Car meets are an endangered species. At the rate things are going, they might actually become extinct in some areas. In today’s post, I’m going to share some car meet etiquette and attempt to do so without getting angry. Let’s see how that goes.
I’ve been going to car shows and meets for well over a decade. I’ve seen car clubs and event/show organizers come and go over the years. Currently in my area, the average lifespan of a group that organizes meets is probably no more than 2 years. The same thing happens time and time again:
A person or group has a passion for cars. They put a bunch of effort into researching, planning, and deal-making to set up an event for everyone to enjoy. The first few are great, and word starts to spread. Then the idiots show up. The cops get called, the property owner chews out the organizer, and the event gets shut down. The organizer realizes he/she is fighting a losing battle, and in some cases exits the scene completely. Wash, rinse, repeat.
How much longer is this going to go on for? I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And that’s a total shame.
As car guys, we like to be around other car guys. Having an event or a place you can go to check out other vehicles is a great thing. For some people, it’s what gets them through the week or month. Being able to chill out, grab a coffee, and be surrounded by cool cars and other like-minded people is something to look forward to. That’s all being ruined by idiots.
That’s exactly what they are by the way; idiots. Intelligent people don’t behave the way people who crash car meets do. This role is reserved for the mouth-breathers and window-lickers of society. They don’t seem to care about the consequences of kicking over someone’s sand castle… but someday they might.
If you’re going to be dumb, you better be tough.
You never know when you’ve messed with the wrong person until it’s too late. People are getting fed up with their favorite events being disrespected and shut down. In today’s tattle-tale world, the chance of someone going hands-on with you is probably pretty slim. But when I see these skinny teenagers hiding behind their locked doors while they do donuts, I can’t help but think it’s only a matter of time before someone hauls them out of the car and gives them the beating their parents should have a long time ago.
If you want to avoid being “that guy”, here’s a few tips for you. Some of these things will get a meet shut down, and some are just common courtesy. You need to follow all of them:
What not to do at a car meet:
You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, common sense isn’t so common. Most car guys love a good burnout. This isn’t the place for them though. There is no better way to draw negative attention to a car meet than a burnout. You’re essentially sending a smoke signal to the police saying “Hey! We’re over here! Come shut us down!”
2. Excessive revving / 2step
I say “excessive” because sometimes, revving is unavoidable. Certain cars with certain clutches will stall if you don’t keep the revs up. Once you’re parked though, shut up. Nobody cares how loud your car is. Literally anyone can take a hacksaw to their exhaust and sound just as loud.
The same goes for 2step rev limiters. Years ago, this was actually impressive because it meant the car had some serious work done. Nowadays, 2step rev limiters can be added to many stock computers with some simple software. The novelty has worn off, and now you’re just a jerk.
Now for the bikes. Crotch rockets seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to revving and hitting the limiter. Most car guys are into motorcycles too (myself included) so we have no problem with you being here. As a matter of fact, I think your bikes are awesome and I love checking them out.
But any sport bike with an aftermarket exhaust can make that noise. You aren’t special – you’re annoying. Stop it before someone shoves you off your bike and you end up with a problem you can’t “lane split” your way out of.
3. Speed in the lot
You’re in a parking lot filled with hundreds of people, children, and even animals. You never know when someone is going to jump out in front of you. So just slow down. Sharing what your new Ebay intake sounds like when you leave a stop sign isn’t worth killing somebody.
4. Park like a jerk
I understand you don’t want your car to get scratched, or you want to be the center of attention. But you don’t need to take up 2 or more spots. If your car deserves attention, it will gather it on its own, while being parked normally.
If you’re afraid of scratches, there are other solutions. Most of us car guys are in the same boat, so it’s safe to park near other cars. You can usually tell whether someone feels the same way as you with one quick look at their car. If you can’t find anyone to safely park beside, head to the back lot, behind the building, or across the street. You can’t park in the middle of the action and avoid people getting near your car at the same time. Choose one or the other.
It’s simple. If you leave your garbage behind, you ARE garbage. Car meets are generally located in large parking lots of shopping malls. You know what they have a lot of there? Garbage cans. Use them, you slob. If you can’t find one, here’s a crazy thought: if you brought it in, bring it with you when you leave.
6. Never, and I mean NEVER, touch someone else’s car
If the owner has given you permission to touch it or open a door then that’s fine. Under any other circumstance though, do NOT touch someone’s vehicle (that counts for your kids and pets too). I’ve seen everything from people dragging their coat zipper along a car as they walk by, to people actually opening the door and getting in the driver’s seat. For most car owners, the latter is a fight onsite. Just because a car is on display doesn’t mean this is an auto show. Have some respect.
7. Block photographers
Everyone loves to wake up the next morning to see an awesome shot of their car on social media. These guys/gals shoot photos at events based purely on their passion for cars. Don’t get in their way if you don’t have to. Be aware of your surroundings and if you see someone squatting near a car, they’re (hopefully!) about to take a picture. Don’t be a jerk and walk in front of them. Be a decent human being and go around – it won’t kill you.
On the other hand, it’s important to remember that having a DSLR camera in your hand doesn’t make you the king of the car meet. This event is crowded with people, and you knew that when you decided to take photos here. Have some patience, and don’t expect to get studio style shots in this setting.
8. Bring a bicycle or skateboard
This is just asking for trouble. I don’t care how sure of yourself you are, you’re freaking everyone else out. Nobody knows if you’re Tony Hawk or Larry The Cable Guy on that skateboard. Bikes and boards can do some serious damage to a car. They also make walking in crowds much more difficult. If you absolutely have to bring one, at least have the common courtesy to stay away from the vehicles.
9. Blast your stereo
Unless you were hired to DJ the event, nobody wants to hear your stereo. This isn’t a nightclub; we’re here for the cars. To the guy that feels the need to pump the rap music filled with profanity, slurs and more: There’s children and families around here, you idiot. Turn it down or head back to the “trap”.
Car guys are already guilty until proven innocent. We don’t have the greatest reputation with the police or the general public. Here in Ontario, the police can suspend your license, impound your car, and give you thousands of dollars in tickets for street racing or doing a burnout. All without a chance to defend yourself. Judge, jury, and executioner, right on the side of the road.
I don’t believe it’s fair to label every owner of a modified car as a street racer. It’s no different than stereotyping every young person wearing a hoodie as a robber. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. We have double standards based on what the media and general public wants to hear. Car enthusiasts are easy targets when it comes to ticket writing and nobody cares if we’re harassed. That’s really all it comes down to.
This means it’s even more important for us to be on our best behavior when we gather in large groups. By going to a meet, you’re representing your city’s car culture. Don’t prove the naysayers right. You know who else gathers in large groups? Protestors and rioters. Lots of that going on lately and things often turn violent. So when the police see a large crowd of hundreds of people in a parking lot, what do you expect them to think?
Tip: If you see or hear someone doing something stupid, don’t be like everyone else and form a crowd around it. That’s exactly what these attention seekers want, and it motivates them to keep doing it. Ignore the idiots, make fun of them, or even publicly shame them if you want to. If we stop playing their game, hopefully they’ll give up and go away.
To make things even worse, we add burnouts and 2step revving on top of the large crowd. Think about that for a second. Burnouts create a ton of smoke. Smoke usually means there’s a fire, especially when it covers a whole city block.
The sound of a car hitting the 2step and shooting flames can be very easily mistaken for something far more serious – gunshots. So now we have what appears to be a group of hundreds of people, a fire, and an active shooter. And we wonder why people hate car guys?
The noticeable difference between motorcycle events and car meets
I go to a lot of motorcycle events too. These range from small, weekly bike nights at local businesses, to large bike rallies in Port Dover and Wasaga Beach. The big ones have hundreds of thousands of people show up, and there’s relatively no problems with behavior. Why is that?
The biggest difference I see is a heavy police presence. They’re usually more focused on organized crime and fights, but the fact that they’re on the scene and visible keeps people on their toes.
Another interesting point is that we’re all on bikes. We’re out in the open. Nobody can hide behind a locked door and a rolled up window. If you draw negative attention to yourself, there’s nowhere to hide… and there’s some pretty bad dudes at these events that would have no problem “taking care of business” if you know what I mean.
Sure, there’s still some random revs or burnouts here and there. But for the most part, idiots don’t bother trying anything because they know there’s a slim chance they’ll get away with it. Keep in mind, I’m talking about events that take over entire towns. And there’s STILL less drama than a group of import cars in a mall parking lot. Something needs to change.
The future of car meets
In order for car meets to survive, we need to make some changes. I think the Cars and Coffee events have the best model to duplicate. Focus on a slightly more mature age group by planning the meets in the morning rather than at night when people are naturally rowdier. I’ve also noticed that police tend to be more lenient with events that are tied to a charity in some way. It’s harder to treat us like bad guys when we’re doing something good for the community.
That brings me to my next point. As much as I hate to admit it (and been against this idea in the past), we need to have the police on the scene. This seems to be the only thing that stops people from acting stupid. Having a strong police presence does kill the vibe a bit, but it’s a sacrifice worth making if it means our car meets stay alive. Inviting them shows that our intentions are good, and the vast majority of us don’t want any trouble.
It sucks that it’s come to this. Unfortunately, I see no other way for our beloved car meets to survive. As long as testosterone exists, there’s going to be idiots at car meets.
If you’re reading this and you’re somebody that has caused trouble at a car event before, I’m going to speak directly to you now: Stop trying to show off. Nobody is impressed, and as a matter of fact, most of us are making fun of you.
I understand you’re proud of your car, and you should be! But you don’t need to flex your muscle to show how awesome you are. I guarantee there’s a bunch of other cars at the event that are far more impressive. Some of us have some pretty fast street cars, and we have no trouble at all with behaving at a meet. If we can do it, there’s no reason you can’t too.
Don’t make a fool out of yourself. Calm down, replace your Monster Energy drink with a dose of Ritalin, and enjoy the cars like everyone else.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take some deep breaths and try to bring my heart rate back down. Please spread the word to anyone you enjoy going to car meets with, especially the idiots.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: