Wednesday, May 31, 2023

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    Inside the Downtown NYC Cult of the Beater Automobile

    Safety concerns notwithstanding, Jospé is one of a growing number of citybound millennials who have whole-heartedly embraced the beater car lifestyle. The draw is partly economic, partly philosophical. Thanks in part to a global semiconductor chip shortage, the price of used cars rose 40% from 2021 to 2022. The gasoline to fill them has approached record high levels, too. And if you can afford a new car, your choices are basically limited to boat-sized SUVs, unoffensive hybrids, and soon-to-be-autonomous electric vehicles, any single one of which looks basically like all the other ones. To the extent that America has a modern car culture, it can best be described as smooth. It’s no surprise that, before driving itself is innovated out of existence, many people seem intent on getting their hands as greasy as possible. And they’ve found a home in New Day Motor Club, which has tapped into a growing cult that sees the beauty in cars that look—and often drive—like shitboxes.

    “Sometimes, not getting there is half the fun,” says Louis Shannon, who co-founded New Day in 2018 with Ary Warnaar. Shannon and Warnaar aren’t typical gearheads: Shannon, a great-great-great grandson of Henri Mattise, runs downtown art gallery Entrance, and Warnaar is the guitarist for chiptune pop band Anamanaguchi. New Day isn’t a typical motor club, either. Most traditional car associations have fancy clubhouses, steep initiation fees, and a fleet of supercars available for members to drive around private tracks. New Day has a decidedly more chill vibe: the clubhouse is a shipping container in a Red Hook lot that’s wedged between a Thai restaurant and a pharmacy. New Day has around 20 members in New York, including downtown micro-celebrities like chef Danny Bowien and artist Sara Rabin, and several dozen loose affiliates nationwide. There is no fee to join; all you have to do is put a massive Nascar-style New Day Motor Club decal across your windshield. Members have access to Bud Light-fueled hangs and, crucially, a staff mechanic who fixes the club’s dozen-plus fleet of cars. “Finding parts and keeping these things running is a job in and of itself,” the mechanic, Chris Cheveyo, says. According to Cheveyo, the most common problem with New Day’s ’90s beaters is this: “Everything. They’re so old. They were not built to last, it was just, like, a fad.”

    Rosy Coleman in her Mitsubishi Raider

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