A glimpse of Philadelphia’s underground car community

Some of the cars at a September 11, 2020 car meet-up – Ian Rush ’22

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by cars. Almost every weekend, my father and I would attend local car shows in South Florida. Because of these shows, I fell in love with classic cars at a very young age. As I grew older, my affinity for cars diminished and the hobby of going to car shows slowly faded. It wasn’t until I came to Haverford that I revitalized my lost love. I met many other kids who shared the same passion, and I rekindled my relationship with these machines. 

     A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first car meet in Ridley, Pennsylvania. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived to see two decked out Honda Accords, a Foxbody Mustang, and an old Toyota bus. I thought to myself, “This is it?” I knew it was going to be a small meet, but I did not expect it to be this bad.

     As time passed, the parking lot filled with cars I had never seen ever in my life. Two Nissan 300zx’s, a slammed Acura TSX, a Chevy Trailblazer SS, and even a Fast and Furious-esqe 04 Honda Odyssey. 

     The atmosphere was for me.

     The Philadelphia car scene has been alive for over a hundred years. The first Philadelphia Auto Show was in 1902 at the old Philadelphia Convention Center in University City.The underground scene in Philadelphia is a diverse community with members of every class, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Despite their cultural disparities, the Philly car community is a family, bound by the all love that they share. This was noticeable from the very second I started meandering through the rows of cars. They did not matter who I was, how old I was, what I looked like… All that mattered was that we were all there for the same reason. I fell in love with how accepting and open everyone was. 

A low-riding minivan at a September 11, 2020 car meet-up – Ian Rush ’22

     At the meet in Ridley, I was able to meet local car photographer Jack Olszewski. He described the community as “very welcoming and accepting.” I knew there was more to this story than what he was sharing. 

     Olszewski was a man of few words, but he put me in touch with Jay Lyons, owner of AutoMotoSpecialists, based in Collingdale, Pa. Lyons, deeply involved in the community, has worked there for eighteen years. Lyons is not only a big part of many events in the area but also across the Northeast. He was able to give me insight as to how the community has evolved.

     “The biggest changes I’ve seen is the change in desirable cars. It used to be old muscle cars that were super desirable and valuable. The value of ’60s muscle cars has decreased, and ’80s and ’90s cars have skyrocketed.” Lyons said, via Instagram DM. 

     When asked to elaborate on the growth of the community, Lyons had a strong opinion. “As far as car culture goes, that has taken a terrible turn. The younger generation cares less about unique builds and high quality and more about ‘clout’ and social media recognition.” 

“Every time I go to meets I make new friends. People generally show tons of love. It’s awesome.”

Jay Lyons

     Even though his contempt for the younger generations is obvious here, he still had nothing negative to say about the community as a whole. 

     “Every time I go to meets I make new friends,” Lyons said. “People generally show tons of love. It’s awesome.” 

     At the end of the day it’s not about the cars. The cars are the glue that brings people together, creating a unique culture. As a reserved young man, attending a meet was a bit scary for me. But when I arrived, I knew I belonged.