Finnish Line: The Weirding Way

Hold my coffee, I have tweets to explain.

If you’re the sort of Hooniverse reader that also takes time to scroll Twitter, you’ve probably become familiar with what appears as Weird Car Twitter. There are Twitter factions for everything one could possibly care about, from plane Twitter to train Twitter and everything in between, and naturally, a large portion of users pivots toward weird cars. It’s up to anyone to define a really weird car, so that means Lada Nivas in North America, French cars on an island off the coast of Newfoundland, and, well, regular Luminas and the like in Finland. It’s all about context.

A lot of what I view as weird car Twitter is tangentially related to Hooniverse. I really picked up steam on Twitter a decade ago as I got into car writing, getting jammed into discourse with other writers, and getting to know people via the platform, tagged in tweets by other Hooniverse alumni. Somehow, I’m now in the middle of a web where there are car people from every time zone, which means for me Car Twitter never sleeps and there’s always something to look at. It’s great, just like my current experience on Facebook where I never see anything else than car content, either from car spotting groups or car and car parts sales groups. All the politics gets pushed aside except some usual snark, and I can fully focus on a Focus, to go for the first available pun here. I don’t go online to be miserable, despite what Being Online All the Time may seem like. Through Twitter, I know a lot of people I’d count as friends even though I’ve never met most of them.

What’s there to explain, then? Well, writer Cam Vanderhorst made a point last week that by itself, being weird for weird’s sake doesn’t really work as a placeholder for providing anything interesting. Every time, both on Twitter and Facebook, Instagram too, when there’s a photo of something exotic in traffic, it’s a customary joke to point out whatever regular car is in the same shot. “Look at that sweet Camry, right?” The joke comes easy and about 15 times in the comments section, and by now it gets about as much of a reaction as a pre-flight safety demonstration.

But at its core, it’s all part of humble cars from way back getting their chance to shine again. Your mind picks up the blocky roofline of the 1980s-1990s sedan survivor in a sea of identical 2010s rental spec cars and SUVs. If there’s a red Ferrari front and center, just like the one you’ve seen a million times on Instagram, it doesn’t provide the same kind of brain chemical hit. It’s fair to say that as a grown-up, possibly with money to spend, you want to get the stuff you couldn’t yet get as a kid or the stuff your dad had new. This somewhat explains BaT auction prices and $50k Civic coupes, not only why people like DeLoreans, and also why people would want to spend thousands of dollars importing economy cars such as Twingos from Europe when they become 25 years old. A 25-year-old Renault city car with small Benetton badges isn’t really a several thousand dollar driving experience! Still, the Twingo does it for me. There’s genuinely something about a small, round car with real buttons when everything in a showroom today is designed to wear an angry frown, even Miatas.

A while ago, Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire posted a photo of a white Caprice wagon shot from a yellow Ferrari F8 with the caption “Yes, I am the person in the $375,000 Ferrari F8 Spider slowing down traffic on the 405 to get a photo of a Caprice Wagon. And yes it was worth it. F****r was mint.” Far from directing attention to the Ferrari, the Caprice photo showed how anything neat from the ‘90s stands out fantastically well in today’s traffic. And it’s not like a car needs to be the top trim level to get noticed, either. In the UK, Hagerty’s been running the Festival of the Unexceptional, which marks the first time anyone’s paid attention to a regular Vauxhall Cavalier since about 1992. (Production ended in 1995.) The festival celebrates the surviving examples of once-everyday cars that have vanished from this earth in great numbers, these days almost solely seen on the old ads you can luckily find on YouTube, or posted on Twitter. The once-regular is now weird, and what’s exotic is now regular.

“That joke isn’t funny anymore – it’s too close to home and too near the bone”, like the Smiths song about cold leather seats goes. Or similarly in Finnish: “That dog älähts to which the kalig calaht’s.” In my time online, and especially in our current hot take-based economy, I’ve gone for the weird with glee. I’ve compiled dream garages full of Nissan Paos and Fiat Multiplas, like you’d craft an obscure mixtape. I’ve declared several times the “new”, by now outgoing NSX doesn’t do anything for me compared to the 1989 original. It doesn’t matter! It’s highly unlikely I will ever be able to afford either, as the newer car is very expensive and the old car is gaining value like it’s a Supra on BaT. I’m tweeting with my wallet, which will always be more Aerodeck than Aventador. There’s an entire discussion here about what one will aspire to, whether it’s about dreaming about new Ferraris as a kid and eventually becoming successful enough to own one, or whether you go straight to the Ford Aspire and claim it’s good enough for everyone else. But in truth, an Aspire stands out because there are none left except an inexplicably mint one in teal that’s straight out of a MotorTrend ad from 1997, and now it’s either on a shopping center’s parking lot where you’re taking a photo of it for Weird Car Twitter or it’s center stage at Radwood because you talked to the elderly owner and ended up buying it. You will always be able to spot another new Ferrari.

But you can never go back. That car dealership where you used to walk between lines of new Jeeps and used Nissans, looking at the dashboards and seat patterns has now been torn down to make room for the hypermarket expansion. The paper mill was sold and closed a long time ago and the stacks no longer smoke, so your old neighbourhood is a ghost town. The office where you went for your first real job interview is now a second-hand store. But at that second-hand store, you can buy an old nylon jacket with an Opel Motorsport logo for twenty bucks. And the nostalgia hit is worth the twenty bucks. Especially if you post it on Weird Car Twitter and a person on the other side of the world who also liked Calibras back in the day gets to see it.

[Photo: Renault]

5 Comments

  1. I try and avoid the hacky jokes, but in a relatively affluent city that uses a ton of road salt, the aging survivor will always be more interesting than the new exotic. The new exotic car probably doesn’t have much behind it other than an owner who’s done quite well for themselves in a financial-adjacent field (or something more illegal, if not always unscrupulous), while the survivor has had to battle decades of potential oxidation and the temptation to dispose of an inherently disposable consumer product. Admittedly, 9 times out of 10, the reason something survived was a careful elderly owner, but that’s still a little deeper than “I have accumulated vast wealth and wish to enjoy it.”

  2. “The paper mill was sold and closed a long time ago and the stacks no longer smoke, so your old neighbourhood is a ghost town.”

    In my hometown’s case the paper mill was closed first, then sold, but the result is more or less the same.

    I may recognize a bit of myself in the car stuff, too.

  3. nice to see you around these parts Antti! I recently caught a magnificent purple Mercury Tracer wagon, mint condition, down to the dealer’s badge on the tailgate. I’m not on Twitter or Facebook and my Instagram audience barely blinked to see such a treasure in the wild. we are surrounded by uncultured barbarians.

  4. I don’t know anything about Twitter; I just came here to make sexy-Oomp-Loompa jokes.

    “Oompa! Loompa!
    Doompatie-Doo;
    I’ve got a Renault Twingo for you!”

    Ta-dah!
    *scamper*
    *slam*

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