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Don't re-invent the wheel… modify it!

2008-06-10 12:20

Calvin Fisher

Why spend your life's fortunes on a multi-million rand supercar when a Kia Picanto would suffice? It has four wheels, a couple of doors, seats, a CD player and most likely a surplus of cup holders too. Ergo, they’re the same? Of course not! The answer is simple and applies to the modified car as well.

We want two things from our respective whips. Firstly they should get us noticed - the more enviable we are when cruising the streets the better. And secondly, they should offer us a superior driving experienced that caters to our whims, whether that entails blistering performance, or banging audio so potent it could grant migraines to the dead.

That's a sweet trick if you live adjacent to a grave yard, but less enjoyable for the patrons of the neighbouring church -  especially if you’ve overcooked your budget and ended up with something that sounds like a coffee can filled with 5c coins being shaken up at a thousands decibels per second.
And therein lays the rub.

You see, modifying is subjective; your car will most likely not be to everyone’s tastes. The world of the modifier is a burgeoning microcosm filled with its own set of disciplines and rules. Unrestrained pimping may lead to a bruised ego, tiresome ridicule and an emptied bank account. Here’s how you avoid the nightmares.

Keep it simple, stupid!

Let me be honest with you. Modifying is a lot like good Martial Arts. No, I don’t mean that it’s the sole domain of the Japanese, rather, that it too has a clear cut set of rules which are manifested in a wide range of styles.

For your Hondas and Toyotas you have JAP, JGTC and JDM disciplines to draw from, much like your average Shaolin Monk can dispatch an ass whipping via an assortment of Wu Shu techniques such as the Seven Star Fist and Dragon Palm. But fear not young grass hopper, you too could be a modified master if you just keep it simple.

Your first task as a modifier is to speak your car’s language as each ride has its own set of styles and themes to explore. These serve as guidelines rather than strict rules. Keep in mind however that mindless straying from the modifiers path of enlightenment will most likely see you with egg noodles on your face. Consider yourself warned!

Styles and applications, an introduction

Euro, OEM+, Retro, Drift, Yank, Rat and VIP, if you don’t know what these are then use the wonderful worldwide web to brush up on them and other trends in the tuner world. These are the palettes you’ll be using when creating your modified ride. Here’s a crash course, so pay attention.


Drive an old mark one Golf or a box-shaped E30 Bimmer? Shave off some of the unnecessary bits, slap on a fat set of 13” alloys, the rarer the better. Now drop it onto its arse via a set of coil-overs or airbag suspension and you have successfully achieved Euro style. It’s applicable to most European rides especially the German marques such as Opel and VW, hell even Audi and BMW do a convincing job of it. It’s simple and uncluttered, but when done right creates a styling whip that oozes self-confidence.
Educate yourself: www.cleaned.be


You have just acquired a 1997 Honda Civic and you’re dead set on slapping a huge aluminium spoiler onto it? Don’t! They’re called SPOILers for a reason, you’re about to ruin one of the sexiest hatch backs of the last century. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market and is a strict style that makes modifying simple, applicable to all Japanese whips and can even be stretched to the Koreans, especially if you’re piloting a Hyundai Tiburon, you have options.
Gain some knowledge: www.jdmuniverse.com


If you're anything like me, then you too will have access to a cornucopia of old school rides. I’m talking about Mk1 Ford Escorts, Datsun SSSs and Toyota SE Lift-backs. Before you pull your nose up in disgust, no one’s telling you to restore a classic.

Oh no, you can have old school charm with a new school flavour – and that translates into a hot ride for pocket change that will earn you the respect of both the young and old. You can tell that they’re loving it when you catch them rubber necking each time you drive by.
Get a clue: www.japanesenostalgiccar.com

Modifying your car should be a labour of love. If you find these guides too strict, too limiting, then set yourself free. When used correctly however, this should equip you with the know-how to build South Africa’s next cover car. The internet is your greatest tool; I recommend it as the first stage of your journey.


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