Last post on Sep 25, 2013 at 10:29 AM
You are in the Speed Shop Tuning and Modification
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Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, Performance Mods
#1 of 65 Best "Beginner Car" for Modifying/Tuning
by Kirstie@Edmunds HOST
Mar 23, 2005 (11:54 am)
Of course, the car you choose depends on what you want to do with it, but this topic will deal with the best choice or choices for the "first-timer", whether he/she is doing it to look good, just enjoy on the street, or to race in various types of motorsport.
Share your beginner success stories!
Host, Future Vehicles & Smart Shopper discussions
#2 of 65 Depends what you want, don't it?
Mar 30, 2005 (10:19 am)
If you want to build one of those "all-show-no-go" wanna-be touring cars, go with the cheapest Civic you can find. Those 18" rims and hundereds of lbs. of wings and bodykit are gonna sap what little performance you have anyway, and you're putting power through the wrong wheels, so why waste extra money on the bigger engine?
If, on the other hand, you're interested in winding up with something that's big fun to drive, I'd go with a Miata. Decent 1st gens can be had for cheap, they have great handling right out of the box, and you can be competitive in SCCA solo events without any mods. If you want to hod-rod 'em, they're tough and straightforward little beasts and have a good-sized aftermarket, including all sorts of reasonably priced forced induction setups. I've run with some of them on tracks, they're very hard to catch. And if you're totally insane, a Ford 5-liter fits under the hood.
If you want more serious track or autocross fun, C4 and early C5 'vettes are more money, but still can be had for reasonable bucks, and the SBC probably has the best choice of go-fast parts of *any* engine. But on a tight course, the turbo Miata guy will give you fits.
#3 of 65 Re: Depends what you want, don't it? [ajvdh]
Mar 30, 2005 (3:20 pm)
It does depend on what you want. If you want to win street or track races using a street legal car with the least expenditure, get a Mustang GT. Almost all of the other vehicles will require an engine swap to be competitive with the GT.
Mar 30, 2005 (6:26 pm)
I'll defend the Civic here a bit...
(though I would recommend the Miata too, to people who can afford to have a non-daily driver)
First off, it's a good daily driver. Four good seats, even in the coupe. Great manual transmissions. Great mileage if you shift early. Slow enough to teach car control more effectively. Good safety ratings for its class.
Second, the pre-'01 models take modifications very well.
Tons of suspension travel in the pre-'01's, and a high potential (well, theoretically) handling limit since the double wishbone front suspension doesn't lose its camber during body roll. They can be lowered a lot without hurting the car (though obviously, handling will suffer if the dampers don't match the springs). That's not true of the new ones; they have trouble if you change the suspension geometry and the only cheaper kits that don't do that are Honda's HFP and Mugen's SS, both of which are mild in drop and stiffness.
And there are lots of parts (engines, most importantly) from other cars in the Honda line that drop right in. Easy to find the parts and people who can do the work. Lots of tried-and-tested aftermarket parts too, including turbos and superchargers, that are a bit cheaper than others due to the sheer volume of Civic sales.
Third, you can tell people you're going to buy a Civic and they'll assume you're sensible, if a little boring.
On the downside, Civics have had lousy steering feel ever since they got power steering. And a lot of people (here included) are sick of seeing them.
#5 of 65 Re: Depends what you want, don't it? [john500]
Mar 31, 2005 (1:19 pm)
Yeah, the 'stangs a good choice if you're after cheap, straightline speed. If your racing involves turns, you probably want to look somewhere else. The amount of time and work it takes to make a Mustang handle well is well beyond "beginner" status.
And if you're racing on the street, then you're an idiot no matter what you drive.
Mar 31, 2005 (1:57 pm)
"The amount of time and work it takes to make a Mustang handle well is well beyond "beginner" status."
That's a completely inaccurate statement, sorry. Not only is it easy to make a Mustang handle, it's pretty cheap, too.
Depending on the year, I can give you a short list of products and changes - I made my 1986 GT pull .93 on the skidpad, using z-rated street tires, not slicks or Hoosiers, for under $1300 in suspension components and two weekends at my house.
That's springs, struts, sway bars, bushings, braces (front upper, front lower, and rear upper) and a camber plate kit for less than the cost of a good set of coil-overs for a Honda.
#7 of 65 re: Hmmm
Apr 04, 2005 (2:24 pm)
Skidpad firgures would mean something if all we ever did was drive in circles on perfectly smooth pavement. But the real world is full of transitions, increasing and decreasing radius turns, bumps and holes. The Fox/SN95's basic arcitecture is compromised for that kind of stuff. Ya see, I've owned one (t-bird turbo-coupe). I've also seen (and ridden in) quite a few of 'em both at autocross and as a road-course instructor. It's got roll center and steering geometry problems in the front. The 4-link rear binds up, and doesn't control the axle well.
Yeah, you can slap big bars, springs and shocks on it, but you'll trade an increase in grip and better turn-in for really skittish behavior on bumps, and the snap oversteer the stock car already has will be even less predicable. Your ride qualtiy will suffer (kind of an understatement). Throwing out the entire rear suspension in favor of a three-link or Griggs setup is good start towards giving it the predictability and compliance it needs to be "good handling", but I'd hardly call that "beginner" level mods.
If you want to explore good handling, why not start with a chassis that handles well from the get-go?
#8 of 65 It's really quite simple...
May 07, 2005 (6:38 pm)
Choose the kind of car you want (60s mucscle car, 90s sport compact, etc.), and then pick the one with most aftermarket support -- that will almost invariably be the one that is reliable and responds best to tuning. Good luck! =D
#9 of 65 Re: Hmmm [driftracer]
May 08, 2005 (9:43 am)
You can weld your axles to the body and pull crazy G on the skid pad. To many, that is certainly NOT the definition of good handling.
Even with cars that have independent rear suspension, once you slap on bigger anti-roll bar, you'll notice two things right away. One, you get more grip and oversteer, and two, your car will feel more nervous on bumps and during transitions.
#10 of 65 Re: Hmmm [spinzero]
May 09, 2005 (2:34 pm)
There are a lot of good potential cars out there. I honestly would look towards the Grassroots Motorsports Magazine GRM challenge cars as proof that you don't need a lot of money to get above average performance from a broad range of vehicles.
But, if you asked for my vote, it would be the Merkur XR4Ti, Mustang GT, and the Mazda Miata.