Sometimes, I feel as though the world of cars lies only behind the screen of my school laptop.

I’ll admit it – for many of us, sometimes ‘global car culture’ can seem so far out of reach. The idea of one day owning a jaw-dropping showroom centrepiece, or a multi-million-dollar track monster can sometimes feel more like fleeting dream than a plan for the future.

I for one feel this way some days.
 A cashless Australian high school boy, reading articles of immaculate, era-defining machines with a sense of aspiration and fantasy. Spending hours scouring the internet for the finest parts to put on a make-believe project car, right down to the ETC readers that jingle with an engine start or the OEM pedal covers that came only with the top-spec models.


All in all however, dreams are still only dreams.


I for one am all too familiar with the excitement and anticipation of travelling to car shows and track days by bus or tram. The bewildering feeling of gawking at garage-built drift missiles that kick asphalt in your face while flying down the back straight. Or the feeling of a warm spotlight which shines, not on you, but the ‘chopped-and-dropped lead-sled’ that snarls at your feet. And walking away from all the adrenaline-fuelled action, all the awe, all the excitement – with nothing more than a five dollar souvenir.


The wave of sadness, reaching into a malnourished wallet at the end of the day, desperately fishing out scrapings of silver and gold, yearning for a little printed memento to keep the memories alive forever.


The guilt of pacing the illuminated isles of expo stalls, staring hungrily at glistening multi-piece wheels and gleaming anodised shift knobs, only to slink back home at the end of the day with a couple slivers of paper and a sense of defeat. Sometimes, when I question the idea of a ‘global car culture’, all I have to show for are these little stickers.


But the thing is, each and every one of my little multi-coloured strips is special to me. Each and every one of my glittery vinyl decals tell a magnificent tale, rich with emotion and history.
 These are my scrapes of car culture.
 This is my shred of community.


So when I see colourful bits of paper, plastered to the quarter panels, the rear windscreen, the bumper or the front fender of people’s dreams, I don’t see garish banners or obnoxious advertisement. I see war stripes. I see medals of honour. I see family.


When I see these little trinkets, stuck to the gloveboxes of cars, fixed to the A-pillars, secured to the wing mirrors,
 I think of the memories they hold.


I think of the friends they represent, who catch up every weekend to get souvlakis by the Shell garage.


I think of the track team, who etch scorching hot lap records on the other side of the world. I think of the local tuning shop, who know your car better than they know their own children.


When I see these slices of authentic car community,
 I feel the warmth and acceptance of an automotive family.


For some people, loving cars is all about the highest figures or the lowest quarter-mile time. But for me, it’s these tiny details that make me love global car culture.


Maybe someday in the future, I’ll be the one racing down those winding asphalt banks, slaloming through those plastic orange cones or riding the wall at an open day matsuri, but for right now, all I can do is collect my little coloured pieces of paper.

Michael Li
Instagram: mikl_li
Facebook: Mikel Li

How To join the IATS program: We have always welcomed readers to contact us with examples of their work and believe that the best Speedhunter is always the person closest to the culture itself, right there on the street or local parking lot. If you think you have what it takes and would like to share your work with us then you should apply to become part of the IAMTHESPEEDHUNTER program. Read how to get involved here.

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