Car modification is a divisive subject. Some regard it as an insult to car engineers, as well as to their own eyes and ears. For others, "slamming" or "stancing" their car is a way of life, taking up hefty amounts of both their time and their monthly paycheck as the owners pursue their vision of automotive perfection.
Slamming aficionados are taking the culture to ever-new heights; stanced Ferraris are not unheard of, while generally the level of sophistication within the scene is impressive, to say the least.
RedBull.com wanted to find out more, so we spoke to Jordan Clarke, owner of modified car culture clothing brand SlammedUK, who also runs his own annual stanced car event, Gravity. We asked him to explain the roots of the culture, why the UK is one of the hottest scenes in the world right now, and how you can get started slamming your own car.
So Jordan, what are the origins of car modification?
From my point of view, the whole origins of the slammed, stance scene come from Japan. The Bosozoku were an underground street gang who did crazy modifications to all their cars and were a bit of a nuisance to the police. That’s where the whole making your car unique and stancing it and doing all kinds of different things originally came from. The Bosozoku’s roots date back to post-World War II. That’s its very base origins, but I don’t know how much of that you see in today’s slamming and stanced cars.
The whole Euro side of things is all about very smooth engine bays, smooth bodywork, really tight fitment on wheels, crazy offsets, low profile tyres, air ride suspension…
Then you’ve got the whole American side of things with Japanese imports, the Fast and Furious movie-style cars. The Americans imported lots of Nissan Skylines and were doing engine swaps, adding big power. Then there’s the whole Euro side of things, where it’s all about very smooth engine bays, smooth bodywork, really tight fitment on wheels, crazy offsets, low profile tyres, air ride suspension – all that kind of stuff.
So there’s no one type of car that’s used for this type of thing?
No – pretty much every single car you can think of has been lowered with wide wheels, low-profile tyres. So now, when people are building show cars or cars for the modified world, everyone’s trying to do something that’s not been done, or trying to find a car that’s not been done, and that’s very difficult to do. Everyone’s trying to out-do each other all the time with better wheels, wider wheels, lower cars, bigger engines, smaller cars. But it’s healthy, everyone enjoys themselves, everyone’s trying to do different things. Sometimes someone does something different and everyone hates it, but it still gets attention.
Sometimes the rim of the wheel is literally touching the arch
So what’s the idea behind having your wheels at crazy angles?
With aggressive offsets with a lot of camber, it’s all about showing how tight a fitment you can get on a car, or that you can drive the lowest out of everyone. Sometimes the rim of the wheel is literally touching the arch. But that’s more in the Japan style of things. In the UK and Europe, it’s more about Volkswagens and trying to have as flush a fitment as possible, so the wheel is dead straight but sitting perfectly in the arches, with chrome, BBS-type wheels.
What’s the weirdest car you’ve ever seen slammed?
I’ve seen an old-school Land Rover that’s had the top chopped off and it’s literally on the floor on some tiny wheels. There’s also a Ferrari 348 that’s been wide-arched; they’ve put some wide wheels on it and the fitment is arch to lip. Everyone’s lost their minds for it, and I personally think it’s really cool.
Do you ever think that some of the stuff people do to cars is sacrilege? Or is everything fair game?
Personally, I love it when someone buys a supercar, then puts it on air ride and buys some wide, dishy wheels. That’s exactly what I’d do if I had a million quid. I’d buy a brand-new Lambo, put it on Air Ride, put some wide wheels on it. I just love it, but I know a lot of people absolutely hate it.
Er… what’s Air Ride?
Air Ride is a generic type of suspension. The brands that do it are Air Lift Performance, AirREX and AccuAir.
So is that what you see on the cars in Snoop Dogg videos?
That’s hydraulics. There’s two different ways of going up and down: you’ve got Air Ride, which uses the air in the airbags. Then you have hydraulics which uses hydraulic fluid, which is a lot quicker and would allow you to bounce – if you had a ’67 Impala and that’s what you wanted to do.
So say you go out and buy a second-hand diesel Volkswagen Bora and you want to slam it – what’s the process?
People do it differently, but I’ve always done suspension first. I would buy a decent set of coil-overs or air suspension, and then I’d try and find some wheels that not a lot of people had, whether it be dishy wheels or race wheels or rotors or 1552s or whatever. Then I’d look at tuning, if it was a car that was worth tuning. But if it was a diesel Bora, I’d probably just look at doing the interior or getting a big spoiler, or something else to make it stand out and be a bit different. But with the VWs, it’s so difficult to do something that people haven’t done.
And are their leading specialists and garages in the UK who can do this stuff for you?
Yeah, there are a few, especially with Air Ride. Car Audio Security is probably the number one garage in the UK for Air Ride fitting and suspension. But then you’ve also got The Performance Company, who also do Air Ride, as well as wide body kits, exhausts, tuning chips and that sort of stuff.
In the UK there has traditionally been a bit of stigma around modified cars – people usually think of blue Citroën Saxos with lights on the gearknob and all that. Is that starting to change?
The modified fashion is changing. I’ve only been in the modified world for three or four years, but even from when I started, it’s completely changed. This year, the big things have been big spoilers and wide body kits. So everyone’s been buying every type of car you can think of, putting on a huge spoiler that you would normally see on a race car and bolt-on wide arches, and then painting it or wrapping it. That’s been the massive fashion this year and I think it’s going to carry on into next year as well. It’s sort of a throwback to the Max Power days, and it’s slowly coming back in. It’s evolved, but it’s coming back in a different sort of way.
Do you think people need to shift their perception of modified cars and think of them more as bespoke?
If you’re referring to the general public thinking that it’s all Puntos and Saxos and loud music and neon lights and all that stuff, it’s completely not that at all. Obviously there is that side of it, but I don’t get involved with that. That’s not the whole car show side of things, that’s more the local McDonald’s car park side of things! That’s stereotypical of me to say, but that’s just how it is…
I was surprised about how many girls do it
With this, it is very bespoke; people spend their whole life savings, all their time every weekend with all their friends building their cars. It’s what they love, it’s their passion, it’s what they spend their whole life doing. When I first started, I was surprised about both how many girls do it and the range of ages. I’d walk around a show and see a 16-year-old boy talking to a 60-year-old bloke about the same car and about the same wheels and sharing the same interest. I think that’s great.
How strong is the scene in the UK?
I would say the UK is the biggest in Europe, easily. You’ve got Luxembourg and Belgium and France and Germany, who are also pretty big. But the UK scene is the biggest.
How much could you spend on doing up your car?
You could spend millions if you wanted to, but it’s relative to what you can afford and what you want to do. A lot of people just buy a car and they’re happy putting some wheels on it. In that case, you could spend £500 on a set of wheels or £5000, depending on where you wanted to go with it. But everything’s so easily available now, with finance deals and that kind of stuff. An Air Ride suspension is between three and five thousand pounds, just for the suspension. But you can get that on zero percent finance, so now everyone has air suspension. If you want a decent set of split-rim wheels, that’s going to cost you three or four grand, but again you can get that on zero percent finance, so that seems to be a big deal at the moment.
I have a 500 quid Mazda MX-5. I’ve lowered it, put some cheap wheels on it and a big spoiler and I probably haven’t even spent £1000
A lot of these cars have a hell of a lot of money spent on them, but you can spend as little or as much as you want. I have a 500 quid Mazda MX-5. I’ve lowered it, put some cheap wheels on it and a big spoiler and I probably haven’t even spent £1000. But I’m happy with it, it’s a bit of summer fun and it’s what I wanted it to be. But I could have got it completely resprayed, wide arched it and spent 10 grand on it.
So how would you recommend people getting into the scene?
The first thing I’d say is that if you want to get involved with building the cars and taking them to shows, just go to a couple of local events. There are events all over the UK and all over Europe. It’s usually £15 or £20 to get in, and then just see what it’s about. Have a walk around, chat to some of the car owners; everyone’s friendly, everyone’s happy to talk about their cars, because that’s what they like doing. Then just try and get some inspiration from somewhere – that’s why a lot of people go to the shows. So just go to a local event, chat to some people and see whether you like it, that’s what I’d suggest.
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