Back when trains were the way that most of us got around, people called trainspotters spent their idle hours trying to see every single piece of gear that a railway used. It was a hobby, back in the days before TV and social media soaked up our spare (and not so spare) time. Today, the hobby has moved on with technology. Car spotting is the new thing, with fans of cool, obscure, or interesting vehicles sharing the fascinating thing they saw on the way to work. We spoke with the creator of one regional car spotting group to find out more about the hobby and the do’s and don’ts.
Daniel Sparrow started the Facebook page, Nova Scotia Vehicle Spotters, a little more than a year ago. Sparrow’s work takes him around much of the province, and that means more opportunities to see more interesting vehicles.
Yes, that’s vehicles, not just cars. As with anything on the internet, big groups usually become hyper-focused. Look closely enough and you’ll find a group not just for your suburb, but even for one specific model, brand, or style of car. It’s also lead to groups with rules like “no posting your own vehicle,” and, in typical social media style, infighting about what is and what isn’t interesting, because there are thousands of automotive niches. It’s one of the best parts about cars.
“I’m into everything. That’s why I said vehicles,” said Sparrow. “If you see a cool plane… Just trying to pique everybody’s interest is basically what I was going for.”
Sparrow took inspiration from a Chicago-based car spotting group that was “mostly just for cars.” The big city means plenty of exotics showing off and loads of photos of them.
“I wanted to be a little bit different and try this here in Nova Scotia,” Sparrow said, adding that Nova Scotia is a province where traditionally finding interesting cars (and trucks) was a challenge.
Every page has its own set of rules, but there are a few that are largely universal. Don’t post your own ride often. You love it, that’s OK, but these pages need some variety. Other spotters stick with cars only, exotics only, muscle cars only, imports only. You get the idea. Some are city or town-specific, while others are fine with what you saw on vacation. How about that photo you saw on another social media site of a viral clip that’s been circulating for weeks already? That will likely be a no and get you some angry-face emojis in reply.
Not every page subscribes to gatekeeping the hobby, though. They’re all good cars, after all, and if they’re on the road then someone liked that vehicle the day they first drove it home. A once unloved family sedan, 30 years later, wears a coat of nostalgia with more shine than any sports car can offer.
“If you wanted to post a basic Honda Civic and you thought that that was cool because it had a spoiler, by all means! I’ll probably like it,” said Sparrow. “That’s really my view on why I made the page. I really wanted to get more like-minded people together.” Then what?
“It’d be cool to get some of the members together some time, just to see who is out there,” he said, turning online into in-person meetings and events where everyone can show off their ride or enjoy the vehicles of others.
When you’re out looking for interesting vehicles to spot? There are some rules there, too. Of course, there are actual laws you need to follow; don’t use your phone while you’re driving, don’t chase someone down hoping they’ll stop for you and let you take a better snap, no fence-hopping to get access to a closed garage. There is also less obvious etiquette to follow.
“If I see a car parked on the side [of the road], I’m going to take a picture,” said Sparrow. “Be polite. Just be respectful. Maybe somebody doesn’t want their picture put up on Facebook.” In that case?
“You have to respect people’s boundaries.”
If someone is sitting in their car in a parking lot, going about their day, think about asking permission before putting their car and face in a post. You’re (usually) not obligated to do so in public, but some courtesy can go a long way and can lead to friendship-creating meetings and finding even more interesting vehicles.
Sparrow’s closing thoughts summed up the car spotting hobby well and the motivations behind it. “I just enjoy what I do. I enjoy posting for people. I started because I just have a lot of pictures. I’ve got [to get] a place to post these. See who else wants to see them?”
So get out there, find the cool cars, trucks, and even heavy equipment. Then share it.