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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 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

“We’re obsessed with the imagery and the branding of motorsports, and New Day definitely has a branding impulse behind it. It helps us express the vocabulary of the world that we like,” says Shannon. “The dream would be to get a New Day logo on an F1 car,” adds Warnaar. Shannon eventually gave up on the generator, which was kind of a beater, too; luckily we could warm ourselves up with New Day branded blankets.

Young people have always had a nostalgic taste for the cars of their parents’ generation, and any car of a certain vintage requires frequent maintenance. Which seems worth it if you’re talking about, say, a vintage Land Rover Defender, or a BMW e30. Not so much if it’s a Geo Tracker. But to Shannon and Warnaar, that Tracker might as well be a ’72 Porsche 911. “It’s the perfect car,” Shannon says. Warnaar’s taste for Trackers emerged at a young age: his family had one when he was growing up. “I have really early childhood memories of being in the back seat,” he says. “I loved that car. It was mad cute.” Even then, it wasn’t the most reliable family truck. “The exhaust would kind of circulate backwards into the vehicle,” he says. Still, when he found a bright yellow Tracker for sale on Instagram a few decades later for $650, he didn’t hesitate. Warnaar and Shannon went in on it together—and then realized to their great surprise that the Tracker might be, as Shannon puts it, the “greatest American car that isn’t really American.” 

There’s a knowing sense of humor and hooliganism embedded in the idea of New Day. But if you ask the earnest and animated Shannon, who also serves as the crew’s in-house philosopher, if their attachment to shitty cars is at all ironic, you’ll be quickly convinced otherwise. Shannon links the beater lifestyle to skateboarding—a way to experience the more intriguing corners of our urban landscape that can’t be otherwise accessed. But he argues that driving a beater car is a path—a bumpy one, maybe—to self-discovery, too. “You learn a lot about your life, and who you are as a person, through driving a car that demands something from you,” he says. When you’re driving a small car with terrible suspension, Shannon argues, there’s a point when your stress bonds perfectly with the vehicle’s. Where you become one with the vehicle. It’s a test of your driving ability, but also of your instincts and your patience—a quality that’s tested even further if and when the car breaks down on the side of the road. It’s a nostalgic vision, sure, but it’s also one that’s strangely appealing in our frictionless modern era. You’re not going to find any revelations in a Prius.