Hooniverse Asks- What's the Best Cheap Performance Mod?

We’d all like a little more go in our cars, but a lot of modifications can be wallet-draining exercises. Forced induction, re-calibrated ECM chips and suspension upgrades all cost a king’s ransom. So, what’s a hoon on a budget to do?

Death Rides Shotgun

If you’re tired of the factory-installed performance of your ride, what’s the best investment in go-faster or corner-quicker that you could make? Is it tires? Intake-mods? Have you made any of these mods already, or are you planning on some? So many questions, so little money.  How can we hoon on the cheap?
Image sources:[thegasmisers.com, clubxb.com]

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  1. Brosephus Rex Avatar
    Brosephus Rex

    straight pipes!

  2. bzr Avatar
    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      you're soooo wrong. It is the R type badge that adds 50 PAH!

      1. muthalovin Avatar

        I can have the only Type R F-150 on my street. And at 50 PAH!, I would be able to pull that stump I have been meaning to get to.

  3. LTDScott Avatar

    Tires have got to be up there. Good sway bars too.

  4. Neener Avatar

    I would have to say take a performance driving class followed closely by a personal diet.

  5. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    Drive around with at most 5 gallons of gas in the tank….. That saves 100 pounds, and it's by far the cheapest thing I can think of!

    1. P161911 Avatar

      You also gain 2-3HP by draining a quart of oil from your engine. This is according to one of the dyno guys at Ford. Not recomended if you want to keep the car, but maybe if you have a rental or a lease.

      1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

        Excellent idea! And think of all the other fluids… what the hell is that empty weight doing in the coolant overflow? Brake fluid…… there's a couple extra ounces in there… the list goes on and on!

        1. wunno sev Avatar
          wunno sev

          As far as I can tell, the brake fluid serves only to slow the car down. That's a dealbreaker, ladies!

    2. dwegmull Avatar

      Exactly: adding lightness is the cheapest upgrade possible. Depending how much comfort you are wiling to do without you could even make money by selling the parts you remove!

  6. citroen67 Avatar

    I would say perhaps it would be a carburetor spacer.

  7. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Change the gears?
    Remove extra parts?

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      In your case it's easy. Take the top and doors off the Jeep in the summer.

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Tin can bumpers and the spare tire count too…

    2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      I'd also like to submit the biggest tire you want on what rims you want, with judicious body trimming.

  8. scroggzilla Avatar

    Steal a faster car. It's free, as long as you don't get caught.

    1. BGW Avatar

      I'm not even sure that's a crime anymore.

  9. lilwillie Avatar

    Tighten the nut behind the wheel.

    1. BrianTheHoon Avatar

      Ha! (+1)

  10. Feds Avatar

    Have to go with tires. Especially if you can squeeze shorter/wider rims on your car at the same time.
    Also, a tip from my suspension design days: there is almost as much return in going to a stiffer set of sway bar bushings as there is as installing a stiffer swaybar. Stock rubber bushings allow tonnes of movement and reduce the effective stiffness of the bar.

    1. Feds Avatar

      Fail for not reading the rest of the question:
      Putting Yokohama S-drives on on my Protege 5 boosted cornering prowess massively… the $600 or so bucks I paid for the tires wasn't Cheap-cheap, but the difference on a twisty road is probably more than stock tires and a turbo.
      Replacing all of the stock rubber bushings on the RX-7 with urethane equivalents has tightened the car up unbelieveably. All the metal (springs, sway bars) in the suspension is stock, but with the harder bushings, lean is reduced and turn in is quicker. I think the whole car was $200 + a weekend's labour.

  11. bzr Avatar

    While we're at it, the best cheap performance mod is to remove everything:
    <img src="http://www.nerocam.com/SCC_Images/image033.jpg"&gt;
    Plus, you can sell what you take off for fun and profit!

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Beat me – that was the first thing I thought of too. Maybe if I take a Sawzall to my modem, the internets will move faster.

    2. Alff Avatar

      That is clearly set up to run ovals.__

    3. CptSevere Avatar

      Extra points for the donut tires in back. Buncha maniacs.

    4. highmileage_v1 Avatar

      Ah yes, the Lotus 7 route, works well. Anybody remember which car magazine did the sawzall trick with a malaise era Cadillac? They ran the quarter intact at some laughable time, then proceeded to unbolt, cut and torch off as much non-structural material as possible. It ran pretty quick if I remember right. MIght have been C&D.

    5. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      Does that car really need ALL those lug nuts on each wheel?
      What are those knobs doing on the drivers seat?
      I smell additional weight savings lurking somewhere!

    6. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      They left the padding on the seat, that's got to be some weight there…

    7. notford Avatar

      I have been curious about this for a while; would the above (with roll cage et. al.) be acceptable for Lemons? I recall that the ghettocharged miata was this plus a windshield. This might allow more vehicles to run (full size vans and trucks etc.).
      To remain germaine to the post, I think this was a sentra in a tuner magazine that went from 17's to 13's in the quarter.

    8. MrGoodCat Avatar

      I was looking for that!! I remember seeing it on TV

  12. PFG Avatar

    One autocross entry fee, $25-40.

    1. Eggwich Avatar

      If you're a member I'm looking for a referral. Hook an egg up!

  13. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Flip the air cleaner lid over. Yeah, that's right, I'm old school.

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      I used to do that when I drove Mom's '78 Monte Carlo. Made the gutless v6 sound a little more arrogant. Bonus points for it being easily reversible.

  14. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    Gut/Bypass the Cat

  15. Tripl3fast Avatar

    Wash it. It always seems run better after a day at the car spa. Or maybe I just drive it faster because it is so clean.
    I am a bit scared of "on the cheap" mods to go faster. Then again having a car that scares me can be a good thing….

  16. Maymar Avatar

    Buying the rental damage waiver.

  17. dolo54 Avatar

    Quality suspension bushings. Usually around $100 a set and can make a huge difference in handling and ride quality.

  18. muthalovin Avatar

    Take a hacksaw to the airbox, put a K&N filter and a good exhaust system. The sounds alone are worth the price.

  19. P161911 Avatar

    For a eta BMW E30 at least, swap out the 2.91or 2.79 open rear end for a $60 junkyard 3.25 limited slip rear end out of an E28. Totally transformed the character of the car. Went from barely able to get out of its own way to sort of fun. Higher rear end gears have instant paypack on acceleration, but at a cost to fuel economy and top end.
    Tires would be close to the top too.

  20. engineerd Avatar

    Make the wife drive separate. In fact, take out the passenger seat and weld the door shut. It makes for a quieter ride, too. Even after you remove all the sound deadening and carpet.

    1. Target29 Avatar

      I can feel my wife giving me a smack on the head just reading this….

    2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      Watch out for the wifely rage…

    3. Sparky_Pete Avatar

      Haa-haa-haa! Lets just keep that between us here…

    1. coupeZ600 Avatar

      My old Boss has a speech he gives to his high-school age children whenever they head out on a weekend night.
      "Never get in a car with a drunk-driver, and never get in a car with a wing."

      1. superbadd75 Avatar

        Because everyone knows cars with wingz are the fastest!

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Nah, but they're often the most-poorly-driven.

          1. wunno sev Avatar
            wunno sev

            They are the fastest.

          2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

            Until they lose control, roll over, and catch fire. Before that, though, fastest!

  21. joshuman Avatar

    The performance of your headlights is mighty important this time of year. If you can't see, try washing the lenses the next time you get gas. If you are still using those $10 sealed beams, step it up to something more modern or powerful. HIDs aren't cheap at all but there are usually some good halogen options.

    1. Pleco Avatar

      gonna have to step in here: HIDs ARE cheap these days. $40 will buy you a set of two "plug-and-play" ballasts and bulbs, shipped to your door from Hong Kong or wherever. Yes, quality components like Phillips still cost a grip, but that's not what you said. ;P
      As a sidenote, generally speaking HID bulbs in halogen housings throw light everywhere and blind oncoming traffic, or at least according to some. Personally, IDGAF – but the socially correct among us will find it prudent to tell you how it's "not an HID retrofit" unless you're retrofitting housings/reflectors/lenses designed for use with HID components rather than halogen -it DOES make a significant difference.

  22. Bret Avatar

    Best free performance mod: toss me the keys.

  23. smokyburnout Avatar

    If you park your car overnight in the wrong part of town, this guy comes by and removes restrictions from your exhaust system*! And it's free, unless they have parking meters.
    *When I say he "removes restrictions," I mean he uses a Sawzall to steal your catalytic converter, which he will then sell to buy heroin.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      Yep! That's been happening, in broad daylight, in the city closest to me… seven cars so far, I think, in two different non-sketchy places (back lot of a hospital, then behind a manufacturing plant).

  24. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    Right now, for me, the best cheap performance mod would be removing and hollowing out my catalytic converter.
    It's getting plugged, and legally, I can (no emissions testing pre-'96 here). So hurrah.

  25. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gabor Vajda, Hooniverse. Hooniverse said: From the Hooniverse:: Hooniverse Asks- What's the Best Cheap Performance Mod? http://bit.ly/7IB98p […]

  26. Sparky_Pete Avatar

    Fuzzy Dice… instant analog G-force biometric.

  27. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Chip it. Made the most significant difference on my truck.

  28. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    A set of wrenches and screwdrivers.
    Because you can use them to remove the whole interior, making your car 200 lbs lighter.

    1. Tomsk Avatar

      Exactly! Why carry around a back seat when it's not being used?

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        They make great lawnchairs.

        1. RegalRegalia Avatar

          More comfortable than the furniture you have at home! Ask Top Gear.

  29. Mad_Science Sr. Avatar
    Mad_Science Sr.

    Live in a rural area where the sheriffs are rare

  30. Blythe Cohn Avatar

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