I've both at home (Cleveland, Chicago, and San Diego) and abroad (Yokosuka, Japan). The difference between groups of automotive enthusiasts is fairly striking. In Japan, the attitude is one of respect, where the heavily modified skyline or NSX will give the guy with the lightly tuned or modified civic or silvia respect. Even when I went to the touge, or Daikoku Futo on a Saturday night. Even though there was a mild bit of competition on the mountain, everybody respected everyone else' cars and driving skills.

This is in pretty stark contrast with three of the five major groups of car enthusiasts I've come across in the United States. These are respectively: European Car people, Import people, muscle car/domestic crowd, autocrossers/ track monkeys, and vintage car racers/ clubs. Of these groups, the most unique attitude is the autocrossers, who are indifferent about the type of car as long as it's capable of putting a decent time/training the driver. They just want to see sports cars driven in anger, and people to enjoy the act of driving. Muscle car guys are automatically suspicious of anything that has the engine in metric units. To me, this is the crowd that is populating the cruise night in the Midwestern United States and elsewhere. They're not a bad sort, and usually open to talk to people as long as you're complimentary of what they're driving.

Import tuners are funny to me, they seem to want praise for what they are driving, but are dismissive of praise or actual interest in their cars. My first car meet back in San Diego I brought my beater Miata to, a gentleman brought an NSX with a comptech super charger. Asking him about the intercooler installation for it. It's an air to water unit, and I complimented it on being a unique response to the challenge of getting cooling air in the cramped midship engine bay. His eyes proceeded to glaze over and he looked at me light I had grown a second head on my shoulders. Walking around, I felt the crowd was more into the pose then they were into cars or driving itself. They seemed to give a vibe that 5 years previously I had ascribed to Euro tuners. Rather then applauding unique engineering or a well built/functional car, it was all about how rare the part is, or how good the "stance" is on the car.

Again "JDM" styling clashes with the actual JDM cars I remember seeing. They're mostly lightly, discreetly modified to perform well in a chosen driving discipline. The drift cars that are used as normal drivers may have rough bodywork, but the only clue you'll normally see that a drifter is daily driving his drift car is that it's suspension is slightly lower and stiffer then a normal car. The concept of a "Missile" is repugnant to me. It shows a lack of pride in your vehicle, and more pride in your status as a drifter. The Hashiriya I know kept their cars immaculate, with only suspension and drivetrain tweaks, with possibly a light tune under the hood because they're more focused on learning how to drive.

Most Euro tuners, its all about the money and the badge. The less said about them, the better. Even less of them, outside the Porsche or M community, actually drive their cars.

Now the vintage racers are interesting to me.... They're like track monkeys, but with added twist of having historical appreciation added to the mix. A 240Z is as cool as an old lotus cotina, or some old Alfa Romeo. These are the most familiar group to me. High marks for them.

And this brings me to my last point. Badge Snobbery. It exists, and rears it's ugly head everytime a non European car is featured on this site. The three favorite whipping boy is the new Corvette, GT-R, and the new WRX. About the Corvette, it's always some niggle about how the interior is this, or the Chevy badge is not special enough. A sports cars rep should come from actual sporting driving, and let me put it this way. A corvette has been competitive in LMGTE1 or 2 class racing every year since it's introduction. If your deciding against it for any other reason then it's driving dynamic, then you don't love driving or cars, you love the status your car gives you.

Same thing goes with the GT-R, with the caveat that yes, it has gotten more expensive, but yes, it's a much faster car then when it was introduced. It's not a video game, and to be truly fast over anything that is not a racetrack, requires giant stainless steel balls. It's really a car that can push a driver. I've seen a R-32 struggle in a mountain pass, partially because it's the one environment it's electronics are diminished in. However, I've also seen a GT-R that was blindingly fast on mountain roads, because the driver was willing to adapt his driving technique to the car, and the road.

With the WRX, the styling criticism is justified. However, the critiques of the cost of the STI vs the Golf R is not. It's a second slower to 60, and the Golf R has a haldex AWD system VS a symmetrical system with active center differential and torque vectoring for the STI. Sure the interior quality isn't as nice, but the only thing that matters is the seat and steering wheel, and that's that. To me, it's just the perceived quality of the VW brand is higher, as is the perceived quality of any European brand vs any American/Asian brand. It often clouds people's judgment.