The Very Best of Street Machine, Volume 1, was published in 1986 and represents a point of inflection in contemporary modified-car culture in Australia. It covered the last (7th, 1986) Street Machine Nationals before the rise of Summernats in 1987. It is the tipping point for the transformation of an amatuer activity into something else. The trend could be called ‘professionalisation’, but this only describes the actors who animate the scene rather than the enthusiasts who are captivated by the scene and operate as its motor. There is a mediation around the notion of enthusiasm between a conception in terms of an enthusiast’s extensive participation to a conception of enthusiasm in terms of an intensive engagement.
There are no rules, not among the likeable loonies and non-conformists of the street machine movement. Street machine attitudes and motor cars are not confined to one set of blueprints. Each is spectacularly different.
The common thread is a fanatical relationship with fast and/or interesting machines. Some folks have the bucks to make dream cars happen. Others, sitting on empty wallets, are lucky to rake up enough to fill the tank once a week.
There are no age or social barriers. Mechanics, lawyers, candlestick makers — they come from everywhere and anywhere, trapped by their obsession with the great god motor car.
And while their customised cars might have originated from Broadmeadows or Fishermen’s Bend, Detroit is the spiritual home of street machiners. The V8 is boss even though just lately there’s a begrudging acknowledgement of the existence of other powerplants. (page 8)
There is a strong, almost-reactionary masculinity and nationalism tied up in this dual allegience to US-sourced cars and the V8 motor, but that is another issue. The reification of the car as ‘god’, the ‘spiritual home’ of Detroit and the description of the relationship to the car as ‘fanatical’ indicates two things.
1) The technology of the car is purified or externalised from social and cultural issues and categories. The ‘god is in the machine’ thesis of enthusiasm enables enthusiast to feel as if their own enthusiasm is beyond their control.
2) The fanaticism of an enthusiast’s devotion to particular automotive technologies selects (car, street), organises (e.g. US ‘iron’ and V8’s over others), and territorialises (through modification, affective variation) the machinic phylum to produce the assemblage of street machining. The role of the magazines, and the rest of the cultural industry, is to modulate this affective dimension to maintain the consistency of the assemblage; that is, to ensure that enthusiasts are still ‘trapped by their obsession’.