MUSCLING UP IN THE MODERN ERA
Modern cars are ruled by electronics, but you still have plenty of options to add some muscle, says Stuart Martin.
IN THE good old days, enthusiasts looking to add muscle to their machines got their hands dirty. Refinishing and polishing the cylinder head, freeing up the exhaust flow with headers and a bigger-bore pipe, playing with the fuel-air mix through the carby and adopting a more aggressive valve timing and lift to cram more fuel into the combustion chamber.
While some of that is still part of a course of automotive steroids, the modern engine management systems controlling most aspects of an engine is where extra muscle can be found.
With lower fuel consumption, reduced tailpipe emissions and better performance all desirable, aftermarket workshops have had to become more technically equipped.
Reprogramming (or ‘‘chipping’’) an engine management system can produce worthwhile results.
Adelaide aftermarket workshop KPM Motorsport’s David Roscio says most of the company’s work now involves less internal engine work, although gains from mechanical modifications can be further amplified with electronic changes.
‘‘We upgrade the intake, exhaust and the electronic side of things in the engines,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s much less about new camshaft or crankshafts - the engines themselves internally are much better than they used to be.
‘‘That sort of work on cylinder heads and things like that isn’t really required now.’’
Adding muscle responsibly to your pride and joy should also include upgrades to the underpinnings.
Brakes are the most obvious place to start, with enthusiasts quickly able to improve the stopping power.
Larger discs offer a bigger area to grip, provided the wheels allow for the extra diameter; bigger calipers and tougher brake pads will provide more stopping force.
The brakes’ ability to repeat hard stops will be improved with better ventilation - cross-drilled and grooved discs improve heat dissipation for better stopping power more often.
The suspension is an area often neglected by car owners in general, with dampers left unchanged far beyond their normal useful life of less than a decade.
Aftermarket add-ons for a more muscular suspension will depend on the type of suspension.
Firmer dampers and springs can reduce the ride height and the amount of body roll (where the car leans) in corners, something also helped by thicker anti-roll bars.