The American car culture is the envy of the world. No other country in the world quite has the market, the awareness, the hype, the craze, and the taste for cars like Americans have. Another interesting aspect of the whole American car culture is that we love to tinker and modify our cars. And the custom car scene has been there in the United States for decades. In fact, you’ll find at least one modified car in every car dealership and on every car buying portal in the country.
Car modification has a long history and its origins can be traced back to the early 1900s. Cars were not as common back in the day and only the elites had access to them. Car owners started tweaking their cars themselves in an attempt to make them faster and safer and to devise ways that would enable faster manufacturing. And that’s what set the ball rolling for the whole car mod scene for the decades to come.
There’s this very popular quote from Henry Ford- “Auto racing began 5 minutes after the second car was built” and as cars started becoming more and more accessible to the masses, the notorious street racing grew in the United States. Street racers are known to be the earliest car modifiers and they were the ones who started tweaking their cars to go faster. And even if the street racing culture in the country has dozed off fairly, the need for speed hasn’t.
With many restrictions on emissions, consumption, and sound laid down on new cars, enthusiasts find stock cars boring and dull. To put some life into them, many American enthusiasts take their cars to workshops to give them some extra horses. Adding or tweaking turbochargers or superchargers is the most common upgrade that people make to their cars. Turbochargers and superchargers are completely legal as long as you do not cross your state’s emissions norms. Alterations to the exhaust system, however, have many restrictions on them in most states.
On the flip side though, car modification for many people starts as a hobby. You see, cars in the United States are looked at as a symbol of personal freedom and independence and why wouldn’t people like giving this symbol of freedom a personal touch. Generally, the hobby of nipping the stock car starts with making minor cosmetic upgrades. Painting the car with a color of choice, pasting some vinyl, or putting on some stickers is just a way of giving the ride a personalized touch.
This hobby however soon turns into passion. Car modifying is an exciting avenue and cars for many people are a reflection of their personality. People modify their cars to highlight their individuality and to stand out in the social circle.
Moreover, there’s this whole community of owners that’s just passionate about their cars and just can’t help but update and upgrade them. Modifications can be done to any extent to anyone’s taste and thus 2 cars can never be the same. It’s about getting your hands dirty, putting in the time, money, and energy to build something unique. That sheer uniqueness is something that people crave for and that is the reason why they love modifying cars.
The capabilities of a stock car are limited. And there are many enthusiasts who love putting their car’s limits to test. For instance, people like taking their cars to the race track and pushing their limits, and a stock car might not just be good enough. Hence, to improve its performance people tend to add wings, aggressive side skirts, lower the ride height, and throw in stiffer shocks. On the other hand, the off-road enthusiast would just get in larger tires, strip the vehicle of some flimsy bits and make it rugged and robust to take on all sorts of terrains.
Cars like the Mazda RX7, Nissan Skyline GT-R, Subaru WRX STI, Volkswagen Beetle, Jeep Wrangler, and a few others are extremely popular amongst buyers simply for their tunability. These are a few cars that can take extra boost on their engines, adjust and accommodate quickly with the aftermarket suspension setup and even take up some kits on the body.
For example, the VW Beetle is one heck of a do-anything, go-anywhere car. Beetles can be found everywhere- right from Baja off-roading events to drag racing events, the Beetle can be tuned and set up for any motive. These tuner-friendly cars are perhaps one of the major reasons why more and more Americans got into tuning and modifying cars.
All in all, the whole idea of modifying cars is to build something that fits your purpose. It’s about building and driving a vehicle that sets you apart from everybody else. It is about standing out in the crowd and showing the world off your creation. And this is what drives people and this is why Americans love modifying their cars.