The weirdness of one city’s car modification fashions

Posted on March 27th, 2005 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Car modification fashions, like all fashions, appear especially odd to those people who aren’t fashionable. I am very old-fashioned, out-of-fashion, fashion illiterate, unfashionable – call it what you will. That’s especially the case with car modification fashions to be found in Sydney.

Take the car I saw today in traffic. It epitomised all that is wrong with the city’s modification fashion. A Kia Rio, it featured dual polished cannon mufflers hanging low at the back, ho-hum alloy wheels, and a huge dual-plane aluminium wing complete with endplates. So, a pedestrian car with ineffective mods.

But that wasn’t all – nope, with just those changes, the owner wouldn’t have been quite at the fashion cutting edge.

It was also imperative that they position their rear ‘P’ plate three-quarters behind the numberplate – and of course that numberplate had to bear a series of purpose-picked letters and numbers showing something fundamentally meaningless. I forget what the actual plate was – something like ‘2EZ4ME’. Don’t get it? I assume it means “too easy for me”. What’s the significance of that? God knows. Of course, within his peer group, this plate probably makes him a hero.

Sydney is Australia’s largest city and perhaps as a result, has a distinctively different car culture to the rest of the continent. For example, in addition to odd cars like ‘2EZ4ME’, the most elaborate show cars in Australia can be found in Sydney. The desire for peer approbation also appears huge. Put those things together and you can end up with what I can only call very strange cars.

Well, strange if you believe – as I do – that the whole point of modifying cars is to enjoy driving them on the road. The show cars? Well, they see only the length of tarmac that extends from the car carrier to the show hall.

These show cars are bizarre and extreme. Cars converted from four seats to a single central seat – and with the roof chopped off for good measure. All the interior trim replaced with moulded fibreglass, complete with exposed sound system speakers. Of course, the car could never be registered for use on the street.

Or a car with gold-plated rims that doesn’t have a bonnet. When we went to photograph it (not realising it was a pure show-piece) we were told that it couldn’t be driven even a few hundred metres to a photo location.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t put the builders of these show cars in the same category as ‘2EZ4ME’. It takes enormous resources, dedication and sheer hard work to make these show cars happen. But to what effect? Having a car that can be admired only by those into a similar fashion consciousness at a handful of showings per year? (And of course it’s an essentially ephemeral experience: by definition, these cars rapidly go out of fashion!)

When I look at a well modified car, I do so from a simple perspective: what has been done to the car that is interesting and relevant to me? What can I learn? In other words, are there techniques or modifications or parts or ideas that can be used in some way on my own car?

Unfortunately for this fashion philistine, after looking at these cars, the answer is always a resounding ‘No!’

Yes, lots of strange cars in that place, Sydney….

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