Being an enthusiast in a non-enthusiastic world

You would think that someone whose life is so closely tied to the automotive world would be an enthusiast. That's what I thought when I hired in at my first dealership. This particular dealership was a Saturn dealership originally. Many of the employees that carried over from the Saturn side to the Hyundai side when GM axed the Saturn brand in 2009 still hold a special place in their hearts for the original Saturn S-cars, which, all things considered, is understandable. Saturn was initially, while not a direct GM product, an experimental division of GM that more or less functioned autonomously. Even more impressive was its success.

I've noticed that the Hyundai brand doesn't hold the same respect or admiration that many automakers hold.
Part of that has to do with the lack of American Motorsport pedigree from the brand, though Hyundai has had a bit of racing pedigree in the WRC, as well as, in a roundabout way, in the European touring car scene.
Hyundai actually was involved in engineering the famed Ford Mk1 Cortina.

As mentioned earlier, I was quite surprised at the lack of automotive enthusiasm among my co-workers at every dealership I've been at. But stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, it's not all that surprising. I'd dare say that 90% of all Auto Manufacturers product lineup are more-or-less designed to be mere appliances: A tool used for commuting to and from work as reliably as possible. Sure, most of them come equipped with enough gadgetry to attempt to distract you from this fact. For an example, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra SE, while a simple compact sedan, when equipped with the popular equipment package, can be had for under $20,000, and has more tech than most fully-loaded midsize cars from 2008 had.

In fact, Hyundai hasn't made much in the way of cars that spark the interest of car guys. In fact, I can think of 3 or 4 models that certainly spark my interest. First, and most obvious, is the RWD Genesis Coupe. Earlier models had an option for either a 2.0T I-4 or a 3.8L V6 with later models offering only the 3.8L V6. Next is the Tiburon. If you are like me, the first time you were exposed to the Tiburon was either through Gran Tourismo or Need for Speed Underground 2 (the Tib was the first 6-cyl car you unlocked.). Available with either a 4 or 6 cylinder engine, the Tiburon has seen a relatively successful life as a performance coupe. Third is the Genesis Sedan. Sure, the first generation sedan was styled a bit conservatively, but where the spark came was with the R-spec models. Early on, You could get the Genesis Sedan with either a 3.8L V6 (shared with the coupe) or a 4.6L V8 with later models (up to 2014) being offered with either the 3.8L or the 5.0L V8. Where the fun came in was that the R-spec 5.0L sedan only came with RWD. So you got a luxury sedan with the right recipe for fun. And the final car from Hyundai that might attract enthusiasts is the Veloster Turbo, with its 1.6L Turbo GDi engine making just over 200hp. The best configuration to get it in was the 6-speed manual and the Matte Grey finish.

But other than that, the rest of the lineup consists of average entries. The Santa Fe, Tucson, Sonata, Azera and Accent are all comparable to similar vehicles from every other marque out there. And Hyundai isn't the only manufacturer guilty of this. EVERY major automaker that provides options to the masses does this. And because of this, a walk through a used car lot will usually consist of 99% boring appliances. Camrys, Accords, Sonatas, Malibus, Altimas, Fusions and such. Very rarely do you see anything I would consider cool or interesting.

And that brings me right back to my point. The sheer number of appliance cars at dealerships directly reflects the desires of the people. People want a reliable means of transportation for as reasonable a price as possible. Those of us who actually want to own a car that is either Fun to drive, Interesting, Fast or just Nice to look at (or all of the above) are left with one or two models from most manufactuers.

So, those of us who are gearheads, petrolheads, car guys or car enthusiasts or whatever it is we call ourselves, tend to be drawn to sites where we can find those cars that interest us (Bring-A-TrailerSearch Tempest (A Craigslist / Ebay motors power search engine) or AutoTrader), look at the cars that other people have built (SpeedhuntersJapanese Nostalgic Car), Read other peoples thoughts on cars (OversteerJalopnik) or watch car reviews and general hooning on Youtube.

One final thought before I go. It seems that, at least among people I know, car guys tend to be seen as weird. Especially when we prefer to drive and go to car meets or car shows rather than watch sports. But most car guys have something sports guys don't have. Car guys can and often do, hang out with other car guys without fighting over who makes the best cars or why I suck because I don't like Mustangs...well, for the most part.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and, please, check out the linked pages.

-Phil