Custom Car Design

Left: A Honda CRX from Unanderra. Right: A Chevrolet at the The American Muscle Car Club of Australia, Towradgi Beach (photos: Andrew Warren)

Young people and hotted up cars have long been aligned with moral panics surrounding street racing and hoon behaviour; depicted as all round reckless and dangerous drivers. Wollongong has long been recognised as an area with a strong custom or modified car scene, hosting a number of popular car festivals, including Rev Fest and the American Muscle Car Club of Australia's annual show. Rather than typecast young car enthusiasts in the region as hoons, my research has examines the creative work, which goes into designing, fabricating and completing a custom show car. It has especially focused on a group of fifteen young enthusiasts, involved in exhibiting their cars at various show n shines, car club meets and auto salon shows. Not always held in the city, these participants take their cars to shows in Sydney, Newcastle, even interstate into Melbourne and Brisbane. Using in depth, ethnographic research methods over a twelve month period I have been able to reveal how these car lovers create their stunning vehicles; how they draw on their own skills, and combine these with the technical abilities from local automotive businesses, who cater to the custom demand. From my analysis, I have shown how the local automotive industry supports over 650 local jobs, with many workshops relying on the custom scene for sustaining their business. The average participant in my research spent $14,400 on customising their car, in addition to the amount originally paid for their vehicle. Many explained how they had yet to complete their vehicles either, planning still more work.

Left: In the spray painting booth for a custom job, Dapto. Right: The interior of a Ford Mustang at the American Muscle Car Club of Australia, Towradgi Beach. (Photos: Andrew Warren)

Within these stories, lies the importance of the Wollongong region for custom car design, where participants are able to draw on the extensive knowledge and expertise of local automotive workers, whom they form strong bonds of emotional trust with. These emotional bonds help produce unique and impressive vehicles. Perhaps documenting this scene can illuminate its importance to both local youth and Wollongong area itself. Another emerging scene with the region, also involving young people is hip hop music; which follows a similarly misunderstood narrative to that of the car enthusiast.