© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Avenues of Discontent

Arwen Sommer
Crash on Gebbies
A crashed, looted and burnt out car on Gebbies Pass  Arwen Sommer

The behaviour of a few seems to be affecting the many, with car enthusiasts being lumped in with hoons and hooligans.

Drinking cans of Cody's, mullets, lots of loud shouting. A menace, a nuisance, and a danger to society. Typical boy racer behaviour has become synonymous with car culture.

Christchurch has long been known as the boy racer capital of New Zealand. The four avenues come alive at night with the sound of loud exhausts and packs of Nissan Skylines launching at every green light. Once they’ve done a few loops they head to the hills to do burnouts, meet up at intersections and litter everywhere. Christchurch is the only South Island area to have its own police unit dedicated to stamping out this behaviour. Nevertheless, events like the Aves Invasions only seem to be getting bigger. For car enthusiasts, pre-occupation with the big bad boy racers is putting a wet blanket on their hobby.

The four streets in yellow- Bealey Ave, Deans Ave, Morehouse Ave, and Fitzgerald Ave are common cruising areas for boy racers and car enthusiasts

Cambered wheels, lowered suspension, and a mahogany steering wheel are just some of the modifications to car enthusiast Amos Dalkie’s Honda Prelude. The most obvious changes to his other car are the two-metre tall side exhaust pipes. He loves his cars and used to street race but doesn’t consider himself a boy racer. He is frustrated at being lumped in with people engaging in what he calls ‘socially reprehensible acts’.

Amos car
Amos Dalkie in his Shakotan styled 1988 Honda Prelude Arwen Sommer

Amos doesn’t like the term ‘boy racer’ because it puts car enthusiasts in a negative light, “like you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing.” He says it’s upsetting to be singled out by law enforcement because he drives a modified car. He says there’s a looming police presence when out on the Aves and he’s always asking himself “When am I going to get pulled over?” because it’s bound to happen.

Amos Dalkie explains Japanese car modification styles

Kaylee* (name changed for privacy) who is also a car enthusiast, believes the term boy racer is something middle-aged people use, “oh no, the boy racers are coming!”. She says it sucks getting targeted and scrutinised for having a loud or particularly interesting car. Kaylee* says the difference between car enthusiasts and ‘hoons’ is that car enthusiasts have a weekend car that they work on in their spare time, upgrade all the components from stock, and just take them out for cruises. However, ‘hoons’ have automatics with a blown second gear and broken tail lights that they take out for skids. She says that even though there's a stigma, and laws prohibiting cruising she enjoys it because “It’s instant camaraderie with total strangers.”

A Church bay resident, Dawn Sutton, says boy racers are a menace, “They are inconvenient and noisy at unsociable hours. They go through small settlements and wake everyone”. Dawn is a nurse and drives home over Gebbies Pass around midnight, where she often has run-ins with boy racers. They have tried to intimidate her by sandwiching her car, one in front and one behind her, to stop her moving. One Christmas Eve when she was driving home there were around 80 people gathered at Teddington junction, drinking and blocking the road. When she tried to push through, they started bashing her car.  

Burnout marks at Teddington Junction, where Dawn Sutton was harassed by a group of boy racers Arwen Sommer

Dawn thinks Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins has the right idea “You’ve got to hurt them where it’s really painful and that’s their cars. They’ve got to start losing their cars because that’s the mechanism they’re using to disturb society.” She says the speed limit changes on Summit Rd won’t help because they speed anyway and people don’t look at speed signs at the best of times.

Sergeant James McClurg’s job is dedicated to dealing with boy racers. He runs the six-person Anti Social Road User Squad, a police unit that gets out on the streets to police poor driving behaviour and modified vehicles. McClurg says police prefer to use the phrase ‘anti-social road users’ rather than boy racers because boy racers minimise the issue, “It's not just boys being boys, it’s not just racing. It’s a whole bunch of anti-social road behaviour that affects the community and all of us.”

Damage to Allandale domain the locals suspect was caused by boy racers Arwen Sommer

McClurg believes there’s a lot of overlap between car enthusiasts and boy racers. The ‘Aves Invasions’, large Facebook events which bring hundreds of boy racers into the city's avenues, also attract car enthusiasts says McClurg, “When the mob mentality takes over, the organising element who have criminal intentions can incite others to behave as they want.” He says this tars the car enthusiasts with a bad brush as well. Despite having staff dedicated to dealing with boy racers the police don’t actually keep statistics on crashes involving anti-social road users in particular as there's no way to identify those people says McClurg.

While there is all sorts of negativity around car culture, Amos still goes for Sunday cruises with his friends, enjoying the vehicles they’ve invested a lot of time and money into building. He says “It’s just a way of bringing people together to enjoy this common interest”.