Modifying Stock Vehicles - Shop Talk

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Behavior Modification
I never imagined being "that guy," you know, the one who can't ever leave well enough alone. Granted, as car guys, we're all bound to have our vices. And mine is, I honestly can't leave any vehicle I own stock-at least for very long.

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Maybe this stems from the fact that I've always purchased used vehicles and the lowest mileage any of them had was 88,000 miles. At that point, who cares about leaving them stock? It's all about modifying them, right? In college I had no concern for streetability. I wanted to maximize the performance, not worry about long-distance road trips. Now that I think about it, the longest commute I had was heading over to the now-defunct Carlsbad Raceway, about 45 minutes from my door in San Diego. Maybe it was never a concern because I lived near campus and could take the bus if I had to. Anyway, in went the long-tube headers with 3-inch exhaust, the drag suspension, nitrous, and the required Weld Racing rollers, with skinnies up front and a set of Mickey Thompson ET Streets out back.

Admittedly, the ride was plush but the drive got challenging under certain conditions. It still wasn't enough to push me to go back to stock; seriously, I was proud of cruising around in a mid-11-second street car with air conditioning. Would I do it today? If it was the only vehicle I owned, probably not, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be modified in one form or another.

Since then, I've been into a number of vehicles, most of them ending with similar results. And when it came to purchasing my first new vehicle, a fullsize truck in 2006, I promised myself that I wouldn't touch it-well, that was a monstrous lie. Just 5,000 miles into it, I had already outfitted it with a complete exhaust system, a cold-air kit, a programmer, and larger wheels and tires. Still, these modifications are fairly subtle and didn't cause any driveability issues whatsoever. If anything, it's a lot more pleasurable to drive and even makes towing a bit nicer. Now I just need to find a way to justify that 6-inch lift I've been eyeing for the past two years.

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Aside from the truck, I have another commuter that's going on its 11th year and didn't get modified until logging well over 100,000 miles. It received the similar treatment as the truck, only this one was lowered for improved handling, and it's definitely fun to drive.

More recently, my good friend Terry Stevens left me his beautiful C5 Z06, and while my first thoughts were to leave it alone - I'm starting to think otherwsise. Currently, I'm planning to do occasional autocross events, and while some may argue that it'll be pretty hard to refine what The General has already produced, I think there's room for improvement when it comes to suspension. For power, we're talking 405 hp on tap, plenty of oomph for the street. It's no joke, the way the car sits from the factory, it's surprisingly easy to drive and very predictable on the road. Nevertheless, the question I pose to you this month is, do you give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to modifying this factory work of art?

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