The American Car Industry began in the 1890s and, as a result of the size of the domestic market and the use of mass-production, rapidly evolved into the largest in the world.
From 1900 to 1925 there were 3,000 automobile start-up companies in the US but by the end of the 1920s the industry was dominated by three large companies: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Within ten years more American Car manufacturers would go out of business due to the “Great Depression”. The American Car Industry could be considered the first “bubble” of the modern age.
Over the course of the 20th century, the car rapidly developed from an expensive toy for the rich into the de facto standard for passenger transport in the US and most developed countries. The U.S. is currently among the largest manufacturer in the world by volume, with approximately 8-10 million manufactured annually.
It was inevitable that with the evolution of the automobile a culture would surely follow. We have now come so far that we have a separate cable channel (speed channel) completely devoted to everything and anything cars. Over time, the car has evolved beyond being a means of transportation or status symbol and into a subject of interest and a cherished hobby by car enthusiasts – commonly known as “motor heads” or “gear heads”.
The car has had a significant effect on the culture of the United States. Cars have been incorporated into artworks including music, books and movies. Between 1905 and 1908, more than 120 songs were written in which the automobile was the subject.
Automobiles have an important cultural role in cinema. Important characters such as James Bond were always provided on scene with powerful automobiles, which through time, have become cultural icons.
Blockbusters such as 1977 “Smokey and the Bandit” featured a Pontiac LeMans, Pontiac Transam, Cadillac El Dorado and a Kenworth W900A truck. And today’s “Fast and Furious” franchise sports highly modified cars such as the nitromethane powered Ford Grand Torino Sport and nitrous oxide powered Dodge Challenger S.
There have been hundreds of movies where cars have played an important role – in fact nearly every thriller made these days will have at least one car chase scene. Perhaps the most famous of all is “Bullitt” where Steve McQueen chases a Dodge Charger R/T with his throaty Ford Mustang GT.
Cars have become an object of obsession for so many Americans ranging from the novice at age 16 to the seasoned enthusiast at age 65. Cars offer something for everybody. It has always been this way. You have the luxury cars like Cadillac, Lincoln and Tesla, and the loud, aggressive ones like the Vipers, Corvettes, Mustangs and other muscle cars filled with raw power.
One major aspect of the car hobby is collecting cars, especially classic vehicles, appreciated by their owners as having aesthetic, recreational and historic value. Such demand generates investment potential and allows some cars to command extraordinarily high prices and become financial instruments in their own right.
The collecting of automobilia is also in demand, through swap meets and on the internet. Everything from model cars, car posters, car hood ornaments, car badges and car emblems to gas pumps and traffic signs. All types of car art for the garage, den and man cave.
A second major aspect of the car hobby is vehicle modification, as many car enthusiasts modify their cars to achieve performance improvements or visual enhancements. Many subcultures exist within this segment of the car hobby.
In addition, motorsport (both professional and amateur) as well as casual driving events, where enthusiasts from around the world gather to drive and display their cars, are important pillars of the car hobby as well.
Many car clubs have been set up to facilitate social interactions and companionships amongst those who take pride in owning, maintaining, driving and showing their cars. Many prestigious social events around the world today celebrate the hobby. Notable examples are classic car shows such as the Elegance of Hershey, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and Keeneland Concours d’Elegance.