Car meets have been quietly gaining popularity in England. Under the cover of night, hundreds of boy racers gather in deserted industrial estates and remote car parks on the edges of UK cities to rev their engines, spin their wheels and rip donuts. Organised through social media, locations are revealed at the last minute, giving everyone at least a few hours before the police arrive, a new location is chosen, and the cat and mouse chase continues.
Intrigued by the subculture, I attended one of these meets on the outskirts of London. When I arrived, it was like stepping into a scene from Fast and Furious. A cacophony of engine noise mixed with the smell of burning rubber as the drivers, mainly young men in their twenties, peeled around the empty retail park – mainly in German whips: BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and Golf GTis, but with the odd Jeep, SuperBike and even mobility scooter sprinkled amongst them.
While not strictly illegal, these meets often attract the attention of the police for breaching the peace and reckless driving. Tonight everyone was in high spirits. The drivers were approachable and eager to talk about their passion for their cars, speaking about the thrill of sliding sideways and the adrenaline rush that comes with pushing things to the limit.
Modified with aftermarket parts for maximum noise and performance, each vehicle carries a unique stamp, whether it's a mapped engine or glaring rims or striking neon underglow. As I walked through the crowd, I could see that the drivers were deeply committed to their craft and spent significant sums of money modifying their cars to achieve the perfect ear-splitting decibel.
There was also a sense of camaraderie and community among the drivers, who cheered each other on as they performed intricate manoeuvres, and exchanged tips on how to improve their sound systems, interior lighting and wheel spins. They spoke of the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a tight-knit community of like-minded individuals.
As the night wore on, the police arrived and another location was pinged out on social channels. All the cars moved out in a convoy, eventually arriving at another industrial estate ten minutes down the road. A crowd gathered around the mini-roundabout, cheering as drivers spun donuts faster and faster. The energy became even more frenetic as they pushed their cars harder and harder, performing increasingly daring manoeuvres, rubber, smoke and noise filling the air.
Taking it in turns, the cars continued to blur past in squealing smoke late into the night, the crowd gradually thinning until everyone tired out and a convoy of souped up vehicles disappeared into the night.
The only things left behind were the marks on the road and the faint smell of burnt rubber.