Hindsight is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Understanding some things weren’t as amazing as we thought they were in their golden days. The same applies to the tuning style of the “Fast & Furious” era or, rather, the early-to-mid 2000s. Got wings? Got flashy colors? Got the loudest audio setup and tons of screens? It was all about that!
Tuning goes almost as far back as the car itself. Modifying an object, with either functionality or looks in mind, is a natural impulse. Same goes for modifying a car. People used to do it as far back as the beginning of the first decades of the 20th century, switching engines off a Ford V8 and stuffing them in a Ford Model A. Everybody remembers the hot rods in movies like “Grease.”
A lot of the tuning in the early days was carried out with competition in mind, motor racing being a great catalyst of innovative ideas that arose from the need to make a car go faster than it was originally intended to. Generations of “garagisti” – as Enzo Ferrari would call the British racing teams – or shop owners made a living out of improving a car’s natural ability around corners or in matters like acceleration or top speed.
Coupled with the mechanical part came the visual part. If you are to modify your car, you want people to notice it even before you turn the key in the ignition – mind you, unless sleepers are your thing. That’s why the hot rods featured flame graphics on the sides or outlandish pinstriping following the car’s profile. All that evolved into metallic paint jobs, big chromed wheels and many other elements that made people turn their heads, if not in appreciation at least due to sheer awe.
Arguably, the peak of the looks-over-functionality drive was reached somewhere in the early ‘00s with the advent of the “Fast & Furious” franchise. Back then more about cars and illegal street racing than about jumping between skyscrapers, Michael Bay-esque explosions and desert racing, the franchise transformed cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34) or the Mazda RX-7 (FD) into cult icons that everyone bowed before and adored. And that everyone wanted to mod.
Be it visually or mechanically, Japanese machinery became the go-to platform for tuners in the early part of the new millennium. It wasn’t all due to the fad since these cars had very potent underpinnings that could hold vast amounts of horsepower beyond those offered on the showroom floor, but we’re talking here more about the aesthetic department. Large body kits, huge wheels, colorful everything, vinyl liveries – not to be mistaken by the vinyl trim on Malaise-era land yachts – and earth-pounding sound systems.
Read on to relish the memories of the tuning scene as it was back when many of us were in their teens.