Motor (Australia) - - HOT SOURCE. FAST CAR GUIDE - Jethro Bov­ing­don

THE MOD­I­FIED CAR SCENE. Is there a phrase more likely to make the blood of an en­thu­si­ast run cold? It con­jures up im­ages of 1.1-litre en­gines spit­ting into four-inch di­am­e­ter ex­haust sys­tems, rock-hard sus­pen­sion and three-spoke al­loys. And worst of all... the smell of Magic Tree and weed in­ter­min­gling to cre­ate a stench so foul that you’d gladly stick your head into a bin over­flow­ing with McDon­ald’s wrap­pers just to make it go away.

Of course, the ‘glory days’ of the mod­ding scene are long gone. Auto

Sa­lon is dead, new driv­ers face ever-grow­ing in­sur­ance costs and cars, we’re told, aren’t that cool. I don’t buy it. Kids still get a kick out of see­ing fast, noisy, ex­cit­ing cars. If only they could af­ford one. Even a slow, quiet, boring one would do.

You know what? I wouldn’t even mind if they ended up fit­ting neons, subs and so on. To­day’s mod­der is to­mor­row’s en­thu­si­ast.

The ques­tion I’m in­ter­ested in is whether mod­ding is ac­cept­able when you’re a lit­tle older and fi­nally have that car you’ve wanted for years, be it a Suzuki Swift GTi, a BMW M3 or a Sky­line. In­stinct says ‘no’ very loudly, but maybe that old ad­vert cliche, ‘taste­ful mods only’, can be true? What do you think?

Me? It de­pends on the car. And weirdly, the appropriate level of mods to­day is in in­verse pro­por­tion to the chances of the car be­ing heav­ily mod­ded way back when. For ex­am­ple... that Swift GTi. When they got re­ally cheap ev­ery man and his dog was do­ing the crap sus­pen­sion/ heinous wheels/ridicu­lous ICE combo. Now? If you can find one, keep it clean and orig­i­nal. Don’t change a thing. Same goes for a Nissan S15 Sil­via – a PCOTY winner, mind – or the big-bummed Re­nault Me­gane RS.

The op­po­site is true of some­thing 911-shaped. New Porsches, even nearly new ones, rarely see any mods at all. Own­ers buy them for the per­fec­tion that they rep­re­sent so why mess with the for­mula? But there’s noth­ing cooler than an old 911 with a bit of patina, trick sus­pen­sion, maybe some Fuchs-style wheels, a duck­tail spoiler, even a whale­tail or GT2 dou­ble-decker. This is mod­ding for a pur­pose – it’s for per­for­mance.

You could say the same of the E36 M3. Okay, for a while there th­ese were mod­ded in quite ter­ri­ble ways... but now if you see one with a cage and some big AP Rac­ing brakes you can only nod with re­spect and smile in the knowl­edge the owner is en­joy­ing his car be­yond the scope of its orig­i­nal de­sign. It’s bril­liant to see.

I guess my own 996-gen­er­a­tion 911 is a ‘mod­i­fied car’. It has dif­fer­ent sus­pen­sion, ex­haust, seats and wheels and it’s a mil­lion miles away from the car that left the fac­tory back in 1998. But it has a story that’s grown with ev­ery step in its evo­lu­tion. I think maybe it’s time to re­claim the ‘mod­i­fied car scene’ and be proud of en­hanc­ing our cars through the high-qual­ity after­mar­ket. Mod­ding is okay. Mod­ding is good. Mod­ding can be great.

It calls to mind some­thing that Loris Bic­oc­chi – the test driver for cars like the Bu­gatti EB110 and Pa­gani Zonda – once said to me. “You’ve got to lis­ten to each and ev­ery car and go where it takes you. They are all dif­fer­ent, but they will lead you in the right di­rec­tion, some­how.” He was, of course, talk­ing about how he could work on so many in­cred­i­ble su­per­cars and yet give each its own dis­tinct per­son­al­ity.

I like to think the mes­sage holds true for im­prov­ing your own car, too. Lis­ten to what it’s telling you and you’ll find the right path. Just lis­ten re­ally closely, okay? Here’s a lit­tle hint: no car wants a mon­ster sub nailed to its boot floor. Or three-spoke al­loys.

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