That Outlaw Appeal

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It has been ten years, almost to the day, since The Fast and the Furious opened, and the pointless imports vs. domestics debates are still raging. There are obviously fast cars from all over the world, but millions of YouTube comments are still being written (almost entirely with caps lock on) on the subject every day. The debate will never be settled either, and this is because the attachment that people have to these cars has nothing to do with performance figures.

The import racer craze which F&F capitalized on was fueled primarily by an association with street racers in Japan. The street racers are outlaws, men who make their own rules, and this is a very powerful idea. For those beaten down by the drudgery of day to day life, the outlaw is a superhuman figure. There is no boss looking over his shoulder, no shrewish wife telling him when to be home, and he commands the respect of all around him. From Robin Hood to Tyler Durden, these characters have fascinated us for centuries, and our emulation of them has set fashions for just as long.

Some people like to adopt the leather jacket look which looked so cool on Marlon Brando in The Wild One, but quite a few people prefer the more tactile experience of driving what these outlaws drive. All of those Harley-Davidson ads during Sons of Anarchy are hoping to cash in on this outlaw mystique, but a kid who doesn't have the $16,000 or so for a Dyna can bolt a $200 wing onto his $1,500 Civic and achieve (he believes) the same effect. This was really the reason behind the import scene. It was born in an era when the vehicles which had been associated with outlaws for decades had become irrelevant to young people.

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You needed to have a serious grown-up job if you were going to buy a Hemi 'Cuda or a Harley, and you would probably only be able to take it out on the weekends. But everyone knows that an outlaw is not a weekend warrior, a real outlaw drives his rebellion machine everywhere. He doesn't take any crap from anyone, and he doesn't drive the kids to soccer practice. Young people came to view the owners of such V8-powered museum pieces as hypocrites, and it's no wonder that they went in search of another source for outlaw imagery.

The idea that a Civic with a coffee can exhaust could outrun a Camaro "because it's light" has less to do with any actual laws of physics and more to do with concept of youth and rebellion triumphing over age and restrictive rules. Things have been changing though. We're in what is currently being called the new golden age of muscle cars, but this doesn't mean Japanese cars are out of the picture, and cars like the oh-so-badass Scion FR-S will ensure that imports aren't abandoned altogether. Maybe things will be different in a few years.

Perhaps enthusiasts will finally put aside their petty differences and join together against those who would see the automobile done away with entirely. Maybe someone will make a movie which makes the Honda Insight look cool. Probably not though.

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