The World Of Modified Cars - A Brief History
Tracing the rise of the British modified car and associated cruise scene back again to its roots has long been the source of much debate. Many would point back again to the first vintage and classic car rallies of the 50's and 60's. Others make reference to the legendary Ace Cafe London to Brighton cruise, an event synonymous with classic motorcyclists. The notorious hot rod scene also argues a powerful case, in reality many popular modifications derive from that era. It all hangs how far you want to go back time, perhaps to the point from that you contain the fondest memories. Everybody of course, has their very own view.
The majority of us however would concur that the birth of the modified car world as we realize it today, truly began in the early eighties. Iconic car launches like the MK1 Golf GTi, the Escort RS Turbo, the Renault 5 GT Turbo and the Peugeot 205 GTi created a market of dedicated followers with an interest for performance cars that could last a lifetime.
In the late eighties and early nineties these cars were joined with a new raft of Japanese imports, fuelling demand and raising the profile of the scene even further. Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru sold the Civic, Supra, Skyline and Impreza in huge volumes, in lots of ways repairing some of the damage brought on by years of lacklustre models and shoddy reliability. European manufacturers taken care of immediately the Japanese influx with a wave of iconic motors like the BMW M3 E36, the Peugeot 306 GTi-6, the Renault Clio Williams, the Vauxhall Calibra Turbo and the Volkswagen Corrado VR6. Thousands of former petrol heads look back at this era with affection, and good samples of such models still attract high prices.
At the turn of the century, the scene was changing once again. Modified cars were getting wilder, budgets were becoming more flamboyant and the target market was getting younger.'Chav culture'had well and truly taken over, re-igniting the rise of the'boy racer '. The scene was awash with negative publicity, police intervention and cruising crackdowns but not surprisingly, the modified car business was at its peak. Industry leading magazines such as Max Power and Fast Car were reporting record sales, and body shops and tuning centres had never had it so good. Following release of cult film The Fast And The Furious, and console games such as Need For Speed, as dusk fell in most major town, cruisers could be viewed prowling the streets in greater and greater numbers.
Ironically, because of the dramatic rise in insurance and fuel costs, or even because modified car fans were getting younger, engine sizes were actually getting smaller. Despite the fact that numerous enthusiasts were still driving powerful motors like the Saxo VTS or Leon Cupra R, cars like the Corsa C, Fiesta Zetec and Polo MK4 were becoming immensely popular.
This trend brought with it a massive shift in consumer spending. Whilst the styling market had never been so lucrative, the tuning sector was almost grinding to a halt. Older enthusiasts who could afford the insurance and running costs of tuned high-performance cars were growing older and settling down. Cosworths were traded in for Mondeos, and a large number of modified cars were scrapped or dismantled for parts.
It Car Rally Report is difficult to say exactly when it happened but to produce matters worse, by 2002 the market was flooded with cheaply made bolt-on parts. The shift in spending from tuning to styling parts meant that these products in demand were now less complex to manufacture. As a result, a huge selection of businesses in the UK started importing directly from factories in China. Individuals were copying products from another person, and with an increase of and more consumers buying goods from eBay, quality stepped down and price became king.