In Defense of Donk

My town of Palm Coast, Florida, is pretty much exactly as middle-class as its well-planned name implies. Not that it’s not a lovely place to live, just that it’s very much a what-you-see-is-whatyou- get sort of place.

In my immediate neighborhood–just a few blocks away on my drive to or from work–is another middle- class, two-car-garage, early-oughts-built house where I frequently see the resident out in the driveway washing, detailing, wrenching on, or otherwise doting over his car.

Because I pass him often, he’s never surprised to see me in the press car of the week. He always has a smile and a thumbs-up for me, whether I’m behind the wheel of an entry-level Hyundai or a Grey Pouponlevel Jaguar.

I was surprised, then, that it took me so long to stop and ask him about his car.

When I finally did, I felt bad that I’d never initiated a conversation. He spoke lovingly about the 1995 Chevy Caprice that graced his driveway. I learned all about the suspension mods–massive surgery, really–that it required to accept the enormous 32-inch wheels. He told me about all the separate stages involved in the paint job. Alternating coats of color, clear, metalflake and various treatments in between created an effect that makes the Chevy look like the world’s meanest robotic reptile.

I heard about the various upholstery techniques he learned and assisted with in the creation of the luxurious and–I mean this with the utmost respect–utterly pimped-out interior.

I learned that full-sized GM cars from this generation were referred to as “bubbles,” while the earlier Caprices and Impalas were “boxes” because of their more squared-off styling.

But mostly, I heard that this is a guy who completely loves, is entirely knowledgeable about, and is totally into his car.

But he’s not the only kindred sprit in my suburb. At another point on my commute lies another driveway with another beloved automobile. After my experience with my new friend and his donked-out ride, I felt it was my duty to reach out to this other seemingly autocrazy neighbor.

Unlike that Caprice, which you could literally have a picnic underneath, this guy’s Acura TL was low. You could barely slide a slice of salami under it. I learned that the reason he always parks in the same spot in the driveway is because it’s the only place he can get the proper angle to clear our relatively modest driveway gutters without sacrificing his undercarriage.

He told me about the many sets of wheels and tires he’d experimented with to get the exact look he had in his head into corporeal space. The current setup is as close as he’s come to his vision. The too-narrow tires are stretched onto too-wide wheels, and the resulting effect leaves barely a pinkie’s width between the tire sidewall and the fender lip. The car looks like a rolling cartoon and is, in all likelihood, no fun at all to drive.

But you should have seen the guy’s eyes light up when he talked about it.

To achieve his vision while still keeping this thing drivable, he had to learn a great deal about how his car works and how it was put together. It required extensive suspension modification, precise wheel-and-tire combinations, lots of research, and lots of wrenching. All on a machine that makes him very, very happy.

After talking to these guys, I started to wonder: At what point did we decide that our arbitrary way of enjoying cars was somehow better or made more sense than someone else’s arbitrary way of enjoying cars?

When did an autocross trophy become more valuable than a car show trophy? When did lap times become more valuable than fun times?

Look, I’m all about the apexes and slip angles over the big bass and hellaflush style, but let’s not kid ourselves into believing that we have some sort of lock on true automotive enlightenment.

So if we’re ever in a crowd and the talk turns to derision of the “stance-tards” or the “donk-rats,” you’ll accept my apology in advance should I choose to take my leave of the conversation.

I’d rather go hang out with people who like cars, too.

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Comments
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daeman
daeman Reader
6/25/15 3:33 p.m.

Yeah, took me a long time to realise that a genuine enthusiast with a car not to my taste doesn't make them lesser or stupid... Hard work is hard work and should be appreciated for what it is. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder and if we all shared the same vision and interpretation of what makes an awesome car, itd make for a very boring car scene indeed. Do I love all car scenes equally... definitely not. Can I respect the time, efforts and love that's gone into making a car what it is, absolutely.

Hal
Hal SuperDork
6/25/15 3:36 p.m.

I agree 100%. Next door is a 944 S2 track car complete with cage, etc.. Across the street the kid has a lifted XJ with big tires and a fresh coat of mud every weekend.

But the best is the old mechanic at the end of the block. When his old faded blue late 70's F series truck goes by the rumble from the side exhausts will rattle the windows. And then you hear the whine of the supercharger on the 460 he stuffed in there.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Editorial Assistant
6/25/15 3:42 p.m.

I think I need to move to a different neighborhood. All my neighbors have destroyed Camrys, Accords and such.

warpedredneck
warpedredneck Reader
6/25/15 3:43 p.m.

Oh my god.................. I am the old mechanic at the end of the block

RossD
RossD PowerDork
6/25/15 3:49 p.m.

I'm very much a Form Follows Function kind of guy, but when your function is to make a statement or to have a certain look... I usually have to tell myself; self, it's no different.

kanaric
kanaric Dork
6/25/15 4:18 p.m.

Donks are funny. 30 inch rims on a car with captain crunch painted on it? I approve.

yupididit
yupididit Reader
6/25/15 4:18 p.m.

My friend Kwame is really into the donk scene. He claims he was the first person to put 26" on a Caprice. He has a few donked out G-Bodies with crazy nice paint and mint custom interior. He does his own work and uses actual engineering to design his suspension. He actually owns a Rim and body shop in Virginia. He's not the most well spoken, and has a bit too many gold teeth, and pretty damn obnoxious but he's passionate and great at what he does to these cars. Before donk's he was into the slammed mini truck scene. Also, he's one of the funniest people I've meet.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider Dork
6/25/15 6:39 p.m.

Good for them. There are a lot of automotive scenes that I would never be involved in but I can definitely appreciate the hard work and efforts that people put in to their rides. Just the fact that they are doing something with their cars is cool. Just like last night, I spent 30 minutes talking to a guy that built old school low riders. I appreciated the work and the detail in the car but I would never own one.

patgizz
patgizz PowerDork
6/25/15 7:30 p.m.
kanaric wrote: Donks are funny. 30 inch rims on a car with captain crunch painted on it? I approve.

i had cap'n crunch for dinner the last 2 nights, i approve

Esoteric Nixon
Esoteric Nixon SuperDork
6/25/15 7:43 p.m.

I can appreciate good, sound engineering, whether it be on a donked B Body, lowered Acura, or a lowrider.

The only thing that grinds my gears are demolition derbies* and car guys who bite off more than they can chew and let classics rot, offering to anyone who'll listen their sad tale of how one day they'll get to it.

*Unless it involves most domestic products from 97-05. I'm looking at you, GM N-bodies.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy PowerDork
6/25/15 11:10 p.m.

I too need to move - my neighbors all take their leased Acura's into the dealer for service and washing. They look at me and probably wonder why I do such crude things. Wash a car by hand? Jack stands?

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/26/15 12:16 a.m.

Anyone who rips on the Cap n' Chrunch Donks need to check himself when he fawns over a Gulf or Martini livery. Just sayin'.

RossD
RossD PowerDork
6/26/15 8:06 a.m.

In reply to Appleseed:

Yeah but one brings joy to kids and one brings joy to adults. And the other brings joy to stock holders.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham Editorial Assistant
6/26/15 8:39 a.m.
Datsun310Guy wrote: I too need to move - my neighbors all take their leased Acura's into the dealer for service and washing. They look at me and probably wonder why I do such crude things. Wash a car by hand? Jack stands?

I have similar experiences. Every time I go to work on the car I have to make a bunch of trips from my second floor apartment with jack, jack stands, tool box etc. I get a lot of stares, but I get the feeling it's more of: "Oil changes? That's for rich people."

Mr_Clutch42
Mr_Clutch42 SuperDork
6/26/15 9:44 a.m.

In reply to daeman: I agree.

kanaric
kanaric Dork
6/26/15 4:03 p.m.

This is probably one of my favorite donks i've seen.

lnlogauge
lnlogauge Reader
6/26/15 4:13 p.m.

I didn't enjoy this article. I see the point, but I don't agree with it.

When you are driving down the highway next to a "donk", watch how that "suspension" travels when he hits a bump. spoiler alert- it doesn't. Also check out those giant brakes they added to stop the ridiculous monstrosity they created. Oh yeah, they spent all the bank on wheels. who's got time for brakes?

When your modifications are strictly for looks, safety and drivability go out the window. I feel the same way about stanced cars as well. You are taking a functional vehicle that is less likely to kill me when we are traveling next to each other, and making a 4000lb missile that you cant control.

Setting up a car for autocross isn't going to kill me. its going to make you a better driver, and less likely to kill me.

In the end, I don't care what you do, as long as it doesn't increase your chances of killing me (looking at you jacked up trucks).

Wally
Wally MegaDork
6/26/15 4:31 p.m.

In reply to lnlogauge:

Donks aren't very popular here but the few I've seen seem to be driven slowly and carefully so ar least the owners appear to be conscious of the way they handle and stop and drive accordingly.

lnlogauge
lnlogauge Reader
6/26/15 4:43 p.m.
Wally wrote: In reply to lnlogauge: Donks aren't very popular here but the few I've seen seem to be driven slowly and carefully so ar least the owners appear to be conscious of the way they handle and stop and drive accordingly.

I'm guessing you don't drive in atlanta very often. My experiences would be different. I'm also not convinced you can safely drive something unsafe at 70-80mph.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/26/15 5:32 p.m.

These were pre-donks. Think about it.

LuxInterior
LuxInterior Reader
6/26/15 5:41 p.m.

"Hi, my name's LuxInterior and I <3 donk"

There are a few nicely done donkmobiles here in the hood. When I see them, they make me smile... Just the way I do when I see a nicely done lowrider. We're all car enthusiasts. We just don't all have the same end goal. I'm down with that.

moparman76_69
moparman76_69 UltraDork
6/26/15 9:15 p.m.
kanaric wrote: This is probably one of my favorite donks i've seen.

The irony of "crush proof box"

I smiled.

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 SuperDork
6/26/15 10:19 p.m.

Growing up in SoCal when I did I saw many different auto trends. There was the hot rodders with Camaro's, Chevelle's, Mustang's and whatever else they could stuff a big V8 into. Low-riders were a big trend also with the small skinny wheels, fancy paint and interior and often a chain steering wheel that we used to joke about matching handcuff bracelets. Then the gas crunch hit and compacts came into fashion. Lowered Pinto's/Mustang II's, Vega's, Datsun's and lowered mini trucks like the Courier and Luv. I was taught an appreciation for attention to detail and work as a youngster. The amount of work and detail in the low riders were amazing. Never really wanted one but greatly appreciated the detail and workmanship. Also amazing that most of the work was done by the owners. Still appreciate the workmanship that goes into customizing a car to the owners taste. Don't want or desire a donk or hellaflush but like seeing a nice and properly done car. Admittedly I turn my nose up at the poorly done, unsafe modifications. I feel if you can't do it right for whatever reason then don't do it till you can either do it right or afford to have it done right. When I talk with youngsters at car shows, car related events and/or racing I make a point to show approval of their work, especially if done nicely and sometimes politely point out more efficient ways to get their desired results. They often keep me posted on their progress whenever I see them. Not all of us old geezers are old fogeys.

As for my tastes back then, I found the canyon roads outside of town (just north of Santa Barbara) and found that the hotrods didn't turn very well. Small sporty cars were and still are my tastes. Couldn't afford one back then, made do tearing down a canyon road with the 69 Datsun 510 Wagon I learned to drive in or 72 Suzuki TS185 enduro and later an early Pinto. Pinto's get maligned a lot but were actually pretty decent cars as long as you weren't rear ended. Stay ahead and don't slow down.

Did the 4X4 thing when I was stationed in Alaska. Had a 81 K5 Blazer that I got muddy regularly. Never got around to lifting it but did run decent all-terrain mudders.

As for my driveway now, I admit that I do like to autocross and I do like car shows. And with the kids grown and gone I can finally have toys. For autocross I have a 99 Miata that I've slowly upgraded as I can afford but have to balance and share the funds with my 70 Opel GT that I restored and is my weekend cruiser and show car. But is a restoration ever done? I've done a couple upgrades to it for reliability and drivability and still tinker with it trying to make it better. I enjoy both. One of these days I'll get to the 63 MG Midget and 80 Yamaha XS650 in the garage and get the Miata on a real racetrack.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin UberDork
6/27/15 12:43 p.m.
lnlogauge wrote: Setting up a car for autocross isn't going to kill me. its going to make you a better driver, and less likely to kill me.

Ever seen a fellow autocross drive home from an event in the rain on worn out but way too wide RS3s or R comps? Its pretty unsafe.

That said, its an unfortunate situation, not a perpetual condition created by the modifications (a donk with itty brakes will never been in a position to stop well).

I think I can agree with most of what JG is getting at. But I'll never say "But you should have seen the guy’s eyes light up when he talked about it" when referring to someone with a big truck rolling coal. Probably a few other car types that would fall into this category for me as well.

irish44j
irish44j PowerDork
6/27/15 3:17 p.m.
lnlogauge wrote: I didn't enjoy this article. I see the point, but I don't agree with it. When you are driving down the highway next to a "donk", watch how that "suspension" travels when he hits a bump. spoiler alert- it doesn't. Also check out those giant brakes they added to stop the ridiculous monstrosity they created. Oh yeah, they spent all the bank on wheels. who's got time for brakes? When your modifications are strictly for looks, safety and drivability go out the window. I feel the same way about stanced cars as well. You are taking a functional vehicle that is less likely to kill me when we are traveling next to each other, and making a 4000lb missile that you cant control. Setting up a car for autocross isn't going to kill me. its going to make you a better driver, and less likely to kill me. In the end, I don't care what you do, as long as it doesn't increase your chances of killing me (looking at you jacked up trucks).

not that I'm much of a fan of most donks, but the same could be said about most of the lifted 4x4s with 36" tires on them and such.....I used to be in the XJ/Cherokee/Jeep scene. XJs and Wranglers (at least older ones) had some of the most pathetic brakes known to man, yet almost never did the guys with big tires or lifts upgrade them.

Conversely, the one (only one) person I actually know that has a donk (on 22s), actually has a huge BBK on it (calipers are custom painted, so not sure what brand). I'd guess that they are 14" rotors with 6-pistons per corner. They still look tiny under those wheels, but then I consider that the brakes on my Sequoia are actually smaller than that (and the Sequioa is way heavier). I'm sure he's the exception rather than the rule, but donk guys aren't the only people doing questionable mods to their cars. There are plenty of people on GRM who I wouldn't want to drive next to in traffic either, honestly.

I drive through the ghetto on the way to work and see donks all the time....like 2-3 times per day. As someone else noted, they're almost always just cruising, no wild maneuvers, no tailgaiting. From what I can tell, they drive them as if they were driving a full-size SUV or something, but more carefully to avoid potholes and such.

Oppose that to lifted Truck/4x4 owners, who would have just as much trouble stopping, and whose vehicles handle just as poorly. But those guys will tailgate the hell out of you in traffic, maneuver in heavy traffic recklessly, and generally drive like dickheads.

I'd rather be surrounded by a fleet of Donks on the highway than a bunch of coal-rollin' bro trucks, or stanced-out V-dubs running 10 degrees of negative camber with 195 tires on 12" wide wheels.

Then again, I drive on public roads with a 1970 Triump GT6, so clearly my concern about personal driving safety is pretty much nil anyhow, lol.

AClockworkGarage
AClockworkGarage Reader
6/27/15 3:29 p.m.

"Since when was an autocross trophy worth more than a car show trophy?"

I don't know. Is an Olympic metal worth more than a miss america crown? I is a Nobel prize in physics worth more than a Guinness world record for most facial piercings?

I would say yes.

Mitchell
Mitchell UltraDork
6/27/15 9:16 p.m.

Let's be real... Auto cross is more ultimate frisbee than Olympics.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/27/15 11:10 p.m.

If we're talking about a Ridler or AMBR award, then, yes that's a car show trophy worth more than any autocross trophy.

To each his own.

flatlander937
flatlander937 Reader
6/27/15 11:34 p.m.

I like a bit of everything. I'd never build a donk myself but the well done ones are neat in their own way.

As for the stance scene... I think it's idiotic from a practicality standpoint, unsafe, and looks stupid, but id never say that to one's face. Some of those guys are who I'd go to for a fender roll/pull though.

G_Body_Man
G_Body_Man HalfDork
6/28/15 10:52 a.m.

Static stance is usually unsafe, and donks have no suspension travel and a high CG. To get low or high safely, you need bags or juice.

irish44j
irish44j PowerDork
6/28/15 12:48 p.m.
AClockworkGarage wrote: "Since when was an autocross trophy worth more than a car show trophy?" I don't know. Is an Olympic metal worth more than a miss america crown? I is a Nobel prize in physics worth more than a Guinness world record for most facial piercings? I would say yes.

I'd say financially, a Miss America crown probably does way more for the winner than an olympic medal in, say, shot put....lol. Just to play devil's advocate.

Nick_Comstock
Nick_Comstock PowerDork
6/28/15 11:42 p.m.

I just got back from a 3200+ mile roadtrip a couple hours ago. The one and only close call we had involved a donked 78ish Dodge Diplomat somewhere in the deep south. I was in the right lane running about 70 in light traffic, came up over a crest and saw traffic crawling in the distance. Backed it down and was cruising along at about 30 when we caught up with the traffic. A check in the mirror revealed this diplomat still running around 70 in the left lane. I checked up to leave room as he was closing on the stopped traffic in the left lane at a tremendous rate. I left about three car lengths from the stopped car in the left lane and about ten car lengths from the barely rolling along car in the right lane. He looked up just in time to rip the wheel hard to the right, came sideways directly in front of me into the space I created for him. He was hard on the brakes and went off the right side of the road, he didn't over correct and got it back on the road and stopped without hitting anyone or anything.

In my opinion the cause of the incident was driver inattention. From my point of view the car handled the situation as well as any ill-handling, underbraked, sloppy, wallowing pig of a car from 1978 would.

rcutclif
rcutclif Dork
6/29/15 10:30 a.m.
Nick_Comstock wrote: I just got back from a 3200+ mile roadtrip a couple hours ago. The one and only close call we had involved a donked 78ish Dodge Diplomat somewhere in the deep south. I was in the right lane running about 70 in light traffic, came up over a crest and saw traffic crawling in the distance. Backed it down and was cruising along at about 30 when we caught up with the traffic. A check in the mirror revealed this diplomat still running around 70 in the left lane. I checked up to leave room as he was closing on the stopped traffic in the left lane at a tremendous rate. I left about three car lengths from the stopped car in the left lane and about ten car lengths from the barely rolling along car in the right lane. He looked up just in time to rip the wheel hard to the right, came sideways directly in front of me into the space I created for him. He was hard on the brakes and went off the right side of the road, he didn't over correct and got it back on the road and stopped without hitting anyone or anything. In my opinion the cause of the incident was driver inattention. From my point of view the car handled the situation as well as any ill-handling, underbraked, sloppy, wallowing pig of a car from 1978 would.

That dude's gonna have a weird brownish stain on his cream leather seat.

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