Some people see cars as a utility item to get from point A to point B, but for others, cars are much more than that. They are ways to have fun, to travel in style, to participate in activities. A car is an icon of culture. Certain models or modifications to a car are seen as status symbols.
Many motorheads idolize the character of their car and the cars of others. They will try and develop their car to make it unique. One can identify and understand the sounds made by many of the engines used and then know exactly what that car is capable of. Flat engines have a very smooth rev, with Subarus adding an uneven rumble. American V-8s burble, while European V-8s and V-12s scream, and turbocharged or supercharged cars make all sorts of interesting and entirely unique sounds.
The uniqueness of which is not always understood. A Mitsubishi sedan that can shoot fireballs out the back end might be objectionable and a bit bewildering for the uninitiated, but for those who know what they are looking at, it is a special thing.
This is what I love about the car enthusiast community — you do not have to be filthy rich and own a Ferrari to be included. While money is unfortunately a major factor, one can easily start with something completely inconspicuous. It doesn’t matter the age or the make of the car you have, but the work put in and the love you have for it. People who share your interests will interact with you, and many are willing to talk about their cars. I drive a Subaru, and there is a specific wave Subaru drivers give one another. Almost all other groups have something similar.
As wonderful as this all sounds, some people frown upon people driving fast or modifying something to be faster, especially parents. They are concerned about their kids doing something dangerous, hanging out or engaging with “undesirable people.” On the extreme, I have heard of parents only allowing for the least powerful car possible. I also have heard of parents who wouldn’t allow their kid to drive a muscle car because they believed it was dangerous. If your kid is an imbecile and has a tendency to act impulsively, that may be a valid point. However, much of the community is made of people who are helpful and generally interesting to be around. There is not a specific age group that applies, either.
As for the dangers of driving, I would like to make the case that letting your kid drive something with decent performance is a good idea. Having a car with good handling and acceleration has gotten me out of many difficult situations. Aggressive driving is a must in city traffic, and having the power to back that up is invaluable. One can get out of an unsafe or hard driving situation, such as those encountered on the highway, and not have to worry, “Can my car do it?” A performance-oriented car demands skill, and it is never a bad thing to be skilled at something as dangerous as driving.
If you are a parent with trust issues, I would advise being flexible for something that has some power but not an absurd amount. That way, your kid won’t be tempted to race something, because they will lose. While modification adds performance, it isn’t always a good idea. It is perpetually expensive and often decreases reliability and/or drivability. That being said, it is a great way to learn a practical skill, and it doesn’t mean someone is going to be racing and doing stupid things with their car. Modification is a great way to get deeper into the car community, go to car meets and have fun, which is really what it is all about.
There is the issue that some see those in the community demonstrating toxic masculinity, that exclusively men drive around in sports cars to show off; this is not a conception that is deserved or entirely true. While men make up the overwhelming majority of the car community, that shouldn’t be a reason to be discouraged to become part of it — there are social niches for almost anyone, no matter what one drives. While much of what people do with their cars can be perceived as showing off — such as flashy paint and loud exhausts — the majority of enthusiasts do these things for themselves; it is about the thrill and experience. Most people who do things to their car are not looking for attention from other people.
There are undesirable trends and behaviors that do occur. People who do stupidly dangerous things, inconvenience other drivers by driving badly, are unnecessarily loud or belch black fumes out of a lifted truck, are just as disgusting to the car community as they would be to anyone else. Point is, if you are going to get into the car community, don’t be obnoxious.