By on November 14, 2013

engine3web

Earlier this week I wrote a little article about the SEMA show and those weird little auto add-ons that so many people choose to stick all over their otherwise decent looking rides. In it, I contrasted performance add-ons with “auto accessories” and tried to poke a little fun at those plastic chrome doo-dads and the people who abuse them. It wasn’t really intended to be a heavy “think piece.” It was supposed to be light, fun and maybe elicit some cheerful banter from the best and brightest. Nice and easy, right? Hell no. As usual, the TTAC readership doesn’t make anything easy…

No excuses, the premise of my article was silly. I said performance add-ons were a good thing and that auto accessories were by their very nature, stupid. Despite that, a couple of you guys took the ball I punted so lazily downfield and ran it right back up the field. The points you made are really good and since my earlier article wasn’t intended to start a serious discussion I’m not sure they got the attention they deserved. But you made me think, and when someone does that I figure they might make others think too. That means another article and, hopefully, a fuller discussion.

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha Image courtesy of www.abc.es

El Carlismo en Castilla-La Mancha
Image courtesy of www.abc.es

In response to my assertion that performance mods were justifiable while appearance mods were not, Carlisimo wrote:

I scoff at mods that looked tacked on, as many of them do. But I understand them. Even a small mod can make your car feel fresh for a little while, and that’s a good feeling. Especially when you know your car isn’t everything you’d like it to be. And I have a soft spot for underglow that I won’t admit to out loud.

Those modders are more honest than those of us who install performance mods. What could be sillier than increasing our car’s top speed from 137 to 140mph when we never exceed 80? Oooh, my coilovers save me a second when I drive around in a circle on a loop in the middle of nowhere. Best $1,000 evar! (I did install coilovers on my Miata. I like them, but it wasn’t a purchase I try to justify.) In contrast, visual mods make their difference 100% of the time, including when parked, and in heavy traffic. That’s value.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Athos Noble wrote:

Personally I don’t care, even in the most offensive of the cases. And I saw plenty of those in Venezuela. Here not so much, but they’re still out there… Brembo brake caliper covers anyone? chintzy 20″ chrome wheels? As far as I’m concerned, people can spend their money in whatever they want.

For example, I would use the aftermarket to upgrade my headlamps to projectors, complete with angel eyes. I also would like a fancier stereo and some “sport” seats would spice up my current ride. Some 18″ wheels would make it look more actual too. And retrofitting later model suspension bits would make it drive nicer. A turbo kit would certainly give it more oomph and coupling it with a LPG kit would make that “affordable” to run. I could sort those issues via OEM bits, aftermarket or a wrecker.

There were other comments as well, and while they were all great these are the two I want to focus on. Part of me wants to follow Carlisimo’s point to its logical conclusion and decry any form of performance add-on for the street but Athos raises a great point when he talks about improving a lot of your car’s basic characteristics through the aftermarket and selective scavenging. It’s clearly not the black-and-white issue I tried to lay out in that earlier, sillier article and I am hoping this new discussion allows us to fully explore the topic.

I’m curious, what are good add-ons for the street? What add-ons have you mounted over the years? What did you hope to gain and did the results meet your expectations? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Photo Thomas Kreutzer

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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83 Comments on “TTAC Author Gets Schooled: Tries Again...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    I must have missed the original article, when I think of addons I think of people like those that commented on this >
    http://www.cardomain.com/ride/2236961/1998-lincoln-town-car/

    But addons that are worthwhile, I like 1/4 inch steel home made winch bumpers, kryptonite front end,– if its steel or homemade it’s good.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    $30 HID xenon light kit from eBay. Very significant improvement in being able to see at night. Not as good as OEM HIDs, but much much better than standard halogens.

    Before anyone asks, no they do not blind other drivers unless they are aimed incorrectly.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      By definition ALL replacement bulb HIDs are not aimed correctly because they are badly out of focus. The HID light source is by nature differently shaped than a filament. That screws up everything, true believers notwithstanding.

      Hence they are illegal everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      YES THEY DO. as pragmatist said, HID capsules have a different “focal” point than a halogen filament, so because the HID arc is in the wrong position the housing’s reflector diffracts the light and causes a bright, annoying blue fringe. and blue light does NOT help you see better, all it does is create irritating glare.

      aim them anyway you wish, you’re still a jerk for putting HID capsules in a halogen housing.

      • 0 avatar
        turbosaab

        >> youre still a jerk
        Love to you too.

        Three know-it-all replies from people who have probably never owned an HID replacement kit and are basing their opinions on the worst overly-blue, poorly aimed ones that have blinded them on the road. (hint: the kits come in different color temperatures, not all are blue…)

        Meanwhile, I actually use these, they’re not blinding. I know this because I have passed my car at night on the road and driven in front of it. Other friends and family members have done the same. Either our eyes are all lying or your concerns about focal points are overblown.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          the “know-it-all” replies are coming from engineers and people who know how the hell light *works.* I don’t have to spend money on Chinese garbage retrofit kits to know that they’re going to suck. HID retrofits aren’t blue because of some bullshit “color temperature” rating, they end up blue because (maybe you’ll comprehend it this time) the arc is in the wrong spot and the halogen reflector DIFFRACTS THE LIGHT COMING FROM THE ARC. You aren’t getting a cohesive beam of light, you’re getting a diffracted splatter with annoying blue around the fringes.

          meanwhile, you’re like every dumb ricer kid who thinks he knows what the fuck he’s talking about just because he bought something. You clearly haven’t the faintest idea how optics and lighting work and are totally unqualified to assess their performance. They’re illegal for a reason, you saying “hurr durr they looks ok 2 me” doesn’t change physics.

          • 0 avatar
            Crabspirits

            In engineering terms, I have “verified them in the field” on 3 of my cars.

            -They don’t blind anybody. (I’ve checked)
            -They provide me with much better visibility. So much so, that I get uncomfortable driving a car with normal, well-engineered halogens.

            (shrugs)

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “In engineering terms” you don’t know what the fuck engineering is.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            >In engineering terms you dont know what the fuck engineering is.

            Spoken like a dyed in the wool engineer. Even in the correct tone.

        • 0 avatar
          tuffjuff

          @turbosaab

          I can’t think of anything to say that would be classified as “nice” so I will just say… thanks for blinding well-meaning general public with your blue lights. We VERY much appreciate it.

          /s

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      @pragmatist and @jz7

      Glad to see your comments. You’re both 100% correct.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      Aftermarket HID kits did seem to be really annoying when they first became popular. I assume that either they’ve gotten better, or the factory versions don’t have the same problems.

      Either way, these days I’m more often blinded by conventional lights. A lot of small trucks and SUVs have them pretty high up, like the Tacoma and Wrangler, and Accords often seem to be annoying too.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        There are two ways to convert to HIDs.

        The first is to do what idiots do and buy cheap crap on eBay to stick in the existing halogen housings, along with dime-store ballasts which spew broadband EMI and eventually burn out your headlamp/multifunction switch.

        The second way is to buy a true retrofit kit, which includes new housings with shutter-equipped projector lenses, good quality ballasts and relays to power them. They cost a lot more.

        The second way is the right way. The first way is retarded.

        Oh, and by the way, another little “gotcha” with just bunging HID capsules into halogen housings is that the huge amount of UV the HID lamp emits will cloud and yellow the polycarbonate lens in short order. But hey, your girlfriend might totally let you bone her because you have LOL blue headlamps.

        • 0 avatar
          ClayT

          “Oh, and by the way, another little gotcha with just bunging HID capsules into halogen housings is that the huge amount of UV the HID lamp emits will cloud and yellow the polycarbonate lens in short order.”

          yabutt, Blue and yellow make green and we all know how important green is to the environment!
          (Ok, yellow and blue light makes white light. But, hey if they’re buying the whole HID is better thing, this one should be easy)

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      This is the most ignorant assertion posted on TTAC threads.

      On behalf of all who have had to flip their rear-view, and drive down a highway for 3 miles while two red dots melt away in our retina, I ask: please consider sterilization for the sake of humanity.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      This is why I love the conventional 7″ round headlamps on my Jeeps. Upgrades are easy, cost effective and if the right brands are chosen, have some actual optical engineering in them. Sure, H4 lamps technically don’t meet the FMVSS standard, but no one will ever hassle you for them. This is because a high-quality lamp has excellent beam pattern control and can be aimed properly.

      I run Cibie 7″ round lamps on both of my Jeeps with +50 bulbs. I also have a new car with factory HID projector lamps made by the company that was formerly a joint venture between Bosch and Magnetti Marelli (AL or Automotive Lighting – now apparently wholly owned by Magnetti Marelli). I can say without hesitation that my “old fashioned” 7″ round lamps with incandescent bulbs outperform my HID lamps , especially on high beam. I know that doesn’t jive with the conventional wisdom that HID is automatically better, but that simply isn’t the case. A good incandescent lamp can offer top performance and the bulbs are a heck of a lot cheaper too.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Wife (when still my girlfriend) bought me hoop steps for my F150 within 6 months of our making things serious. I teased her about needing steps on a 4×2 F150 but then she is only about 5’3″. Best money she ever spent for making the grab handles useful to her.

    Added a flatbed to the same truck when the neighbors car rolled down their driveway and into the side of the truck. Best $1800 THEY ever spent. 8.5 feet long and 8.5 feet wide. Great for hauling things. I’m now the designated one for helping my in-laws bring home a ton of wood pellets for the stove each winter.

    Added a cat back dual Dynomax system because of my belief that V style engines ought to come from the factory with dual exhausts. It ought to be the law! Given that it is a modern computer controlled engine I highly doubt I added much in the way of HP (4.6 V8) without a ECU change but dang it sure sounds better. Rubble without being obnoxious on the highway.

    Those are useful add ons with visual impact.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      I would argue that the steps and flatbed conversion were both more functional mods rather than aesthetic mods.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The line is a fine one some times. For me I guess the hoops are only aesthetic because I don’t need them for her they are functional. The looks you get with a flatbed 1/2 ton that doesn’t have a commercial logo on the door is interesting too.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    The only visual modifications I’d like to make to my car are to get the all black kidney grills, and the Euro (whited out) turn signals front and rear. I’ve always thought that looked good on dark colored E46s. I also long wanted to dress up my non-t edition I30 to look like the ts – small wing on the back and the BBS wheels. Always liked that look better. Never had the extra cash to do it though.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I have added on the inside of my TDI wagon, a extra 12 volt, who ever design the vw one in the front with a cover over it should be shot, also I added under seat draws, because this car has many great features but storage for stuff in the front is not one of them. I tend to leave stock stock but did buy an extra set of wheels for snows so now my are my OEM 16′s and my all year round are VW 17′s Thats it I can see fogs and maybe tints but that is about it for me.I laugh when I see the eye lashes on cars but to each their own.

  • avatar
    Travis

    I’m a pretty big fan of making something what you want it to be instead of what you bought. A car is a canvas for expression. My typical mood is that of not giving any fucks. Hence, my car is about an 11 out of 10 on the reasonable loudness scale. I could do with new mufflers. Full exhuast, carbon fiber intake, boss 302 intake manifold.

    I’m in the middle of considering a job move. If job move goes through, Mustang will be getting a serious engine build, new transmission, and a couple turbos. If not, it’ll get an aluminum driveshaft and cooling ducts for the brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      Completely agree with your outlook. Outfit your car based around your lifestyle /needs and wants

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        That’s why I’m mulling a gently used or new JK Jeep Wrangler, looking for something small that’s easy to manage in San Diego- freeway traffic and parking and such, but also something I can just drop the top on good weather days.

        Also my hobby is photography, obviously I could go off the beaten path with a Wrangler 4X4, but also I was planning on trying out ‘astrophotography’, in other words, taking pictures of stars and night time photos. My idea would be climbing up the hills in my area to get away from city lights and people, setting up a tripod in the back with the top down and take pictures from inside the Jeep…. to do star trail photos, you need long exposures, VERY long exposures, hours in some cases. You might as well be comfortable.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    add-ons and mods really don’t bother me so long as they don’t make a car unsafe. Some may irritate me, though; fart-cans on a 4-cylinder car grate on me. But that’s mostly because I don’t care for the “4-cylinder sound;” I don’t complain about it because my car has a loud-ass exhaust too. Some of the utterly disgusting body kits have made me roll my eyes, but again, it’s your car.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have added back most of the little details that BMW cost cut out of the later e9x cars. Seat back nets, rear seat power plugs, the glovebox flashlight. The underhood insulation. The only exterior “mod” is I got the body color fillers to replace the ugly US spec front fender reflectors.

    For performance, I bought the BMW OEM Performance Intake and exhaust systems. Stupid money, but OEM quality and no warranty dilemmas. My butt dyno is not calibrated enough to know if they make a real difference, but it sure sounds faster!

    I have done absolutely nothing to my Abarth, though I do have a set of stripes for it that will go on eventually. Copies of the factory Abarth stripes in flat black. Should be pretty subtle on a metallic black car.

  • avatar
    LUNDQIK

    Visual mods and performance mods go hand in hand. Most people want the visual look AND the perfomance to back them up. Without the “look” there would almost be no point. Yes, I get as enthusists we are supposed be more about function – hence why we all drive manuals right?

    Without the visual, what would be the point of higher trim levels or even badges? (I’m thinking Audi’s S-Line.) Oh right, cause people WANT the look.

    With the exception of tacky (stick on vents, truck nutz, LED wiper nozzles, fart cans) – done right “looks” can be just as enjoyable to the driver as “performance”.

    However, I am of the mindset that those looks should be tasteful and depending on the statement you’re making, backed up as well. Have a spoiler the size of a picnic table? Maybe you should have over 110hp.

    But hey, to each his own. If it makes you enjoy the ride, who cares what others think? Caught a Honda Odessey the other day with hood scoops and rims done poorly. I judged, and was pretty spot on the type of driver I figured would be piloting that hooptie. But that dude was JAMMING out and LOVING his ride. One man’s trash…

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    -Mahle front lower control arm ball joints to replace garbage OEM ball joints on e36. Highly recommend the Mahle ball joints. DO NOT RECOMMEND AN E36.

    -Ground Control reinforced rear lower control arms to replace garbage OEM rear lower control arms on e36. Highly recommend the Ground Control rear lower control arms. DO NOT RECOMMEND AN E36.

    -NB soft-top on an NA. Highly recommend the glass window soft-top from the NB on the better looking, modern classic, NA. The best stuff is not at SEMA.

    -Rear floor mats to replace nonexistent rear floor mats in a Ford Mustang. Waste of money. If her feet are on the floor in your Mustang you’re doing it wrong. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-truth-about-caroline-what-your-car-says-to-me-and-every-other-woman-under-30/

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    So far, I’ve replaced all of the interior lights incandescent bulbs with LEDs. More lumens, with lower current draw.
    Also a battery voltage meter.

  • avatar
    JMII

    About the only real mods I have ever done were rims/tires/brakes. Mostly for looks, but having a larger contact patch helps. Years ago I put some wider tires on my wife’s Civic and she immediately noticed. The handling was improved, more grip in corners, quicker stops, etc. I put slotted discs on my truck and brake pedal feel as well as repeated heavy stopping performance has improved.

    I put a hood deflector on my truck to avoid rock chips and bugs, as well as bed cover to protect items I want to store back there (water and theft proof). I’ve done some small cosmetic upgrades as well, things such as new light clusters and back in the day (late 80s) pin striping, decals and really dark window tint. Easy on/easy off type quick visual improvements.

    I ALWAYS upgrade the audio system in my vehicles. Two main reasons: 1) stock audio systems sound terrible… especially once you experience what things should sound like. 2) my car is the one place I can crank it up as loud as I like and it doesn’t bother anyone. Provided I’m on the highway of course – I always turn it down in residential areas because I respect people, especially during late night hours.

    Other mods don’t do much for “normal” daily driving so I avoid them. However one day I might strap a turbo to my Z, just because its cheap HP boost.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I look at the number of aftermarket rims that are torn up at the edge and think `they should have had curb feelers like my uncles Rambler`.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      Heck, I looked at a 2011 Honda Accord HPF Coupe with only 30,000 kms on it the other night, with the big factory rims and they were also torn up around the edge. I think its just a symptom of low profile tires and big rims, whether factory or aftermarket, they are just more susceptible to curb rash.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Curb feelers are available at Amazon for $15.99. Your local Pep Boys might have them cheaper, and J.C. Whitney still has them online. Somebody should package them with fuzzy dice, a few rolls of pin striping in various colors, and chrome gorilla foot gas pedals (to bring new meaning to the term “heel and toe”). That would make a great Christmas gift.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Some of my sillier automotive fantasies involve buying an older luxury car and trying to “brougham it out” to the max. Chrome luggage rack, curb feelers, white walls, mud guards, 100 spoke chrome wheels (but not 24in tall – more like 16 or 17), and a silly hood ornament if it never had one.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          If it’s a 70′s S-Class, or 7-series, and you add a vinyl roof, I’m all for it XD

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Ooooh! Vinyl roof! But it’s got to be a landau, with opera windows.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Yes it has to be a car that NO ONE would do that to like a BWM, Mercedes, or Lexus.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’d love to put carriage roofs on stuff like that, if only to annoy other people.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            I actually saw a vinyl roof treatment on a 2011+ (the light exterior refresh on the original 2008 redesign) Chrysler minivan. Seriously. I followed it for a while down Telegraph just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.

          • 0 avatar
            This Is Dawg

            I wish I could upload pictures in these comments because I pass this hilarious ’06 Sonata nearly every day that has a vinyl roof with inch thick chrome trim holding it on. It’s navy blue on navy blue paint and only covers the back half of the c pillars and ends behind where I assume a sunroof is. Just forward of the seam between the doors.

        • 0 avatar
          3Deuce27

          Dan, you forgot those big Texas Long Horn mounts for mounting above the grille.

        • 0 avatar
          Zykotec

          I’m a bit afraid to admit that I almost want some ‘woddie’ vinyl for my 2003 CR-V (it would look great with the dark green metallic, I hope)

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    Maybe its an age thing. My demographic: Old, (54) black, married male, Kids grown, remember the old Detroit, Hamtramck, etc. The money I spent this month was for an xe 268 cam, lifters, longer pushrods, roller rocker valvetrain, 2500 stall converter and 3.73 gears. No headlights except what Dodge put on their 68 Dart. No neon, no portholes!

  • avatar
    Quentin

    2001 Impreza 2.5RS: fog light covers, coupe spoiler on the sedan, pink “i” badge, 5 spoke RS wheels (both the gold and silver versions), painted sideskirts. It was basically a hybrid Ver IV/Ver V STI as far as the exterior.
    2007 GTI: nothing
    2005 MINI: 6SPD MINI GB plate for the front.
    2010 4Runner: mud flaps
    2012 Prius v: tint (mainly because the huge windows let the direct winter sun in and it drives my 1 year old crazy)

    When I hit a deer with the 4Runner, and it will happen, I’ll do the Trail Edition front bumper, unpainted overfenders, skirt, and rear bumper. The chrome look will be gone.

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    Two aftermarket changes I made that were worth it:
    1) Resonator delete in my R32. In a car that sounds so good, why not turn up the volume a bit?
    2) Mesh wheels on my E90 328i. All BMWs should have mesh wheels, period.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    I’ve done a lot of small add-ons to my cars and trucks over the years, some for practical purposes and some just because I liked the way they look. I like the comment about perking up a car you know you can’t replace with some touches that make you smile though.

    My best mods:

    Window tint. I’ve added a mild tint to everything I’ve owned. My wife used to poke fun at me for it until she drove across the state one cloudless day and had one arm get sunburned. It also shields my little boy from the sun much better than some crappy sunglasses he’ll end up taking off and chewing on.

    Tires. All season tires on my old 4wd made a huge difference getting to and from my favorite fishing hole. All season tires made for traction in the wet were like night and day on my rwd short cab hemi dodge. And my new old man michelins smoothed out the ride on my g35 when I grew out of attacking cloverleafs.

    Windshield wipers. If you’ve ever spent a little more on better wiper blades you get it.

    Audio: Most stock sound systems can benefit from pretty cheap upgrades. From head units to just replacing the stock speakers, a few bucks goes a really long way.

    Special category: truck mods. I’ve added a toolbox, a bedliner, and heavy duty rubber mats to all my trucks. When I was young and poor I’d do them piece by piece as a I saved up the cash and it always made my truck feel just a bit newer and nicer. But all of these mods made the truck much more useful.

    Non-functional mods: I loved the chrome rails on my trucks. They did save the bedrails from getting damaged a few times, but that was just an added bonus. I added mild exhaust to all of them because it was Texas and that rumble was the style.

    I haven’t modded a motor in a long time. I poured some cash in to my still favorite ride ever, a red single cab 98 Dakota with a 318 and a 5 speed trying to squeeze power out of it. At the end of the day the difference in a few hp wasn’t noticeable and I wished I’d spent the $ on something I actually used every day. Even the K&N was just a huge pain in the ass to clean and oil and I’m sure I never got the right amount of oil on it anyway.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    I find the best mods are the ones that you enjoy noticing. My car has a huge aftermarket sway bar, which made quite a bit of difference when I drive it. It also has forged high compression pistons, compete aftermarket valvetrain and forged rods. All connected to a factory exhaust and intake. Nobody would suspect a thing.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I basically want my car to look like a hovercraft.
    This is best done with the most unlikely candidate possible for the most impact, like a Toyota Cressida.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    87 Mustang GT: aftermarket audio system with separate amplifier, 4 speakers + woofer.

    92 SHO: stock brakes are awful; rotors warp; first mod was to get better rotors which did not warp; then replaced spindles with those from next gen SHO, which allowed installation of larger discs; after market exhaust, with crossover pipe produced modest HP gain.

    01 BMW Z3 3.0: strut tower brace; neoprene seat covers to replace nasty vinyl

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I think I have modded every car I have ever owned. Living in CO we get 320 sunny days a year so window tint to me is really not optional. The best mods I ever did was a mangaflow exhaust and an Edge programmer to my 03′ dodge diesel. Those mods really woke the truck up, performed way better in all respects including substantial increase in mpg.
    Otherwise in the past I remove the stock exhaust with something that sounds better. I could use some input from the best and brightest here….currently driving a w body impala, cheap to buy and I enjoy the 300 hp often. Such a bland car with shocking torque and off the line giddy up. I have yet to research this but I wonder if a set of flowmasters would sound good.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Fanboys claim that “Flow-bastards” only sound good on Mustang GTs. You could start with a resonator delete for cheap and see what the stock mufflers really sound like. My favorites are still Dynomax mufflers but not many places seem to be dealers in them out here in the great Southwest.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’ve only gone back to old-style wheels on my Volvo and a custom muffler (the original broke), most of my add-ons have been small and low key things taken from other Volvos.

    Otherwise I often mock, and will forever mock, visual add-ons with little practical merit.

    For every spoiler, bodykit, or whatever I see I just say “You could’ve done something better with that money, like an oil change”, I will applaud a custom look thats done well or something so crazy that I can’t help but admire the trouble that the owner went to.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Hm, Opened and painted my headlight housings black, added fogs,put lowering springs (H&R)and adjustable Konis under, and added an OEM diesel rear spoiler on my 2003 CRV.
    Off course my summer tires are also on aftermarket 16″ wheels. The suspension bits are mostly a ‘performance’ mod though, and well worth the cash (and it needed one new rear spring and one new front damper anyway)

  • avatar

    I’ve modded some but only with stuff that should’ve been on the cars, but weren’t. Almost every car I ever had I added fog lights, on most cars that I had that came with crank windows I’ve put in electric ones. On one car I changed the skinny 145 tyres for 165 as soon as used the OEMs up. Alarms of course and also back up sensors on the last one. Tinted windows, too. In the past I’ve also changed some speakers in an old car, nowadays I wouldn’t do it anyhmore as the older I get the more I enjoy driving along in radio silence and listening to the car.

    I’ve also had air conditioners installed in two cars, that would’ve been the most radical change.

    What I’ve never done is add go fast parts, as I think they’re pretty weak. I’ve never added performance parts either, as I think the makers spent billions developing the car, I’m very wary of the engineering going onto those performance parts.

    I too think that for the most parts visual mods are ugly. But I do defend your right to do whatever it is you think you must. I reserve my right to laugh and shake my head though.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    Does a little sombrero hanging from the mirror of my El Camino count?

    I thought it was a nice touch, for a– get it?– El Camino.

    (Should mention that the plates were “Arriba”.)

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I generally think cars with nothing hanging from their mirrors are either rentals or owned by someone whos heartless, or hates their car…
      I’ve had the same set of black Fuzzy dice in my last 7-8 cars now :)(now sunfaded to a nice brownish/pink hue on top, and tey are lacking some white dots too)

      • 0 avatar
        Preludacris

        Eh, can’t stand having stuff flopping around every corner. Blocking my vision out that part of the windshield. Then again my windshield is probably closer to my face than anything currently on the market.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Add-on: Custom body side stripes for a Jeep Wrangler — They serve no purpose for the performance or handling of the Jeep or even do all that much to protect the paint; it IS an off-road vehicle after all. However, Jeep Wranglers in my body style, roof style and even body color are quite common where I live and those stripes help to make my Jeep just a little more individual and personal.

    As yet, I have done absolutely nothing to change the looks from factory stock beyond those stripes.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    Wow that photo of me is awesome. Im am honored.

    I wasnt being terribly serious either when I wrote my comment. But I do remember being young and penniless. No way could I afford an aftermarket exhaust system back then, let alone an engine swap. A few people on http://www.tercelonline.com could, so theyd buy turbocharged 1.2L engines from some JDM version of the Paseo. I dont think any of us had driven enough other cars to realize that power wasnt the Tercels only problem. (The manual steering was great though, so it could be an entertaining car to drive.) The rest of us would look at pictures of tack-on mods and think, Hmm, thatd make my car look like something more special than just a commuter car. Car enthusiasts want to tell the world they are car enthusiasts, even if they cant afford to.

    That was also at an age where if you heard one girl say she likes Altezzas (the taillights, not the car), you now wanted Altezzas. (True story!)

    It was also just after the first Fast & Furious movie (a surprisingly nerdy movie, if you watch it again) led to a massive media campaign to scare parents about street racers hitting their giant SUVs, so enforcement was coming down hard. That really hurt performance mods. They mattered back when you might have an impromptu stoplight race or drove down to the warehouses on weekend nights. After the crackdown, they were only good for bench racing. Bench races are won by expensive cars, even when they arent as fast as a well-crafted project car. At that point everyones goal became owning a 3-series (because thats what girls tastes moved to), and thats all you see these days.

    I remember seeing an amazing Civic coupe that looked bone stock, even under the hood the owner had hidden the turbo and its piping in what looked like regular ol air boxes and intake ducting. Looked 100% CARB compliant, but it was a beast. Theres no place for such a car anymore. And my Miatas coilovers? I bought them so I could show off the TEIN damper stuffed animal, Dampachi, for street cred. Stiffer anti-roll bars would have actually worked better for what I wanted.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s all good. Someone who comments as often as you do needed an avatar anyhow. I’m not exactly certain who he is or what he did, but at the very least he’s a snappy dresser so there’s that. It’s funny you decided to use it.

      If it had been up to me when I was a kid I’d probably have put all kinds of crap on my Nova but my old man wouldn’t have it. I did manage to score some Chevrolet rallye wheels from my older brother’s Nova when he bought some mag wheels and, of course, I replaced the old eight track with a modern cassette deck. I ended up with speakers in boxes belted in the back seat too since my dad wouldn’t let me cut the package tray either.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        I just Googled it… it’s from an article on Carlism (add an -o in Spanish), a 19th century movement supporting one branch of the royal family in Spain. There were wars over it.

        Carlsimo (extra “i”) is just a made-up word that a friend gave me as a nickname in high school when I was helping him with Spanish homework. It’s the superlative of Carlos. Is this avatar going to stick with me on other WordPress sites though? That’s what made it hard to decide on one before today.

      • 0 avatar
        3Deuce27

        “my old man wouldnt have it.”

        Made me laugh. My brother wanted his first car and I needed a Winter car as my V-8 ‘T’ roadster was topless and top-less in Puyallup in the Winter, isn’t kool, and I was temporarily between a legal, dry, warm, daily driver. So I found a nice 53′ Olds Super ’88′ hardtop, bought it and gave my brother a set of keys.

        I was looking at it one day and, though, it was way kool ride, stock, it still looked… well… stock. So I popped off the full wheel covers and painted the body color(Blue) wheels a shiny Black.

        When Dad saw it without the covers he had a fit, and told me to get those ‘Damn!’ wheel covers on pronto or park it down the street. I had another thought and headed over to the auto parts store and bought some chrome wheel trim rings and Spiders, thinking that would mollify dad. No way! So we were at an enpasse, and we were still parking on the street.

        Reading the classified ads Saturday morning I spied and ad for wire wheels. A phone call and I was off. The gentleman had a set of Chrysler wires and Buick Skylark wires. I bought both sets as I had eye on another ride that I could use the Chrysler’s on.

        When Dad saw the Olds with the Skylark wires I was out of trouble and we were back in the driveway. On Sunday, I cut a coil off the front suspension and we drove it over to a buddies and got it striped. Now it was way Kool and my brother was beaming when a few days later, I picked up a new Winter door slammer and gave him the title to the Olds. I retained ownership of the Sky wires and still have them.

        Dads … gotta love em.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    When it comes to visual modifications, at least in my case, I find I’m psychoanalyzing the owner of the car a bit. If it looks like the owner did it to please himself, I’m ok with it. If it looks like he was trying to impress, or at least attract the attention of others, I’m not impressed. Inevitably, the former to me are the more tasteful mods, whereas the latter are more garish. It also depends on the car itself. Putting Jake, the Corvette Racing emblem, on a Corvette is one thing, but on a Cobalt is another.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’ve seen tasteful use of OEM wheels from another related vehicle. For example, junk yard Explorer wheels can look good on a Ford Ranger. Other mods are climate related. Here in Texas adding an extra radiator for the automatic transmission is fairly common.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    Generally, I like yo go with exhaust as a starting ground. Nothing too ridiculous, just something with some tone. I am low on cash at the time though, I and I’m curious to see how the new exhaust and thrush welded is going to sound on my saturn after install. Usually I get something better. My truck, a Ford with the 4.9,had dual exhaust from the manifold back, with flow masters installed. It sounded mean, especially with the low rpms that ran at, almost everybody else mistaken for a v8, and I swear I got more power out of it. Regardless, truck was a torque my monster and I preferred it over the eight but other mods I had were more just for fun or looks, or with mild practicality. Cb radio, with PA speaker of course, handles to help myself get in, it had upgraded leaf springs in back and was lifted a little, so it was tall, bucket seats installed instead of the bench, a truck cap, and a sound system. I’m a musicophile so a good sound system is important to me. If I kept the truck I always wanted to waterproof the whole bed with the cap on, but and run a line from the alternator to another battery in the back where I would hook up more 12 volt plugs and some of the 110v inverters I have lying around and make it livable. Of course it had the cliche cab lights and fog lights when I, which I wouldn’t have put on, but but overall made it a pretty bad ass looking and sounding truck

  • avatar

    My preferred start is the intake, since it won’t drone on the same way an exhaust might. Better tires and maybe a little more contact patch is also a good, muted touch to a car.

    In terms of visual, I can totally understand the boredom one can get with the same… damn… look, especially when broke almost all the time (I have $5 at the moment). In 2006 when I first got my green Echo Coupe, the one thing that it had going for it was 10mm wider tires. There was a missing wheel cover, so I took them all off. Then fog lights and a gutted intake box were the thing. I noticed our ’87 Ranger XLT had 14″ wheels, and the beauty rings really added to the Echo’s steelies in 2009 (when the Camaro V6 started to use them), so I threw them on. Eventually the beauty rings led to hand painted white letters, after seeing a rallied-out Mazdaspeed3 running around with them.

    All in all, yes, my car is rice. Very little of it adds to the performance of the car (the wider tires and recent addition of Eibach Sportlines– only $174 for the set– are the biggest benefits), but it wouldn’t have nearly the appeal it has if it weren’t for the little visual touches. Even in the dirty state she’s in right now, this 471,000 Echo still drew someones attention enough where they left a note wanting to buy it. I’ve had local shop workers say how they’ve seen it always driving around and loving it’s style, how the beauty rings and white letters make it “pop.” They didn’t even know that my Electric Green Mica paint was a factory color, and thought it was a candy-apple. What’s even more interesting is the addition of the ’94 Miata hollow-spoke Enkei wheels (a bargain with tires at $224 for the whole set) gets less attention on the street or gas stations compared to the steelies/beauty-rings. The Enkeis are wider and lighter, but I still like the steelies on my car because it just suits my style more.

    The difference between my car and those vehicles sporting faux vents and chrome might be the level of attention and detail I put into it rather than just getting stuff at the parts store (aside from the fog lights). Flashy two-tone paint and tint is something else I don’t rightly understand, but the former at least make that vehicle someones own even if its not my style, especially because of the cost as opposed to stick-on crap. I see other similarly done cars as mine, and love them.

    I guess it comes down to what tjh8402 said a few posts above me:
    “If it looks like the owner did it to please himself, Im ok with it. If it looks like he was trying to impress, or at least attract the attention of others, Im not impressed.”

  • avatar
    MisterNoisy

    This dude gets it – screw what anyone else thinks and go your own way:

    http://www.yoursciontc.com/forums/95-member-pics/63575-wes-s-bomber-tc-142.html

  • avatar
    Preludacris

    The right wheels can really make or break a car. Just picked up some old school mesh ones off craigslist and it’ll be fun to see if they “work” or not.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    My Miata had some “customization” on it when I bought it. The hot/cold air intake went first; the car was embarassingly loud for something that was getting passed by minivans. The Borla dual-tipped muffler went a little later for similar reasons. The aftermarket shift knob was lighter than the OEM one, and felt like crap. OEM shifts much nicer. The old-man style bar isn’t functional and can hit you in the head in a rear-ender. It’s the tube-sock-in-the-crotch of roll bars, so I spent the couple of hours it took to get rid of it.

    Despite spending close to $1,000 on superfluous stuff, PO never changed the worn 60k shocks, so I figured since I was already getting in there, I’d double the spring rates, lower it 3/4″, put adjustable shocks on it and round it out with stiffer, adjustable sway bars. And while I was at it, I installed underbody bracing to stiffen the structure up a little, and provide protection during the odd time I brush a speed bump. When the brake pads wore out, I put on higher-temp rated ones, which work very nicely up to the level I drive at.

    With money to burn, I’d spend even more on better suspension. Contrary to popular belief, good suspension is appreciated every time you drive the car: better control and more comfort over bumps. It probably doesn’t matter as much where the roads are smooth, but that’s not my reality.

  • avatar
    Noble713

    Hmmmm, best mods….

    Evo X:
    Ralliart mud flaps: gives the car a more brutish rally-inspired look and helps protect Mitsubishi’s sub-par body paint.
    JDM Fog light delete: one night in some really bad fog, I turned the fog lights on and….they did nothing for my visibility whatsoever. Thus my hatred of fog lights was born. The Evo X fog delete also makes the front of the car more aggressive (IMO) and flows a bit more air to the brakes.

    Evo IV:
    In hindsight, almost nothing I did to this car was really useful or practical. *MAYBE* the coilovers. The Brembo brakes and 17″ rims from an Evo V had no discernible impact on performance.

    Chaser:
    Faux-suede steering wheel cover: I think the dirt and oils I get on my hands eats the cheap plastic-leather steering wheels on these old Japanese cars, so the suede cover protects it and also increases the thickness of the wheel, which always felt a bit puny and thin to me.
    Razo Leather Shift Knob: I despised the cheap white metal cylindrical knob that was on the car when I bought it. It actually hurt my wrist to shift gears. This leather Razo knob is amazingly comfortable.
    Recaro Rafale SR5 seats: Much better than the stock seats which were heavy, provided no lateral support, and sat too high.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I like subtle use of pin striping and body side molding to accentuate curves and angles while protecting the car from the constant onslaught of door dings and cart bangs. I try to add only what the OEM would have on a higher trim level preferring OEM trim bits to alternative aftermarket sources. I also like the use of some LEDs for added visibility both inside and out. The key to adding dress-up accessories to your car is to keep it restrained and close to what the OEM would have done on a different trim level. People rarely notice any particular trim bits that I’ve added but often compliment my cars on how nice they look overall and that’s the goal.

    .
    Then there’s those gotta have bull balls hanging from my trailer hitch that complete the look ;-)

  • avatar
    rolladan

    The mod I do on every car I own is coilovers and nice 3 piece rims. I love taking turns more than speed and for me it’s an absolute necessity. I have tein coilovers on my mr2 turbo, my 2010 camry se, and my previa minivan lol. The van I had to have special ordered from Japan but I guess that’s what constitutes a mod you absolutely must have on your cars. For rims the mr2 has staggered discontinued tanabe precedeos, and the van has ssr sp1s. The camry I’m still debating on but I’m thinking bbs meshies next year. Except for the mr2 the other cars are slow as hell. But once I take a cloverleaf all the cars are equally as fun and enjoyable. Make a boring car fun isn’t that what mods are about?

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Usually the first thing I do to any car is add on some of the factory options or parts that they stripped out from earlier models (if possible). For example, my 2006 Wrangler now has a factory Nav radio, the factory compass/temp mirror with map lights and some different colored dash bezels used on a few “special” editions just to jazz up the interior appearance and break up all the black plastic. I also added back the little rubber mats that used to be in the dash bin and rear cupholder that were on earlier Wranglers but removed from 2006 models as a cost-save.

    Next on the list are any OEM brand accessories that are well designed and clearly superior to the aftermarket alternatives. The only one that made the cut here was the Mopar ipod integration kit – it works with the factory nav radio much better than any of the aftermarket alternatives.

    After that, I added things from the aftermarket that are well engineered and suited for off-roading. Heavy duty front and rear bumpers, the rear with a swingaway tire carrier. Full compliment of underbody skid plates (steering, engine, fuel tank) and some rocker protection rails. Mild lift coupled with 33″ tires, and of course sway bar end links that can be disconnected out on the trail.

    Lastly, the final things I added were just to make the vehicle suit my needs and usage patterns better. Top on the list were better headlamps and auxiliary lights. A different soft top that is easier to deal with than the factory top. Lastly, I added a metal storage compartment in place of the rear seat so I have a lockable “trunk”.

    All told, I have thousands in add-ons and accessories on my Jeep. The nice thing about Jeeps is that there are many alternatives to chose from when it comes to accessories – all the way from the bargain basement junk to super high quality stuff that is equal to or superior than OEM components.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Didn’t read all the comments so I don’t know if it’s been said: TIRES!
    Most of the time I don’t even think of it as a mod, but when I put shoes on my ride that look and perform better than what it came with, isn’t that a mod?


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