Looking for your first car to modify and not quite sure where to start? Well, the first thing is securing a car you want to build off, and to do this you need to establish a budget. Remember, modifications don’t tend to be cheap, so be realistic when picking your model, as that is just the start-up cost.
Jordan Clarke, the owner of the automotive lifestyle brand SlammedUK, knows a thing or two when it comes to car modifying. The co-founder of the Gravity Show has been modifying cars for eight years and spends much of the year travelling to shows across the UK and Europe to see the hottest car mods currently on the scene. Here, he picks his favourite models for each budget, and suggests what mods you can start with.
“The cars I’ve chosen for the article are solely based on what cars myself and my friends had over the years, and our experience of buying and modifying the cars. There are so many different cars you can buy for these budgets, but it all depends on your tastes and what genre of car you’re into. For me, it was a mix of both German and Japanese based cars as I’ve had Golfs and MX5s – have a read and see what you think!”
1. VW Lupo – £1,000 budget
“The VW Lupo is a great entry level car to begin modifying – you can pick these up for under £1,000, usually in 1.0L or 1.4L engines. You can get coilovers (coil-over shock absorber) from around £150 – granted, they are not the best available, but they do the job, and I actually had some £165 JOM Coilovers on one of my cars and they were great!
"A small car means small wheels, which is always good when building a car on a budget. You can get a set of 16” aftermarket alloy wheels from as little as £300. The Lupo is a great starting point for anyone starting out in the modifying world. Cheap and reliable, I would highly recommend it as a car to start with!”
2. Mazda MX5 – £1,500 budget
“If your budget is a little higher but you would still like something affordable and fun, the Mazda MX5 is a great place to start. I actually personally did a budget build on a MK2 MX5 a few years ago and it’s still one of the most enjoyable builds I’ve done with a car. I managed to buy the car, coilovers, hardtop roof, carbon spoiler, front splitter, XXR 527 wheels, Corbeau bucket seats, exhaust and, of course, neons, all for under £2,500. With a 1.8L engine and rear-wheel drive, it’s a lively drive.”
3. BMW E46 – £2,500 budget
“The popular BMW E46 is an easy car to modify and looks really good, whilst not being overly expensive. However, as with most cars, you can spend a lot if you really want to! A second-hand set of wheels generally starts from around £500. Add a set of coilovers and some subtle carbon touches to transform the look of this car.”
4. MK5 Golf GTI – £5,000 budget
“For a much larger budget like £5,000, there are a lot of cars you could opt for, but a favourite of mine is the MK5 Golf GTI. The 2.0 Turbo engine with around 197bhp on the Golf means you can squeeze out more power with some choice mods. A Golf has timeless good looks, and the package suits every style of modifying as it allows many different sizes and styles of wheels, as well as different suspension and carbon options. The modifying list for a car like this is endless.”
5. Nissan Silvia S14 – £7,500 budget
“The Silvia is another timeless classic. Having this size of budget really opens your options to models, but there’s a reason you’ll see so many Silvia mods at shows and on a drifting track. It’s a really fun car to drive, it looks fantastic and there are never-ending options for modification styles.
"Bodykits are generally a good place to start, and then you can start looking at wheels and coilovers. Bodykits can start from £500 and go up to pretty much whatever you want to spend. Wheels are the same, and but for a set of custom splits, you’ll be looking well into the thousands. As for coilovers – on a car like this, you won’t want to get the entry level, so you're probably looking at £500+ for a good set.”
6. Audi TTS MK2 – £10,000 budget
“If you’re starting with a high budget like £10,000, then you really do have a lot of options. In my opinion, one of the best models for this kind of money is an MK2 TTS. The 4WD Quattro system and 2.0 TFSI engine provide an amazing driving experience and plenty of power behind the wheel, plus options to increase the power and torque with a few engine mods.
"The MK2 Audi TTS is undoubtedly one of the best-looking coupés on the market, made only better by modifying. Again, I wouldn’t recommend going for any cheap options here. Air suspension is a good start, or you could add a good set of coilovers, which would be the cheaper option but still around the £600 mark. Wheel-wise, the TTS has large arches, so 18-20” wheels will look incredible, and start at around £800 for a decent set of Cast wheels, but it can go all the way up into the thousands dependent on your budget.”