Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Customize?

Why do people take perfectly good cars and alter them by adding aftermarket products?  There is no good answer for this question but I'm going to attempt to explain why I personally feel the need to alter a perfectly good car or anything else for that matter.

I have a Rolex watch that came with a stainless steel bracelet and I recently changed this bracelet for a leather strap because I personally felt that it looked better and suited my taste more.  If Rolex made this watch with a selection of custom-made leather straps, I would have opted for that but they don't so I did.

My friend, who I consider a watch aficionado, saw it this weekend and almost punched me for doing something so taboo (in his mind) but then again he said... "well, you put aftermarket wheels on your Maserati so I'd expect this from you."

Ah, my Maserati... let's get back to cars.  I drive a Maserati Quattroporte and although I personally think this is one of the most beautiful sedans on the road today, I really wanted the coupe.  Since I couldn't have the coupe, I decided that I can have my cake and eat it too by improving the performance, sound, and stance of my sedan.

As such, I lowered the stance just a bit, I added aftermarket wheels with wider tires, and I installed much better sounding sports mufflers.

This is the part that gets tricky.... how much is too much?  Well, although it's a matter of personal taste, there are things that you just don't do.  There are many subtle nuances of modifying a car and small mistakes can take you from looking aggressive to looking idiotic.

For example, my car came with 19" polished wheels but there was a factory option for 20" wheels.  As such, I installed 20" wheels on my car and kept within the factory range.  I've seen others install 22" wheels and to me that just looks silly; not to mention it leaves such little tire sidewall that the ride ends up being overly harsh and not at all what you'd want from a premium car like this.

Another example is the lowering.  Again, my car came with the "luxury" suspension but is offered from the factory with a sport suspension (GTS) that is a little lower and a bit stiffer.  I chose to lower my car just a tad more than that but not much.  This gives me the aggressive look and the much improved handling while sacrificing just a little comfort (but not much).  On the other hand, I've seen owners of very nice cars turning them into low riders!  Sure, it's eye catching for a show car but it's completely pointless for the road.  Other than scraping every speed bump and driveway incline, you actually deteriorate the ride and the handling by lowering the car beyond it's neutral point (lower does not always equal better).  We can get into handling dynamics but that's a whole other subject.  Like I said, there is a fine line between improvement and deterioration.  I lowered the car 1" but had I gone 1.5", it would have negated the whole point.

Exhaust and sound.... why would you alter the sound of a Maserati?  Well, the answer is actually fairly easy. The Maserati Quattroporte (and all others for that matter) is equipped with a de-stroked Ferrari 4.2L V8 (the Ferrari F430 has it in a 4.3L version).  As such, it has the potential to sound very exotic, however the car is fitted with very restrictive mufflers in order to make it more of a luxury sedan.  For those of us who enjoy the sound of the beautiful Ferrari V8, it is a must to replace those restrictive mufflers with either Larini or Tubi mufflers that are specifically designed for Italian exotics.  Instantly, the car is transformed from a subdued luxury cruiser to a sexy sounding exotic.  Again, mistakes could be made here.  Had I just gone to a muffler shop and said "remove the cans", I would have ended up with a Harley Davidson and not a Ferrari.  By getting the right parts (and not sparing the expense), I ended up with what I think is fitting for this car.

So, was this post intended for me to talk about my car?  Not really... it's just an example of what I think are tasteful and functional improvements.  Am I bragging?  No, and to show you an example of tasteless and idiotic alterations, let me take a second to tell you about my stupidity from my past....

Several years ago (before I became a little wiser), I purchased a brand new Lexus IS300 and I started by doing the basics such as a little lower stance, wider wheels/tires and a nicer sounding exhaust system.  However, I lost site of what this car really is and instead I ended up going down a modification road I wish I hadn't gone down... I ended up doing a full race suspension, changing the auto transmission to a manual, and doing over $30,000 of engine work; essentially spending more on modifications that the car was worth brand new.  I ended up with a sedan that can outrun motorcycles but it was not a nice car to drive by any means.  I  sold this car with only 15,000 miles for $34,000 which was less than just the modifications.  This was a prime example of what NOT to do with modifications!

In any case, I'm much older now and maybe a little wiser too.  As for the mods I made on my car, I think they're tasteful but I'll let you be the judge:

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