Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Half-Ass'd History Lessons

Here's two schools of thought when it comes to car modifying nowadays:

1. The easiest way gets you the most attention.

2. The difficult way is the most self gratifying.

And having to accept both ideologies is shit. Here's why:

Understand that 15 years ago, this wasn't the case. If you check old Eurotuner articles and accounts from vwvortex you'll find a lot of people who got into the MK2 GTI game, fell out with the MK3, considered perusing the smaller truck market, the JDM market (or came from there), and then acquired the MK4. Why? At least in this generation's Euro scene, it came down to application.

Suddenly, kids were working with a wider range of options. They wanted elite and rare sets of wheels and professional body work to compliment their custom engine builds. Front end swaps, drive train transplants, parts taken from Audi and Lamborghini and applied to VW. Ironically, this was already set in place with the MK3, but it suddenly became far more mainstream. Blame the 1.8T as much as Fast and Furious franchise, I guess.

Considering its increase in volume, this was surely the golden era for modern VW/ Audi car modifying, right before the downfall. Big-time enthusiasts (though once part of tighter knit groups) were still producing fully-functioning, drivable show cars -inside and out- on a grand scale. The newest generation was eating it up and searching for the next level mods and ultimately, that's what did everyone in.

On one hand, the avant-garde nature of the 2000's Euro enthusiasts can be noted for the culture's rise in popularity. On the much shittier hand, it also explains much about where we wound up. Air ride, shaved bays, cheap deep dish wheels, stickers, clown culture -- the focus now is less about the passion of modifying cars and more about being accepted in the car scene.

Unfortunately, 15 years later we've entered a rut of lazy-modding. And I've categorized three distinct routes I see people take way too often:

1. Unaccountable Modding

-Coilovers that cost less than $300, or cut factory/ lowering springs
-Vinyl wrap or plastidipped exterior components
-Cheap or replica wheels
-replica body parts
-Gimmicky aftermarket parts

This applies to those whom are more interested in owning a particular car, rather than taking responsibility in car ownership. Think of that piece of shit you see and hear everyday with the especially proud owner -- that car won't ever get a second chance.

2. The Narrow Path

-Air ride suspension that costs $1500-$5000
-Vinyl wrap or plastidipped exterior components
-Expensive or expensive-looking wheels
-Thousand dollar exhaust
-(if show quality: shaved bay/ non-daily driver)

Normally in a lease or making car payments, they are more interested in owning/ modding the newest generation vehicle and less about upgrading for efficiency. They take pride in what they have, but they do little or no homework, or get all their information from selective sources that aim to make money. From pages and parts advertisers trying to get likes on Facebook, to your local, A-typical big spender.

3. The Safe Route

-Lowering springs or struts that average $500
-Aftermarket exhaust (or muffler/ flapper mod)
-Stock wheels, painted or plastidipped
-Lower profile tires
-A tune or ECU program upgrade
-Those window thingies

Another lease or payment situation. Although the least lazy and more responsibly-modded of the three, the car is relatively new to the market and (b/c of this styling) there are thousands just like it. The Safe Route, however clean, is easily as less inspirational as it is forgettable.

*Don't get me wrong, it's not an exact science. We've all seen a little of both and less of one.

I don't know about you, but these categories don't appeal to me. Sure, plastidip and vinyl technology make for easier ways to change the look of your car -- I get that. But it takes away from the essence of work that I'm accustomed to seeing. When you've seen the amount of time and money and research it takes to put a project together, you question whether the guy with the rattle can shares the same level of appreciation.

For the people I know, upgrading our cars means doing a lot of janitorial work. We salvage parts from abused owners, we acquire cars that were left out to rust; the market is saturated with lowballers and people who have no appreciation for factory and rare parts.

In retrospect, a lot of people are saying it's over, and some are really hoping for a renaissance. But it's not all bad.

Next time around we'll focus on what makes this hobby so hard and what makes the payoff "so great". Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Asshole Tuner's Guide to Social Media

At their core, people want recognition. At one time or another publishing something was just for achievements, or to be noted for keeping people informed, but thanks to social networking, we see a lot of people just posting for attention and not much else. With automotive content, this is becoming way worse -- to the extent that you already know.
So here's some tips for dealing with it:

1. Know Your Audience

There seems to be two sides to this unappealing sandwich: either Person A -the overly-hypersensative type- posts up on how they're tired of dealing with issues that only make up < 5% of the site's content...

or Person B -who doesn't value anyone else's opinion- who posts content saying "just having fun", "haters gonna hate", etc.

Don't share their opinions and don't feed them! Both will perpetuate the issues even further.

People fail to understand that car modifying is subjective, on a personal (in every sense of the word) and public level. On one hand, how you modify the car reflects on you as a person. People are allowed to be extremely critical because you bought cheap parts and everyone told you not to paint your wheels tiffany blue, but you did it anyway, stupid -- no one forced you into it and no one cares how easy it can be undone.

In the same respect, don't cling to the idea that "I build for me", or "at the end of the day it doesn't matter what people think as long as I'm happy with it." False. If they didn't care they wouldn't be posting their content on sites that give you likes or appraisal.

We have to acknowledge the very public nature of this hobby, rather than hide behind silly individualistic notions. However, we also have to take into account that the majority of the cars that get attention are wildly impractical, so a happy medium between the two seems to work best.

2. Ask Questions Prior to Making Purchases

Countless, countless times I run into people who made purchases on a whim; albeit cars or car parts. Instead of asking me: "I have (this much money) and I want (this) - what do I do?", I get: "my shit broke. How do I fix it?", or "why doesn't this work?".

The best advice I can give anyone in relation to a hobby is this: before you make any purchase, find the biggest nerd or someone who gets it and befriend them. Odds are they'll be an asshole, but they've spent years studying, critiquing and rebuilding their things -- and if you express interest in their opinion they'll steer you in the right direction. It's that simple. It's the reason I've come so far with my projects.

3. Don't Sell Anything

Seriously. It's a complete waste of time unless it's through eBay or Craigslist or any marketplace where people can't express their opinions. You can get one word wrong and find yourself dealing with a shitstorm over nothing more than semantics. Be detailed, but don't seem eager. Car people don't have money.

4. Choose Your Battles

I don't need convincing that a roof rack, cargo attachment and LED light bar looks good on a bagged sedan. It doesn't. But I'll gladly question the impracticality of aesthetic choices (cause that's all it is) any day. I also have to be prepared to take criticism and I often times forget.

Seriously, other than the MPG loss and the urge to validate your active lifestyle, why would you need that?

If I had a dime for every time someone told me to get bigger wheels...

I tell them, the wheels are discontinued; rare, and were designed by a quality manufacturer specifically for my car, so no.

I literally had to go through the effort of factoring in that conversation before I purchased my wheels; taking the time to consider all plausible hypothetical arguments -- that's something to think about. Remember, we make the decisions to purchase shoddy or quality parts (regardless of budget (you're modifying a car, it's automatically a luxury expense)). And regardless, there's battles we can't win, but we can plan ahead by double checking intentions before throwing it out for everyone to see.

5. Avoid Old Rhetoric

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Your stock 95 Honda Accord shouldn't plug anything "illest" and neither should you. Some people call it art, but the ones selling it are more interested in making money off you then they are your original sense of style (to which a lot of people have the exact same original sense of style, apparently). Taking yourself seriously goes a long way. Have fun with it but be prepared to defend yourself from d-bags like me.

6. Be a Good Critic

The worst kind of person is someone who is cynical and hopes to gain nothing by it. You don't have to chariot in on a white horse to be someone's dickery-savior, nor should you go around looking to argue, either. Recognize faults and offer ways to improve, not simply inform. Also, you don't have to like everything you see, but if you only care about the content that directly relates to you, you're stifling yourself.