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The perils of modifying your car

The perils of modifying your car

About the author

Chris Pollitt is an award-winning automotive word-wrangler, editor of the website Not 2 Grand and a keen collector of crappy old cars.

Now then, let’s set something out before I get into this. I have nothing against modifying your car. In fact, I’m all for it. Modifying your car is an expression of your personality, it’s a way to stand out and more than that, it’s a way to get more enjoyment out of your car.

For many, modifying a car isn’t about the finished look, it’s the journey involved in getting there. The work, the craftsmanship, the satisfaction of doing something yourself. Yes, modifying cars is a good thing. 

However, there are perils. The biggest one that faces the modern motorist is the internet. Back in the day, car modification was the product of labouring over pictures in magazines and without the immediacy of the internet, we had time to mull our ideas over.

Before that, it was a case of crafting whatever was concocted within your mind’s eye. Hot rods of the ‘40s were created and crafted by people with ideas and good grasp of mechanics. 

Now though, we don’t have that. We see stuff online and like magpies with a broadband contract we buy with reckless abandon. Then, the next day, the stuff we have bought arrives, and then within minutes it’s on our car.

There’s a giddy urgency to buying online that seems to cloud our taste. We buy because we can. It’s only when, three months later, we realise what a mistake we’ve made.

But by then it’s too late, everyone has seen our tribal art sticker, and now they think you’re a twonk. 

I’m there with you on this. Just today I was in my workshop having a sort out and I found some strobe lights. Luckily, I’d never fitted them, but they were bought in flurry of frantic and excited mouse-clickery. In the cold light of day, they’re horrid. 

Another peril is that we all get bunched in together. I hate this. It’s fed by what I’ve just said about being able to buy stuff online. The web is vast and it is available to all, so now you see 2002 Zafiras with poorly-fitted daytime running lights. You see stick on this and sticker-bomb that and that’s what everyone else sees.

So, naturally, when they learn you have a modified car, they think you’re berk. I hate that. I have modified my cars, but in intelligent ways, as I’m sure many of you have. Modifying is not just licky-stickly crap from eBay. 

Finally, there’s the big one. It’s another one I have to hold my hands up to, and I’m sure as you read this, plenty of you will agree. There’s an inherent risk that, even with the best of intentions, you may actually ruin your car.

We’ve done it. We had a Mondeo ST and we changed the wheels, the suspension, upped the boost, did this, did that, did the other, and at the end it was crap. It was fast, don’t get me wrong.

But that was it. Beforehand it was a perfect mile-muncher. By the time I was done with it, it was a harsh, crashy, noisy, thirsty one-trick pony. It was fast. That’s all. Ruined. 

But will I stop? Of course not, and nor will you. And I love that. As I said, modifying cars is an art, it’s all a learning curve and it’s an expression of who we are. But more than that, it’s fun. And in an age where modern cars in the main part are becoming dull and unimaginative, we need that fun.

For all the pitfalls of modification, there is the one positive, and that’s the fact that no matter if your mods are good or bad, you’ve made your car truly yours. Unless you’ve put a ‘powered by fairy dust sticker’ on it. That’s just wrong.