Rafel Royes Lopez
Chariot fit for a star
Just about every part of a car can be tuned
Car tuning is the modern term for the often exaggerated modification of an automobile. Rims, doors, windows, steering wheels, suspensions—almost every part of a car that can be named can be added to, replaced and altogether removed in order to improve its appearance or performance. There are ‘pimped’ classic cars, Japanese ‘tuners’ with neon strips beneath the chassis, and ‘shaved’ autos that must be opened by keyless remote because the door handles and locks have been removed for cleaner lines.
It’s a fashion that has been growing in Spain for over 20 years. This past June, Barcelona held its 34th motor show since 1919, and it featured a tuning competition, with a selection of the best tuning cars in Spain. And there’s more to come—starting November 30th, the Fira will host a three-day Tuning Show, with exhibitors showing off accessories and customisation services, audio and multimedia for cars, clubs, fashion, and specialist publications. Last year’s Tuning Show attracted about 90,000 visitors, and over 100,000 are expected to attend this year’s.
Tuning styles tend to vary across cultures, according to Paco Antunez of TotCar, a speciality shop at the corner of Carrers Girona and Corsèga. The Japanese and Germans prefer to maximise their engines’ performances by adding air intake valves, turbo chargers and any other modification that will increase horsepower. Americans gravitate more toward creating the illusion of luxury vehicles and suspension tuning, like the famous Low Rider, designed for improved cornering on city streets.
“In Spain, and also in France, we like the aesthetic. Here, we sell a lot of body kits and rims. And every year, the American rapper style is becoming more and more popular,” Antunez said, stepping over to a glass case to show off a collection of gear shifts, brake handles and even foot pedals, all of them studded with fake diamonds.
The automobile has been classically described as an extension of the male sex organ. But the English comedian, Jeremy Hardy, disputes this idea. “If it were, men would surely not drive too fast; they would just back in and out of the garage...Or maybe just polish it all the time.’’ Hardy has apparently never noticed how well-polished a tuned car actually is.
Like the male bowerbird, which builds an elaborate structure to attract mates, there is a disproportionate number of men over women who will take great pains to outfit themselves with a vehicle that demonstrates, if not always taste, at least economic and/or technological potency. Thus, wherever there is a disposable income for young men, there will be a market for those who consider their car not just an expression of their personality, but at times even their alter-ego.
People who might otherwise be rather humble in their appearances, origins or abilities are known to spend tens of thousands of euros in order to outfit themselves in a chariot fit, if not for a king then possibly for a basketball superstar. Aficionados will pay as much as €3,000 for doors, €8,000 for a complete set of rims, and €6,000 for a stereo system that pounds out 150 decibels, about the same as a jet airplane engine at take-off.
“There are a lot of young people who can spend €18,000 or even €24,000 to modify their car,” said Antunez. “To be honest, I don’t know how they do it. You take into account the purchase price of the car, then insurance for a 20 year old. It’s crazy. But they do it.”