This photo depicts an amusing solution to a dilemma all car enthusiasts grapple with. Sometimes, spending thousands of dollars to make radical changes to your ride just doesn’t make any sense. You won’t get that money back and in most cases, you’ll sacrifice comfort and practicality too.
We all know that when you lift a truck and put giant wheels on it, you introduce road noise, sloppy steering, and braking issues. That’s why most off road nuts who take their DDs out into the wilderness stick to mild lifts and slightly larger tires. It’s a sensible compromise, and the reality is that lifts are for squeezing the biggest tire you can into the wheel well. Ground clearance between the dirt and the bottom of your diff is important, and lifting the body 12" higher than your axles is pointless. Unless your vehicle has serious approach/departure angle issues, that won’t solve anything.
Now that’s nice and practical. No gratuitous body lifts in this photograph.
Here’s the opposite end of the spectrum. Lowering your can also be problematic. Once you’re so low to the ground that you need to dodge raised manhole covers, and take speed bumps and an angle, you introduce a wide variety of issues. The same idea applies to people who modify their cars for track use, but to a lesser degree. That involves less camber, more suspension travel, and tires with taller sidewalls.
I’ve spent 4 years watching my friend’s E36 stance project (not pictured) rattle itself to death over and over again. He blows through replacement parts at an alarming rate. The underside of his car, from the frame rails to the exhaust, is completely trashed. He can’t use drive throughs or ATMs properly. He’s even ripped off an oil pan. Plus, riding in his car is uncomfortable and quite frankly terrifying, especially in the rain. The bump steer and the decreased traction from the camber make hydroplaning way too easy. Sure, it’s fun to ride around in his passenger seat below 30 MPH on a sunny day and watch jaws drop. But is it really worth it? I’m not convinced.
Here’s a track rat’s E28. It’s low but it isn’t tucking tire. It isn’t cambered out either. And sure, those race tires probably wear down quickly, but that’s the price you pay for enhanced traction. At least the sidewalls aren’t stretched to the point at which they’re ready to rip themselves off of the bead. Finally, because the owner isn’t pushing the limits of his wheel wells/suspension setup, he can probably swap in a street wheel/tire package if he needs to drive on the street for extended periods of time.
Here’s a VIP’d out example of my car, a Y33 Q45 (Nissan Cima). Sure, it looks pretty cool. I’d approach my car from a more conservative angle if I went this route. Smaller wheels, larger tires, and a little higher. But even if I did that, what would I be left with? This isn’t a performance car. It’s not like I’m going to leave the poor old transmission in 2nd while hooning it in the twisties. And even though the dampers are pretty much shot, the car is still way more comfortable than it would be if I did something like this to it. I don’t want to ruin the ride to look cool. That’s just not my style.
My friends, especially the stance guy, are disappointed that I don’t really want to modify my car. I find that irritating. Sure, they’d get a kick out of looking at it and riding around in it if I decided to go that route. But I just can’t justify it. I don’t want to spend $3000 I’ll never get back on making my car worse. Plus, there are so many different driving experiences out there, and only a finite amount of time + money. I’d rather put that 3k towards something else. This car is dramatically different from my E24 in some ways, but the driving experience is for all intents and purposes identical. It’s slightly quick, the gas mileage is horrible, and it handles like a boat. I love it and I’m glad I found it, but I’m already fantasizing about owning something sporty for the first time. Ultimately, I know I’ll get more enjoyment out of dedicating my car $ to that goal.
So Oppo, how do you handle this dilemma within your own life? Do you simply own multiple cars, both stock and modified? Do you keep your one and only vehicle stock because that’s the practical thing to do? Or do you throw caution into the wind, and modify your DD while dealing with the consequences? Maybe you’ve made mild modifications to keep things practical? I’m curious.