The longer I remain a part of the automotive enthusiast community, the more I realize most of us have no idea what we’re doing. I know this is a bold claim to make, so before you call me out for shouting at you from atop my petroleum powered high horse, allow me to explain. I don’t claim to be the all-knowing god of the automotive universe, but what I can promise you, is that I’ve learned a good amount about cars in the last five years, and that the knowledge I’m about to share is something you will benefit from. Here’s what you’re doing wrong:
1. Obsessing over horsepower
Understand that your car already has more power you can handle. Yes, I’m serious, your base model V6 Mustang is powerful enough as is. I’m not saying you’ll be slaying your neighbor’s 1,200whp Supra in a highway roll race, but you should at least learn to drive, to really drive, before you slap that Procharger on. Your car has untapped potential that you will never release without a few days of seat time, whether it be on a road course, drift course, or AutoX track. If you’re looking for modifications that will help you grow as a driver and shave precious seconds off those lap times, buy some decent coilovers, sway bars, wheels and tires. Have some extra cash still? Spend it on a helmet and some track time. Don’t forget that alignment, either. The driver mod is the most powerful of all, because without a fast driver, even the most powerful of cars will be slow. The worst thing you can do is buy a well-powered car like the Subaru STi, build the motor, upgrade the turbo and leave the suspension bone stock. Sure, you’ll have great straight line power, but you won’t carry any of that speed through the turns you’re bound to encounter.
2. Buying cheap parts
If you’re anything like the rest of the automotive community, you waste (yes, I said waste) a lot of money on your car. Why buy inferior eBay parts with poor craftsmanship, cheap materials and no customer service backing? It’s all about quality over quantity here. Make the initial investment in quality parts and you won’t be replacing them with something better in a few months. Thinking about buying some Raceland Coilovers and a Spectre intake? Maybe replacing those high quality factory BBS wheels with some bigger XXRs? Stop right there. Put down your debit card. Back away from the computer. If you buy these, you will be downgrading, not upgrading. If you can’t afford the nice stuff now, just have some patience and save up like the adult you are.
3. Putting form before function
Obviously this post is completely performance oriented, so I won’t even mention the stance crowd. But really, why are you even considering dropping $2,000-4,000 on a set of aftermarket wheels, or $600 on a Cobb Accessport, before you stiffen up that suspension and lower your center of gravity a bit? If you’re buying a sports car, you should be more worried about performance than appearance. After all, you already bought a good looking car, right? Treat yourself to a small visual upgrade and spend the rest of that hard earned cash on parts that will improve your driving experience. No, that doesn’t mean an intake and exhaust.
4. Listening to the wrong people
Stop listening to your 17-year-old neighbor who dives the Del Sol with a straight pipe. Get out to some track events, make some friends and enjoy the ridiculous amount of automotive knowledge they have to share. Have an instructor ride shotgun so he can critique your driving and offer advice. Learn about the best bang-for-your-buck mods from the most skilled drivers. Spend your free time skimming automotive magazines, forums and websites. There is an unfathomable amount of automotive knowledge up for grabs if you look in the right places. In time, you’ll be the person giving advice, rather than seeking it.
Although I’m no automotive guru, I guarantee that by eliminating these bad habits, you will build a far more enjoyable, track-ready car. Whether you’re looking to be a weekend autocross warrior, a Formula Drift professional or the next Ayrton Senna, just keep these points in mind, remember your goals and the rest will come naturally.