product you feel may be just out of reach. Do we have any responsibility to pass automotive traditions to generations to come? Until next time, remember…”it’s more than a badge”.