Mike Stevens | Oct 31, 2008

Car enthusiasts get a lot of attention in the 'traditional' media, and unfortunately very little of it is positive. Heartwarming pieces on people with a motor vehicle obsession, and using their cars in a responsible manner, are few and far between (unless it involves 'someone's grandfather' and a vintage car).

When it comes to younger owners with imported cars ("hoons" and "anti-social ratbags" if you were to believe the media) you might as well forget it: it's almost impossible to find positive press.

It's unfortunate that a visible minority have to ruin it for everyone, but the simple fact of the matter is that a lot of the car communities out there do not fit the stereotype. One of these communities is Skylines Australia, otherwise known as SAU, which is the biggest Skyline forum in Australia.

Skylines, unfortunately, have a less-than-angelic reputation among the general population. There are people who want to buy into the image of the Bathurst-dominating GT-R with no appreciation of how the car earned that reputation (and act like complete tools at the wheel - some of them anyway). Others, those who have grown up with the Skyline as being more than a two-dimensional model on a screen, know that the word "Bathurst" is a perfect rejoinder to the insults from fans of local V8 sedans.

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There is a lot more to the Skyline than its image for 'screen junkies' (that is, one of the most powerful cars in the Gran Turismo series of computer games and one of the stars of the first two Fast and the Furious movies).

If you read the Skylines Australia forums however, you will find people who - you'd have to suspect - are captured by the car's 'two dimensional' reputation. But just like in the real-world community, this online community is made up of all types: a visible minority does not represent the majority of the membership.

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Aside from SAU's Internet forum, which is the most visible aspect of the organisation, each state has a subsidiary club which is properly registered as a car club and CAMS affiliated. As a large car club, you get members from all walks of life. There are people driving Skylines as street cars along with people who race them competitively.

The club runs plenty of off-street events themselves, as well as providing a place for other organisations running events to advertise. The club also runs social events, which may or may not involve driving.

I recently went to Skylines Australia NSW's annual cruise from Sydney to Singleton via the Putty Road. This year, the proceeds from the entry fee was donated to the Cancer Council.

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The meet-up was mid-morning, and after a brief reminder of the expected behaviour by the club president, we travelled at a leisurely pace through the national parks north of Sydney.

The road is winding enough for drivers to get a taste of the dynamics that has made the Skyline badge so popular among Japanese import enthusiasts, without driving too quickly or dangerously. It is also deserted enough that a dozen or more cars didn't interfere too much with the general populace.

We made a stop at the half-way point, a lone petrol station that also happened to be hosting several dozen motorcycles out to enjoy the same glorious day on the same scenic road, before continuing on our way.

Unlike certain other cruises covered by certain other publications, none of the members of our cruise got picked up by the police. There was no impromptu street racing or the "loutishness" your average current affairs watcher would assume comes standard with the car.

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The cruise ended at the Imperial Hotel in Singleton, for a great feed. Needless to say, heads were turned as everyone pulled up at the pub. The guys from the local Ford dealership were standing out front, watching the procession of Skylines as they rolled by.

I'd like to thank Skylines Australia NSW for putting on a great day, and welcoming a non-Skyline owning fellow enthusiast along. Everyone enjoyed themselves, made some money for the Cancer Council, and took their cars out on the roads they were made for. And yes, take note 'current affairs', in a manner public sentiment and the law allows.

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