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BUM
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Discussion Starter #1
http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Columns/articleId=105024

Friends Don't Let Friends Modify Cars
03-17-2005

Today, it's difficult to make cars better and extremely easy to make them worse. Or dangerous.

As a journalist driving modified cars, I've been sprayed with gasoline, boiling coolant, super-heated transmission fluid and nitrous oxide. (The latter was more entertaining than the former.) Several have burst into flames. Throttles have stuck wide open, brake calipers snapped clean off, suspensions ripped from their mounts and seatbelt mounting hardware has dropped into my lap. All this is on top of the expected thrown connecting rod, blown head gasket, exploded clutch, disintegrated turbocharger and broken timing belt.

The vast majority of these vehicles were built by professionals. Many were from big-name tuners. Most performed as if they were constructed in a shop class at a high school with a lax drug policy. Once, after a suspension component fell off a car from a big-name tuner, the car actually handled better.

For every modified and tuner car that performed better than stock, I've driven numerous examples that were slower. If they were quicker, it was often in an area that can't be used on the street. What's the use of gaining 0.2 second in the quarter-mile if the car is slower 0-60 mph? And costs $10,000 more?

Long ago — when your grandparents were kids and the president was Dwight Eisenhower — it was easy to improve cars. Back then, carmakers designed vehicles largely for production convenience. It's not difficult to improve the handling of a car that had one steering idler arm a little longer than a man's shoe and the other more than the length of his arm: Stiffen the suspension to the point that it doesn't move. Also, in the olden days, cars were so simple virtually anybody could work on them. Replacing the stock two-barrel carburetor (ask your grandfather) with a four-barrel reaped easy power: There were no sensors or computers to confuse, as often happens if you tinker with today's engines.

The Old Ones wonder why today's kids want to "improve" cars. This is partially because something like an '05 Mustang V6 — does the term "secretary's car" come to mind? — has more horsepower and is quicker than an '84 Corvette. Put both on the same tires and the '05 V6 would give the '84 Vette all it could handle on a road racing circuit.

I'm guilty of modifying cars. Mea culpa. In an effort to improve a very sweet handling sport sedan, I added the biggest antiroll bars and stiffest shocks I could find. The result sucked. One doesn't have to reinstall too many stock antiroll bars and redeal with a strut compressor to earn a bad attitude about modifying cars.

Recently, I autocrossed a pair of Subaru WRXs. One was a dead-stock WRX. The other, a tricked-out STi lowered with stiffer springs, shocks and bars and an exhaust kit and air filter. The STi is supposed to have an advantage of some 70 horsepower. Maybe the exhaust and filter moved the power up in the rev band where it couldn't be used. The lowered, stiffened STi regularly bottomed against its bump stops. When a car hits its bump stops, the spring rate goes to infinity and tire grip drops to near zero. This caused the STi to leap into the worst understeer I've experienced with inflated front tires. Meanwhile, in the unmodified WRX, I could be hard in the throttle at the same point. The result: The dead-stock WRX was at least as quick as the STi and far easier to drive. Easy to make worse, harder to make better.

Don't get me started on brake "upgrades." On one hand I can count the brake modifications that out-performed stock. Auto manufacturers spend millions of dollars on brake design, while aftermarket brake manufacturers often allow their customers to participate in the development process. Gulp.

Fitting larger-diameter wheels is another excellent opportunity to reduce performance. Wagon-wheel-sized wheels are all about bling and little about blast. Most larger-diameter wheels are notably heavier than what they're replacing: Aluminum is heavier than the air and rubber. This additional mass requires more horsepower to accelerate, more braking power to stop and more shock valving to control. Translation: Bigger equals slower. Also, lower-profile tires tend to be more difficult to drive at the limit. Most drivers will be quicker and in better control on 17s than on 19s.

On the street, it's almost impossible to accurately assess whether a modification has aided performance. People often judge handling by how the car rides and acceleration by noise: If it's rough and loud, it's got to handle better and be quicker, they think. This is the "Bactine Theory": If the medicine hurts, it must be working. The Placebo Effect also comes into play: If you've just spent a couple of grand to improve something, you will believe it's working.

The only modification that consistently produces positive results are tires. A change from original-equipment rubber to expensive gumballs will reap guaranteed thrills. If you like your car but want more from it, step up to the best ultrahigh-performance tire.

My best advice is this: If you don't like your car and want to make it better, buy something else.
 

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TSX of the Month Winner
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Good stuff, Only tires? Man....this guy like his tires.
 

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, Moderator Emeritus
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Today, it's difficult to make cars better and extremely easy to make them worse. Or dangerous.

I don't disagree with this.......oh wait a minute, yes I do.......

As a journalist driving modified cars, I've been sprayed with gasoline, boiling coolant, super-heated transmission fluid and nitrous oxide. (The latter was more entertaining than the former.) Several have burst into flames. Throttles have stuck wide open, brake calipers snapped clean off, suspensions ripped from their mounts and seatbelt mounting hardware has dropped into my lap. All this is on top of the expected thrown connecting rod, blown head gasket, exploded clutch, disintegrated turbocharger and broken timing belt.

Hmmmmm....I've been around the import tuning scene for going on twenty years, and none of this has ever happened to me........When I was in high school in the early '80s, I had a winter car, a '75 Scirocco that I paid $200 for, that had a throttle stick. I drove it home with my foot on the brake, and by the time I got home the pads had almost burst into flames, but that car was completely stock.

The vast majority of these vehicles were built by professionals. Many were from big-name tuners. Most performed as if they were constructed in a shop class at a high school with a lax drug policy. Once, after a suspension component fell off a car from a big-name tuner, the car actually handled better.

When modified to the max, things are going to break. I don't even think it bothers the average tuner. If you aren't breaking stuff, you haven't pushed it far enough......

For every modified and tuner car that performed better than stock, I've driven numerous examples that were slower. If they were quicker, it was often in an area that can't be used on the street. What's the use of gaining 0.2 second in the quarter-mile if the car is slower 0-60 mph? And costs $10,000 more?

This is simply a ludicrous statement. For 10 large, your car can be made to go, stop, and turn much faster than stock, while maintaining reliability. Doing a little research will allow you to choose how far you want to push it.

Long ago — when your grandparents were kids and the president was Dwight Eisenhower — it was easy to improve cars. Back then, carmakers designed vehicles largely for production convenience. It's not difficult to improve the handling of a car that had one steering idler arm a little longer than a man's shoe and the other more than the length of his arm: Stiffen the suspension to the point that it doesn't move. Also, in the olden days, cars were so simple virtually anybody could work on them. Replacing the stock two-barrel carburetor (ask your grandfather) with a four-barrel reaped easy power: There were no sensors or computers to confuse, as often happens if you tinker with today's engines.

Right, things have changed. Today, you can easily pull your ECU and send it to Hondata, and they will reflash it to provide you with more HP and torque. I personally don't have the ability to program a chip, but I can install one. How is that different from installing a 4 barrel 30 years ago? It's not like I built the carb at home, I had to order one from Holley......

The Old Ones wonder why today's kids want to "improve" cars. This is partially because something like an '05 Mustang V6 — does the term "secretary's car" come to mind? — has more horsepower and is quicker than an '84 Corvette. Put both on the same tires and the '05 V6 would give the '84 Vette all it could handle on a road racing circuit.

Ummm....since when is an '84 Vette the barometer of performance? and besides, I don't think that statement is true anyway. The new Mustang has got to weigh over 3300 lbs, which is more than the '84 Vette, so I doubt it's faster.......Look, as long as man has been alive, he's looked for ways to make things go faster, and that's not about to change.

I'm guilty of modifying cars. Mea culpa. In an effort to improve a very sweet handling sport sedan, I added the biggest antiroll bars and stiffest shocks I could find. The result sucked. One doesn't have to reinstall too many stock antiroll bars and redeal with a strut compressor to earn a bad attitude about modifying cars.

You shouldn't have added the "biggest antiroll bars and stiffest shocks". Koni's on stock springs will actually improve the ride, and a nice 22mm rear bar will help dial out some understeer without affecting ride quality.

Recently, I autocrossed a pair of Subaru WRXs. One was a dead-stock WRX. The other, a tricked-out STi lowered with stiffer springs, shocks and bars and an exhaust kit and air filter. The STi is supposed to have an advantage of some 70 horsepower. Maybe the exhaust and filter moved the power up in the rev band where it couldn't be used. The lowered, stiffened STi regularly bottomed against its bump stops. When a car hits its bump stops, the spring rate goes to infinity and tire grip drops to near zero. This caused the STi to leap into the worst understeer I've experienced with inflated front tires. Meanwhile, in the unmodified WRX, I could be hard in the throttle at the same point. The result: The dead-stock WRX was at least as quick as the STi and far easier to drive. Easy to make worse, harder to make better.

Look, if you wanted to say that it would be difficult to duplicate an STi by trying to upgrade a WRX with aftermarket parts, I'd agree. I mean, for $7.5K you get Recaros, Brembos, 17" BBS, actual performance rubber, inverted performance struts, the 6 speed and center diff, a bigger turbo, a bigger intercooler, bigger injectors, a bigger block, the body kit. You'd spend a lot more than $7.5K to do all that to your WRX, and it wouldn't run like a factory car.

But, a stock WRX is NOT a very good handling car. The struts suck, the brakes suck, the tire suck, and it NEEDS a bigger rear sway. No way does a stock WRX come close to an STi.


Don't get me started on brake "upgrades." On one hand I can count the brake modifications that out-performed stock. Auto manufacturers spend millions of dollars on brake design, while aftermarket brake manufacturers often allow their customers to participate in the development process. Gulp.

There are very few factory braking systems that can withstand repeated high speed stops. They just aren't designed for that. An aftermarket system is not about creating shorter distances; if the factory system can lock 'em up, then it doesn't really need to be "stronger", but tests have shown that stopping distances can almost double after 10 (or less) 70-0 stops in a row. A nice aftermarket system will lose less than 10%......If you are actually tracking your car, it's a requirement.

Fitting larger-diameter wheels is another excellent opportunity to reduce performance. Wagon-wheel-sized wheels are all about bling and little about blast. Most larger-diameter wheels are notably heavier than what they're replacing: Aluminum is heavier than the air and rubber. This additional mass requires more horsepower to accelerate, more braking power to stop and more shock valving to control. Translation: Bigger equals slower. Also, lower-profile tires tend to be more difficult to drive at the limit. Most drivers will be quicker and in better control on 17s than on 19s.

Hey, I finally (somewhat) agree with you on something. But, a nice set of lightweight Volks or Advans is a nice performance upgrade over heavy stock wheels.

On the street, it's almost impossible to accurately assess whether a modification has aided performance. People often judge handling by how the car rides and acceleration by noise: If it's rough and loud, it's got to handle better and be quicker, they think. This is the "Bactine Theory": If the medicine hurts, it must be working. The Placebo Effect also comes into play: If you've just spent a couple of grand to improve something, you will believe it's working.

Take it to the track, you'll be much more able to judge there.....

The only modification that consistently produces positive results are tires. A change from original-equipment rubber to expensive gumballs will reap guaranteed thrills. If you like your car but want more from it, step up to the best ultrahigh-performance tire.

Good rubber is a GREAT upgrade, maybe the best, but having said that, I have to play devil's advocate here.

For the average person, going out and spending $800+ on super soft tires seems insane. They will most likely be noisy, prone to following road undulations, apt to hydroplane, will be totally unusable when the temps are below 40 degrees, and will be worn out in 10K miles.

There, did I sound like you?


My best advice is this: If you don't like your car and want to make it better, buy something else.

People mod cars for lots of reasons. Some want to stand out, some want to be faster. Some just like working on their car. I'm a car guy, always will be. And it's fun to work on cars.
 

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Subway Pervert
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59 Posts
so he basically drove a poorly-planned sti with all the wrong settings, and is using that as a reason not to modify? this guy has as much cred as my left testicle when it comes to being an automobile pundit.
 

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Sleeperus-Maximus
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164 Posts
Seriously though, this guy is a complete moron. Either that or he did a great job writing up something that’s designed to inflame anyone who actually knows about such things. If that was the case then kudos, job well done!

This right here sums up his stupidity:
"I'm guilty of modifying cars. Mea culpa. In an effort to improve a very sweet handling sport sedan, I added the biggest antiroll bars and stiffest shocks I could find. The result sucked. One doesn't have to reinstall too many stock antiroll bars and redeal with a strut compressor to earn a bad attitude about modifying cars. "

REALLY? The BIGGEST and STIFFEST? Yea, that’s always the best way to make you car handle better on the street. He obviously isn’t modifying the car for the track, since he repeatedly mentions street use. Since that is the case then all there is to say is "NO SHIT SHERLOCK!".

Those modifications are only suitable for a track only car. Any road with potholes, speed bumps, or rocks bigger then a BB is going to tear your chassis up and the driver in the process.

Not only does this prove that he doesn’t know thing one about how to modify a car and with what, and FOR what, it also proves that he is using this experience to influence this article. Which in turn invalidated the article it self.

And this guy has to get off of the '84 Vette's nuts. That has to be one of the worst iterations of that car EVER.

Cliffs Notes: This guy needs to die in a fire.
 

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Subway Pervert
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agreed. suspension mods are ALL about balance. if you try to sit you car atop an ALMS suspension, it will handle like ass. if you max out your sways without taking the rigidity (or lack thereof) in the suspension into account, then you'll have a horrible car that's a pain to drive.

you can drop a t-88 on a supra and it will be a drag queen (punny) with a ford rear end, but daily driving it will be a mess. as in suspension modification, you must find balance in your mods.

take a lesson from that article. don't modify your car if you're a complete dumbass.
 

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BUM
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Discussion Starter #7
Well you are correct, but take his conotation of the article instead of picking apart each inidividual statement. Basically he is saying, if you don't really know what you're doing, then you could easily screw up your car, and make it worse than it already is. That's the take home message guys. If you want to mod your car...fine...but do the research, and make sure you know what you are doing.

Another point is...a change in one system is going to effect another system. If you make your car faster, it may not handle as good etc.
 

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pocketkiller said:
As a journalist driving modified cars, I've been sprayed with gasoline, boiling coolant, super-heated transmission fluid and nitrous oxide. (The latter was more entertaining than the former.)
As a journalist, grammar should really be a concern of his :rolleyes:
 

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your resident mexican
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pocketkiller said:
Well you are correct, but take his conotation of the article instead of picking apart each inidividual statement. Basically he is saying, if you don't really know what you're doing, then you could easily screw up your car, and make it worse than it already is. That's the take home message guys. If you want to mod your car...fine...but do the research, and make sure you know what you are doing.

Another point is...a change in one system is going to effect another system. If you make your car faster, it may not handle as good etc.

what does conotation stand for?
 

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BUM
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Discussion Starter #10
what do you mean..what does it stand for?

it doesn't stand for anything. it's just a word. it means; his implications; overtones etc.
 

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Registered
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pocketkiller said:
Well you are correct, but take his conotation of the article instead of picking apart each inidividual statement. Basically he is saying, if you don't really know what you're doing, then you could easily screw up your car, and make it worse than it already is. That's the take home message guys. If you want to mod your car...fine...but do the research, and make sure you know what you are doing.

Another point is...a change in one system is going to effect another system. If you make your car faster, it may not handle as good etc.
i agree with you. a modern car should be looked at as a system. what effects one subsystem will effect others maybe in ways unwanted
 
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