The matter of tuning demands a little diplomacy.
This photo is as good a representative of tuner culture. You’ll notice the sticker affirming the primacy of self-reliance even if it leads to failure. It says “I’d rather lose by a mile than win by inch if I made didn’t make myself”.
From my own personal experience, tuners seem to be perpetually in search of a new project. They are not alone in this. This is also true of bicycle enthusiasts who are often swapping out parts in the quest to save a few grams. Hi-fi people have the same compulsion: you’d swear that the noise was always about to overwhelm signal which then justifies the next purchase. Really it sounds fine. An iridium-platinum volume dial won’t make any difference.
And there are tuners of homes, people who are not content to leave their home in a functional, decent, presentable state once that is attained but who comb ‘Better Living’ and ‘Modern Home’ on the hunt for the lamp to end all lamps, the ultimate bedside table or the perfect wallpaper until next month’s perfect lamp comes along. So tuning isn’t actually an unusual past-time. We call these people optimisers as opposed to satisficers.
If you want to think about it, the aftermarket enthusiast is looking to match the car to their personality but also to mark out their membership and status in a tribe. This is signalled with parts and stickers. That’s where diplomacy comes in, via class and socio-economics. A distinct stratum of society is into overt slammed tuning.
This makes it one of those instances of individuality expressed within a distinct group. It would appear to be a very status conscious group if one is to pay due regard to the frequent use of brand stickers on the cars. See below.
What is characteristic of the tribe is the uniformity of the types of changes made to cars: performance as measured by speed and handling, more aggressive bumpers, scowling lights. I doubt there is a comfort-orientated tuning tribe or if they exist they keep a lower profile.
The reason I feel this issues requires diplomacy is that while I would not aspire to these kinds of modifications myself I don’t want to be too judgemental because I am pretty sure, as I said, there are age and class issues involved and there is little worse than egregious snobbery. I have been on the receiving end of this when a Jaguar owner dismissed my Citroen for its lack of cylinders.
And I don’t want to be all relativistic either because I can say while I am delighted the tuners have so much fun I also think not a few of the modifications are a little over the top. One thinks here of the 20 year old Golf lowered so much as to shave the road or the perfectly nice coupe remodelled in an unsympathetic way. Golfs are quite bland and a perfect canvas for modification; a Peugeot 406 coupe is best left as it is, aesthetically.
However, an adjustment to the invisible parts might very well be in order if one feels the V6 is not adequately performant. Or perhaps one might want to re-upholster the car in finer cloth or hide (some Zegna cloth? Some Bridge of Weir leather?) For me the best tuning is that which runs with the character of the car rather than that which dresses it up in ill-fitting sports kit. I feel though that the neon-paint and body-sill merchants are deliberately working against the norms of good-taste.