This Monday evening meet, was in many ways, just like most meets in the Chicagoland area. Big parking lot space in a suburban mall, a collection of various cars, and flock of enthusiastic owners strolling the lot to admire, talk about, and share experiences with others in attendance. There were, however, some notable differences for this meet. The first being the presence of the YouTube pair that is Regular Car Reviews, Brian and Nick (aka Mr. Regular and the Roman respectively). Secondly, thanks to their presence, a large number of the attendees moved as one large unit throughout the evening, all wide eyed fans huddled around the YouTube celebrities. The crowd hovered around Brian as he strolled the lot, taking in the different cars on hand, commenting, questioning and having a laugh or two. Nick, in the meantime tended to stay anchored to one spot, but had no less of a crowd surrounding him. There was such a wide range of variety, both in age/era of cars and just the type of cars that showed up, from minivans and pickup trucks to muscle cars and small Japanese sports cars, even a vintage Rolls Royce! Regular Car Reviews, being what it is, this was exactly the kind of mix I expected.
Perhaps it’s fitting to take a step back and explain what Regular Car Reviews,or RCR, is for those unfamiliar. The standard car review format is a well tested and somewhat tired format; you introduce car, rattle off features and equipment, spew performance numbers, drive it, and give your overall impression of the car. RCR is a YouTube channel that took that same format and applied it to average cars, stuff that had little enthusiast following, cars that were inexpensive, and sometimes even cars that just weren’t particularly good, but did so with a unique twist. Nick (The Roman) provided an intro song, with lyrics tailored to the car being reviewed (it sounds odd but it’s brilliant, trust me). Brian (Mr. Regular) would do the driving and bulk of the reviewing and voice-over. Quite unlike anything you might see on Motor Trend or Motor Week, RCR reviews are a concoction of dick jokes, historical context, and literary references that blend to capture the essence of the car being reviewed in a way that few other shows could. Many reviews play out in a sort of celebrity roast format: Brian lampoons the car and it’s respective owners in some cases, but often wraps with the roast equivalent of “joking aside, we love you man” finish. It’s that element that makes the videos particularly special if the car in question is one you own, you feel like the participant in the roast, the roast-ee in some regards. You laugh because you either can identify with a bit of the stereotype, or know someone that does, or because you know the ridiculousness of certain design flaws of your car and you choose to ignore and/or love it anyway. I may have first been drawn in by the dick jokes and fart jokes, because I’m a child and it made me chuckle, but what gave RCR the staying power for me, was that superb writing that underpinned it all. If you are watching RCR for the first time, and your maturity level is higher than mine, or the typical 8 year old, be patient. If you can tolerate some potty humor, and a weird obsession with referencing the color BROWN, your patience will be rewarded with some of the best automotive related writing you will come across. The insights that Brian narrates is second to none. Like listening to someone that is incredibly intelligent and educated, but acutely aware that he might alienate others, so he peppers in some low brow humor to keep things grounded and his audience listening. Beyond the clever one liners and the adolescent humor, resides an incredible ability to capture a car’s historical significance, and/or create a picture of the car’s very soul. The concept of a car having a soul or essence is what lies at the root of any car lover and enthusiast, and the best reviewers are the ones that can sense and describe it with the most intimate detail. While this romantic anthropomorphism is usually reserved for the upper echelon of the automotive world, exotics, sports cars, luxury vehicles, the stuff that is beyond “regular”, the RCR guys bring this same examination to cars that typically represent the most soulless, and appliance-like experiences. It was this writing that was an early inspiration to me, to take to keyboard and begin writing about the automotive world myself. To such a standard is the writing, I find myself fretting quite a bit just putting together this piece.
As I watched both Nick and Brian, ever surrounded by throngs of admirers looking to ask questions, take selfies, get autographs, it was clear the two weren’t entirely accustomed to this kind of thing yet. Both were incredibly friendly, accommodating, and happy to take time to fill everyone’s requests as they came. Still, I could detect a certain level of discomfort in them, a kind of reluctance to fame. I don’t think they quite understand why this many people would come just to meet them, or why all these strangers greet them with the familiarity of an old friend. It must be odd I imagine, to be surrounded by all these unfamiliar faces that all know you (to some degree), without you knowing anything about them. The pair have captured lightning in a bottle, but unlike the image it conjures of an obvious electric light, swirling in a transparent container, the reason for their fame here is probably, I suspect, not as obvious to them. For me, it comes down to that mix of grounded, dirty humor and well versed, well read intellect that is brought to their reviews. The magical combination resulting in a series of videos that resonates with an incredibly broad spectrum of the car enthusiast community. You came up modifying old Honda Civics in the late 90’s and early 2000’s? You grew up dreaming of owning your dad’s old 65 Mustang? You lust after a recent Porsche 911 GT3? Really into old Chrysler Caravans? Maybe just a late 90’s Honda Accord wagon is the pinnacle of automotive nirvana for you, whatever the case, RCR seems to get that, they seem to validate that. Seeing the crowd at the meet, it was clear that the RCR duo have created something that makes a real connection with many people. I count myself as one of them, and I made certain to make my way through the crowd simply to shake their hands and thank them for what they do.
-photos and writing: Robert Sixto