Eating Your Cake

Jul 8, 2011

It seems that just about every hot rodder or racer has a story or two about past performance projects they had to part with in favor of something more practical.

From street machines that overheat in traffic or scrape over speed bumps to lifted trucks that rub tires at every turn or get 9 mpg on the highway, local trade-in lots and online sales sites are littered with once-beloved vehicles that fell victim to the harsh realities of daily commutes, growing families or tight economic times.

The downside for the performance aftermarket is that many of these vehicles belonged to younger enthusiasts who had to step away for one reason or another. Some will start fresh with a new project-maybe in a few months, maybe in a few years. But others will never get back around to it, their passion for performance a distant memory never to be rekindled.

A growing market trend is beginning to change that situation for the better. With stronger, more versatile vehicle platforms and higher-quality precision components, performance has gone multipurpose.

“One of the big challenges that we see shops facing is the evolution of performance enthusiasts,” notes Rick Squires of STS Turbo. “It used to be you had your hobby vehicle and you had a daily driver. Technology has come a long way over the last decade and is now allowing customers to have their cake and eat it, too. Basically, they want to have a daily-driver vehicle that delivers high performance and reliability in extreme conditions.”

He and others use the Jeep JK as a prime example. Fresh from the dealer’s lot with interior refinements and the latest technology, owners are simply adding products such as a turbo and suspension upgrades, along with wheels and tires, to create a multiuse vehicle that’s equally at home both on- and off-road.

“The future will continue to navigate toward performance-oriented vehicles that can also handle the daily rigors of commuting,” says Vinson Pratt from TeraFlex Mfg. “Dependable street drivability has and always will be the one key factor in what separates great components from mediocre parts.”

The sport compact market has emerged as a leader in multipurpose technology. Enthusiasts are driving their daily commuters to autocross events, time attack challenges or the local drag strip, competing and then driving home.

The same can be said for many of the muscle car “resto mods” that package more reliable power and handling in a classic shell. Cruise nights and road trips are a lot more fun when the risks of breaking down and getting towed home are reduced.

It all adds up to more performance vehicles on the road, a strengthening of the hobby as a whole, and more chances for shops to connect with clients, serve a larger base and help the percentage that wants to take the next step with bigger builds or competition-only projects.

Then, the next time the conversation turns to performance vehicles, instead of talking about the one that got away, your customers can simply walk outside and show off their pride-and-joy-the one they get to spend time with every day.