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Quirky Car Subcultures: Wheels Take Center Stage

Have you ever played Duck Duck Jeep? If you’re a Jeep owner, you may be no stranger to the game, but if you drive any other kind of car, this could be the first time you’ve heard of it. Jeep enthusiasts and their exclusive car-related games represent just one of many subcultures in the automotive world – and it’s a world worth exploring.

Subcultures within the car community establish trends by going beyond the norm in car culture. Taken separately or as a whole, auto subcultures can be very meaningful, inspiring others by keeping the car scene fresh, exciting, and downright fun for those involved.

You may be surprised at the origins and development of some of the most popular and well-known subcultures in the auto world. In this compilation of unique car subcultures, we’ll take a deeper look at how a few great examples got their start in order to offer a new perspective on these often-underappreciated realms.

Jeep Ducking

Jeep owners are known for their passion for off-roading, adventure, and all-around fun. Over time, this shared enthusiasm has fostered a distinctive Jeep culture within the community of owners, leading to subculture activities such as the Jeep Wave – where every time you pass another Jeep, you wave – and Jeep ducking. 

Duck Duck Jeep: How It Started

Jeep ducking, or duck duck Jeep, as many aficionados call it, is a global phenomenon amongst Jeep enthusiasts that involves, you guessed it: rubber ducks. Started by Allison Parliament during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeep ducking has become a movement centered around kindness and spreading smiles within the community.

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Ducking a fellow Jeep is quite simple, really. Any Jeep model can be ducked, as the movement isn’t exclusive to Wranglers or other off-roading beasts. Strict ducking rules aren’t exactly in place either, yet the general rule of thumb is to leave a rubber duck in a place where the driver will immediately see it upon approaching their vehicle. Those involved like to get creative and have fun with it – and you don’t have to stick to just a plain yellow rubber duck.

How To Join

Looking to join all the ducking fun? Order some ducks and stash them in your Jeep’s glove box so that you’re ready when the opportunity arises. Some Jeep owners even duck other vehicles that are similar in appearance as an act of acknowledgment and appreciation. Once you start ducking, it won’t be long before you, too, are ducked!

Stance Cars

A car with “stance” may have you scratching your head the first time you see it. A stanced car is lowered with varying degrees of negative camber on the front and rear wheels, producing a look that may have you questioning how the car is still able to function. Regardless of the dubious looks, stanced vehicles have established themselves as a subculture within the car community.

Stance: How It Started

Stancing was born out of Japan and the Bosozoku street gang back in post-World War II, and was a unique way to make a car stand out from the rest. While it shares the lowered look of a lowrider, stancing throws functionality to the curb in favor of appearance. These aren’t your everyday drivers – stanced cars are more for show, not necessarily practical use.

There aren’t culturally-imposed limits within this community as to what vehicles can be stanced. If a driver is willing to lower their ride with wide wheels and low-profile tires, their car will fit right in with no issues.

How To Join

If you love the look and lack the fear of criticism from stance critics, there are plenty of guides on how to stance your car on the internet. If you aren’t keen on doing the work yourself, get in touch with local body shops in your area. Keep searching until you find the shop with a team eager to get your vehicle stanced just the way you’d like it.


“Hashtag Van Life,” or #vanlife, champions going where you want, when you want, without strings attached or anything holding you back. Depictions relating to this hashtag on social media platforms range from powerful, idealistic imagery of the natural world shot from the open back doors of a passenger van, school bus, or van conversion to photos of what #vanlife truly encompasses. The latter could be anything from trying to find overnight parking to dealing with extreme weather to what the van really looks like when it’s not staged for a photo.  

Van Life: How It Started

What was once an offbeat lifestyle choice is now a popular social media movement thanks to a simple hashtag coined by Foster Huntington in 2011. Looking to document his journey in his 1987 Volkswagen Syncro, Huntington coined the hashtag that has since been used for over 15 million posts on Instagram. You’ll now find businesses dedicated to helping you customize the van of your dreams, whether it be a Mercedes Sprinter van or an old Volkswagen like Huntington’s.

How To Join

There really is no gatekeeping when it comes to van life. Got a van or are planning to purchase one to live out of? Well, you’re already halfway there. While it’s not exactly a lifestyle or culture suited for your typical in-office nine-to-five workers, it’s one with a self-defined community of like-minded adventurers encouraging you to customize your van as you see fit and get out there and explore the world.

SoCal Lowriders

Lowriders are customized cars with lowered bodies popularized by Mexican-American youth growing up within Chicano culture. Characterized by advanced hydraulics, flashy paint jobs, and custom upholstery, lowriders are a subculture of cars that have become an integral expression of identity for many in the Chicano community.

Lowriders: How It Started

The roots of lowriders in SoCal – specifically, Los Angeles – began in the 1940s. Mexican-American war veterans began purposefully altering their vehicles to go against the “hot rod” trend of the times, creating a ride that was “low and slow” instead. 

The hydraulic systems that lowriders are notorious for came about from necessity, as they allowed drivers to raise the car to drive it, then drop it low to show it. These hydraulics also came in handy when vehicle height codes in Los Angeles were imposed, allowing drivers to avoid being pulled over by the police. While the law and lowriders have often been at odds – going “cruising” in a lowrider is banned in many California cities – some lawmakers are looking to end restrictions on such activities, noting that cruising isn’t a crime and shouldn’t be treated as such.

How To Join

Lowrider clubs are organized groups of lowriders that follow distinct rules for participating in cruising and other related activities. From California to North Carolina and plenty of states in between, you can search social sites to find more information on clubs and lowrider events in your area.


If you’ve ever lived in or driven through the South, you’ve likely seen what’s affectionately known as a “donk,” “box,” or “bubble.” Hi-risers are loud and flashy, and there’s nothing subtle about the showy color schemes and oversized, lifted wheels that characterize this car culture. You don’t drive a hi-riser if you’re looking to blend in.

Finding roots within the “Dirty South” hip-hop movement out of cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, and Miami, these vehicles are distinguished by their exaggerated, oversized wheels that range from 20 to 30 inches (or even more) in diameter. Have spinning rims on your hi-rise? Even better. Suspension modifications are often needed to give these cars proper clearance for their enormous wheels, and you’ll find custom paint jobs (often cereal or candy-themed) and expensive audio equipment as part of the package deal.

Donks: How It Started

A donk is a subculture within the hi-risers. Traditional donks are well-known to be Chevrolet Impala or Caprice models from the 1970s, earning the name because the Impala logo was referred to as a “donkey” or “donk” for short. 

What characterizes donks from boxes or bubbles is more or less the bodystyle. Donks have more sloped vehicle rears, while bubbles are rounded and boxes are – you guessed it – more square on both ends. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll likely admit one thing: you’re gawking just as intended.

How To Join

Looking to get into the donk community? Seek out car shows in your area and talk to owners. Whether you’re looking to deck one out with flashy, spinning rims or custom-themed body paint, they’ll be your biggest resource on how to build yourself a proper donk.


Honorable Mention: Carolina Squat

Truck cabs pointed high to the sky with the rear in a slam is the distinguishing mark of the Carolina squat. This modification and subculture gained traction from various social media sites, with a fair amount of backlash from everyday drivers on the road. In fact, over 72,000 people in North Carolina signed a petition urging lawmakers to make the Carolina squat modification illegal in the state.

Carolina Squat: How It Started

The Carolina squat originated in California. Yep, you heard that right. This subculture came out of Baja racing and was a modification of lowriders developed in the 1990s. 

Racers discovered that this mod helped prevent damage to trucks and drivers when landing after jumps. As this style made its way to the East Coast and became more notorious, it was eventually dubbed the “Carolina squat.”

How To Join

If you love the look of the squat and want to modify your vehicle, you’re sadly out of luck. The Carolina squat is currently banned in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Time will tell if other states will follow suit.

These trucks are dangerous to both drivers and other motorists, as the physics surrounding the squat make rollover accidents more likely to happen. In addition, the upward aim of the headlights decreases visibility during nighttime driving, which makes them more dangerous. Due to this, we can’t in good conscience recommend finding a way to join this subculture.

Why Are Car Subcultures So Important?

Car culture is a phenomenon that has evolved since the birth of the automobile, and it will continue to develop and shape the world as we know it. While some of these car subcultures may seem strange or just downright silly to the average driver, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. 

Subcultures in society help people explore their identities, find a sense of belonging, and often help us make sense of ourselves in relation to the greater world. Car subcultures can help foster a sense of adventure, creativity, and even family among members. 

The Future of Car Subcultures

The future of car subcultures can be tough to predict. The groups discussed in this article were born out of wildly different circumstances, from a hip-hop movement to a simple hashtag on social media. However, subcultures will likely continue to evolve while pulling inspiration from the least-expected places, keeping the scene exciting and spectator-worthy while attracting new generations of passionate car enthusiasts.