Who doesn’t love a modified car? More power, better sounds, sharper handling, these are all good things, right? Surely Midnight Club 3 wouldn’t lie to me, telling me that mods are inherently better than stock parts. Surely any modification is, by virtue of being modified, better. Right?
Not always. Yesterday, we asked you for the dumbest mods you’ve ever installed on a car, and you answered in spades. From the mundane to the galaxy-brain, here are some of our favorite responses.
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A Whole Parts Catalog Of Neon Accessories
A Whole Parts Catalog Of Neon Accessories
Oh I threw soooo much stupid stuff at my Neon. Look at this interior. LOOK AT IT:
Look at the Krylon spray-painted dash. The expensive shift knob FOR AN AUTOMATIC that I ordered from Japan. The pedal covers. The “sport” seat covers and floor mats. The Sony “XPLODE” speakers in the doors that the window cranks would hit - and no amp, just coming straight off the 200W Pioneer head unit. The old Motorola cell phone in the holder screwed to the dash. THE DICE.
It gets better:
Ebay CAI? Check. Faux braided metal wire and pipe wraps? Check. Painted valve cover? Check. There’s headers and an aluminum underdrive pulley there too. And MSD ignition and wires. At least that “CAI” was fed by fresh air from the...
...HOOD SCOOP! Yes, an ABS plastic hood scoop, bought off Ebay and lovingly hand-painted by yours truly (with rattle can paint), after punching a hole in the hood to (hopefully) feed air to the intake and IT’S GOOD FOR 20 HP BECAUSE THE AD SAID SO.
K-Mart fog lights, hardware store mesh grill inserts, Ebay vinyl racing stripes (again, added by me), AutoZone hubcaps over the 15" steelies. Can’t see the “dual” stainless exhaust out back (which actually sounded pretty good all things considered.) Thankfully, no ridiculous wing or clear tail lights - I had some standards.
Before this, I had my Dodge Shadow...which I think at one point had the chrome windshield wipers that reflected sunlight right into my eyes, and one of those Pep Boys bolt-one 3" exhaust tips that fell off on the highway and may have caused an accident.
Look: Not everyone will have the same tastes in styling, and that’s completely fine. And sure, some of these mods are the kind of thing we’d politely call period correct, or impolitely call dated. But consider this: The original Neon, in its day, was incredible in SCCA autocross. You added power, improved the sound, and made the interior a place you wanted to spend your time. To my mind, that’s a good result.
K&N air filter with the associated “performance intake”.
These do nothing for the average car except pull hot air from the engine bay to a filter that is worse than a paper filter when it comes to actual filtration.
There’s one crucial benefit to the performance intake that you’re forgetting: Whoosh noises. I can say I added a K&N filter to my old FR-S, in the factory airbox, just to get a little bit more intake sound. It worked, so I’m calling it a win.
I installed a LeBra on my ‘86 MR2. I thought car bras looked so cool. In less than a year, the trapped moisture, pine needles, and grime meant that while the fascia remained chip-free, it was now scratched and dull with bubbling rust at the contact points of the wheel arches.
Such a counter-productive aesthetic “upgrade”.
My nostalgia-addled brain still (or again) thinks they look cool, but I will never make that mistake again.
For some mods, there’s a give and a take. The LeBra protected your paint from chips and dings, but subjected it to rust and scrapes. In all things, balance, as with Libra’s scales. Fitting, isn’t it?
My close friend, who was in his early 20's at the time, put a $2000 stereo system with a subwoofer in a company car. Yes, he returned the car with the system still installed.
Here’s a bit of industry-insider knowledge for you: Any part you put in a car can generally be taken out, if you have the stock stuff sitting around to replace it. De-modding your car before the sale is a time honored tradition.
Back in the day when I was really in to JDM car culture, I would buy JDM parts instead of ones made domestically. They cost like 3 times as much, and was no better than a domestic company’s equivalent products. Some might be even worse, to be honest.
Why buy a Cobalt 3 point strut tower bar for $250, when you can buy a JDM Nielex strut bar for $700 that may or may not do the same thing? $400 Goodwin Racing axleback? Nah. $1200 JDM RE Amemiya Dolphin Tail Muffler is the only thing worthy to install on my NC2 Miata.
Needless to day, I no longer buy JDM. Except for wheels. And the wheels are track only.
I understand that, functionally, many American parts are just as good as the Japanese equivalent. However, if you write “RE Amemiya” on literally any object, I will try and buy it from you. My closet is full of aero mirrors and shift knobs that I can’t use.
I got a pair of K-mart special foglights for Christmas one year.
I then spent a miserable two hours the week after Christmas installing them in 30 degree weather on my first rustbucket of a car, my 1973 Pontiac Ventura with the 250ci straight-six and two-speed Powerglide automatic.
Since I didn’t have a drill, I used a bracket that clamped onto the bumper to mount the lights.
The foglights barely produced any light so they were pretty much worthless, and I managed to wipe out the left on on a snow bank less than a month later.
There’s something appealing about a fog light that isn’t incorporated into the front end of your car in any way. It brings back fond memories of rally days gone by. I’ll never fault anyone for adding them, especially in yellow, but maybe mount them a little more firmly next time.
I won’t lie, I *might* have painted my brake calipers....
Didn’t do a great job cleaning it first so it chipped/pealed badly in about 3 months.
Painted drums, uggg, I did that.
Look, it’s just science. Red is the fastest color, so the more red parts you have on your car the faster it’ll be. Painting your calipers is a nice boost, but think of all the extra surface area that drums have. Painting those must be much more effective.
I had a Dart with the little 1.4 Multiair engine and I added a plate that gave it a little blow-off sound on gear shifts. I know a lot of people would say it’s dumb, and it is, but it made me smile so I figured why not, I like it. What made it actually dumb though was the poor quality o-ring in it that broke not long after install causing a low-boost condition which is obviously no fun.
The Dart doesn’t deserve ALL the hate it gets, with the stick and that little Abarth motor it fell into that slow-car-fast thing where you could just rip on it and just enjoy it without the danger of driving something fast or expensive.
The 1.4 MultiAir is a great little engine. It’s fun in the 500 Abarth, it’s fun in the 124 Abarth, and it sure does also come in vehicles without a scorpion on the front. If you can make your Dart sound a bit more Italian, why not go for it?
Fly-head air cleaner on a carbureted small block chevy. Over time the foam deteriorates (or with one good backfire just gets obliterated) and little bits fall into the engine. Thankfully caught it before too much of it got sucked up but man, what a terrible design.
I have never seen an air filter in this style that wasn’t absolutely soaked in fuel. I’m not sure if it’s a consequence of the design, or a consequence of poorly tuned carburetors, but they always reek of gasoline.
You nearly hit the nail on the head. I was already a man when I got the bright idea to install an android tablet into my dash as the head unit. Connected to the hot spot on my phone and basically had Android Auto before that was even a thing. Even had a custom OS build that was specifically for vehicle use, including matching the logo and color scheme to my car.
Honestly, it worked pretty well for the hack job that it was. But there were a few things that grant it my “worst mod” award:
- Since this was obviously not a common use case, there weren’t exactly any dash kits out there for integrating tablets. I had to mod a regular Double-DIN kit, which I scarred up rather nicely in the process. I then tried to use Bondo to smooth everything out and make it look stock, but I had neither the skill nor the patience to pull it off. Looked absolutely terrible.
- I put few whole system on a switch so that I could listen with the car off. Unfortunately, the amplifiers and signal processor I used did not have a soft turn on feature. So every time I turned the system on, there was a small surge that created a loud pop from the speakers. Speakers were fine, but I think it may have contributed to breaking one of my amps.
- That switch had another drawback, which was that I regularly forgot to turn it off. More often than I would like to admit, I came out to a car whose battery was so drained, the power locks didn’t even work. I learned quickly to keep a jump starter on hand, but those were pretty bulky and didn’t hold a charge very long back then.
Now you can buy a plug-and-play head unit for $500 that has a 10+ inch screen and is already set up with AA/CarPlay. Hazards of being ahead of your time, I guess.
Custom tablet-based radios always seem great, until you deal with some of the harsh realities. It won’t play nice with your phone, like CarPlay and Android Auto do, and unless you tether it to a mobile hotspot you won’t actually be able to stream music the way you want.
Aftermarket white-faced gauge cluster backing on a z24 cavalier. Just the backing, a whole new cluster was too expensive.
It worked fine but dash lights were barely bright enough to shine through the backing so you could only see the warning lights at night in the dark. Also, when I put the gauge needles back on the fuel needle was not correct and it showed a 1/2 tank when it was nearly empty. Combine that with the aforementioned inability to see any warning lights during the day (including the low fuel light) and I ran out of gas on the side of the highway twice that year.
In a vacuum, changing out the backing print on your gauge cluster is a good mod. It can improve visibility, spruce up an aging interior, or just look more interesting to you, the driver. Unfortunately, it can also make everything worse. Try not to do that.
My first car was a new off the lot 2007 Hyundai Tiburon, 2L with a 4 speed auto. The looks and handling (after big brakes, wide sticky tires and a strut bar) were quite good but under the hood was a joke and every mod I did was money not well spent.
eBay cold air intake- nice sound, no help
Jet “tune”- at least it gave me cool a readout on the air fuel mixture. I didn’t feel any difference
Spark plugs- no difference- one set made it worse
Spark plug wires- made it worse went back to stock
I can’t recall the brand but I bought and installed a engine to subframe connecter to contain the engine’s torque…And I didn’t notice anything different
Throttle pulley- changed the size to give the throttle a quicker response, and the engine was so lame that even that didn’t wake it up. I think the computer was just set on keeping it lazy
Straight pipes- made it loud and droning and was cool for about 5 minutes
On my other cars I feel that all my mods have improved and attained the goals I was looking for. On that Tib, however, it was destined to live in mediocrity.
It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, but some cars can’t even keep up enough to make that interesting. You can throw as much money at the issue as you want, but some engines will just never wake up. Luckily for all of us, the K-swap exists.
There’s no shame in knowing your limits. If your limit is “always enters corners a bit too slowly on track,” you’ve got a definitive issue that you can work to overcome. If your issue is “gets distracted on the phone while driving,” maybe just bring your car back to stock — including the driver mod.
I was not mechanically inclined, mind you, but I drove a Delta 88 that had a tape deck. The tape deck ate tapes, so I velcroed a cassette walkman to the underside of the dash, with a stereo miniplug to cassette adapter- so I would play my tapes in the walkman through the adapter instead of just getting a cheapy stereo, because to 17 year old me, “wires scary- that’s a professional job I can’t afford.”
What are you gonna do, not be able to listen to cassettes in your car? Clearly replacing the head unit isn’t an option, you need to wire a cassette-to-3.5mm adapter into another cassette player. I love this. All cars should come like this from the factory, and I will not take questions or debate on this point.