Tuning or modifying cars is a costly and time-consuming process that can bring joy, excitement, high blood pressure and bankruptcy to those that do it. Messing around with what car manufacturers spend a ton of money ‘perfecting’ is clearly a risky manoeuvre – so why do so many of us do it?
Well, I’ve built several high spec project cars over the years, so I’m now going to attempt to explain why I think modifiers modify. I believe the basic reasons are there for everyone – make it faster; cooler; individual – but there are also personal reasons why so many of us take a reasonable car and make it more expensive to own, service and insure. And don’t even dare add up the money you spend!
Let’s use the Nissan Skyline GT-R as our tuning icon. First released in 1989 as a ground-breaking 4-wheel drive, 2.6-litre twin-turbo Porsche-smasher – the original R32 GT-R has won pretty much every race. Then came the R33 and R34 variants; both all-new cars, though still happily using that silky, torquey, 2.6-litre straight-6 engine; one of the most aftermarket tuned engines ever to turn a crank. The Skyline name was dropped for the current, R35 GT-R, but the fundamentals – with an emphasis on the mental! – remain; four-wheel drive, big turbo power and enough digital performance gizmos to see off cars twice its price.
Here’s my own R32 Skyline GT-R (below), shining in the sun on an Essex back lane, after a recent caning just for the fun of it. There’s about £25,000 in this car, with its Yanaka wide front and rear arches, full Do-Luck body kit, respray in Jaguar Racing Green, hand-built engine by one of the best in the business, new brakes; wheels; suspension; seats, etc, etc. A lovely motor with a full fat 380bhp (and insured by Performance Direct, as it happens) – whereas they came with around 300bhp from the Nissan factory in Japan – it goes like stink and sounds like the end of the world. So where is it? Well, the uprated electric fan on the uprated aluminium radiator packed up and it started overheating! So it’s back with the builder to have the stock viscous fan assembly put back on it, which, while it nibbles a tiny bit of bhp from the engine to run from the fan belt, is super-reliable and keeps the mighty engine – just look at the size of it! – at a peachy temperature.
Tuning and modifying can be a right pain in the bum. The car is always somewhere getting something done, whereas normal people in normal cars simply drive them around with not a worry for setting the ride-height of their fully adjustable suspension so the car sits mean, but still – and only just – clears speedbumps. People that don’t modify look at you like you’re speaking in tongues when you reel off the stuff that’s been done, and all the stuff that still ‘needs’ to be done, to the wild-looking tuner car before them. Fortunes and hours spent, so what’s the point?
For me, I love the older Japanese turbo cars. Not so old as to be low-tech and slow, but old enough to look different to modern cars, that, for the most part, kind of all look the same these days. And, coming from a tuning back ground of many years on Max Power magazine, the R32 GT-R has long been one of the true kings of tuning and a long time dream car of mine. My green GT-R’s got some pukka bits on it; it’s fast yet reliable (most of the time!), and while huge power (1,000bhp!) is possible with huge money to spend; 380bhp thumping out of that roaring VeilSide big-bore exhaust will do me just nicely. For now…
I love how it looks; all low, fat ‘n’ mean, and I get excited like a Christmas-time kiddie every time I drive it. It’s different, cool and distinctly badass, and I like the way non-modifying people shake their heads in wonder at what the hell they’re looking at. Good enough reasons to spend too much money on cars? Well, as Sheryl Crow once whined; ‘if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad’, or to put it more perfectly, courtesy of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers; ‘if you have to ask; you’ll never know…’
By Dan Anslow