Episode 92: Welcome to Muscle Car City 


Doug Gordon: Hey, War on Cars fans. We are thrilled to announce the second annual live War on Cars show. That’s right. You can join me, Aaron and Sarah on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, at 7:00 pm at Caveat, a fantastic venue in New York City for a live recording of the podcast. Last year’s show was a ton of fun, and it was so great to be in a room with so many friends and listeners. There were prizes, special deals on merch and more. That show sold out, so you’re going to want to get your tickets to this one now. We’ll put a link in the show notes. Oh, and if you’re a Patreon supporter, you can get a special discount on tickets. So if you’ve been thinking of signing up, well, there you go. We’ll see you all live on Tuesday, November 1 at Caveat in New York City.

Aaron Naparstek: There was this one car that I kept seeing parked around my neighborhood last year. It was dark blue with black racing stripes and hot pink trim around the edges. It had a big air intake on the hood like a giant nostril. It was a Dodge Charger, a so-called muscle car. You see a lot of muscle cars on New York City streets these days: Dodge Chargers and Challengers, Ford Mustangs and Chevy Camaros. And you hear them, too. Their modified mufflers and overpowered engines are designed to be noisy.

Aaron: What intrigued me about this particular muscle car were the stickers on the back window. One of the stickers showed a grim reaper, a purple grinning skull. The reaper held a suspension bridge in its bony claws. The sticker read “Brooklyn Hemi Boyz”—that’s “Boyz” with a Z. The other sticker was simply an Instagram account @DenysdaMenace. It was a muscle car with its own Instagram account. I was intrigued. The Instagram account was, after all, an invitation to see inside the car, to pierce that bubble of privacy and anonymity that lets drivers get away with so much.

Aaron: So on a spring day in 2021, I pulled out my phone, opened up Instagram, and followed DenysdaMenace. Once I started noticing cars decorated with these Instagram stickers, I began seeing them everywhere. Anytime I happened across a car with its own social media account, I followed that car. By the summer of 2021, I was following well over a hundred cars. You know that classic TV show trope where the bad guy speeds away, and then the hero chasing after him jumps in a taxi and shouts, “Follow that car!” Well, now I could follow that car, on social media, no high-speed chase necessary.

Aaron: I’m Aaron Naparstek, and this is The War on Cars.

Aaron: Instagram used to be a happy place for me. I really only used it to post the occasional pictures of my dog, my kids, fall foliage, pretty flowers. Then I started following the muscle cars. Almost immediately, my Instagram feed became a firehose of burnouts, donuts, sideshows and street takeovers. Live streams of cars spinning in circles in big box parking lots all across the five boroughs—sometimes even in my own neighborhood! Drag races, shrieking tires, clouds of burning rubber, exhaust pipes popping, shooting flames. And car crashes. So many car crashes.

[ARCHIVE CLIP: Oh, shit, I got that on video! What the fuck?]

Aaron: Young men have been doing stupid things in muscle cars since forever, but this combination of car culture and social media felt like something new. Driving under the influence? No. Well, maybe. But this was driving to become an influencer. Over the summer, I watched as local car clubs like Nemesis, Shake Da Block and the Brooklyn Hemi Boyz got together for meets and takeovers just about every weekend. They would distribute a numbered list of locations across the New York City metro area, and hundreds of cars could descend on each spot.

Aaron: I wanted to do more than just watch on my phone. I wanted to go to one of these car meets, but none of the car accounts that I messaged wanted to share the list of spots with the War on Cars guy. Go figure. Then I remembered that very first muscle car I’d seen near my house, the one that got me interested in all of this in the first place: Denys da Menace. I messaged, “Hey, Denys. I see your car around the neighborhood with your Instagram handle on it. I’m a podcast producer. Was wondering if you might be willing to have a conversation with me about your car one of these days?” Denys got right back to me. He worked at a bank in my neighborhood. He had Googled me, he knew what the podcast was about, but he was happy to chat. So we arranged a time to meet. And that’s how I found myself on a Saturday afternoon in June of 2021, sitting on the front steps of War on Cars headquarters, getting ready to go for a ride with Denys da Menace.

[car engine rumbling]

Aaron: I heard his muscle car coming down the block well before I saw it. He pulled up to the curb and I got in.

Aaron: Thanks for coming out.

Denys da Menace: No problem, man.

Aaron: We decided to drive to a local big box parking lot about a mile away to sit in his car and talk.

Denys da Menace: You’re lucky because I actually had a car accident.

Aaron: No shit. Really?

Denys da Menace: Seven weeks ago.

Aaron: Oh, really?

Denys da Menace: And I just got it back yesterday.

Aaron: Oh, really? What kind of—do you mind if I record our chat?

Denys da Menace: Sure. Yeah, go ahead.

Aaron: Denys told me about his car crash. He and his car had been hired to be in a music video—he does a lot of those. He was driving over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Manhattan, when one of the other cars in the music video shoot clipped Denys and pushed his car into the side of an 18-wheel truck. Nobody got hurt, but it sounded like a mess.

Aaron: What kind of damage did you sustain here?

Denys da Menace: It’s on the top left. The whole fender was gone. The wheels completely came off. Axle was broken. Suspension. This was on April 19, and I literally just got it back yesterday.

Aaron: Oh, wow. How much did it cost to fix that?

Denys da Menace: It went through insurance, so they put me as no fault. But the whole estimate was $18,000.

Aaron: Oh my God!

Denys da Menace: Yeah. [laughs]

Aaron: $18,000. That beeping and robotic voice you hear in the background? That’s a radar detector to warn Denys of police speed traps.

[car engine roars]

Aaron: Oh, no! This is terrifying!

Denys da Menace: [laughs]

Aaron: Oh, my God. Like—this is like my nightmare.

Denys da Menace: It’s my dream. [laughs]

Aaron: We arrived at the parking lot of a big box store on the edge of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. We parked and turned off the engine.

Aaron: Well, welcome to The War on Cars.

Denys da Menace: Oh. [laughs] That’s great.

Aaron: Yeah, I’ve just been, like, following your account and, like, other accounts. I’m, like, totally fascinated by the whole culture around—I don’t even know how you guys describe, like, the kinds of cars you’re using. I mean, I would call it a muscle car. Is that …

Denys da Menace: Yup. American muscle cars. Yeah.

Aaron: So tell me what we’re sitting in right now.

Denys da Menace: So we’re sitting in a 2020 Dodge Charger Wide Body Scat Pack in Frostbite Blue.

Aaron: The 2020 Dodge Charger Wide Body Scat Pack starts at $47,490. And that’s before adding extras like racing stripes for $995. A vinyl wrap, high performance tires and rims and other modifications can cost thousands of dollars more.

Aaron: What does Wide Body Scat Pack mean?

Denys da Menace: So the Scat Pack is engine wise. So this is a 6.4 liter, 485 horsepower. And the wide body, it just comes with a kit where it just makes the fenders pop out more.

Aaron: So Scat Pack means it’s a 6.4-liter 485-horsepower engine, but I don’t really know what that means either.

Denys da Menace: Initially, it means, like, how bad your miles per gallon is. [laughs] So someone could have, like, a 2.0, but then have, like, a 40 miles per gallon. And then I’m here with 9.2 miles per gallon, which means I need to go to the gas station every two, three days.

Aaron: So you don’t get—you don’t get great mileage. What do you get out of this car? Like, what does it do for you?

Denys da Menace: It’s an adrenaline rush. I had a regular car before this, and once I got this car—I always wanted a muscle car. I wasn’t too keen on Mercedes or BMWs, but I always liked this American muscle loud cars. So once I got this car, I didn’t know nothing about car clubs at all. And one time, I was with one of my good friends going to a restaurant, driving this car with no stickers, nothing, and all I see in the back mirror is, like, eight Chargers, all like mine, flying on the highway with all these stickers on. And they actually stopped me on the highway saying, “Where you guys going?” And I said, “We’re just chilling.” And they said, “Oh, why don’t you go to this car meet over here. We’re all a part of a team.” And it just started all from there. I started going to all these car meets, all these really cool people with really cool cars. And it’s just a crazy adrenaline rush.

Aaron: Denys is in his mid-20s. He was born in Ukraine, and has a pair of tiny yellow and blue Ukraine boxing gloves dangling from his rearview mirror. Denys’s family immigrated to New York City when he was just six months old.

Denys da Menace: Yeah, this was in the ’90s. It was really tough. Like, my dad got into cooking, and he used to be a chef in a kitchen. My mom got into being, like, an insurance broker. She went to school for that. It was really tough. So the same thing, they had to work from the bottom.

Aaron: When he was 11, Denys and his mother moved to London. He went to high school and college there, and earned a master’s degree in banking. Denys moved back to New York City a few years ago. Owning a muscle car and being part of a car club has become a big part of his social life and sense of identity.

Denys da Menace: With the car clubs, it’s really—how to say it? It’s really a gathering to meet a lot of people. If you—if you see me in this car, you don’t know what I’m doing with my life. You don’t know what job I’m doing or what I do on the side, anything like that. So once you meet all these cool car people and you start to build relationships with these guys, like, oh, this guy does this, this guy does that, and once you’re in these clubs, it’s not just, oh, we’re gonna drive to this spot and just park and chill. It’s—they do a lot of things. Like, they go to the bars with everybody, they go to the pool tables, they go to the beaches, go-karting. It’s—it’s a lot of different things that these car clubs do. And it’s—it’s amazing. It’s—you build a lot of friendships with this.

Aaron: Owning a car that gets noticed and has lots of followers on Instagram also means that Denys gets special deals and discounts. He is a kind of muscle car influencer.

Denys da Menace: And another thing: like, once you’re in these car clubs, you get sponsored by a lot of companies. So I’m sponsored by a wrap company. They give me really good discounts if I want to change the rap. I’m sponsored by a tire and rim company. If I’m messing up my tires, they give me a really good deal on brand new tires. Car washes, it’s—it’s everything. So if I didn’t join a car club, I would be paying full price for everything. So it’s an opportunity, it comes with a lot of benefits. It’s great.

Aaron: The sponsor I see most often on New York City car club’s Instagram posts is Jimmy’s Tires and Rims. Situated beneath a rusting, elevated expressway in Brooklyn, Jimmy’s is a hub for car club activity.

Denys da Menace: As you’ve seen in videos before, people are doing a lot of burnouts, a lot of donuts in spots. It’s that adrenaline rush. Everyone’s taking videos and pictures of it. It’s fun, but that’s the thing for Jimmy’s Rims and Tires. Every time someone’s doing donors or burnouts, they have to go the next day and change their tires.

Aaron: You know, I was wondering about that because, like, it really looks like you leave a lot of tire on the pavement when that happens. And I was curious, like, don’t you just rip through your tires? So I guess you do.

Denys da Menace: Uh, well, yeah. When I had my car before the accident, I literally had to change my tires once a week.

Aaron: No way! Really?

Denys da Menace: Once a week. Yeah.

Aaron: That’s expensive, too, no?

Denys da Menace: That’s what the sponsorship comes with.

Aaron: Okay.

Denys da Menace: If it was—if I didn’t have the sponsorship, I don’t think anybody would be doing it because tires are like $300 a piece. And with—with a lot of these muscle cars, it’s only a rear wheel drive, so you only have to buy the pair. But with our sponsorships, we’re paying, like, $130 to $150 a piece, so it’s not really that bad.

Doug: So like a lot of kids, my son does not always love getting ready for school. I mean, he loves being in school, but waking up, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, even remembering to tie his shoes? It’s a lot. And then if you wake up and it’s raining? Oh, boy. That used to be just one more. But now that we have Cleverhood rain capes, he looks forward to getting out the door and getting to school. Cleverhood’s Rover rain cape, it’s really fun to wear. It’s easy to slip on—even over a backpack full of school supplies. It comes in a range of bright colors with neat, reflective details that will cheer you up even on the gloomiest of days. And when we’re walking or biking to school, I tell my son that Cleverhood donates five percent of every sale to organizations working to make streets safer, more sustainable and more equitable. Okay, I don’t actually tell my son that, but it’s nice to know I’m staying dry thanks to a small business that supports the effort to make it easier for everyone to walk or bike to school or wherever they’re going. This fall, listeners of The War on Cars can receive 20 percent off anything from the Cleverhood store. Visit Cleverhood.com/waroncars and enter code BIKETOSCHOOL at checkout. Again, that’s Cleverhood.com/waroncars, code BIKETOSCHOOL.

Aaron: In the Instagram post, you see, like—you’ll just see a guy, like, filming it, you know, in the middle. Like, someone’s doing donuts and, like, some people will be standing right in the middle, you know, while the car spins around. And I wonder, like, how often you have an accident, like, how often someone gets hit, how often do things go wrong?

Denys da Menace: Um, there has been a few situations where things go wrong, but it comes with the adrenaline. Like, if—we don’t tell you to go in the middle. If you want to go in the middle and record everything you can, but you have to understand that anything can happen with a car. Even if you’re like a professional drifter doing donuts, anything can happen with a car. You can clip something, and it can go terribly wrong. But we’re not forcing anybody to go in the middle and do donuts. It looks cool with the videos, but we don’t force anybody to do that. It’s on—it’s on your own hands.

Aaron: This thing that Denys is talking about, “going in the middle,” I should explain that. When a car is doing donuts at a street takeover, you’ll often see spectators run into the center of the circle to film the car up close as it spins around them. This sometimes goes horribly wrong, like last March in lower Manhattan.

[NEWS CLIP: New information on a hit and run during a wild scene in Soho tonight. Police are looking for the driver who ran over a man while doing donuts with his car.]

[NEWS CLIP: All of this was caught on cell phone video.]

Aaron: In the video, we see a red car spinning circles in the middle of an intersection with a huge crowd gathered around it.

[NEWS CLIP: It was so loud it woke neighbors from their sleep who witnessed hundreds of spectators surrounding this red sedan as the driver did continuous donuts in the street.]

Aaron: A young man jumps out of the crowd and starts running into the middle. Like almost everyone else there, he’s holding a phone in front of his face, filming. Before he can get to the center of the donut, he trips and falls directly beneath the wheels of the spinning car. It’s a terrible scene. The guy lived, but he fractured his skull, arms, ribs and pelvis—life-altering injuries for Instagram content. The fact is, if you spent any amount of time on muscle car social media, you’ll see lots of videos of people being hit by cars doing donuts. It is a whole genre. As for the driver who hit the guy?

[NEWS CLIP: The NYPD is looking for the driver who fled the scene. Police are hoping someone recognizes this distinctive yellow decal on the red Infiniti, which reads Tyler Spec.]

Aaron: Tyler Spec was not hard to recognize. His Instagram account was called—you guessed it—Tylerspec. And he ran a YouTube channel where he’d been posting videos of his street-racing exploits since 2018.

Aaron: So the cars are loud, right? Like, we just—I mean, even just coming down the block to meet me, I was like, “Oh, I couldn’t see you, but I could hear you,” right?

Denys da Menace: Yeah. That’s the thing is, is factory with these cars, they’re loud already, but a lot of these car clubs, they like to make, like, mid-muffler deletes, which makes it a lot louder, and it just comes with the muscle cars. You like to hear what you’re driving.

Aaron: So what does that mean, a mid-muffler delete? What does that involve?

Denys da Menace: So it’s the exhaust on the bottom. So usually they come with quote-unquote “suitcases,” which is, like, huge pipes on the bottom that stops the—the smokes and the sounds, emissions. So we just put, like, straight pipes in there, so it just makes it a lot louder than what it’s supposed to be.

Aaron: Do you ever worry about, like, you know, the noise you’re making as you go through a neighborhood or, you know, people on the street? Like, how does that factor into your, you know, process?

Denys da Menace: With me, like, I respect it. Like, when you’re coming down one way roads don’t go crazy. But I just had to show you a little bit of how it sounded like. But on the highway, there’s no pedestrians, so you just—you hit your floor. You want to hear it. There’s a lot of car clubs, the same thing, they respect the neighborhoods when it’s late at night. We only go to spots that it’s the parking lots where there’s nobody around. That’s why everyone is doing it at late nights. There’s no cars around. There’s no people around. It’s—we’re just trying to have fun.

Aaron: Right. Do the cops bother you? Does anyone bother you?

Denys da Menace: The cops bother us a lot. They’ve always been bothering us a lot but, I mean, I understand that we’re spinning where—where the pavements are black with our burnouts. But we’re having nice cars, so we’re just trying to have fun, you know? Daytime afternoons, there’s in New York City so much traffic. So you can have a really nice car with such horsepower and the sound of it, and you’re just stuck in traffic every single day. You just want to on the weekends, just have fun, just enjoy the car. Spin it a little bit. Like, don’t go too crazy.

Aaron: Just a few days before meeting with Denys, I’d been biking up to the park with my 14-year-old son along a narrow, one-way neighborhood street. This enormously loud, super aggressive, accelerating engine noise came roaring up the street behind us. I knew exactly what it was. It was a Dodge Charger. This one was covered in a gray, white, red and black camouflage wrap. I even think I recognized it from Instagram. It was probably going close to 50 miles per hour.

Aaron: And, you know, you kind of come away from that and you’re just like, “What’s going on in that guy’s head? Like, does he not see me as a cyclist out there? Does he—is he, like, trying to intimidate me? Is—like, what do you think is going on in that guy’s head when he just goes flying by me, like, really loud?

Denys da Menace: I mean, there’s—there’s a lot of guys that want to enjoy their car. There’s a lot of guys that respect neighborhoods. But there’s always gonna be a lot of people that buy the car just to go reckless. They don’t care if it’s one way, they don’t care two ways. They don’t care if there’s bikes. They just want to drive crazy. They’re gonna go around you. They’re gonna speed up. They’re gonna drift around you. There’s a lot of people that really don’t care, and that’s—that could be a real big problem for these car communities. That’s another thing why the cops are—are pushing us down a little bit, because there’s a lot of people that just want to enjoy the car and just spin it a little bit, a little burnout. But once these cop cars are seeing a lot of races on these traffic roads and going other ways on these one ways, it’s—it puts us down a lot.

Aaron: Hmm. Like, how much of your social life would you say is, like, tied to the car club scene at this point?

Denys da Menace: Before the car, not a lot. But I would say that once I got this car, my social life has tripled. [laughs] I’ve been going out almost every single day. It doesn’t have to be a car meet. If I wanted to meet, like, one or two of the guys just to ride around, meet up, go to the restaurants, go to the bar, it—it makes you have a lot of friends in New York City.

Aaron: Can you give me an example, like, how it’s changed your life, or how—you know, what it’s meant to you personally, like your friendships or your community there?

Denys da Menace: So with me, before even having this car, it would just be waking up, going to work, coming home, watching a movie, cooking something. And then on the weekends, you’re like with a few people going to the bar. But then there’s like so many people at this bar, you’re drinking, you’re eating. But then once I got this car and you’re meeting hundreds of different people with the same exact cars, you have the same mindset as everybody. Like I said, I wanted an American muscle car, and I’m now seeing hundreds of American muscle cars that I personally know now. Like, if I’m driving on the road, I see one of them, I know them and I’m, like, stopping, we’re talking, we’re having a conversation. Before any of this, it’s just like, going to the train, going on a bus, going to work, going home. It’s very, I would say, depressing, kind of.

Aaron: Yeah.

Denys da Menace: Because you’re just—you’re at a young age and you’re just bored of it. You’re just doing nothing with your life. But once—once you get a real, real nice car, it changes a lot. Like, you’re having fun. You’re—you’re having that adrenaline that you—that you really wanted. So it’s really fun.

Aaron: Yeah. What kind of—I don’t know, attention or engagement do you get from the fact that you have a Instagram handle on your window?

Denys da Menace: It’s a lot of—it’s a lot of good things. And there’s a lot of people that are just hitting up my Instagram and just saying, “Wow, really nice car. Where did you—where did you get the diffuser? Where did you do the wrap?” But then there’s a lot of people where they see my Instagram and they know I’m in a car club, and it’s literally, like, undercover police making Instagrams and asking you, “Okay, where’s the next spot? Who is this? Who is that? Where’s the next locations?” And they try to catch you with that. So it’s a mixed having an Instagram on the window.

Aaron: So I was really curious about that because yeah, it just seems like in a way you’re making it easier for—like, if the cops do want to crack down on you guys, you’re making it awfully easy in a certain way.

Denys da Menace: Well, this is the thing about the undercover cops who are making Instagrams is they literally have zero posts on their accounts, and they’re saying, “Oh, where’s the next meet?” Well, I don’t know you at all. You don’t have a car on your picture. You don’t have any pictures on your account. So we right away know that, okay, we can’t speak to any of these people. But like I said, there’s a lot of people that just hit up my Instagram saying, “Really nice car. I like it.” And it puts a smile on my face for the whole day.

Aaron: I was surprised. Why did you respond to me? I was surprised. I was like, “All right, this guy’s probably not gonna reply to—like, I’m just some weirdo, like, doing a podcast. I’m into bicycling and transit. You know, I’m not even a car guy.” Why did you respond?

Denys da Menace: I mean, the way you’ve made your Instagram, it has your full name on it. So I Googled it. [laughs] So I see all the podcasts there. It was pretty cool. I saw your bios and it’s—I don’t mind speaking to anybody like that, but when it comes to someone making an account and I’m Googling and there’s nothing, it’s pretty sketchy.

Aaron: Okay, so then if you’ve Googled me, you sort of know what I’m about. Like, I co-host a podcast called The War on Cars, and we’re sort of like focused on, like, making it so that cities have fewer cars and, you know, are more bike friendly and more pedestrian friendly and better for transit. And a lot of our listeners really dislike, you know, muscle cars and the noise and the potential danger. I mean yeah, how do you respond to that?

Denys da Menace: I mean, I know there’s a lot of people that like the environment, I know there’s a lot of guys that get the electric cars, the Teslas. For me, I like the Teslas, but you can’t hear it at all. I like to hear what I’m driving. I mean, like I said before, when we were mentioning about bike lanes and respecting the streets, there is a lot of people that do respect the streets. It’s just like I said, when there’s a lot of people that have these kind of cars, they do want to go crazy, and they have no respect for people. They don’t really care. So it’s a 50-50 mix.

Aaron: A 50-50 mix. The thing is, the 50 percent of the muscle car enthusiasts who don’t really care can sure do a lot of damage.

[NEWS CLIP: Charges are expected against the driver of a speeding car in Brooklyn that smashed into an Uber car, ejecting the passenger. The victim, a 32-year-old woman, is now listed in critical condition.]

Aaron: Back in March of 2021, a 22-year-old upstate New York man named Jalen Ryan Ortiz, blew through a red light on a neighborhood street in Brooklyn. He smashed into the side of a taxi. He was going 77 miles per hour—more than three times the speed limit. Ortiz nearly killed the taxi’s passenger, a mother of six kids. She spent two months in the hospital.

[NEWS CLIP: But this violent collision wasn’t even the first time this car was caught on video Sunday night pulling a dangerous stunt. That Dodge Charger with an easily-identifiable screen face on its side, seen here ripping donuts. Police say its driver …]

Aaron: Ortiz was driving a Dodge Charger. The body of the car was wrapped with the image of the knife-wielding ghostface killer from the Scream horror movie franchise. The so-called Scream car also had its own Instagram account, where Ortiz regularly posted videos of his reckless driving. In fact, Ortiz continues to post driving videos, even as his case slowly works its way through criminal court.

Denys da Menace: A lot of car clubs, they don’t care how fast they’re going on the highway. They could be going 150 miles an hour, and there could be real bad car accidents. There was someone that I knew maybe, like, three, four days ago. He was racing somebody, and he actually got into a car accident, flipped a lot, and it pancaked his car and he died right there.

Aaron: Holy shit!

Denys da Menace: Yeah. And there’s a lot of—there’s a lot of other things. Like, two months ago, someone died right in front of my house. Was into car meets and the car clubs. And it was late at night. I was just driving home by myself, and I got to my house and I see 20 cop cars, fire trucks, ambulance, and literally smacked his car into the tree and died right in front of my house.

Aaron: How do you respond to that? How do you react? Like, how do you feel about that?

Denys da Menace: Once you see things like this, you gotta relax a little bit. People have to understand where it’s not just you on the highway. There’s a lot of other people. There’s potholes on the highway. It’s New York City. There’s potholes everywhere. You’re on the highway, you see a pothole, you’re going 100-plus miles an hour, anything can happen. And I understand you might know your car. You know how to drive your car, but if there’s a little dip on the road, you can lose control. And it’s bad out here. It’s bad.

Aaron: Have you, like, lost any close friends?

Denys da Menace: Me from driving? No. But like I said, when you’re at these car meets, your meeting so many people all the time. You call them their friend. But when it’s—it’s hard to see it, but you’re not that close to them. But you know these people, and it’s scary. Like, it could happen to you at any moment.

Aaron: Right. It’s, like, close enough that you’re …

Denys da Menace: Close enough that you know this person. You might know where he lives. You might know all his friends and their car clubs. And once this happens, then we have, like, ride outs, and we’re doing burnouts right in front of his house where his mom and dad is. Like, we’re trying to show respect. We’re putting candles out. There’s hundreds of people going to these people’s houses that passed away, putting candles, flowers, the flags. Just to pay their respects.

Aaron: How do the parents feel about it? Because I don’t know how—if, like, my kid was, like, into cars and killed himself in a car, I don’t know if I’d want to have, like, a bunch of cars showing up.

Denys da Menace: That’s true. Like I said before, my parents don’t—don’t like me being in a car club and going crazy. But I mean, there’s not really much that we can do in a car community if someone passes away. Like, what can we do? We’re in a car. We have a car community. We just want to go in front of their house and show off a little bit and pay our respects.

Aaron: What’s the rest of your day looking like?

Denys da Menace: For today?

Aaron: Yeah.

Denys da Menace: I have to get a wheel alignment. So my wheel is unbalanced because I just wanted to get my car back yesterday. And I have to change my tires. There’s a little photoshoot—car photoshoot to go to.

Aaron: Okay.

Denys da Menace: And I’m picking up some of my wrap stuff from—from the Meta Wrap Customs. So it’s a busy day. [laughs]

Aaron: But, like, your day is, like, your car. Your car is your day here. You are doing car stuff today.

Denys da Menace: Yeah. Like—like I said, before I even had this car, right after work I would go straight home, take the bus or take the other cars. It’s not fun at all. And it’s a Saturday, so what else would I do? Go to the beach? But with a car it’s like so many things you have to do. Like, me personally, before I had a car, I was playing Xbox every single day after work, in the morning. Xbox for hours, hours, hours. And my mom hated it so much. Every time I come to home without doing the homework, I’m on the Xbox for hours. But as soon as I got the car, I told everybody on my Xbox, “I have no time for you.” I’m leaving work. I’m driving somewhere. There’s—I’m never home. [laughs]

Aaron: What were you playing at? Were you playing, like, Grand Theft Auto?

Denys da Menace: Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty. Everything that—every shooting game there is I was there.

Aaron: There is an almost like a video game-like aspect to this vehicle.

Denys da Menace: This is the thing about the car clubs is we have our—our active real-life car meets, but there’s a lot of—let’s say there’s a club, and then there’s—they’re making another Instagram that has a car club gaming channel. So they’re going on Grand Theft Auto and they’re making their cars on the game, and they’re having these car meets in the game. And they’re drifting and burnouts, everything on this Grand Theft Auto, exactly how they do it in real life.

Aaron: I feel like this could be the solution because it’s like, I sort of want to ban muscle cars from New York City. [laughs] You know, that’s like where I’m at on this. But, like, we could ban them and you guys could just do it in Xbox.

Denys da Menace: [laughs] It’s not the same. It’s the same—like, it’s these young kids too, from 15 to 18, 17, 16, where they’re making their dream cars, and they know that they’re gonna work hard in their job to actually get their dream car in person.

Aaron: Grand Theft Auto: the gateway drug to the car club scene. It was getting late. It was time to make my ask. Hopefully Denys thought I was cool enough to bring along to a car meet. It seemed like my only hope.

Aaron: I mean, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I feel like I got a lot of good stuff. I mean, I would—I would love to, like, see, like, an event.

Denys da Menace: That’s cool. Yeah. So I’m—definitely any car meets, I can pick you up. That’s no problem at all.

Aaron: Sounds like an invitation to me. Mission accomplished. I was ready to head home. Fortunately, there was a bikeshare station nearby.

Denys da Menace: All right.

Aaron: should I take a Citi Bike home, or you want to drive me a little bit?

Denys da Menace: [laughs] Yeah, I could drive you home. Don’t worry about it.

Aaron: Citi Bikes are great, man. You don’t like the Citi Bikes?

Denys da Menace: I have another car. I’m not taking no bike. [laughs]

Aaron: As Denys’s engine roared to life, it startled a mother and daughter walking in the parking lot right in front of us. The woman turned and said something to Denys through his open window. I assumed she was gonna scold him, you know, for the obnoxious noise or something. But nope. She said something to Denys about his cool-looking car.

Denys da Menace: You see? It comes with a lot of perks. There’s a lot of people that like the car.

Aaron: And as we pulled out of the big box parking lot, Denys laid out his theory for why that mother and daughter liked the car.

Denys da Menace: This is the thing about my car is it has pink on it, so it’s not this aggressive red kind of colors that people think I’m like a crazy person. It’s a pink, vibrant color that—it’s a nice color. Yeah.

Aaron: That is interesting.

[engine roars]

Aaron: Oh my God! I feel like we should be arrested for that.

Denys da Menace: [laughs] Absolutely not.

Aaron: That’s it for part one of “Muscle Car Summer.” In part two, I ride along with Denys and hundreds of other muscle cars in the biggest car meet of the summer. Things don’t go exactly as planned, but I met this guy.

Man: Bro, this is amazing! This is—since I’ve been young in New York City. This—in a drag racing fashion, but now we doing the burnout culture? I love it, bro.

Aaron: This episode was produced and edited by me, Aaron Naparstek, with an assist from Ali Lemer. Please support The War on Cars on Patreon. Go to TheWaronCars.org click “Support Us” and enlist today starting at just $3 per month. You’ll get access to exclusive bonus content and we’ll send you stickers. Check out The War on Cars store for t-shirts, mugs, stickers and other great merchandise.

Aaron: Thanks to our top Patreon supporters: Charley Gee of Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon, the law office of Vaccaro and White in New York City, Virginia Baker, James Doyle and Martin Mignon.

Aaron: And thanks to our sponsors: Cleverhood and Rad Power Bikes. I’m Aaron Naparstek. On behalf of my co-hosts Doug Gordon and Sarah Goodyear, this is The War on Cars.