Theme: Aftermarket-Pared Back

“Through a chink too wide there comes no wonder” said renowned Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh.

Surely this is a nice way to change gears?

I’m guessing Halfords might not thank me for this post. I tend not to be a big fan of what people do to their cars in the name of personalisation or improvement. Anything more than the most discreet of spoilers brings me out in a rash and let’s not even talk about garish graphics or faux carbon fibre bonnets.

There is however a certain type of (dis)embellishment that meets fully with my approval. Subtle changes that at first glance might only inform you that something almost imperceptible has been changed. A full minute or two might be needed to truly appreciate what’s been done. It’s typically the work of a person who recognizes that less is often more and most importantly one who knows when to stop. A little like the guy who started with one tattoo and now has two sleeves and a skull covering his entire back, those who modify their cars seem to get carried away. Either that or realising the car didn’t look quite as well as he hoped a tragic vortex of futile “improvements” sucks the car further and further from normality.

I love seeing a nice car with no badge. It’s great to see someone who has the confidence not to boast about their engine size or trim level. When MB were selling the ultimate Q car (the W116 with the 6.9 litre engine) many owners felt the only really obvious differential between it and it’s lesser brethren (the 6.9 badge) was just that little too much and had it removed. Admittedly there were others who stuck this little piece of chrome on their straight six S Class but we won’t give them any more airtime.

Speaking of chrome, this is something that carefully managed, can be completely removed to very good effect. Sometimes a little strip of piano black trim is needed in its place but with a good (non standard) paint job the true form of the car is clear to see and can really work.

I can’t be the only person who isn’t enamoured with steering wheels that possess a diameter greater than boa constricter and more buttons than the space shuttle. It’s true a Nardi might not suit every car but surely it’s a good place to start? Same goes for the gearstick, a nice short throw and no numerals work for me.

My own personal weakness though is for wheels. They can really make or break the look of a car. Non stock, oversized chrome wheels with a lowered suspension is the worst thing you can do to a car in my book. However wheels with a slight dish, shod in rubber that’s perhaps 2/3 cm wider than standard coupled with a very mild flare in the arch can really give a nice stance and still avoid the widebody, wideboy look that never looked good, not even in the ’80s.

Those over the top, in your face modified cars seem to becoming a more common sight on our roads as time goes by. I feel now that I’m a little older I should see the bigger picture and live and let live. Not so. It still winds me up when I see one (or even worse hear a dump valve) drive by. The balm that soothes my soul though is an occasional glimpse of a tastefully disembellished car.

11 thoughts on “Theme: Aftermarket-Pared Back”

  1. We talked about adding things. There are also the badge-removers, up to and including the grille badges. Opel Vectras and VW Passats get this treatment. What’s the point?

    1. The typography of badging warrants a series of articles in itself. There is likely a frightening number of meeting hours that went into signing off the red ‘I’ on ‘hot’ Mk4 Golf GTIs. Around the same time, Mitsubishi Japan put the kibosh on an impossibly bolshie attempt by MMAL to make the triple-diamond emblem black rather than chrome on sporty Magnas. Mazda famously avoids overt trim designations on the bootlids of its cars.

      There is surely a national element to all of this. The particular cult of the company car in Britain means that historically, overt trim designations have been a crucial marker. Without wishing to generalise, that sort of thing can be viewed as somewhat less than desirable elsewhere. To borrow a phrase, I suppose it is about reducing “visual noise” to the barest minimum.

    2. We did a theme on badges I seem to recall.
      I didn’t know Mazda had a badge policy. Peugeot in recent years were also very discrete. On 406s there is usually little by way of markings: T4 or V6 or not much else.

    3. What I really don’t like about that is the little arc cut into the bonnet to accommodate the badge just looks totally wrong with nothing there.

    4. That’s on VWs? I hate seeing a badgeless Vectra. The Opel flash is awfully cool, Art Deco and aeronautical. It’s best left in place.

  2. Mick, is it safe to say you’re not a big fan of the Japanese VIP car culture??? I would be interested in your analysis of the subject matter.

    1. …and let’s not forget Bosozoku car culture. I think this might be the crescendo of this months theme???

    2. I actually quite like some of the big Japanese saloons, cars like the Cressida and Laurel appealed to me growing up. Once they’ve been VIP’d though they look like something out of a manga comic to me. I can feel my blood pressure rising already. I had to look up Bosozoku as I wasn’t familiar with it. I think I preferred not knowing about it! It looks like the kind of loud (in both senses) aftermarket changes that really makes me think bad things.

  3. I agree, definitely an acquired taste!!! Then again, I have to respect their choice to be individual and the level of effort that has clearly been applied.

  4. Bosozoku is absolutely the choice for the motorist who doesn’t take themselves seriously.

    I’ve long had a specific idea for how a vehicle should be modified, if it must. It should carry the look of a car that is faster than it looks. 1″ lower, big exhaust, discreet alterations otherwise. One sticker maximum.

    Or it could have a splitter that is one meter long and covered in glitter and contrasting neon paint.

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