THIS IS GOING TO COME OVER AS UNORTHODOX, BUT, EVERY TIME I ENCHANCE A CAR, I MAKE IT WORSE
I believe a car is engineered to a certain precious balance between component quality and assembling tolerances, despite this I do not consider myself a purist, neither do I pursue originality at the highest degree so I don’t mind a few aftermarket touches here and there, especially when manufacturers often favor cost cutting rather than driveability. There are some details that usually get to me like most stock engine notes, chassis ride or power delivery and I also don’t always agree with certain specifications a car may have from factory. Generally, changes to my cars are pretty quickly done to satisfy personal preference, this is where things tend to go wrong. Let’s look at the most basic mods usually undertaken.
Lowering springs - The evil gremlin in the aftermarket scene. The benefits touted by lowering springs are, a lower centre of gravity, firmer ride and aesthetically a reduced wheel arch gap. The reality of this little demon is that, it will worsen whatever comfort you previously had, it may provoke rubbing between the tyre and the wheel arch, you can’t park anywhere without leaving a huge gap to the pavement, your stock shocks will die out sooner than later, you’ll never really make the most of the tighter chassis on the road, and, if you ever take the car onto a track, you’ll be wondering why it runs out of grip so easily. Lowering springs are simply lower in height to their stock counterparts and made of thicker steel (don’t even get me started on compressed OEM springs). Aftermarket manufacturers rarely ever ramp up the spring rate (a metric of a soft or hard ride) proportionally to how much the spring was lowered, this means that there is less effective vertical travel available to each wheel, making them more susceptible to contact with the hard solid rubber bump stops, basically, when this happens, all grip goes to shit, and so, I usually mount lowering springs on my cars when I can’t afford decent coilovers.
Tuning boxes, Chips, Remaps – The Trojan horse. I don’t think I have ever met anyone that would refuse an increase in engine performance, everyone wants more power regardless of the effect it may have in other areas of the car. Depending on what kind of car you are driving, if it is minimally performance orientated, a significant bump in engine performance will most likely overwhelm whatever traction your tyres or your traction control had. I have had these trojan horses applied to many cars, which commonly render full throttle useless in the rain, it is not fun. Sure it can be amusing in the “omg wheelspin, what a beast” sense, until you realize, you can’t pin the throttle when leaving corners neither lean on the LSD to rotate the car due to brutal torque peaks that’ll simply run you wide, and suddenly all that extra power, is robbing you of agility and manoeuvrability on the edge.
Aftermarket brake pads – The thinking man’s mod. Now these have some serious impact, aftermarket pads are amoung the best bang for buck mod you can do to bring those lap times down. That of course is, if you do laps, if you don’t, you’re just paying three times more for a component that won’t work in the cold, squeals everytime you think of braking, clean wheels will be a thing of the past and they’ll chew your discs to dust like the promise of a fast GT86.
So if I am perfectly aware of the negative connotation these components have on my car, why do I still go through with them? I suppose the answer to this question can justify most hobbies that us petrolheads have. Why do we travel so far to support a driver or team, why do we hoard miniature models of legendary supercars or race cars, why do we spend far too much time deciding on which new Petrolheart merchandise to buy? I suppose we all feel the need to work towards ambitions and chase our dreams. In this case, not everyone has, or will have the chance to own a sports car or compete in motorsport, so we look for something that in the meantime feeds our senses, be it via our eyes, ears, or soul. We wear our heart on our sleeves and are proud of our convictions. We transform our cars into an extension of our personality and what or where we aspire to be, however deep or obscured that affection may be. It is even possible that we like to be misunderstood, or that in such a controlled world where every product is generic, we demand some compromise, as long as it permits us to creep closer to the dream that caters to our inspiration.
One thing is for sure, I’m going to keep compromising my cars, might even look up a new intercooler this week. When something as emotional as cars is being judged, forget logic, do it your way.
Author: João Costa