Blue-collar creativity: reframing custom car culture in the imperilled industrial city

TitleBlue-collar creativity: reframing custom car culture in the imperilled industrial city
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of PublicationIn Press
AuthorsA W, C G
Journal TitleEnvironment and Planning A
Volumein press
KeywordsAustralia, class, custom car culture, Industrial city, vernacular creativity, Wollongong, young people

This paper hitches a ride with young car enthusiasts to explore how their vehicles catalyse a unique form of vernacular creativity, in a seemingly imperilled industrial city setting. While television and print media regularly demonize young drivers for street racing and ‘hoon’ behaviour, this article purposely adopts a different perspective, on circuits of production and qualitative aspects of the urban custom car design scene that constitute forms of vernacular creativity. Beyond moral panics little is known about movements, networks and linkages between custom cars, young enthusiasts, and urban spaces from which their activities emerge. Utilising responsive, in-depth ethnographic methods in Wollongong, Australia, this paper interprets custom car design as vernacular creativity, valued by young people and located across unassuming and unheralded urban spaces. The possibility that custom car designers possess skills that are assets for ‘blue collar’ industrial cities is contrasted against a backdrop of wider discourses depicting such cities as economically vulnerable, as ‘victims’ of restructuring – and even ‘uncreative’. Insights relevant to future research on the politics of planning, creative industries and class identities are also discussed.