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6 Quirky Car Subcultures: Wheels Take Center Stage

People do some pretty wild things with their cars, so we’ve showcased six quirky car subcultures that have gained popularity among American drivers.

The automobile is central to the daily lives of many U.S. citizens, from the commutes some dread to highly-anticipated road trips. Because of this, many car owners have embraced their makes and models and connected with others over similar issues, tips, tricks, and gripes. Some have gone even further, leading to the rise of multiple off-kilter car subcultures.

If you haven’t recently encountered a quirky car subculture or are curious about what’s out there, the list below will help you get the wheels turning. We’ve compiled six unique automotive subcultures that’ll put you in the know about recent trends among car enthusiasts.

1. Duck Duck Jeep

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Gone are the days of duck, duck, goose for most drivers – that is, unless you have kids or own a Jeep. Allison Parliament started the Duck Duck Jeep movement a few years ago by setting a rubber duck on a stranger’s Jeep along with a brief note complimenting their car.

Since going viral, the Duck Duck Jeep trend has spread to over 500,000 people in dozens of countries. The trend works on any Jeep, and you’ll often see owners with multiple ducks on their dashboard due to several “duckings.” This flock of ducks is known as a “duck pond.”

Though a typical yellow rubber duck does the job, many Jeep owners also invest in stickers or cards that say, “You’ve been ducked.” If you’d like to join the trend, an online search for themed rubber ducks could help you discover ones that fit your style and add greater personality to other owners’ duck ponds.

2. Buck Buck Bronco

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With the recent return of the Bronco and Bronco Sport to Ford’s lineup, many owners have commandeered the Duck Duck Jeep trend and made it their own. Known as “Buck Buck Bronco,” this trend focuses on sharing horse-related items among Bronco owners. However, you can buy rubber duck-shaped horses and use them to “buck” other Ford Bronco owners too.

3. Creative Badging

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Adding your own spin to a car’s logo isn’t necessarily isolated to a particular brand, but spans several makes and price points. For example, many Audi owners have taken the four interlocked rings and created the word “dope” in lowercase from them. Some Toyota owners, on the other hand, attempt to capture the Force by incorporating Yoda into the badge by adding his characteristic ears to the Toyota logo and by swapping out the second “T” for a “D.”

Since changing the six stars of the Subaru logo would require some creativity, Subaru came up with its own way of customizing vehicles. Subaru owners can browse hundreds of Badge of Ownership icons to reflect their interests, pastimes, and beliefs. Owners can even place a number at the center of their badges to show how many Subarus they’ve owned.

4. Mini’s Wave

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You’ve probably seen motorcyclists wave at one another with a subtle one-handed salute, acknowledging a fellow rider on the road. Truckers and bus drivers also commonly tip their heads as they pass by. But did you know that Mini Cooper drivers have their own wave?

Indeed, there’s an entire day devoted to Mini Cooper drivers, known as WTF Day. If that sounds more stress-inducing than quirky, know that it stands for “Wave to Friends.” This trend started in the United Kingdom and later made its way to the U.S.

Mini drivers care about continuing the wave tradition and will put “wave” stickers on their cars. There’s even an official “Save the Wave” Facebook group dedicated to keeping the trend alive. It’s a simple quirk, but one that could put a smile on Mini Cooper drivers’ faces.

5. Van Life

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Most have probably heard of the term “#vanlife” by now, showcasing the lives of people who’ve ditched houses for the open road. These nomads have taken to caravaning across the U.S. in portable dwellings, feeling a deeper loyalty to travel than to a particular area. The van lifestyle allows those who’ve joined the movement to go wherever they want at almost any point.

Many credit Foster Huntington with the start of the #vanlife movement in 2011. He traveled throughout North America in his 1987 Volkswagen Syncro, documenting the natural world as he experienced it. With a focus on reconnecting with natural wonders and embracing the curiosity of youth, he and others have turned what was once an offbeat lifestyle into an increasingly popular one.

If you’re ready to join the #vanlife movement, start by investing in a van that lets you travel across the U.S. If you research online how others began their journey with this trend, you’ll find numerous stories that feature videos and reels of demolition, construction, and the maiden voyage. An entirely new industry has even popped up, ready to supply #vanlifers with custom and versatile products for their lifestyles.

6. Donks

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If you see a car drive by with rims maxed out at 20 to 30 inches, a custom paint job, a bumpin’ back seat, and an attitude to match, chances are you’re looking at a donk. Popular in Southern centers of the hip-hop movement like Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, and Memphis, Tennessee, donks leave very little to the imagination. These loud and flashy high-riders – compared to their low and slow lowrider counterparts – make a statement that’s hard to turn your head away from.

The name “donk” is short for “donkey” and comes from the sarcastic nickname people gave to the logo on the back of Chevrolet Caprice models in the 1970s. Far from thoroughbreds like that of the Ferrari logo, these donks proudly let their presence be known. The bigger the rims, sound, and custom artwork, the better the donk.

Bubbles and boxes are similar to donks but with different exterior silhouettes. Where donks have sloped lines, bubbles are more rounded and boxes are square. Either way, this trio of rowdy rides can tell a driver’s story, announcing their arrival long before they step out of the car.

Why Do Car Subcultures Form?

It’s human nature to gather in groups, and car subcultures are no exception. Indeed, quirky car subcultures have likely existed since there were enough car owners to form them. From relating to owners of the same make and model to commiserating with other car enthusiasts, drivers have crafted many subcultures over the past 100 years.

Perhaps what most draws people to quirky car subcultures is the underlying desire to belong. Forging connections over shared interests is a major piece of the human experience. Car subcultures are just like any other group – except that in this case, it’s motorized behemoths that people gather around. One of the most fascinating aspects of quirky car subcultures might be that anyone can create their own as long as they find a few followers.

Which Car Subcultures Do You Relate To?

When cars first came out, owning one put drivers in a special class. Now that vehicle ownership is mainstream, people form gatherings around specific models, alternative lifestyles, and modifications. Like it or not, purchasing a car means that one is joining a community of other car owners of the same brand.

Offbeat car subcultures don’t have to come with massive followings to be recognized. Instead, they can be secret groups formed by a select few owners. Joining quirky car subcultures is another way to build community, whether you’re placing ducks on Jeeps or trading in your normal ride for a van.