So You Tuned Your Car; Now What?
There’s certainly a great deal of satisfaction to be had in making your car faster, better looking or both. But you can only get so much satisfaction out of ogling your newly-tuned ride as it sits in your driveway or garage. The whole experience would be so much more enjoyable if you could see for yourself if those performance parts you installed do, in fact, make your car quicker and handle better. Or find out what the rest of the world makes of your taste in things like paint, graphics, and body and interior tweaks. How would you go about doing that now that you have a tuned car?
Well, if it’s pushing the performance envelope you’re after, public roads are out of the question…for a whole host of reasons. Thankfully, there are safer, considerably more legal options for discovering your car’s newfound potential. One such option is street legal drag racing. While the only real parameter it tests is acceleration, you still get the rush of the speed and the sound, plus it’s timed, so you’ll have physical evidence in the form of a paper time slip to show all the Doubting Thomases at your next bench racing session (or, more likely, the trolls on your favorite internet forum).
Your tuned car will have to pass a safety inspection before you can run it but, depending on the track and the organizer, you might not have to use any safety gear other than the stock seatbelts if the car runs above a certain elapsed time. Depending on the venue, as little as $20 can get you on the track and racing the clock or racing your buddy. Some competitors also invest in extra wheels fitted with slick or nearly slick tires for better traction on the drive wheels; these wheels are typically installed in place of the street wheels and tires in the pit area and removed in favor of the roadworthy rolling stock before heading home. Of course, if you don’t want the added complexity of changing wheels, there are people who just let a little air out of the street tires on their drive wheels to enlarge the contact patch.
Another place to exercise your customized creation is a track day. Track days (also called high performance driving experiences or HPDEs) are where companies like Redline Time Attack and Hooked on Driving rent a road course and turn you loose in your own car. As with street legal drags your tuned car will have to pass a safety inspection, but a helmet (specifically one that meets a certain safety standard) is mandatory. First-timers are almost always required to attend an onsite classroom session conducted by a professional instructor, and in some cases an instructor will ride shotgun with you to provide feedback and advice. Entry prices for an HPDE usually run between $200 and $350, while a helmet will set you back another couple Bennys. It’s also a good idea to invest in some blue masking tape to keep your front bumper, headlights, wheel arches and any other sensitive areas from getting chipped if you or the car in front wanders off the black stuff; it’s an especially good idea if you plan on showing your car.
And speaking of showing your ride, there are plenty of places for doing that, as well. Show circuits like Spocom USA, Hot Import Nights and Remix Events cris-cross the country each year, so chances are there’s at least one big show within driving distance of you. And if not, you can always plan a cool road trip, or if your car is fragile, use a car shipping service. Most shows have different classes based on type of vehicle (i.e. sport compact, luxury, exotic, etc.), region it’s from and the extent to which it has been customized. Registration fees typically run between $50 and $60, but show tickets are usually included, so you can wander around and check out the other machines in the show, not to mention the scores upon scores of hot babes, DJ competitions and other cool things that make these events much more than mere car shows. Who knows, you might even get a trophy out of it. Better yet, images of your tuned car might be selected to be preserved for posterity as a bunch of ones and zeroes on Sub5Zero, and we all know that’s the tuning world’s highest honor, right? Right?!
Anyway, if the car show circuit isn’t your scene, you can also enter shows put on by make- and/or model-specific clubs. Some such clubs also put on other fun activities like tours, time-speed-distance (TSD) rallies and autocrosses. Not only do these activities let you use your car in the manner originally intended by the factory (read: driving it), but you’ll also make new friends who share at least one of your interests.
To sum up, finishing tuning your vehicle isn’t where the fun ends; it’s where the fun begins. Where it goes from there is up to you… If you have a highly tuned car and you are ready to show the world your hard work, get out there and make it happen.