Top 10 Modified & Customized Car Trends We Love and Hate
Be it at car shows, races, or searching through online forums and pictures, we have a front-row seat into the diverse world of custom cars. From the Abt Sportsline R8 GTR to a Mansory G Wagon with a fugly paint job, to a DUB Show Winner with an interior so bright it would give Hellen Keller a seizure, we see it all. Recently we’ve noticed a number of trends growing in popularity. Some I would fight for with more heart than the 2nd Amendment, others I would gladly throw into an active volcano. After sifting through our files, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Crazy Modified & Customized Car Trends We Love and Hate. As they did in the Roman Colosseum, some will get the thumbs up, and some will get fed to the lions.
1. LOVE: Turbo-ed Exotics
If you thought, “This a thumbs up one?” for more than half a second, take a lap and sit in the corner. It used to be if you bought, for example, a Lamborghini, you had the fastest car in town. Exotic cars sat at the top of the food chain for decades. Then import tuning took off, and with it came shops unlocking the potential of cars with boost, coilovers and ECU tuning. Now there are Evos beating F430s to the next stop light, and 8 year old Supras making Lamborghinis look like minivans.
Thankfully, someone in the supercar camp said, “Maybe these guys have the right idea.” and they jumped on the tuning train. The result is the beautiful combination of exotic-level money and tuner know-how creating a big, happy, high horse-powered family. Instead of protecting your car’s “purity” by importing air from Italy for the tires, people are building 1500hp exotics that do 250mph+. Sorry Mr. Veyron, you’re not on the list tonight. No matter what you drive, you will have an idea of how it can be a little bit better, so do it. After all, there will never be anything wrong with giving a super-car 1000hp.
2. HATE: “Super” Camber
“Everything in moderation.” It’s a cliché because it’s true. Recently I’ve seen a lot of cars with so much camber the wheels look like they folded up like Doc’s time machine. After a bit of digging, I found out it’s referred to as “VIP Style” and hails from Japan. People take Japanese luxury sedans – usually a few years old – and do extensive modifications. I saw one car with a sake bar attached to the dashboard, which was actually pretty nice. But on the outside it’s anything but.
They call it a stance, I call it stupid. You know when you drop a bank vault on a car, and it bottoms out the suspension and bends the axles? That’s what this looks like. The recipe for “success” seems to be wide rims, a big lip, and so much camber the tire patch is narrower than a fly’s pubic hair. One car (pictured) was so low the fender was actually scraping the rim as it went down the road. It had zero suspension travel. Pointless. What these people have done is taken a comfortable car, that rides on cream, and butchered it. That serene cabin is now filled with the synapse-cracking sound of fender rub, and I can’t imagine it’s the easiest thing to keep straight on the highway. It hurts the car, the driving, the handling, and my eyes. I hope this goes the way of neon lights and ends soon.
3. HATE: The 1000hp Whatcha-ma-callit, only $5.99!
Every since the Bugatti Veyron shattered the road car glass ceiling copy-cats having been showing up weekly. At the upper end of the automotive food chain you have the SSC Aero, the Zonda R and the upcoming Zenvo ST1. These cars were built using the best materials, engineering and enough money to buy Korea. Both of them. The result are cars that are super fast, gorgeous, and expensive.
The copy cats, much like the hockey pad-wearing, overweight wannabes in Dark Knight, are anything but the real McCoy. I’ve seen countless ads in the back of auto and men’s magazines, advertising the “next Veyron killer.” They offer engines with 2000 “reliable” horsepower with good looks and daily-driver reliability. In fact, I found one, SR, that is building a Veyron clone on a Mustang chassis witha 24 cylinder engine and promises to “outperform the original.” What!? Sorry, but I don’t buy it. I love kit cars, but hyper cars are on another level that cannot be re-created on a budget. All superheroes that were born without super-powers are always billionaires. No matter how many flies the Karate Kid catches, he will lose in a fight against Iron Man.
4. HATE: Tuning Hybrids: Personalized Boredom.
Why would you tune a hybrid car? A few months ago we showed you the Tommy Kaira-built Toyota Prius. It might look like a SEMA-ready Civic SI, but it’s as fast as Bristol Palin is abstinent . See, when you add bigger panels and wheels it means more weight.
The car above is an exercise in burning money with multiple campfires. Burn some on the parts, and burn the rest with reduced MPG. Quad exhaust? Really? Unless you’re 6 years old, you should know better. Not to mention you’ve just un-done all the hard work Toyota did squeezing out that efficiency you tell everyone about. You can have efficiency, or you can have performance. So until the 918 Concept technology trickles down, make a choice and stick with it.
5. LOVE: Wraps
I’m not talking about the new chicken wrap from Burger King, I’m talking about vehicle wraps. They started out as a way to plaster a car in advertising without ruining the paint. You could whore your car out to a company, they wrap it in juice and Valtrex ads, and you had a wallet with a little extra money and shame. But now they are used for everything; Company promotion, paint protection, a flashy look, and various forms of motorsport.
You can try out a new or interesting paint schemes, without the hassle of painting the car. It’s the dry-erase board of automobiles. I’ve seen Ferraris, Laborghinis and Porsches wrapped in flat-black, and it looks awesome. But it doesn’t mean I would want to forever remove the gorgeous Rosso red from my new 458 Italia, hell no. It makes every car a chameleon, and gives the owner complete control to change his/her car’s appearance on a whim. We may not order a 997 in red, but it sure would be fun to drive one around for a few months. It would also be nice to rip off that ticket-magnet wrap once we realized the foolishness of our actions.
6. HATE: “Exotic” Styling on Boring Cars
The saying, “The clothes make the man.” does not apply to cars. As I said to my friend (an original Element owner) when Honda re-vamped the Element, changing its bare plastic fenders to painted ones, “You can put a $5000 dress on a 400 lb ugly girl and she’s still 400lbs and ugly.”
Recently I have seen more boring and ugly cars with an “exotic” or “performance” trim piece, the thought being this small addition will transform the car. As if bolting a 911 Turbo wing on your VW Polo will confuse passersby into thinking you’re not driving a cheap hatch back with a motor made of rubber-bands.
I encountered an example of this thinking at the XDC/REMIX Event at Irwindale Speedway. There sat a new Nissan Altima, with a new front fascia. Fine. But right in the middle was a big, thick, black beam. Look at the front of the Nissan GTR, you will know exactly what I am referring to. The GTR is the only car with this uni-brow, and I bet it’s only because it was 100% necessary. It may only provide .02oz of downforce, but nonetheless there was reason. I doubt Nissan put it there for its looks. Why would you choose that part to copy? Not the rocket-booster tail lights, the uni-brow. Why? We don’t love the GTR for that ugly piece of plastic, we love it in spite of that.
Altima Man, however, thought this little, ugly piece was the essence of the GTR. That adding it would raise his car to the heavenly cloud on which the GTR sits. Worse yet when I investigated on some Nissan forums, several members loved it and were considering purchasing the same piece. I guess Darwin was wrong. I don’t care if you add Zonda quad exhaust or Ascari headlights, it’s an Altima. We know it, and unless you’re clinically insane, so do you. One trim piece copied from a fast, beautiful or rare car will not transform your family’s snooze-box into a super car. Stay in reality.
7. HATE: When Will Rims’ Growth Spurt End?
Rap songs about 22s haven’t been on the radio for almost a decade, the “donk” phase is at the retirement home due to an inability to turn without a nurse’s supervision, so why is the new thing to build a 600hp show car, and put 28” rims on it? At XDC/REMIX I saw 3 show-worthy muscle cars (Charger, Mustang, Camaro). All had superchargers, big brakes, sport suspension and enough power to tow the American continent away from the closing oil slick.
Then we saw the giant rims. I said, “How big are these wheels?” The woman next to the car’s said, “24, 26 and mine has 28s.” Ok, listen up people. More wheel diameter does not mean more speed. Or more grip. Or better stopping. Or better looks. They don’t give you super-powers or put you in a Magnum. There is a reason the most expensive and beautiful cars in the world (Zonda, Alfa, Bugatti, Ferrari) have wheels between 18 and 21 inches. Speed, turning, stopping, design. Wheels this big make your baby slower to go, stop and turn and look ridiculous. We’ve proven to the world we can put giant rims on anything. The cars have given up. Machines get it;humans won. Just because you can make 8-foot stilts doesn’t mean you should walk on them everyday.
8. HATE: Over-the-top Interiors.
Too many show cars these days have an interior that looks like it was decorated by a blind kid with a paintball gun and a random array of fabric samples. Why do people think the inside of their car has to be as bright as the exterior? Even yellow Lamborghinis are more subtle and graceful than that. There aren’t Tesla coils on the dashboard, purple oak steering wheels and seats so multi-colored they give you a seizure.
This is an offense committed by everyone, from a weekend warrior to the luxurious disaster Mansory. Bright, boisterous cars-whether store bought or home made- are meant to draw the attention of the public. The interior is your fortress of solitude. Your place to sit back an be happy that people are admiring your car. A blaring interior is you calling attention to yourself from yourself. It’s like a 5 yr old named Nick staring in his mirror saying, “Nick. Nick. Nick. Nick look. Look at me. Look at me. Nick.” And that’s sad …and a little scary.
9. LOVE: Engine Swaps.
They’ve been happening since the hot-rod era. Guys would take a 1932 Ford and then put in a motor from a big Buick Sedan. Since modifying began, if your car’s engine couldn’t give you what you wanted, you would find an engine that could. Any modified or customized car sporting a crazy engine swap is ok in our book…
This practice has steadily gained popularity ever since. Jump on YouTube and you can find S2000s with Supra motors, hot rods with Ferrari V-12s, 1984 RX7s with turbo LS2s and everything in between. It was once considered sacrilegious to change the heart of your car; no more. (Although putting a Ford engine in a Chevy will bring men with torches to your house.) The work, engineering and creativity that go into these projects deserve our utmost respect. Instead of saying, “Man, can you imagine if this WRX had, like, a V8?” you can just say, “Imagine when the V8 is in.” Bravo to the Dr. Frankensteins of the world that find new ways to keep the cars we love fresh, original and downright fun.
10. HATE: Modifying Shoeboxes.
Why do people spend a significant portion of their income modifying Scion Xbs and Honda Elements, or as I call them, shoeboxes. I understand if Toyota hires you to build them a SEMA car to try to capture the “youth market.” You get paid, they’re happy, and the SEMA people have more obstacles to put in the way between the front door and the good stuff.
But 5 years later I’m seeing these cars lowered with high-end bodykits and built engines, and I just don’t get it. If it’s a rolling sound studio, fine. But superchargers, NOS, front mounts? I don’t care how much money you spend, it’s an office-building-on-wheels. You won’t get invited to a track day or on a canyon run. I see these cars and like seeing a pretty girl who let herself go, I think, “Waste of potential.” The money you have in your mod budget is like having a super power. Not everyone has it, so don’t use it for evil.
And that folks is the end of our list… But don’t fret. There are enough modified and customized car trends out there that this won’t be the last you hear on this. In fact, we are looking forward to delivering more and more of these rundowns as we tour the country’s top custom car shows…