This is a question I often ask myself. I am not necessarily looking for an answer, it is more a philosophical question; a rhetorical question; a question with which an answer is almost irrelevant. With that being said, I shall try to explain why I modify my car.
I drive an Australian-delivered 2014 Toyota 86 GTS. She’s my daily driver, and my mountain toy. The 86 is brilliant from factory, most reviewers will tell you this (and most uneducated keyboard warriors will yell it needs a turbo, without ever having driven one). The handling is crisp and predictable, the gearbox is wonderful and positive, the engine loves to be revved, and loves being given the opportunity to stretch its legs to red-line. I love this car. I adore this car. Yet, I feel compelled to modify and change it… Why?
First, let me talk about the modifications I’ve done. It started off innocently enough, as most addictions do. I threw in a high-flow APEXi panel filter; a direct drop-in replacement for the factory filter. Next it was brakes. I found out how scary brake-fade can be while doing a particularly passionate mountain run one night. So I replaced the commuter-car pads with Project Mu NS400’s, and a Beatrush brake-stopper. After that, I added an Ultra Racing front strut tower brace to add a little more stiffness which improved the cars already excellent handling.
As the addiction to car modification grew, it started getting more serious, I was getting more adventurous. I found a Grimmspeed lightweight crank pulley going cheap on a local buy/sell/swap page. I didn’t think it would change much, but it did. The engine is perkier than it was previously, and is far easier to rev-match when heel-toe downshifting. Then it was time to kill the famous torque-dip which afflicts the FA20. Unequal-length headers and a less restrictive overpipe from ProSpeed Racing, plus the Perrin cold air intake and a tune, and she’d never felt better. I also added a Mishimoto oil cooler as a preventative modification, as the FA20 is known to run a little warm and cut power when it got too hot.
Why spend all this money, time, literal blood and sweat on a car that was already pretty good from factory? It’s a difficult thing to justify and to quantify, and I don’t think “because it’s fun” is an adequate answer. Superficially, these mods are improvements to the car, but that’s not the whole story. The mod itself is secondary to the biggest reason I modify cars; mateship.
More often than not, I install these mods with friends. They give us something to talk about and to bond over. It gives us stories, and they help build emotional connections with our cars. Working on cars is our campfire. When we work on each others cars, we’re not worrying about work, paying rent, due bills, or anything else that troubles the mind. Time almost seems to stand still as we happily wrench away, and swear at stubborn bolts.
The stories and the friendships made through owning cars, and modifying them, make the late nights and laying under cars on cold concrete worth it. Yes, it’s an expensive hobby, but I don’t know what else I’d be doing, and I certainly would not have met all the awesome people, and have all the stories, if I was into knitting or stamp collecting.