The Passionate, Inclusive, Obsessive, the Everywhere

One of the world’s largest & smallest, loosest & tightest, most social & isolated communities on the planet: Gearheads

World map of “motorization rates”; road vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants. 0-10, very light green. 601+, darkest green. Thanks to Tasty Cakes for the map!

The massive auto enthusiast community is a diverse, passionate community from all corners of the world. This dichotomous bunch is fundamentally connected by a shared love for cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats…anything mechanical that drives, rides, flys, and floats. The global phenomenon can be seen everywhere, from local car shows to racing events to online communities and clubs, and to your neighbor’s driveway. Gearheads come from nearly every economic, ethnic, and geographic group, reflecting regional tastes and peculiarities, histories, and technological advancements.

This is a hugely incomplete, car-focused introduction to this vibrant and fascinating community from various parts of the world.


United States: Muscle Cars, Hot Rods, and…All Kinds of Stuff

Photo credit: and incredible photographer, Matt Barnsely and his top nine pics from the 2023 SEMA show. (Story and more photos, here. Find Matt Barnsely here.)

America’s auto culture enthusiasm is deeply rooted in the rich history of its own automobile industry. Americans have a well-known affinity for muscle cars and hot rods (among an increasingly broader array of just about everything with wheels!). Muscle cars from the late 1950s through the early 1970s are characterized by their powerful engines and aggressive styling, and include global icons such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Charger. Hot rodding, modifications that stretch the boundaries of performance and looks, is another emblematic aspect of American car culture. Massive events like the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas and the Hot Rod Power Tour are examples of major annual attractions for American gearheads. Several geographic locations in the US with a concentrated, dizzying array of gearhead activity embrace everything from the weird to the wonderful (and both!) include the San Francisco Bay Area, greater New York City area, south-eastern Michigan, Southern Florida, north and south Nevada, Phoenix and Scottsdale in Arizona, southern California from LA to San Diego, the greater Seattle area…the list goes on and is growing. An indicator of the level of activity can be found in the 100s of listed car clubs on, which is focused on car-centric clubs…and not all of them.


Europe: The Birthplace of Automotive Royalty

Photo credit: RM Sotheby’s,, 2023.

Western Europe is considered the birthplace of the automobile (The 1886 Benz Patent Motor Car), and is home to some of the most prestigious and historic car brands in the world, including Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz. European auto enthusiasts are known for their appreciation of engineering precision, luxury, and racing heritage. In Germany, the Autobahn and the Nürburgring are legendary among speed enthusiasts. The Goodwood Festival of Speed and several Grands Prix are just two examples of high-profile events bringing together enthusiasts from around the world. British enthusiasts revere storied marques like MG, Triumph, Aston Martin, Bristol, Jaguar, Rolls Royce, and Bentley, while Italians embrace the culture of passion in Ferrari, Maserati, Alpine, Lancia, and Lamborghini. Northern Europeans embrace the unique ethos of their Volvos and Saabs (and Teslas!).

Photo credit: Skoda-Storyboard 2018.

Eastern Europe is also very active, and countries like Poland and Ukraine have not only built community around their Ladas and Skodas (see the IFA Club and Skoda-Storyboard), but have keen interest in American muscle cars and German brands. Some iconic cars from the Eastern Bloc include the Trabant and Wartburg (almost mythical in Germany!). Czech-built Skoda, with a rich motorsports history, is making waves with their RS/vRS performance models. Other internationally recognized Eastern European cars include the VAZ 2105 (a.k.a., LADA Riva, FSO Polonez, and ZAZ Zaporozhets. 100s of clubs large and small exist throughout the entire region.


Japan: The JDM Phenomenon++

Photo credit: Dino Dalle Carbonare on Road & Track, 2018.

Japanese car culture is unique and vibrant, driven not only by the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) scene, but a revolving door of deep-dive cultural explorations that include old-school “DAJIBAN” Dodge van racing (great article, and another on!), 50s American cars, Kei cars, pedestrian Volvo sedans, and so much more. Japanese auto enthusiasts have, of course, a deep reverence for their home brands like Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Nissan, which produce some of the most beloved and reliable vehicles in the world. The legendary tuning culture in Japan is not unlike the hot rod culture in America, enhancing performance and aesthetics. Events like Tokyo Auto Salon showcase cutting-edge customizations and attract a global audience. The drifting scene, popularized by the D1 Grand Prix, is a significant part of Japanese car culture, influencing enthusiasts worldwide. But there is so much more going on in Japan as a rule. Here’s an awesomely ridiculous interactive map with over 1700 places (!) pinned, giving us a bit of an idea of what’s going on around the island!


Australia: A Land of Utes and V8 Supercars

Photo credit:, 2020.

In Australia, car culture is characterized by a love for V8 engines and utility vehicles, known locally as “utes.” Big, loud, and fast! Australian auto enthusiasts enjoy a robust motorsport scene, with the Supercars Championship being one of the most popular racing series. The Bathurst 1000, held at Mount Panorama Circuit, is a legendary event that draws massive crowds. Additionally, the Australian outback provides a unique backdrop for off-roading enthusiasts who favor rugged 4×4 vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol.


Middle East: Luxury and Performance

Photo credit: The National News, 2022.

In the Middle East, particularly in countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, auto enthusiasm is often associated with luxury and performance. The region’s wealth has fostered a vibrant supercar culture, with brands like Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Ferrari being highly sought after. Dubai is home to some of the world’s most outrageous car collections, and events like F1, and the Custom Show Emirates. Additionally, desert dune bashing in high-performance off-road vehicles is popular, but only a part of a very active underground car and racing scene that of course includes a wide array of high-end cars and trucks, but a surprisingly active JDM tuner and stance cars population.


Latin America: Classic Cars and Racing Passion

Photo credit:, 2022.

Latin American auto enthusiasts often have a strong connection to classic cars and motorsport. In countries like Brazil and Argentina, Formula One has a significant following, with legendary drivers like Ayrton Senna and Juan Manuel Fangio having become national heroes. Classic car restoration and hot-rodding are popular hobbies, with vintage Volkswagen Beetles and Chevrolets being common sights at car shows and a crazy street-racing scene…with a lot of contemporary VWs and Chevys. In Mexico, the Carrera Panamericana, a historic road race, attracts both local and international participants, celebrating the region’s rich automotive heritage.


We’re Just Getting Started

Photo credit: spamsafe on YouTube, 2017.

There are countless other gearhead hot spots that deserve more than a mention. But phenomena like 2-stroke motorbike and turbo longboat racing in Thailand, and the obsession with aircooled VWs in Mexico, epitomize the run-what-you-brung mentality that was so pervasive in the early days of today’s more mature markets. And they are nothing short of some of the most fascinating and exciting communities on the planet. Here’s a great piece on a few of the many fascinating car subcultures.

Photo credit:

Not even attempting to dive into the worlds of motorcycles, bikes, boats, airplanes, scale models, and RCs, this article doesn’t begin to address racing: dirt tracks, moto, drag, sideshows, figure 8, NASCAR, Formula, gymkhana, endurance…run what you brung! And then, the events, clubs, and communities…


Online Communities: A Global Network

In addition to the vast network of local events, the internet has transformed how auto enthusiasts connect and share their passion. Online forums, social media groups, and YouTube channels have created global communities where gearheads can discuss their favorite cars, share tips on modifications, and organize meetups. Sites like Reddit’s r/cars, forums such as Honda-Tech and Rennlist, and YouTube channels like the automotive world of Hagerty, Doug DeMuro, Sarah -n- Tuned, Donut, and ChrisFix have millions of followers, showcasing the widespread appeal of car culture. And don’t forget the global community,!


The Future (Yeah, there is a future!)

As the world addresses environmental concerns, the auto enthusiast community is also evolving. The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) and myriad engineering advancements in sustainable automotive technologies have had significant  influences on car culture. Enthusiasts are increasingly embracing EVs, with models like the Tesla Model S Plaid, the Lucid Air Sapphire, the Porsche Taycan Turbo, the Hyundai Ionic 5 N, and the supercar hybrids that include the Ferrari 296 GTB and the Mclaren Artura, capturing the imagination of performance-oriented drivers, and betting on the many promises of near-future vehicles that are lighter, faster, better handling, and packed with features. Events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed now feature electric vehicle showcases, and companies like Rimac are pushing the boundaries of electric hypercars. And several manufacturers are now diving deeply into alternative fuels and uniquely engineered ICE designs.

Photo credit: MotorTrend, 2024.

At the same time, the classic and special interest car markets are exploding. Nostalgia and the demise of old-school approaches and products are fueling huge interest in every category. Cars once considered dogs now have big followings (like the 80s Americans, 30 80s Greats), and some motorcycles are fetching hundreds-of-thousands at auctions. Categories like 60s Japanese economy cars and well-traveled 70s/80s Volvos are bringing eye-popping prices to what was once considered a throw-away. These trends will certainly only become bigger, and reach every nook and cranny of the market. We’re already seeing a few social knock-on effects in more and more homes where they are being built around the garages, not just next to them.

Photo credit: Car and Driver, 2019.


Auto enthusiasts are as diverse as the vehicles they obsess over, themselves. From muscle cars of the United States to the luxury supercars of the Middle East, the tuning culture of Japan, and the classic car restorations in Latin America, car culture reflects the unique tastes and histories of different regions. As the automotive landscape continues to evolve with advancements in technology and environmental considerations, the global community of auto enthusiasts adapts and thrives, always driven by a shared love for the art and science of all of those vehicles that move us. There is so much more to come! Stay tuned.


Remember the Ride!

1 Comment
  1. TTM 3 weeks ago

    Zaz Zaporozhets 969 in Red color (let’s say it was Rosso Red) was the first coupe I’ve driven – my grandpa used to have one and I was learning how to drive with it around 14. Village roads, nature, and a small clunky car with the motor in the rear. We’re still calling it “The Porsche”.

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