An Old Man on Car Modification
A lot of laughter and money later, hopefully I've learnt a thing or two about taking a machine made by an army of engineers and trying to 'improve it'. There has been money wasted of course, but perhaps that is the price of education.
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Understand it is all a compromise
Car modifications move around the compromises between existing properties of the car and are rarely a big improvement of the combination, unless you have a clear objective.
Rarely will you have the resources to try different setups for side by side comparison, which means that many reviews of parts you read are simply people who have to justify their expense to themselves.
Buy a car that is already 90% of what you need it to be.
Study yourself and driving style.
Do you enjoy the occasional weekend track day? Do you have long highway commutes? What are the road conditions you face normally? By carefully studying yourself and driving habits, you will start to understand the kind of car that will suit you and your lifestyle best.
No two people are the same. Even the Porsche 911, which is routinely referred to the 'one car that can do it all' has around 25 variants of a single model, each which is tailored to a different individual and driving style.
Think about utility. Bucket seats may be great for the track, but if you go once a year, is it really worth it to sacrifice the other 364 days of comfort? That is up to you to decide. Cultivate self-awareness.
Tailor the suit.
So you have your 90% car and you have a clear idea of what you want to use it for. Now we have to understand the development objectives from the factory and compromises they had to make to appeal to a wide variety of drivers.
Areas such as cost, comfort, ergonomics, fuel consumption, emissions and more, are constraints that are placed on engineering teams when developing the car. You need to understand these and then make small changes that make the car work better for your driving style and intended usage.
A metaphor is that you are trying to tailor fit a suit you bought off the rack to your body. Nip and tuck.
Avoid Drastic Changes.
Large changes could upset the balance of the car and require more supporting modifications to counter balance. This can spiral into a spending spree that might have been better used by buying a car that suited you better in the first place.
To work out your ideal budget, think of the car you would buy which is one level up which you cannot afford. Calculate the difference between your current car and that car and divide it by 2. This will give you a guide where you can justify your modifications as being value for money.
Anything you spend over the purchase price of the car you are likely not to get back. Budgeting and discipline is hard when the heart is involved, but your future self will thank you.