What Does ‘Hooning’ Mean?

You might be a hoonigan without knowing it.

First, it happened when you were sitting in traffic. In an attempt to see anything other than folks screaming at their steering wheels or singing to themselves, you spotted a car with a sticker that said “Hoonigan.” No big deal. People put all kinds of weird things on their vehicles.

Then it happened again at a car show. A few cars rolled in with that same strange sticker. Next thing you know, this alien phrase is all over the place. It’s on people’s clothing, it’s all over Facebook, and you can’t hit YouTube without seeing some clip of “Hooning.”

But what does it mean? Where did it come from? Should we kill it for being different? Calm down, it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, you might embrace it in full once CarBibles’ squad of brainiacs fills you in on the details.

What Is Hooning? 

Hooning derives from the term hoon. The same is true for hoonigan, which happens to be the name of a racing division and lifestyle brand founded by Ken Block and Brian Scotto, initially located in Park City, Utah. The brand defines the term hoonigan as, “a person who operates a motor vehicle in an aggressive and unorthodox manner, consisting of, but not limited to, drifting, burnouts, donuts as well as acts of automotive aeronautics. One who hoons.” Hooning simply means to commit any of those acts.

Yep. Things just got weird. This whole time that you’ve been doing burnouts to impress your preferred human and show off your talent, you’ve been hooning—which effectively makes you a hoonigan.

Ken Block's Hoonicorn next to a Mustang Mach-E and a racing Ford Mustang.
Ford Mustangs are well-known for their hooning capabilities. (Photo: Ford)

When Did Hooning Originate? 

The use of hooning in this respect set its roots in Australia. The use of the term hoon dates back, presumably, a few hundred years. Sid Baker recognizes the word in The Australian Language as a term meaning “fool.” That book was published in 1966 and referred to how it was used during the early 20th century and the years leading to it.

In recent times it’s more commonly used as a form of Australian slang to refer to someone who uses a car in something of a foolish manner to capture others’ attention.

So, when cops there started calling reckless drivers “hoonigans,” it wasn’t a positive descriptor.

Although it might not have originated in the U.S., the story of how it grew in popularity here is still rather interesting. As you can guess, Hoonigan Industries is the driving force behind its use on this side of the hemisphere.  

The Hoonigan brand got its start back in 2010, the year that the term hooning would also appear on Ken Block’s famed Ford Fiesta. The sticker that “started it all” made its debut in the Gymkhana Three video and read, “Hooning is not a crime.” Yep, it was a direct reference to the infamous Santa Cruz “skateboarding is not a crime” stickers.

Hoon and its associated words have a life of their own here and aren’t slung around as ways to take shots at teens who are expressing themselves. In fact, Ken Block tells Podium Sport, “we started to use the word as a term of endearment for having fun with the car.” Considering Ken Block’s many career successes and the Gymkhana YouTube videos’ wild popularity, it’s no wonder why the definition now has a positive twist in car culture today.

A Ford Mustang rear wheel with Brembo brakes doing a burnout.
It’s fun, but hooning will definitely eat your tires. (Photo: Ford)

Is Hooning Even a Real Word? 

Hooning and hoonigan both sound like silly made-up terms. Without any formal definition existing in the dictionary, it would appear that they’re nothing more. For the most part, that is true. These are just slang terms thrown around on the street.

But that doesn’t mean they’re words that only the in-crowd of car enthusiasts understands. Funny enough, parts of Australia passed legislation in 2004 that would work to control hooning, and these laws were gradually adopted throughout the country. These laws are officially known as Hoon Laws.

Furthermore, these laws aren’t solely limited to automobiles. They’ve been gradually increasing in power to restrict hoonigan activities featuring other vehicles such as boats, jet skis, and other vessels. So, yes, hoonigan is considered a real word worldwide, even with no formal definition.

Who Started Hooning?

So, who started hooning? Naturally, we have to partially tip our hats to Ken Block and Brian Scotto, the Hoonigan brand’s founders. After all, we probably wouldn’t be familiar with the word here in the states if it weren’t for their efforts, but that doesn’t mean they started it.

The fact of the matter is that a hoonigan is anyone who uses a vehicle in an unorthodox manner. That means the folks who were responsible for starting NASCAR by running moonshine, the drag racers whose efforts resulted in the birth of the NHRA, and even your grandpa who took the family sedan off-roading were all hoonigans.

That means the title of the first hoonigan is up for debate. If you had to ask us who we believe should wear the crown, we’d have to say the one and only Walter Arnold, who received the first speeding ticket in 1896. We’re limiting ourselves to historical accounts, though, and there’s no way to tell whether or not folks were getting a little tricky with their quadricycles in the day.

A Ford Mustang Mach-E drifts in a billow of smoke against an orange sunset.
Hooning is art. (Photo: Ford)

The Questionnaire

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions

Q: Is hooning a crime?

A: Unfortunately, hooning is an act that’s frowned upon by the law. Unless you’re on private property, performing wild antics with your car is bound to leave you scrambling for your papers at Johnny Law’s request. Sure, the way the term is used can simply be defined as enjoying your car, which can mean anything. But, in the traditional sense, it’s not legal on public property or roadways.

Q: Can you visit Hoonigan?

A: If you’ve been keeping up with Hoonigan, you’ll know that they recently moved out of the legendary Bakery. It turns out that the folks in Long Beach weren’t thrilled with their tire frying antics. That said, they didn’t jump on the exodus out of California. They’ve just relocated to a new bigger location in Compton. It’s still a work in progress, but they are setting up a bigger and better shop for customers to visit and pick up some killer merch.

Q: What Is the Hoon Legislation? 

A: Hoon Legislation is a set of laws used in Australia that are originally in place to punish those who drive their cars recklessly in public settings. If you’re caught driving recklessly, speeding, burning out, or creating smoke with your vehicle in any other law, you may be convicted of a hooning offense. These laws have also recently been expanding to limit reckless use of jet skis, boats, and other vehicles.

Q: What are the consequences of hooning in Victoria?

A: Hooning in Victoria can lead to your vehicle being impounded for up to 30 days, on top of whatever traffic tickets you receive. Something to keep in mind is that Victoria isn’t the only place with the Hoon legislation in effect—the rest of Australia is on board with it. 

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The Video Footage

We can spend hours talking about hooning. But this video pretty much sums it up in just over two minutes. Trust me. It’ll get you feeling all kinds of wonderful things. 

Hooning is hard on your car and on your tires. Make sure your rubber is up to snuff with a tire pressure gauge, an air compressor, a pneumatic air inflator, and a tire tread gauge.

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