Drivers used hand signals before signal lights became mandatory, so these hand gestures had a practical side because lack of brake lights and signal lights was a disaster-in-waiting every time you hit the road.

After that, the hand gesture became an educational tool for drivers who wanted to communicate their contempt for other driver’s horrible driving.

That still applies, but in recent years hand signals have become a friendly way of waving at a member of your automotive fraternity, so here are five that are—or should be–a way to say hello.

Jerry Sutherland

The Harley-Davidson ‘down low’ is how bike guys say hello to each other. It’s a motorcycle thing, but I’ve seen a few Harley guys signal it to the MyStarCollectorCar ’63 Plymouth on the road. I thought it was pretty cool that a hardcore Harley guy would break protocol for an old Belvedere sedan. 

Personally, I’d like to see the down low wave become mandatory for all Forward Look car guys because nothing says renegade like a big, bad fin car. If you own a fin car, you’re definitely not a group-think kind of cat. 

The Jeep V signal is another pop culture phenomena. You have to give fellow Jeep drivers the two-fingers-on-the wheel salute or turn in your keys. I don’t make the rules—I just write about them.     

I’m pretty sure it’s in the owner’s manual for every Jeep ever made, but if I ruled the world, you could only signal another Jeep owner if both of you are driving flat-fender Jeeps. Flat-fender Jeeps were the essence of Jeep history—everything that came after that was a wannabe.    

The peace sign is obvious for VW owners—specifically Beetle and VW van owners because the hippies loved cheap cars that didn’t need water or much gas.

This one may be too on the nose, but those two classics Volkswagens ooze 60s counterculture, so a peace sign from one Beetle owner to another is like shaking hands for a political candidate. It’s a tool of the trade—just don’t give a peace sign if you’re driving a 2023 VW Tiguan. Beetle owners may be hip, cool, and peaceful but they have their breaking point.

The thumbs-up is a universal hand gesture that old iron owners of every stripe will recognize. They’ve all received the thumbs-up from fellow drivers because classic iron looks so cool on the road.

The thumbs-up is another driver’s way of saying your old 50s Ford looks so much better than my 2007 Saturn Ion. It’s one of those things that is so obvious–a hand gesture to communicate your inner thoughts.

The last gesture is the index finger up. This gesture means number one—as in “my team just won a championship so it’s number one”.

Car guys can interpret this any way they want because it’s a universal concept. For example, if a Chevy guy meets a Ford guy in traffic he can give the Ford guy the number one sign.   

That’s because both guys are members of the number one hobby in the universe.        

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.