2011-12-21

Field guide to the common American car nut

The field and garden variety Car Nut is quite common across the continental United States, and is frequently easy to spot. It is not however widely acknowledged that a number of subspecies of the Car Nut exist in the wild, and this can sometimes lead to misunderstanding when attempting to interact with a Car Nut.

This guide will help you distinguish the eight main subspecies of the common American Car Nut and allow you to decide on the best care for the Car Nut in your household.

The Drifter

Preferred habitat: Drifting competitions, rarer autocross and track. The Drifter is also sometimes spotted at Tuner car shows and gymkhana competitions.
Preferred car: Rear-wheel drive with a lot of horsepower and skinny tires.
Most commonly seen: Driving their car sideways with smoke billowing from rear wheels. The Drifter believes that style points should be part of a motorsport competition, while timing isn’t as important.
Easily distinguished by: Stacks of destroyed tires and frequent visits to the used tire shop. Neon-colored wheels and accents on the car can also often be used to identify a Drifter in the wild.

The Poser

Preferred habitat: Wherever the Poser has the audience to show off their expensive car. Can be spotted at a local race track, an autocross competition, or doing a scenic drive in a flock of other Posers. The Posers will never self-identify as such, and frequently camouflage as Time Trialers, Tuners, or rarely Racers.
Preferred car: Whatever is new, shiny, and expensive.
Most commonly seen: Talking about their car or climbing out of the wreck blaming traction control.
Easily distinguished by: More money than sense and complete lack of driving skill.

The Racer

Preferred habitat: Race track, hill climb, rallye -- wherever there is competition involved. Can be frequently spotted in a flock of other racers, rubbing fenders in an attempt to get ahead of the pack. Can be provoked to drag-race from a stop light easily.
Preferred car: If it has wheels and a motor, the Racer will drive it. It better have rollover protection though.
Most commonly seen: Under their car, fixing damage from the latest race.
Easily distinguished by: Compulsive desire to race and a skinny wallet due to cost of fuel, tires, and frequent car repairs. Some have observed that the Racer may also have more money than sense, however this condition is reached by near complete lack of sense. When not racing or working on the car, the Racer will talk about racing incessantly.

The Spectator

Preferred habitat: In the grandstands, watching a racing event, attending a car show, or next to their mate or parent of a different Car Nut subspecies. This is a peculiar kind of Car Nut, who has less interest in driving or working on cars, and rather more interest in social interaction around them. The Spectator willingly follows their mate or parent to competitions.
It is important not to mix up a Spectator with a captive Audience, who usually is not a Car Nut at all, but has been captured and brought to the car event by their mate, relative, or parent.
Preferred car: Comfortable sedan or an SUV with many cup-holders.
Most commonly seen: Rooting for their race team. Also, often in a folding lawn chair, watching their Car Nut or engaging with other Spectators. It is not uncommon to see the Spectator help their Car Nut work on the car.
Easily distinguished by: The Spectator rarely touches the car and almost never has a helmet. Doesn’t have to compulsively spend the life’s savings on cars.

The Time Trialer

Preferred habitat: Autocross or a local race track. Can usually be spotted going for “that perfect lap.”
Preferred car: Modified just one point below what’s maximally allowed by class rules.
Most commonly seen: Trying to get some clear track to achieve the best lap time. Time Trialer is rarely seen swapping paint with other cars and is much more likely to politely let others by on track in exchange for a clean lap.
Easily distinguished by: Detailed knowledge of arcane classing rules and indices for their preferred type of competition. Just as competitive as a Racer, the distinguishing feature of the Time Trialer is a car that has little or no body damage from the competition. Frequently the Time Trialer will also have a skinny wallet due to car modifications.

The Tinkerer

Preferred habitat: Under the current project car, surrounded by a number of future and past project cars and loose parts. Can also be seen at a local Pick-n-pull junkyard, or at a parts store. You can usually spot a Tinkerer in their garage on a weekend. Be careful when approaching if your car needs any work: The Tinkerer will insist on helping you, which may render your car immobile for a long period of time if they get distracted by another project.
Preferred car: One that needs to be rescued from the crusher.
Most commonly seen: Driving a mid-1990s Toyota, because it’s the only car that runs.
Easily distinguished by: More than two of car carcasses on jack stands near the Tinkerer’s dwelling. The Tinkerer believes that they can tackle any car problem on their own.

The Tuner

Preferred habitat: Car show or a scenic drive in a flock of other Tuners. When not out proudly displaying the tuned car, the Tuner will be in the shop tuning it some more.
Preferred car: Has extensive modifications and body kits, some of which may actually diminish the car’s driving performance.
Most commonly seen: Socializing with other tuners and adding more modifications to the car.
Easily distinguished by: Energy drink attire and superficial understanding of vehicle dynamics. Of all Car Nuts, the Tuner is the one most likely to have a keen sense of appreciation for vehicle aesthetics. Frequently will have a skinny wallet due to the car modifications.

The Wannabe

Preferred habitat: Couch or online car forum.
Preferred car: While the Wannabe will frequently be involved in discussions about advantages of a Pagani Zonda over a Bugatti Veyron, they are most likely to drive a boring sedan.
Most commonly seen: Talking about things they have no real understanding of. The said talking most often is performed in an online venue such as a car discussion forum. The Wannabe is never seen doing any wrenching or performance driving, so to spot one in person, you may have to attend a family gathering or other social event where several Wannabes are present.
Easily distinguished by: Fearless readiness to jump into any automotive argument guns blazing. You can easily provoke a Wannabe to discuss any topic from suspension settings to advantages of a particular type of tires for competition, but beware that once started, they will not back out, so you need to be prepared to retreat and take cover.