Hooniverse Asks: What's the Weirdest Car You've Ever Seen Performance Modded?

Stephen Stills once sang that, should the object of your true affections be absent then it was okay to get down and dirty with whomever at the time was at hand. That maxim may have arisen in the hippie haze of the free love sixties but it’s rolling strong in today’s automotive customizing melieu—or at least it must be because I see a lot of car and trucks out there that have had serious monies thrown at them and that I just have to stare at and wonder, why would you do that?
Not ever car is a winner. In fact most are just plain basic transportation with some sort of flair that makes people buy them. Of course, when those people get a bug up their butt about how dull their car feels they usually head down to the accessory aisle at their local Auto Emporium or Dollar Store. The results usually aren’t pretty.
I’ve seen a lot of cars that were the questionable basis for mods and add-ons and I’m sure you have as well. What we want to discuss today is which is the weirdest base for a customization you’ve ever seen.
Image: Jalopnik

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  1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    This picture isn’t the one I saw because I don’t have a picture of it. Let me describe it instead.
    Years ago before the age of normal digital cameras I saw a seventies XJ6 coupe done up in a full body kit. It looked like one of those old Wings West things. Since this would have been late nineties or early aughts that would be the right time period. They didn’t add a giant spoiler to it but the full kit was in effect and it was bloody awful. It just ruined every singly line on the car. It’s still burned into my brain.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar
    2. Inliner Avatar

      Counterpoint: Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C, as raced in the European Touring Car Championship

      1. engineerd Avatar

        With bonus cooling fan!

  2. ninjabortion Avatar

    Yugos always crack me up

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Speaking of “cars of the communism”, there’s a Trabant with an Audi TT quattro swap, but I wouldn’t call that a simple “mod”..

    2. crank_case Avatar

      Yugo 45 with Delta Integrale running gear, not that much of a stretch when you remember they’re essentially an evolution of the Fiat 127, itself a surprisingly delightful drivers car in either the pure early models or the 80s “Sport” ones.

      1. Monkey10is Avatar

        Oooh… actually rather desirable.

  3. ayuvar Avatar

    Although I figured it out once I’d actually driven one, my local area has a yearly Festiva gathering with ridiculous engine swaps.
    My favourite was the turbo BP. Still waiting to see how much you have to cut loose to jam a KLZE in there.

  4. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I got this off the internet, but I had a high school classmate who showed up to our 10-year class reunion in a “pro street” 2nd gen Monte that was remarkably similar. It was blue with a white vinyl top and Cragar SSs, and I think just an Edelbrock high-rise manifold sticking through the hood, rather than a blower. But it was still the same concept: “Let’s start with one of GM’s least aero, least efficient, least athletic, most lard-ass-iest cars…”

  5. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I got this off the internet, but I had a high school classmate who showed up to our 10-year class reunion (1991) in a “pro street” 2nd gen Monte that was remarkably similar. It was blue with a white vinyl top and Cragar SSs, and I think just an Edelbrock high-rise manifold sticking through the hood, rather than a blower. But it was still the same concept: “Let’s start with one of GM’s least aero, least efficient, least athletic, lard-ass-iest cars…”

    1. neight428 Avatar

      If it started life as V8 RWD, it’s not an inherently bad candidate to make in to something fun, but the second you start into “improving” something like this aesthetically apart from basic repair, you’re venturing in to odd territory.

  6. Tanshanomi Avatar

    “…and in the Manufacturer category, the runner-ups are:
    – In fifth place, Pontiac, for the 1964 Catalina 2+2,
    – In fourth place, Ford, for the 1989 Ford Taurus SHO,
    – In third place, Buick, for the 1987 Regal GNX
    – In second place, Dodge, nominated twice for the 1984 Omni GLH and the 1978 Dodge D100 Little Red Express, But the award goes to…
    RENAULT, for the R5 Turbo and the Espace F1!”

    [deafening cheers and applause]

    1. crank_case Avatar

      From a european perspective and with the powers of Captain Hindsight, the Omni doesn’t seem unlikely when you consider the Omni/Horizon is indirectly the predecessor of one of the greated hot hatchbacks of all time, some reckon it’s better than the 205
      ..and of course there was the Simca 1100 before that which was a decent rally car. (Talbot was bought by Rootes which was lumped in with a takeover of Simca by Chrysler to form the ill-fated Chrysler Europe which was then bought by PSA (Peugeot/Citroen), the Simca 1100 was replaced by the Talbot Horizon, the 309 was meant to be a Talbot, but then got the lion badge)

    2. Fresh-Outta-Nissans Avatar

      [thunderous golfclap]

    3. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Espace F1. The practical four (race)seat family F1 racing van
      Why yes, that is a Renault F1 V10 engine with pneumatic valves, right in the middle where it should be.
      Almost, but not quite, stock appearance.

    4. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And the R5 Turbo was great, but don’t forget the refined supermini Clio V6. An easy to park practical little hatchback the size of a Chevy Spark, with a mid-mounted quad cam 24 valve V6.
      And it looks almost but not quite like a standard Clio 1.2.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      No, because today’s question isn’t “What’s the best car you’ve ever seen performance modded by its strikingly handsome and clearly quite sane owner?”
      Full points, however, for realizing that “performance modded” doesn’t necessarily imply improved performance.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        I counted reattaching the wheel as a performance mod.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          We never reattached it. The wheel itself had torn and parted around the lug bolts (yes, bolts), so Pete Peterson and I made a mad dash to my house in order to liberate a set of replacements:

    1. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

      That is, without question, the least safe harness installation I’ve ever seen. Let’s count the problems:
      -Four point without ASM belt
      -No shoulder strap retention to stop them slipping off
      -Unsafe angle on shoulder straps potentially resulting in spinal compression
      -Straps anchored to seat assembly clip points
      -Strap adjustment buckles (at anchor end of straps) improperly threaded
      Sorry to be “that guy”, but if this car was ever in an accident on track, the driver would almost certainly be killed. Do aftermarket safety equipment right or not at all.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        You missed one: Shoulder straps so long that their inherent stretching would render them useless during a collision.

      2. jeepjeff Avatar

        Even with retention, you’re supposed to yank on your shoulder straps every couple laps to keep them from slipping off in a rollover. There’s no way those would keep you from breaking your neck in a rollover.
        And please, be that guy. Modern safety equipment works, but it has to be done right.

      3. nanoop Avatar

        I wonder if that’s still an improvement over the OEM belts, or just a prejudice-loaded assumption.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          In light of all of the issues concerning the shoulder straps, my guess is this setup is functionally equivalent to just a lap belt, but without its simplicity and convenience.

  7. Batshitbox Avatar

    It’s a strange question to contemplate, because there’s something so right about performance modding something so wrong. Hot rodding started out with teenagers of limited income but copious creativity, and the run-what-you-brung mentality still infects every Chevy Cavalier owning suburban dreamer. NASCAR is all about the hope that your grocery-getter can be a strip / track superstar.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I keep returning to the thought that whenever it is time to replace my Honda van, I should retain and strip it to race it. For now, I just shake my hand at this futile stupidity, but it would be a true WTF vehicle to show up in.

      1. Batshitbox Avatar

        This is the only modified / performance Cadillac Cimarron the internet is aware of. So I guess if I ever saw a performance modified Cimmy that would be ‘the weirdest’; although I would still applaud the owner.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          That one is packed to the brim with serious performance considerations. Pink flames can’t be beat.

          1. Batshitbox Avatar

            The correct color name is “Go Faster Pink”

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            You realize GFP is right next after GFO?

        2. Vairship Avatar

          There’s a strong competitor:

  8. engineerd Avatar

    Back when Car & Driver had one of the best senses of humor in the auto media industry, they yanked a turbocharged and intercooled 2.8L I6 from a 280ZX and stuffed it into a 1983 Nissan Maxima. They added fatter tires and stiffer rear shocks. Hopefully they also added bigger brakes.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        I actually thought that idea was brilliant.

  9. neight428 Avatar

    Back in the mid-90’s, the quickest “regular” at the local 1/4 mile was a Chevy Luv truck with some manner of V8 stuffed under the hood, but he was more interested in taking newbie’s money than letting anyone know exactly what he had done.

  10. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    Fiat Topolinos used to be pretty popular as drag racers. Of course, it makes sense to start with the smallest, lightest body you can, but “turning a Fiat Topolino into a race car” seems ludicrous.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      as are a Vespa
      and an Anglia
      drag racers are different bunch – in a good way

  11. salguod Avatar

    I get the idea of taking what you’ve got and making it look better, but there’s absolutely not one performance oriented bolt in a Prius. In fact, it fights any sort of enthusiastic driving attempts. It’s main reason for existing is fuel economy and body kits, spoilers and wide tires increase fuel consumption.

    1. caltemus Avatar

      What about the real race prius? It even has a hybrid boost

      1. salguod Avatar

        I have to believe that that is a Prius skin dropped over a racing tube chassis with a racing designed hybrid drivetrain. The only thing it shares with a street Prius as some of the skin.
        Now, there was a guy on Priuschat who was prepping a Prius for 24 Hours of Lemons duty. That’s something I can get behind simply because it’s a level of futile insanity right in line with the spirit of Lemons.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          LeMons has already had a Prius, the Harley-powered Toyohog raced by Hell’s Treehuggers. It is a magnificently glorious thing of glorious magnificence.

          1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

            Spank also raced a bone stock one with like 300K miles on it. It was then sold after the race to someone who drove it across the country and then raced it at the Carolina race a month later.

    2. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      I’ve always thought the two best things to do to a Prius were a RWD V8 conversion with a big supercharger and scoop sticking out of the hood Rat Fink style, or cut it down into a flatbed to haul dirtbikes. Either option is calculated to make a treehugger’s head explode from cognitive dissonance, rather like a biodiesel hybrid Hummer.

    3. Eric Rucker Avatar

      It’s worth noting that TRD has their own parts line for the Gen 4 Prius, some of it actually performance oriented (suspension and chassis bits): http://www.trdparts.jp/english/prius/index.html
      And the weird thing with the Gen 4 (I own one) is, the harder you push it, the better it is to drive.

      1. salguod Avatar

        As an owner of a gen 2 I can tell you it’s reasonably competent when pushed, but tries really hard to dissuade you from anything remotely enthusiastic. Everything about the car screams “Hey there, slow down!” The steering is pathetically numb to the point of wandering around highway lanes for lack of feedback. And I’ve got the Touring model.

        1. Eric Rucker Avatar

          The Gen 4 actually has a surprising amount of steering feedback… but if you’re driving gently, that feedback is saying “understeer”. Get into the throttle, and it starts saying “neutral”, and the car’s eager to rotate. I suspect it’s something like the rear wheels toeing out under squat or something. (Multilink independent rear suspension, so they could do that.)
          It does help that the steering rack is far faster than anything in the Gen 2, or the Gen 3 non-Touring/Five rack. (And, it’s faster than the Gen 3 Touring/Five rack, too.)

          1. salguod Avatar

            I’ve heard that the gen 4 is much more engaging to drive. It’s hard to imagine how it could be worse. Can you tell that I hate i? The wife loves it and I do like the MPG and reliability.
            The real problem with the gen 4 is having to look at it. 😛

          2. Eric Rucker Avatar

            The styling of the Gen 4 is… out there for sure. As I described it in the review I posted to Oppositelock…

            The 2016 Prius is what happens when you take 1950s-1970s Citroën designers, lock them in a room with anime and methamphetamines for a year, and then tell them to design a car.

            I do think the Gen 2 is the prettiest Prius, but, well, it’s not the one I’d buy, because I don’t want to drive a refrigerator.

          3. salguod Avatar

            I’m the kind of car guy who loves the late 50s & early 60s American cars because the styling is so over the top. I own a 1960 T’bird and I love the Turnpike Cruiser and the the giant ’58 Lincoln Mark IV and others because they’re so ridiculous. But I can’t stomach the new Prius. 😀
            I agree on the gen 2 as well, the best looking Prius. Too bad they drive so poorly. Well, I guess if you don’t enjoy driving they drive OK.

  12. Amoore Avatar

    Top Gear fans know what I’m on about.

  13. crank_case Avatar

    A Citroen 2CV with a BMW bike boxer motor is a surprisingly effective track weapon. Sort of like a FWD Morgan three wheeler, but with four wheels and you can take the family.


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