Modifying a car – whether for better performance, tighter handling, or for fuel economy – is something that many owners do. They do it to have a personalized version of the model, one that stands out in a crowd. Yet despite what you might think, ‘modding’ a car is not a recent idea.
In the early days of motoring, many manufacturers sold cars as a chassis with powertrain. The buyer would then choose a coachbuilder to add a body of their choice. Of course, this wasn’t for the masses, for only the wealthy could afford a car. Until, that is, Henry Ford introduced the mass produced and now legendary Model T.
In its base form this was a usable personal transport, but it didn’t take long for owners to introduce their own modifications. Nowadays, many T’s have been hot-rodded, and they are ideal for the purpose.
Meanwhile in Europe
Across the pond and especially in the UK people were waking up to the fact that a modified cheaper car was a far less costly option than buying a ready-made sports car. The most modified of small UK cars was the venerable Austin 7, which with its simple mechanics was an easy target for determined drivers.
Getting a few more horsepower here and there, and stiffening the suspension, gave the 7 an entirely new appeal, and plenty of these ‘specials’ remain in use in competition today.
Back In the USA
The ‘Golden Era’ of modified cars began in the years after WWII, when cheap cars were plentiful and young men in particular wanted more speed. This is where the traditional hot rod made its debut, famously depicted being driven by slightly dangerous young men in leather and jeans in Hollywood movies, with an air of a new generation about them.
The hot rod movement thrives, and not just in the USA, as it very much a way of putting your individual personality on your vehicle. Wild paint jobs, souped up Chevys, and magnificently outrageous body mods were – and remain – the order of the day. But there was another movement growing in pace across the Pacific.
The JDM Craze
Before the 1970’s Japanese cars were uncommon outside the domestic market. That changed pretty much overnight, and suddenly both the USA and Europe were flooded with Toyotas, Datsuns, Mazdas, and more. Nowadays the Japanese car is a common sight, and back home a lot of them were being modified by enthusiastic drivers.
Clubs sprang up for Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models which are often different in specifications to the exports. A Nissan Skyline, Mazda RX7, or any sporting model offers the possibility of simply astonishing mods that give the car not only an outstanding appearance, but performance that is hard to believe.
The demand for JDM cars is high and they are often the subject of performance modifications (even the world’s best-selling sports car – the little and capable Mazda Miata/MX5 – can be heavily modified, and often is) and there’s no signs of the popularity of modifying cars slowing down. Are you looking to give your car its own personality? Enjoy it, and good luck!