Do you wonder how people can drive their cars stock? Just pick it up from the dealership and drive it as-is? Most will even leave the dealer badges on the trunk along with the license plate covers.
The tuner market is big business. So what if most people are happy with whatever the manufacturer builds them? There’s an entire culture of enthusiasts looking to make their own modifications. Whether it’s performance, decorative or whatever else they may come up with, there are suppliers to give you the ride you want.
Getting started on a project car can be a challenge. Before you even think about what exhaust or suspension you’re going to upgrade to, you need a car to modify. Not sure what will give you the best bang for your buck? Keep reading for the nine best tuner cars.
The obvious choice, the Civic has been a go-to tuner choice for a reason: the number of options. You can start with either the Si or Type-R, both high-performance models direct from the factory. Or you can start with a base model and build it up from there.
Whatever your choice, the aftermarket for Civic parts is extensive. Depending on your budget, you can do pretty much anything to these cars. Superchargers are as available as all-wheel drive conversion kits.
The WRX and STi are both legends in the rally world and for good reason. Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is as rock solid a drivetrain as you could hope for. Add a hyper-compressed boxer-four and you have a rocket ready to take corners sideways.
Even the base model offers a great starting point. Built on the same platform as the entire Subie lineup, it’s up to you to decide what you want to upgrade.
The arch-rival to the Subaru is the Mitsubishi Lancer. The Evolution is as feared a rally competitor as the STi, offering prodigious amounts of grip thanks to it’s all-wheel-drive.
If you don’t mind doing the work yourself, the entry-level model can be had for a low price, leaving your wallet flush to pay for all those bolt-ons.
While the Focus was an easy choice for a college students first car (cheap to buy, cheap to repair) the RS has changed the conversation completely. With power coming from all four corners, this handy hatchback was built to drift.
Available as a sedan, as well, the Focus is building a reputation as a fun-to-drive city car.
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ
When word came out that Japan’s largest manufacturer was partnering with Japan’s weirdest manufacturer, expectations were high. That’s not to say that the finished product was a disappointment. It just wasn’t what enthusiasts were expecting.
Using thin Prius tires and a Subaru boxer engine, what the 86/BRZ lacks in power, it makes up for in handling. The entire concept was to build a car that could drift at socially-accepted speeds, which is what they accomplished.
Now: imagine what you could do with some performance upgrades.
The GTI is a legend for combining the practicality of a hatchback with the performance of a rally car. It allowed you to drop the kids off at school during the week while tearing up dirt roads on the weekend.
Even the base Golf features a turbo-four under the hood. A chip upgrade can immediately unlock a significant bump in horsepower. Where you go from there is on you.
Otherwise known as the Miata, the MX-5 has been unfairly characterized as a hair-dressers car. Sure, it’s cute and it’s small, but it’s also as pure a driving experience as you could hope for.
The current generation is actually lighter than the previous one, improving handling. Power still goes to the back and gears are rowed through a six-speed manual.
The 2019 model gets a 26 horsepower bump over the previous year, but many may still find the 181hp on tap to be lacking. Luckily there are a number of options to bump this up.
Remember, though. Built as a convertible, you may want to consider a roll-cage if you intend to track yours.
Classic American muscle personified. The Mustang was introduced as a 2+2, a format it’s maintained ever since. (For those who don’t know, it refers to a coup? with two additional seats in the back. It should be mentioned that these seats are better at convincing your spouse that the car’s a practical one then they are at actually accommodating anyone.)
The layout is exactly what you want from a sports car. A V8 sits in the front, sending power to the back. What you do from here is nearly endless. Thanks to more than five generations of development, the number of aftermarket parts is considerable.
General Motors answer to the Mustang was the Camaro. Following the blueprint that their Dearborn rivals drafted, the Camaro attempts to best the Mustang in every way.
Engineers have actually done such a good job that many Camaros can outperform some of the Corvettes available on the market. And that’s straight from the factory.
Introduced three years after the Mustang, there’s a variety of models available. And, since Chevy enthusiasts are a dedicated bunch, the aftermarket for these cars is quite healthy.
Best Tuner Cars
If you want to get into tuning, choosing the right project car is important. But, whether you need something that can double as a grocery-getter or something that screams ‘track-day’ there is something for you.
What you do with your car is almost unlimited. From hood-scoops to full drivetrain conversions, your limit is your budget. Otherwise, these best tuner cars will satisfy your needs.
More importantly, they’ll satisfy your wants.
You don’t even need to know how to work on cars yourself. There are options, like this service, that will pick up your car for you, returning it customized to your preferences.
If you’re in need of an owner manual for your car, or if you want to look through one for something you’re considering, visit our Auto Repairs Manuals. We cover most models from all manufacturers.