Like in any hobby, the car community has its fair share of naysayers, purists and know-it-alls. These people may question why you would swap an “incorrect” engine into your car, why you would paint it a color that wasn’t originally available or how you could go around driving something that looks like it may have been recently dragged out of a junkyard, but when those people try to challenge your ambition, question your fun or put you down, let these two words linger from your lips as you screech away in a cloud of smoke: “BECAUSE ROADKILL!”
Now, if you aren’t familiar with the catchphrase, you might want to subscribe to Motor Trend On-Demand or hop over to YouTube so you can catch up on the latest automotive TV trend, Roadkill. Assuming you know the show, know the guys and know the motto, let me remind you why “because Roadkill” is actually the quintessential philosophy shaping the future of the car community.
Even just a few years ago, it was hard to talk cars with people my own age. Other teenagers that were even remotely interested in cars seemed to fall into one of two categories: the FWD buzz bombers that leave an exhaust note reminiscent of horrendous flatulence, or the born and bred restoration experts that have been building and showing rare cars since before I could even walk! Being a muscle-crazed, V8-addicted and penniless kid, I couldn’t really find where I fell into the community, until the rise of Roadkill. It seemed like yesterday none of my peers even knew what a Plymouth or a Pontiac was, let alone hold a conversation about the techniques of setting total timing on an old-school big block engine, but since then, the Roadkill series has worked hard to educate, inform and inspire people of all ages to build their own badass muscle cars!
The motto “Don’t get it right, just get it running” has reminded the world that a car should be built and enjoyed for the sake of pure unadulterated fun, not to achieve perfection! The influence has created a noticeable shift in the community, drawing in a visibly younger crowd. Not long ago, people in my age group had been told we couldn’t own these kinds of cars because we don’t have the skill, knowledge or money to make a 50-year-old car look exactly as it did when it rolled off the showroom floor, but with the influence of Roadkill, the concept of kids hot-rodding cars to the best of their abilities through trial and error is less likely to be considered a form of automotive mutilation, and more likely to be celebrated as an American tradition. Nowadays, it seems so much less likely an old geezer will pick apart your paint job, question your style or condemn your car; and when they do, there is a community of other enthusiasts to back you up, and that’s a pretty great feeling.
Now, if you haven’t noticed the younger folk in your own town jumping behind the wheel of ratty muscle cars, building their own big blocks or dragging home rusty old Chargers, then come to a Roadkill event and see the change for yourself! It’s usually no surprise to me when I’m at a car show and 40-60-year-old males make up 90% of the participants, but at this year’s Roadkill Nights in Pontiac, Michigan, the subtle shift in the hobby’s age demographic became overwhelmingly apparent with tons of younger enthusiasts showing off their own home-built hot-rods. It was great to see other young guns shining up their perfectly imperfect ride with pride, and enlightening the old timers as to why they don’t care if their 15-inch mag wheels weren’t factory correct or why their primer paint job will work just fine for now. The crew behind Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge even worked to bring in younger kids as well, allowing everyone 12 years of age and younger in for free and hosting a plethora of family-friendly activities! Read more about the activities at Roadkill Nights and why it’s a can’t-miss event. With a crowd full of families and a show field full of young guns, it was clear Roadkill is shaping the next generation of gear-heads. The question is how can you?
Whether you buy cars or build them, cruise your cars or collect them, it’s important to remember how you were as a 20-something-year-old and understand that times really haven’t changed that much. Odds are you weren’t a born and bred restoration expert that could put back every nut and bolt “just right” from day 1, so don’t knock a young gun when they can’t either. Don’t be the purist, the naysayer or the know-it-all; be the teacher, the cheerleader or the inspiration.
After hearing so many friends tell me they got into cars because of the show, and seeing so many peers learn to overlook slight imperfections to continue chasing their own automotive dreams, it’s become apparent to me how Roadkill has actually shaped the next generation. Young guns can now live out their own glory days of hot rodding filled with makeshift muscle cars and budget builds. No longer are we plagued with expectations of perfection, responsibility of preservation or obligation of unrealistic care. My generation has recently been taught that performance cars are meant to be fulfilling, freeing and, most importantly, fun; all “because Roadkill”.