COVID Car Culture

We may be in a pandemic, but car enthusiasts are still showing off their rods

It’s 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in April. The sparsity of cars on the road is unsettling. The streets have become near silent since Covid-19 restrictions hit. Curfews have made nightlife non-existent. This meant one thing for car enthusiasts, aficionados, gear heads, and night-riders: no meet-ups.

This was a major blow to the car community. Not being able to meet up felt exactly like not being able to meet with your family. No more Miata Mondays, Thursday Night Thunder, or Sunday Cars & Coffee. Local meets were not the only thing that was affected. Large auto shows that were put on by car manufactures and after-market companies, were also canceled. This impacted the business side of car culture. This pause seemed bleak for car enthusiasts.

Yet, there is one thing that was known, and that was that these restrictions were not going to stop car enthusiasts. Car Culture is rooted in anti-conformity and defiance. The history of Hot Rodding and Low Riders originated in fighting racism and encouraging individuality. So, there was no way that an invisible and unpredictable threat was going to stop them.

So how were car enthusiasts going to fight these restrictions? They were going to have to go “Underground.” Going “Underground” is a term that has been used by car enthusiasts to describe the hidden and illegal dealings of certain activities in the car community. Going underground meant that car groups and clubs were going to have swear to secrecy and communicate more carefully.

Pre-Coronavirus, posts about car meets and shows were common and any given day of the week there was an Instagram post or Facebook events displaying information about local meets. Now, these groups have become private and would now be invitation only. The announcements would now become impromptu so that the police or other local law enforcement would not be able to be notified ahead of time. Groups would even send encrypted messages to reveal time and location of these covert meets.

With the streets being so empty during this time of Covid, it gave car enthusiasts the choice to meet anywhere and everywhere. These meets were being held in the mountains, in industrial centers or even in the back lots of local grocery stores. Anywhere that car enthusiasts knew was secluded enough, was an eligible meet spot.

These covert meets were starting to pop up everywhere. It got to a point where it even got out of hand. A trend that was prevalent with these group meeting were what some enthusiasts calls “Shutdowns”. These “Shutdowns” were illegal impromptu car meets that illegally blocked public roads and freeways where certain car enthusiasts drove recklessly for attention. These “Shutdowns” were in response to lax police during the pandemic. The best way that can describe these shutdowns is controlled chaos. Burning Tires and Roaring engines is the only thing that can be seen at these covert meet ups. Yet, these hooligans are just a bad example of how Covid affected Car Culture.

While the Pandemic began to wane the restrictions did as well. Now, many months into one of the strangest times of our lives and meets seem to be coming back as well. In Southern California where Car Culture was affected the most, is now starting more legal meets begin to pop up. One meet or meets in specific are Sunday Cars & Coffee. These events are now becoming police supervised and at times sanctioned. This is still a small step in the grand scheme of getting all the shows going again. Another example is the Pomona Car Show & Swap meet, the largest car show in the West Coast, aimed to return in August 2021. The future looks pretty bright for Car Culture and hopefully, weekly shows ca come back soon because we all miss looking at those beautiful bright paint jobs.