Want to spin some wrenches, get a little grease under those fingernails? If so, here are 10 of the best new vehicles to modify.
Just because you’ve purchased a brand-new car or truck doesn’t mean you’ve got to leave it exactly the way it rolled off the assembly line. There are PLENTY of things you can change, from adding upgraded floor mats or a tonneau cover, to lowering the suspension or even doing an engine swap. In no particular order, here are 10 of the best new vehicles to modify.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
From the original model straight through to the present day, Mazda’s MX-5 Miata has delivered more fun than could ever be measured. This humble roadster has never been about outright speed or track-day hooning. In stock form it’s really better used for weekend drives on your favorite back roads. But if you want more, the aftermarket is happy to oblige. A vast array of companies makes an untold number of parts for this Mazda, from all-new suspension kits, to superchargers to V8 swaps. If you want to transform your Miata, you can do it practically any way you please.
At the complete opposite end of the automotive spectrum is Jeep’s Wrangler, another HIGHLY modifiable vehicle. From bumper guards to winches, chassis upgrades to engine tunes, roof racks to lightbars, intake snorkels to bead-lock wheels there is SO MUCH kit available for this vehicle it’s not even funny. And I’m not just talking about the latest JL model. Wranglers going back decades are super customizable as well.
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
Like Mazda’s Miata, the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins are superb vehicles for modifying. Light in weight and precise to drive, they’re true enthusiast cars. But, if they’ve got one major weakness, it’s under the hood. Neither one is particularly fast. The 2.0-liter boxer-four-cylinder providing motivation delivers, at best, 205 horsepower. Torque output is, well, probably less than with many string trimmers. Of course, there are plenty of aftermarket turbo- and supercharger kits available to correct this issue, along with TONS of other stuff.
Refined and mature, the Volkswagen Golf and its higher-performance stable-mate, the GTI, are wonderful platforms for modification, as they have been for decades. The current MKVII model can pump out some incredible power from its range of turbocharged engines. With these cars you can easily make your VW YOUR VW. There are aftermarket intercoolers and blow-off valves, off-road pipes and catch cans, ignition upgrades and dress-up parts. Practically anything and everything.
Of course, if you want a high-performance people’s car but DON’T want to do any modifications, you can always just grab a Golf R. They come with 288 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive.
Subaru WRX/WRX STI
Another darling of the custom-car set is Subaru’s WRX, including that sport-compact apex predator, the STI version. With stout, turbocharged, horizontally opposed engines, standard all-wheel drive and sturdy transmissions, these rally-bred machines are built for just about anything… including SERIOUS increases in performance. So, go ahead, bolt a larger turbo on there, install a race-ready coil-over suspension or even upgrade those brakes with some large-pizza-sized rotors, your WRX and/or STI will thank you.
Rollin’ right along, another EXCELLENT vehicle to modify is the Chevrolet Camaro. An American legend, this mean-machine has always represented tire-smoking fun and disorderly conduct. Arguably, today’s sixth-gen version is the best yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it even better. Take the SS model, for instance, throw headers and a new intake on there, or some ported cylinder heads and a gnarly performance camshaft. Without much work you can make that LS V8 absolutely thunder! And that’s to say nothing of ALL the other mods you can do.
Just like the Camaro, Ford’s Mustang is a freebie of sorts for the aftermarket industry. Rowdy and raucous, since day one in the mid-1960s it’s been an ideal host for all sorts of mods. Today’s version of the car can be enhanced with a HUGE number of items, like computer calibrations for the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine to supercharger kits for the Coyote V8, camshafts and intake manifolds, dress-up parts and upgraded ignition components, the list is nearly endless.
Like its crosstown rivals, the Dodge Challenger is a highly modifiable vehicle. An untold number of aftermarket parts is available for this retro-inspired two-door, from the usual suspects like performance brakes and chassis enhancements, to an oh-so-cool shaker hood scoop. The Challenger is a great platform for customizing.
Ford Super Duty
Another highly modifiable vehicle is the Ford Super Duty! Yes, this hard-working pickup can be tweaked and tuned to your heart’s content. You can crank up the wick on its available Power Stroke diesel engine to deliver STUPID amounts of horsepower and torque, you can lift them to the stratosphere with suspension upgrades, you can even throw on MASSIVE tires and build your own roadgoing monster truck. Now, the same is true of the heavy-duty trucks offered by GM and Ram but I picked the Ford because I tend to see more of them transformed into obnoxious bro-dozers than those competing pickups.
And, of course no list of the best cars to modify would be complete without including the Honda Civic, which has been around since the 1970s and for 10 generations. From engine swaps to suspension drops and everything in between, there’s almost nothing you can change, tweak or otherwise alter on these affordable models. I mean, the Civic practically birthed the whole sport-compact movement, didn’t it?
Check out more episodes of The Short List!