Product Recommendations- Modifying your car!

I know this is out of place, and a topic of conversation which may not interest our regular readership. However since I’m a serial blogger, and posting this on someone else’s forum would be a waste, ‘Product recommendations’ seemed like the most appropriate tag to post this under.

Ok, I had mentioned in a previous post, that I’m involved with a sports car club? And aside from food & drink, I had a soft spot for sports cars? So to this point I’d never ‘modified’ my rides before, preferring to just buy stock-standard cars and when I’d tired of them, sell them on and buy something sportier (although it seems like everyone else in the car club had mods bolted onto their rides).

So for various reasons our every 3 year car upgrade wasn’t going to happen this year, so to give our 2016 M135i a mid-life make-over I decided (in conference with my mate) that I’d give this car mods thing a go! And here is my blog, documenting the experience each step of the way, as prior to this I didn’t know what to expect – so if you’re also considering doing some works on your own ride for the  first time, this might be fortuitous.

Throughout this process I progressed through 8 stages, so if you carefully consider each of these stages, it may help you decide if modifying your ride is right for you! Here they are:

Stage 1: Reasoning

First, you need to get straight in your mind what are your motivations to modify your vehicle? And what do you want to achieve?

The reasons for car mods are for performance gains (faster/better handling); maximise efficiencies (a noble but rare reason); aesthetics (you want a more stand-out/unique ride); track worthiness (turning your vehicle into a hybrid street-track weapon); face lift (you’re tired of what you have, and want to give it a mid-life make-over); or you want to improve the sensory experience (more whooshes and whistles, or pops & crackles from your engine or exhaust).

So you really need to nail down the why behind your motives, and if you’re still convinced that your reasons outweigh the cost/implications to get there, then it’s onto stage 2! Checking-out what’s out there!

Stage 2: Research

The next stage is to find out what is possible, and who nearby can perform the mods for you. Obviously with Google and Youtube, you can virtually find any part or product for your car, and watch what it can do to your ride. So this stage can be a bit of fun. Hehehe. It’s like playing Gran Turismo for the big-boys – droppin’ real cash, instead of just using credits for winning a virtual reality tournament.  During this stage of ‘Research’ my wife has walked in on me many-a-times asking me what I was doing, as it sounded like my laptop was performing some heavy-duty processing. But I was just watching a sports car on a dyno, going 0-250kmh before hitting the speed limiter. Haaha.

During this process I stumbled upon a company/link (Evolve Technik), which helped me out so much! On their web-site is a mod calculator- you first define the make/model of your vehicle (they only specialise in European makes), and then you tick which mods you want to add. At each additional part you choose, it indicates how much closer you’re getting towards your vehicle’s full potential (by percentage increments). And for those who just want the bottom-line i.e. what happens to your 0-100Km sprint times? At the end of the process it indicates how fast (in seconds) your tuned vehicle can potentially go!

And just when you start to ask ‘now what?’ there is a strategically placed link to enquire about the mods which you had selected. But before you go clicking on that enquiry button, there are 2 more stages to consider first before taking the plunge.

Stage 3: How much do you want to spend?

From your research you’ll have a sense of the cost for parts, so by this stage you’re noticing how costly modifying your car can be. As it’s like a grand here, and another grand there. So before going too crazy and devising a list of stuff that you’d like, I think you need to properly sit down and work-out how much do you really want to spend on your vehicle – because when it comes time to sell your car it’s unlikely that you’ll get any money back from your investment in after-market parts. I’ve heard stories where people had to even discount their cars below the going rate for a stock vehicle, because buyers don’t trust or want your mods. So keep all of that in mind.

To get a better sense of how much you need or want to spend, do this by chatting with your mates who have modified their vehicles before. Pitch to them your own judgement of how much you think the works may cost, and then see if your mates laugh and tell you you’re dreaming! (As the amount is too low.) Or watch them nod in thoughtful agreement, when you’ve put out a reasonable amount.

For me, my reasoning to modify the car was due to the fact that I was getting bored of it, while buying-selling wasn’t feasible this time. So I thought tuning the engine to achieve more power, and enhancing its sporty look was what was needed to help me fall in love with the car again. And my judgement on how much I’d liked to spend, was based on the willingness to spend around 10% of what it would otherwise cost to buy a brand new vehicle. So at the last car club meet, I was chatting to the guys and I put my dollar figure out there, and people agreed that it was a fair estimate on what it’ll cost for a Stage 3 tune and lowering.

And my advice is, once you’ve decided on a dollar figure, do try your best to stick to it! Don’t be swayed to add more, as you can always add more, but are you made of money? And if things turn out being more expensive than anticipated, be ready to walk away or do less to your vehicle for now. Yeah?

And I have to add, if you like haggling over the price of things, and if you think you have a point of leverage because you’re spending several thousand dollars- think again! As the parts are all purchased from the suppliers at RRP, and the only money the garage is making is the cost of labour- so the costs are fixed. So at the end of the day, if mods seem too expensive, then just don’t go down this path- as modifying cars is an expensive proposition.

Stage 4: Potential ramifications

And before you go ahead with making changes to your vehicle, please read up on the potential ramifications of modifying your car i.e. if it voids your new car warranty, if the mods will meet legal restrictions, and the potential implications on your car insurance. Depending on what you have in mind, it could easily void your new car warranty; some parts may not meet legal restrictions so it’ll be a hassle when it comes to renewing your rego, and re-sale in the future, or you may attract some unwanted attention from the cops; and some car insurance companies may not recognise your policy after you make a claim, when they find out that you’ve modified your car without informing them (as your premiums may go up after mods).

So if you’re still all ok with all these potential ramifications- then it is time to click on that link to put through your enquiry.

Stage 5: Request for quote

My advice is that, if you’re new to mods, just go to a reputable garage who will do everything for you i.e. source/order the parts, fitment, and check-out if they’ll provide a warranty for their work. So it’s all pretty risk free if you elect a workshop who has a good reputation, or just ask your friends where they had their mods done?

So after clicking on enquire, my request for quote actually went to Peak Performance (I hadn’t realised that Evolve Technik was not a Sydney based company). And within a few hours the friendly guys at Peak sent me a PDF outlining the various stages of tune I could choose from; which parts made-up each stage; the cost for each part; and what power gains could be achieved each step of the way for my particular vehicle. And there was also a list of additional parts which you could choose from, like springs, sway-bars, roll-cages etc. The only detail which was missing from the PDF was the labour cost and the estimated hours required to make the mods, but I quickly obtained all of these details after a short email exchange.

And being a nerd, I created a spreadsheet working out the cost-benefits from each stage (there were 4 stages to choose from). And looping back to my previous point, regarding the budget and sticking with it.  This was good, as Stage 4 tune alone was around $500 more than what I wanted to spend, while if I stayed with my original plan of a Stage 3 tune plus lowering, the cost was actually quite close to my amount. So as much as I like to have everything, I did settle on a Stage 3 tune, with lowering of the vehicle by 2.5cm at the front and 1.5cm at the rear. The end cost was only $76 more than my budget so that was 1.1% more than I had wanted to spend, which isn’t bad.

**Comment: Of course you can still source your own parts from gumtree and other online retailers- but only go down this path if you’ve done extensive research and know for certain that those parts are suitable to your vehicle and if you already have a trusted mechanic who can do all the works for you. I’ve just heard too many horror stories of guys having their weekend project cars in with their mechanic mate, but 12 months on the vehicle is still at the shop and that is time/money wasted- all to save some money in the early days. I think on the long run, just going to a professional will save you time and emotional angst, as modifying your ride ought to be fun!

Stage 6: Taking the plunge

The guys at Peak were great, I was shooting them daily emails back and forth for almost a week, asking them how long it’ll take, what day suited them, what time can I drop-off, can I pick up on weekends, cost, and more cost questions and in the end they took the time to answer each of my questions in much detail. So when it came time to take the plunge, I was totally comfortable with the process and what to expect.

When you’ve agreed on a date, and what you want, a formal quote is sent your way for review. The quote itemised everything and its associated cost (they were very up-front when they found out that a part had gone up by $50 due to the falling Aussie dollar and the increase of shipment costs). And once you’ve paid 65% of the total cost of works, they proceed to order in your parts and you just wait in excitement for the scheduled day to roll around.

Stage 7: Drop-off

For the modifications which we elected, they only needed 2 days to perform the works. But to suit our schedules, they allowed us to drop-off on the Wednesday, and pick up that same week on Saturday morning.

Peak is located in Parramatta, so bright and early on Wednesday my mate dropped off the vehicle. Their operation all looked very sophisticated, with 4 hoists to lift cars off their wheels and there were plenty of other Euro cars there, so we were pretty comfortable to leave a perfect stranger with the keys to our ride. And the process was really straight forward, I’d emailed the guys about another potential mod- whilst the vehicle was with them, and in their return emails they mentioned where they were in the process of working on our car. They even sent through to me a pic of our car being worked on (not a usual practice of theirs) but it did give me great confidence that things were happening and were on track. And on the Thursday I received an email, informing me that the works on the car were completed and the car was awaiting our pick-up on the Saturday!

All in all, very painless! So as I’m writing this now, its 7.24am on the Saturday- the day we pick-up our baby. After our first foray into mods, saying that I’m excited is an understatement! I’ll have to type up ‘Stage 8: The pick-up’ on my return, as this is a living unfolding post.

Stage 8: The pick-up

OMG! It’s exactly 11.31am and we’re back from picking up the beast! Hehehe.

So has the mods changed the car? Can a leopard change its spots? Well, for this car at least, it most certainly can!!!

On paper the power increase was 60kw (81.5 hp) and an increase to 575nm. But how does this translate in practice? Rubber to the road, the character of the car has completely changed! Previously the M135i was nice, luxurious and it had a powerful linear acceleration, but now the acceleration is a push-you-back-into-your-seats kind of power!

The car definitely feels and looks lower, and handles better on the road (smoother and flatter); the cold air intake allows the engine to breathe better which means more rapid response to your right foot and the audible whistling of the air rushing in and out is certainly nice; the tune of the engine has released more of the potential from the 6cyl 3.0L engine so it’s able to be the power plant which it’s German designers had intended it to be – meaning it feels more light and nimble now; and the down-pipes from the cylinder chambers to the exhaust……..well, you’ll have to hear it to believe it. Haaha. So am I pleased with the results of this month long project? Heck yeah! Fully worth every dollar! It has completely enhanced the driving dynamics and you just really don’t know how good your car can be, until you allow some professionals to tweak it and release the full potential from your car’s engine!

Thanks Peak Performance for your work on the car, 5/5 star experience all the way through! Def be recommending the Evolve Technik tune and you guys to other car enthusiasts!

Appendix: The raw details

Stage 3 Evolve Technik tune

ECU Upgrade: $1,815.00

Wagner 200cpi Sports Downpipe: $1,431.00

AFE Cold Air Intake: $1,119.00 (went up by $50)

H&R Springs: $600

12 hours of Labour at $175 per hour

Stock power: 240kw/450nm

After: 300kw/575nm

Bottom-line: 0-100Km sprint time has dropped from 4.9secs to 4.25secs

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