Rise of Ricers in the Car Culture Scene Review

Car Culture: How and Why “Ricers” Came into The Scene

Since the advent of cars, people have always wanted to play around with them and make modifications of their own preferences. Car modification has been taking place ever since we started manufacturing vehicles and the reason has been varied. There are some who did it for prowess or just for some mischief. For example, NASCAR evolved from the building of super-fast cars that were mostly a result of bootlegging. The initial modifications that people would perform on their vehicles were mainly conducted due to criminal activities. In the old cars, there was no matching of cars to engine numbers, transmission, or body frame. This made it possible for thieves to change engines and repaint a vehicle, which in turn meant they have a new car. This car modification was referred to as hot rodding. However, all this changed when the manufacturers began linking vehicles with different parts and people started performing modifications for preferences and not because they had stolen the car. These modifications are the main focus of this research, and we will concentrate mostly on modifications that have nothing to do with increasing performance. Car modification developed out of the need to increase the performance of the vehicle by changing some of its engine parts, suspension, and adding racing parts. However, there has been a new trend that emerged out of the car modification that had nothing to do with increasing performance. The individuals would modify their vehicles and give them the impression that the car is super-fast only based on the looks of the car. These individuals are referred to as “Ricers” in slang, meaning that they are only focused on the perception that their car is fast and can be used for racing. Appearances can be deceiving has never been true than in these vehicles. Basically, the aim of our research is to uncover how, and why “ricers” have come into the car scene. In the research, we will on the modifications of cars and how they have progressed within the years. The research will also include information on the modifications that are merely cosmetic and focus on the looks of the car and not performance. The origins of this culture and the reasons why individuals would prefer to perform these modifications. The effects of such modifications would be analyzed briefly within the paper.

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Evolution of the Car Culture

Cars became status symbols after the Word War II around the 1950’s. The names on everyone’s mouth were Ford, Chevrolet, Mercury, and Buick’s. The car was no longer looked at as a mode of transportation, but rather like a symbol of freedom, individuality, expression, and uniqueness. The post-war baby boomer generation is the reason for the impact cars had on the generation. The baby boomers changed the car, and it became a “fashion statement” and this caused society to perceive the car differently. There was a deep love for cars, and a subculture was produced called “Car Culture.” The youth were wholeheartedly involved in the car culture, and their interests and passion for this culture enabled the car to evolve into the most influential icons of the 1950’s. The a booming economy, and car consumerism was booming, and the number of babies was increasing. Parents viewed a car as very important, and when a teenager reached 16 years they could get their driving license, and most parents would give their children cars. This was viewed as a rite of passage in both the teens and the adults’ eyes. For the teens, the license meant they could have independence and some semblance of privacy. The parents saw the license as a rite of passage where they hoped their kids would be more responsible on the road (Cosgrove).


However, this was further from the reality. The teens had no fear of the road, and they wanted to live in the fast lane. The car offered them the opportunity to cruise. Teens saw cruising as driving around with no destination in mind, and it was recreational. Teens would have a cruise loop that they would follow every Friday night and would lead them to an unknown destination. Adults found this act of driving to be strange and foolish. The most worrying thing was that once a child had left the house they did not know where they would be heading and there was no way of confirming they were safe, which created worry in most adults. Teens were now rebellious, and they had the much-needed privacy. No parent knew what was going on and the teens liked it that way.


The development of car fashion came about with cruising. People were spending most of their time in their cars moving from one place to another. The main question was why not individualize the car? Every teen wanted to have some appeal to their car that was individual and to their preference. This was the birth of customizing and individualizing of cars. Car fashion mushroomed into a hobby, obsession, and concern for the teens. Out of the blue names like customs and hot rods became prominent within their vocabulary. Hot rods referred to any car that was created before 1936 and had undergone modifications. The modifications included stripping the car and souping it up for speed. The term customs referred to any post-1936 car that had been built up and individualized. Any youth involved in the world of cars had to have the latest issues of the “Hot Rod Magazine” and “Rod and Custom.” These magazines included information in how to customize your car, car parts, car shows, and latest custom cars. The magazines were a big hit as most teens wanted to customize their cars like what they saw or attend car shows (Bandeen).


All the youth wanted was to have a cool car. There was no clear definition of what a cool car is, and this meant that each teen would go and customize their care based on their preferences and likes. Based on one’s imagination, customizations varied and the designs were extreme. Car shows offered teens the opportunity to show off their cars and also check out other cars. Car shows were always highly attended, and these demonstrated there was a growing culture of cars. According to Wolfe, the high number of teens attending car shows cemented the fact that there was a sub-culture of cars and many teens shared this interest. The amount of time and money required to build and customize a vehicle was enormous, and teens had to create time between schools and home in order to build their vehicles. The passion that the teens had for cars and their ideas were changing every second. Customizing a car gave the teens, even more, a reason to cruise around and show off their latest modifications or additions. It goes without saying that some sort of competition would arise out of the custom cars. The competition was based on whose car looks better? Whose car is fastest? These questions fueled the desires of the teen even further, and they spent, even more, time working on their vehicles. During the evening cruises, teens would challenge each other to race (Bair). This gave birth to street drag racing. Drag racing meant that teens began working on increasing their car’s performance in order to beat their rivals. Performance became the in thing, and the looks of the car did not matter provided they could beat all their rivals in the illegal drag races.


Car Modifications

Car modifications have gained prominence especially from the video games like need for speed and from the movies too. Modifying a car is mainly aimed at increasing its performance both on the track and on the road. Modifications are aimed at improving a car’s performance by boosting its speed and handling. Car movies have shown people that having a souped up car is prestigious and people are following suit by trying to copy what they see in the movies. Performance-based modifications allow people to compete and show off their cars especially in illegal street races and on the streets. The American muscle cars have gained momentum in that people see and admire the cars and have a desire to own such cars. These desires are the main reason why people attempt to make improvements on their cars. The media influence cannot be overlooked when talking about car modification. This is mainly because people have been accustomed to believing that what they see on TV or movies is achievable. This results in modifications that increase performance but does not tap into the cars full potential. The American automobile racing scene has also influenced car modifications greatly, and this has resulted in some heavily modified cars. Some of the NASCAR race vehicles have awesome modifications and attempting to perform such modifications on normal street cars is beyond the reach of many car enthusiasts.


The interchangeability of parts has made it easy for individuals to modify cars to suit their preferred tastes and likes. A majority of vehicle parts are interchangeable, and this makes it easy for an individual to replace or alter a part without much hassle. These modifications have resulted in people preferring to perform changes that suit their lifestyles and needs. For example, there are people who modify their cars to look like their homes. These individuals have a preference for certain colors and materials, and they attempt to replicate this on their cars. These modifications have nothing to do with the performance of the car, but rather the looks of the car. Car modifications can vary in taste and style, and there are others who only modify the audio systems or just the suspension. Audio system modification involves replacing the manufacturer’s default system and replacing it with a high-end system. The audio modification would also involve adding speakers and amplifiers to boost the audio. Audio systems are interchangeable, and this makes it easy for a person to swap parts and install a powerful system all by themselves.


There are numerous reasons why people undertake car modifications, but the most common reason is that people would love to copy what they see on TV or mimic their favorite actors or sports personality. Lifestyle modifications are however informed by an individual’s desires and tastes and have nothing to do with what others are doing. The common thing with all these modifications is that they are costly and they can drain your bank account if not well planned or thought through. Many people do not understand the essence of car modification and most of them would prefer to have a cheap modification that presents the impression that it is a performance car even when it cannot compete anywhere. The fascination that people have with performance should not be underestimated, and people have been duped into buying into the fad of what is performance based on the looks. Performance modifications have nothing to do with the looks, but one can include these when they are modifying their car’s performance. A majority of the cars on our roads that look like they are performance are not. The owners have opted to develop the exterior by placing spoilers, lowering their suspension, and adding audio enhancements, which is all misconstrued to mean the car is a race car. The owners of these cars are not liked by the true performance modifiers because they have made the car culture look different from what it should. However, one should not blame these individuals. The costs associated with modifying a car’s performance and enormous and most people cannot afford to make the modifications no matter how much they try. There are also some cars that are not suited for any performance modifications. Most of these cars are Japanese imports, and they are cheap to purchase.


Birth of the “Risers.”

The word “ricer” is a derogatory or slang term that is used to refer to a person who performs modifications on their car thinking they are improving its performance. However, all the modifications have no effect on the car’s performance, and some have been known the actually decrease the car’s performance. There have been instances when people have confused the term to mean Asian racers, but this is not the case. Although the name came about because of the Asian cars that were common in the past because they were easy to modify, the term has evolved to refer to any person making cosmetic changes or modifications to their car and assuming this would improve its performance. In the 1980’s there was an increase in the importation of cheap Japanese cars that were cheap to modify. The cars used cheap parts, and the parts were readily available, which attracted them to many car enthusiasts who were on a tight budget. The cars had a low cost in tuning, and it was easy to increase the car’s performance with minimal modifications. These gave rise to the increase in a number of Japanese gray imports that have dominated the American car market. The cars are true sports cars, and they cannot be used for professional races. However, they make for easy modifications, and their past are cheap, which makes the cars attractive to . It is worth noting that the group mostly being referred to as ricers consists of young teens who do not have the finances required to modify their car’s performance. They mostly end up creating impressions that make their cars look like race cars instead. For instance, they might lower their suspension and claim that lowering their suspension improves the car’s performance even when they are certain that it does not.


It is no lie that only specific cars can be modified, but it is the modifications that people make that makes one be considered a “riser.” Most of these guys are not doing the modifications by choice, but rather it is because they do not have the financial muscle to carry out the necessary modifications. These individuals have a genuine desire to improve the performance of their car, and they take great pride in the modifications they have made. Many times, they are limited in knowledge, and they do not understand the true impact of the changes they make on their cars. Ignorance could also be a major contributor to this, and they believe deep down that their modifications have increased the car’s performance even slightly. It is a high time that people learn to differentiate between looks and performance. If one is merely interested in modifying a car to give the impression that it is a fast car, that is okay. However, if the intention of the modifications is to improve the car’s performance, one should carry out enough research, and they should not merely rely on what they see in the movies or TVs. Many of the programs and movies have been doctored, and they do not present the correct information regarding car modification. The essence of a movie is to create the impression that a car can be easily tuned and compete against other muscle or sports cars.


The car culture begun mostly and was solely focused on the looks of the car and there are people who have managed to create cars that are attractive and eye pullers (Borhek). Though the cars they have developed are not in any way performance oriented, they do create an appeal that most people would like. This is the reason that some of them are looked down upon and the people who hate them opt to express their hate by stating the car’s weaknesses or creating a reason that the cars cannot compete. A car can look mean and attract individuals to it while at the same time a powerful car can lack the appeal needed. The car culture evolved out of one’s need to express themselves in their own artistic and individualistic manner. Therefore, the rise or “ricers” has merely been a response to the earlier car modifications that only focused on cosmetics and nothing to do with performance. The performance came about later on, and this resulted in death traps of vehicles instead of the safe cars people have been used to previously. Ricers are basically individuals interested in attracting the attention of others, and they perceive of themselves as having beautiful cars. The cars are adorned with numerous stickers to express their individuality and preference for certain aftermarket parts. This is quite in contrast to the other performance driven individuals who believe that a modified car should be a super-fast car and should be able to handle well on the road. These beliefs have created a wedge between the two types of individuals and animosity has developed. What both groups should understand is that they both have the same love for cars, just that one differs from the other.


Ricers have embraced the “bosozoku” culture of having loud and overly loud paint schemes. These makes sure that people can notice the cars just as is the case with the “bosozoku” bikers of Japan. It is best to understand that people have different tastes and one would always lean on what they like and prefer over what other believe. It is not all ricers who are broke or do not have the funds to modify their cars with performance, but there are some who just prefer to have a loud car, with loud paintings and stickers. These individuals are expressing themselves in their cars. Therefore, other street racers should appreciate their type of desire. Ricers are not interested in the car’s performance, and they know and understand that their cars provide the impression of a race car, but it has no modifications for performance. Ricers are mainly interested in the image, and this is what sets them apart from other performance enthusiasts. Ricers know how to build beautiful car bodies and create impressions that represent speed even when their cars cannot compete at all. Ricers have been accused of making modifications on their cars for performance while all they are interested in is creating the impression that they have a fast car. The reason for conducting the modifications is what differs, and most performance enthusiasts end up hating the ricers because of the reasoning thy provide when they make modifications on their cars.



With the end of the World War II, there has been a greats fascination with cars and people have made numerous attempts to modify their cars in order for them to sit their preferred lifestyle and look. Car modification has grown tremendously from the basic modifications of looks and appearances to the improvements in speed and performance. These modifications have created a following that is unlike anything else. There are performance enthusiasts who are mainly concerned with the output of a car, and there are the fashion guys who are attracted by the looks and appearance of a car. All these individuals are part of the car culture, just that they are attracted by different things all involving cars. With the advent of car modifications, there is a group that has come up that prefers to create the impression that they have performance cars. These individuals are never sure of the modifications they have done on their cars, and they think that having the loudest, low, and sticker filled car is the true representation of performance. The cars they have modified are attractive, and they give the impression of performance, but they cannot compete with the most basic performance tuned car. A ricer’s car would have a huge spoiler, low suspension, loud exhaust, and loud music system. The body would be filled with numerous stickers and . All this would be done in an attempt to create the impression that they have a performance car. This is the reason that performance enthusiasts hate ricers, and they coined the name to represent want to be racers.




Bair, Halli. “1950’s Car Culture (Feature).” http://blog.une.edu/2015youthculturepostwar/car-culture/551-2/ 2015. Web.


Bandeen, Robert A. “Automobile Consumption, 1940-1950.” Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society (1957): 239-48. Print.


Borhek, JT. “Rods, Choppers, and Restorations: The Modification and Re-Creation of Production Motor Vehicles in America.” The Journal of Popular Culture 22.4 (1989): 97-107. Print.


Cosgrove, Ben. “‘The Luckiest Generation’: Life with Teenagers in 1950s America.” Time. http://time. com/3544391/the-luckiest-generation-life-with-teenagers-in-1950s-america/(accessed March 4, 2015) (2014). Print.


Wolfe, Tom. The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The Pump House Gang. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1960. Print.

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