Culture

Pimp My Hybrid?

insight

A Tricked-out Honda Insight

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story last week:

Today, more people are choosing gas-saving, practical cars; the hybrid Toyota Motor Corp.’s 7203.TO -1.09% Prius was the best-selling car in California last year. But that doesn’t stop drivers like Mr. Redmond from trying to put a little panache into being prudent, turning eco-friendly cars into lowriders, race cars and mini-monster trucks.

They are a far cry from more traditional souped-up rides. A Smart car is nine feet shorter than some classic Chevy Impalas and has five fewer cylinders. But even mockery from old-school hot-rod drivers hasn’t fazed this new generation.

Many Prius “pimpers” have followed the lead of comedian Tommy Chong. He turned his hybrid into a black lowrider, with its body lowered to the ground, and added red and gray detailing and tinted windows in 2006. Mr. Chong, 75, who came to fame as half of the Cheech & Chong comedy duo, installed hydraulics to lift the car up and down, blacked out the taillights, and added a loud exhaust.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I am wary of “green” cars. It’s not because I don’t believe in their function, but because the barrage of green-energy initiative failures has left a bad taste in my mouth. But, that being said, I admit that, even as a “green vehicle skeptic,” I enjoyed this article. It proved me wrong regarding some aspects of car culture — and I’m okay with that.

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While I think some of these cars look a bit ridiculous, it’s good to know that interest in cars — and modification — is still alive and well.  If vehicles are required to comply with increasingly stricter energy guidelines, it would make sense that smaller cars, like the Smart car, become more popular with buyers in the coming years. However, just because drivers are downsizing doesn’t mean they want to give up their “auto pride,” as we can see by this article.

Honestly, I have never considered a hybrid or electric vehicle as a recipient for a body kit. The Pixar movie Cars played into the stereotype that the most popular models to “pimp” have been gasoline-powered, mass-market vehicles like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. However, if the auto industry really is making a complete shift to green vehicles, I’m glad the preppers and pimpers are adjusting to the new canvas. With so many hybrids on the road — especially ones that all mimic the Prius “egg shape” — it’s understandable that owners would want to customize their cars and not just be another “sheep” in the herd.

These train-horn sporting Smart cars, day-glo Priuses, and lowered Insights give me hope that no matter how much the “car” changes on the inside, enthusiasts will still attempt to customize and stand out. Being different: it’s the American way.

Also read: BMW Owners Really Are Jerks, Study Finds