Buying an older or cheaper car and modifying it to make it both unique and better is a long-held tradition in American motoring.
Since Henry Ford first started churning out Model T’s by the hundreds, car owners have been customizing and modifying their cars to make them faster, more job-specific, or just more fancy.
Whatever the goal, it always starts with “more.”
Modifying a car can be as easy as bolting on a new spoiler or as time-consuming as re-tuning the engine and adding a roll cage for racing safety.
Here are 10 vehicles that you can easily modify to be faster or cooler than their original.
While almost any vehicle can become a tuner, the cars on this list were chosen based on price, availability (for the car as well as parts and tuning kits) and beginner-level simplicity:
Before the Acura RSX, there was the Integra.
Source: Richard Andrianto
The Integra was a great-looking little car that came out of the factory with a good start at being excellent. The third-generation Integra is often the one most sought after by tuners for its classic looks and solid build quality. The rare, but very sought-after Type R editions are especially prized.
Ford Mustang GT
Almost any Ford Mustang that is not the base V6 model can be well-tuned for straight-line racing.
The GT 350 designed by Carroll Shelby began it all decades ago, and since then the Ford Mustang GT has been a go-to choice for tuners.
Tuning for the Mustang really took off in the 1980s after the introduction of the “Fox body” Mustang from 1979.
Recently, famous drift racer Ken Block did an extreme modification to a classic 1965 Ford Mustang and has since been traveling the world, tearing up streets and burning tires with it:
The Honda Civic has long been a popular choice for amateur tuners.
Its simple front-wheel-drive platform, excellent handling dynamics and robust transmission have made the Civic a go-to tuner car for weekend performance tinkerers for years.
Likewise, its bigger brother the Honda Accord has gathered attention, especially in its coupe body style.
From outlandish spoilers to over-the-top snorkels and intake cuts, the Civic is extremely popular among street tuners.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda Miata has a reputation for being one of the most customizable sports cars ever made.
As the world’s most popular roadster, the Miata is prolific enough that cars and parts for them are easily found.
Miatas are often modified for track racing, road course racing, drifting, and autocross. Modifications range from body styling to extreme engine tuning.
The small four-cylinder in the Miata can be tuned and turbocharged or replaced with anything up to a small-block V8, if you have the knowledge and skills.
The car’s excellent handling characteristics, low build, and simple, yet versatile chassis make it a winner all around when it comes to tuning potential.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
As far as automakers go, few have the racing credentials and reputation of Mitsubishi.
Although not very well-known in the United States as a general carmaker, Mitsubishi is one of the top names globally in various racing formats.
Few of their cars, however, have garnered the attention (and trophy case) that the Lancer Evolution has.
Since its U.S. introduction in 2003, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has been one of the most coveted sport tuning cars since it arrived.
It features a robust all-wheel-drive system, turbocharged engines that beg for bigger turbos and excellent track-ready handling characteristics. Whether on the pavement or in a rally, the Lancer Evolution is usually on the podium when the race is done.
The 240SX is primarily known to tuners as one of the best drift machines you can build.
It is rear-wheel driven, has a strong transmission, and an engine that just cannot be killed.
While body kits and wheel options are plentiful for the 240SX, most tuners aim for tire and rear chassis mods to improve the car’s drifting capability for both competition and fun.
The 240SX is often on the used market at very low prices and modifications are relatively cheap to make it competition-ready for amateur drifting.
The cheapest car on our list when purchased new, the Scion tC is relatively new to the field, but has become a popular tuner thanks to the plethora of aftermarket options that flooded the market when this popular little coupe hit showrooms.
It comes off the line with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a transmission that both beg for upgrades.
The style of the car and its low price of entry has also meant that body modifications are a given for nearly everyone who buys one.
Wheels, an aftermarket spoiler and more are all to be had here.
These are track-ready, rear-wheel-drive cars in their own right, with good power and great handling characteristics.
Designed as a collaboration between Toyota and Subaru, the FR-S and BRZ utilize a boxer four-cylinder engine and a very hot-looking exterior design. The collaboration proved successful and these cars sell very well out of showrooms nationally.
Now, the tuner culture has caught on and everything from turbochargers to new rear spoilers can be had for these cars.
Most of the tuning in the FR-S focuses on speed and track-readiness, but many popular kits are all about the bling too.
Subaru WRX STI
One of the few serious competitors for the above-mentioned Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the Subaru WRX STI is often a World Rallycross champion, and for good reason.
The STI packaging for the cars comes with nearly everything the power-monger would want already installed. With a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out impressive power, the WRX STI is ready to rock out of the box.
Most tuners concentrate on body kits, rollover kits, interior modifications for racing and tire and wheel combinations for the track.
With four doors and family-car credibility, the WRX STI can also double as a daily driver.
Probably the most popular German car for tuning, the Volkswagen GTI is the original “hot hatch.” With practical performance, the VW GTI created its own culture of tuners.
Most concentrate on track readiness with handling, control, and power output being their targets. However, aftermarket body kits and interior modification sets are becoming more popular as street tuners turn to the GTI for new inspiration.
The beauty of modifications is that they can be done to just about any car, so there are plenty of other models you could try too.