From Detroit Free Press
CHARLOTTE, NC — The black Honda Prelude with hints of pearl blue beckons you to take a ride to hear its 800-watt amplified stereo blasting OutKast’s “Roses,” to sit in its gray racing seats and watch through tinted windows as people stare enviously.
In front of Extreme Motor Trends in Fort Mill, S.C., the 1995 Prelude beckons you — especially if you’re a young man between 18 and 35 — to buy it or make your car look this cool.
Tricking out vehicles has long been a part of American culture. Whether it’s a hot rod, monster truck or chromed-out Chevrolet, we want our rides to express our personalities. Today it’s a $29-billion industry highlighted in movies and cable programs. The custom car culture is a reflection of our desire to try to be individuals, but still fit in.
We may live in cookie-cutter houses, but “Trading Spaces” teaches us how to make our wall paint and sofa match our personality. We may have the same Motorola cell phones, but dozens of ringer options and accessories personalize it. Every makeover TV show, whether it’s for our clothes or our bodies, emphasizes individuality.
“Kids today, they express who they are, whether they’re skateboarders, Goth or a jock,” said Karl Brown, 40, co-owner of Extreme Motor Trends.
The Prelude, with more than $12,000 worth of upgrades, is how Extreme Motor Trends expresses itself. At least 10,000 people paid $25 to see it and about 300 other cars in the Hot Import Nights car show at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart in June. Some of the most tricked-out domestic and import cars competed for cash prizes for the best lighting display, bodywork, audio and video systems and more. Hot Import Nights is one of the larger car shows held in the Charlotte area, but custom car culture is so big that there’s nearly one show a month within an hour’s drive during the summer.
“Charlotte and the surrounding areas seem to be hotbeds for this activity,” said Richard Goodwin, vice president of motor sports at California-based Vision Entertainment.
A custom car can be a hot rod, a hand-built car, a rebuilt Mustang, a Mazda RX-7 with speed-boosting nitrous oxide or a BMW with head-turning wheels.
The entertainment industry helps spread the culture. Video games such as “Gran Turismo” allow gamers to accessorize cars for looks and performance.
The movie “The Fast and the Furious” highlighted people who make Japanese compacts travel at warp speeds (tuner culture).
In the music videos of the late ’80s and early ’90s, West Coast rappers drove low riders and cars with hydraulics popularized by some Hispanics. Today, eye-popping Mercedeses and Bentleys have replaced bouncing Chevrolets and Cadillacs.
The early years of MTV’s “Cribs” gave viewers a taste of what Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Shaq really drive. Showing celebrities’ garages became so popular the network created “Whips, Rides & Dubs.” Today, the Learning Channel and Spike TV have shows about tricked-out rides. The latest is the Learning Channel’s “Overhaulin,’ ” in which a person’s car is given a surprise makeover. Think “While You Were Out” for your car.
Click here to view the rest of today’s headlines.