How to Spot a Wannabe Car Guy

So, there are car guys (and gals!) who live and breathe passion for anything automotive. And then there are wannabe car guys -- posers who love the image associated with being a car guy, but lack true dedication to the cause. They take shortcuts in their pursuit of automotive glory. They don't get it, and that's why they're among the most obnoxious people in the car community.

And they're often painfully obvious to spot. Here's our handy cheat sheet for identifying the car guys who aren't worth their salt.

Flickr/Martin Brigden

1. He has a badass 4x4, and it’s 100% mint

Look, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your vehicle in great condition. But it’s simply not possible to drive a 4x4 the way nature intended and not have a few battle scars here and there. A mint-condition vintage Land Cruiser or Defender usually signals that it’s being driven exclusively on the street... at which point, it's mostly just a fashion accessory.

Flickr/Brian Filoteo

2. He has stickers all over his car...

Stickers do exactly two things: 1) they advertise the fact that he spent a ton of money on a car that’s worth about 1/3 of what he has “invested” in it, and 2) they highlight his desperate need for recognition and approval.

3. ... and knows next to nothing about it

Fun fact: most people don’t know whether their car is front-, rear-, or all-wheel drive, and so few drivers ever check their oil that the dipstick is officially an endangered species. If you ever hear a Porsche owner talk about the V6 under the hood,* they’re a poser, and it’s not considered rude to turn your back and walk away.

*Technically, a few Cayennes came with a diesel V6; but someone driving a diesel Cayenne likely wouldn’t claim to be a car guy in the first place.

Flickr/Brian Filoteo

4. He modified it with non-functional “performance” pieces

I once saw a Geo Metro with an air scoop-shaped piece of balsa wood glued to the hood. Unfortunately, gouging out my eyes with a spoon won’t get rid of the image emblazoned on my brain. The vast majority of aftermarket “aerodynamic” pieces don't do squat, other than make you look like an idiot.


5. He shows up at a race track like it’s a car show

Showing up at the track with a glimmering car nets you approximately zero points. A guy rolling up to the track with a clean car is one thing, but if he’s wiping bugs off in between sessions and keeping it as pristine as possible, it’s a whole other ballgame. God forbid he puts something like Armor All on the tires -- that’s just a layer of grease between the rubber and the pavement.

Flickr/Malcolm Manners

6. He lives in a house with a converted garage

If he's using his garage as a game room or, even worse, had it converted into a living room, he's out. A real car guy buys a nice garage, and hopefully it happens to have a nice home attached.

Flickr/Frankenspotter Photography

7. He says his car is "just a car"

Nothing's more suspicious than a guy with a really nice ride who treats it like an inanimate object. Yeah, it might be “inanimate,” but a true car guy will have an unbreakable emotional bond with that lifeless object, and the day we say goodbye is basically on par with the death of a distant relative. Anyone who says differently cedes their car-lover status.

Flickr/Chris Devers

8. He likes to talk about all the ones he “used to own”

Go through the list of cars you wish you’d had at some point in your life, and he’ll tell you he used to have one. Of course, he never gives enough details -- the kind only an owner would really know -- to prove he’s ever had any of them in real life. And where I come from, that's called lying.

9. He’s a know-it-all

The wannabe car guy absolutely has a solution for everything, regardless of whether or not they have any clue what they’re talking about. A true car guy wants the best solution possible, and is comfortable enough to admit if an issue is beyond their area of knowledge.

Flickr/Jacob T. Meltzer

10. He expresses a blind hatred for a specific type of car

Look, I came of age in the middle of both the Camaro vs. Mustang wars and the Import vs. Domestic battles. Simply put, a true car guy doesn't fan the flames of division. Drifters and track guys, muscle car-lovers, and JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) enthusiasts, even antique car-lovers and guys with lifted trucks -- we all have more in common with each other than we do with someone who would rather just take a bus.

click to play video

11. His favorite car movie is a modern blockbuster hit

Few car movies are hugely successful box-office hits, and with good reason: the average moviegoer doesn’t understand all the subtle nuances involved in serious driving, and explaining them would ruin the flick. If a guy’s favorite movie is something like Ronin, C’était un Rendez-vous, or Grand Prix, then you know he's a purist.

Want more of the world's best Cars delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up for our daily email.

Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He once made a girl he barely knew watch Ronin with him on a Saturday night. She loved it; he married her.