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.

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