For many people, owning a dream car isn’t enough to keep their driving satisfaction at peak levels. Automobiles, regardless of manufacturer, price, or genre inevitably are flawed to some extent in factory form. Whether it be a restrictive air filter that hurts fuel efficiency and power straight from the factory, overweight aerodynamics that cause a performance machine to suddenly feel sloppy, or wear and tear on an engine over time causing it to need a “heart transplant,” cars need a helping hand to keep that luster alive.
Thankfully the world is filled with countless aftermarket manufacturers, fabricators, free thinkers, and specialists that can whip any car into shape for the right price. Granted, there are plenty of untrustworthy shops out there, so doing some research on a company is pretty important prior to handing off the keys to that Ferrari Enzo. But that’s another list for another time. Today’s focus is on the best of the best. The trendsetters. The mad scientists. The guys on the frontline who live in the trenches, forever fighting the laws of physics. These are the shops that are behind the better — and most insane — builds.
1. J’s Racing
Sometimes the typical Honda and Acura just needs a carbon fiber widebody, a complete titanium exhaust, fully functional wings the size of Texas, gigantic six piston calipers, and a bevy of engine upgrades to shake the heavens.
This leaves the typical aftermarket enthusiast with one obvious shop to turn to: J’s Racing. Based in Osaka, Japan, J’s Racing has been a powerhouse in the Honda aftermarket world since the mid 1990s. With options ranging from billet oil caps and weighted shift knobs, to complete coilover suspension upgrades and aerodynamic upgrades, this shop has it all. With the recent launch of the American branch of J’s Racing, and a new NSX alongside a turbocharged Honda Civic looming on the horizon, there’s an air of excitement surrounding one of the world’s wildest Japanese tuners.
It isn’t every day that an old Porsche can garner as much attention as a new model premiering at an auto show. But in the case of Japanese tuning specialist RAUH-Welt, this is a common occurrence. Specializing in older model 993s, 911s, 964s, and 930s, RAUH-Welt (or RWB as they are commonly called) continues to set the standard when it comes to aggressive aerodynamics on a Porsche. It may come as a surprise to some that many of the most talked about Porsches ever built didn’t come out of Europe, but out of the rice paddies surrounding Kashiwa, Japan. With unprecedented growth since its inception in 1997, RWB is quickly becoming a household name among many Porsche enthusiasts around the world.
With extremely wide fender options, canards, wings, and rocker panels in its arsenal, RWB’s popularity has grown to a point where they now have headquarters in both America and Europe to keep Porsche fans happy. Items like suspension upgrades and extra large wheel adapters for proper rim fitment underneath those massive fenders are also available, just to keep everything properly lined up with the custom bumpers on either end of the car.
Few automotive aftermarket firms go to the extreme quite like Rinspeed of Switzerland. Where most tuners take cars and make them more stylistically attractive, or mindblowingly quick, Rinspeed is more interested in taking cars where they have never been before. Take the “sQuba” for instance: In 2008, it was decided that the company was going to make a fully functional, fully submersible car that could be driven both on land and in the depths of the ocean. To make things even more cutting edge, the vehicle featured a zero emission powerplant, was hydro-powered, came with a salt water resistant interior, and biodegradable Motorex oil.
Other ingenious inventions include things like futuristic shuttle vans that electronically connect with carpool needs, the robotic “Budii” that works in tandem with the driver and does not have a steering wheel, and the six-wheeled “Dock+Go” electric car that features detachable battery packs that can buffer a power grid when not in use. This reoccurring theme of environmental stewardship can be found across the board with Rinspeed, thus setting the company apart from other tuners in more ways than one.
4. Mustang RTR
American muscle car fans rejoice, there is a disturbance in the force, and if it doesn’t already have your undivided attention, it soon will. World famous rally driver Ken Block teamed up with Southfield, Mich.-based Mustang specialist Mustang RTR to create this 845 horsepower, 1965 notch-back all-wheel drive monstrosity. Mustang RTR is the brainchild of legendary Mustang drift specialist Vaughn Gittin Jr., and with the assistance of ASD Motorsports of Charlotte, N.C., this monster lurched to life in the 12 minute-long Gymkhana 7, and has received over 40 million views on Youtube to date.
But Mustang RTR doesn’t just do carbon fiber body panels for the likes of famous race car drivers. This shop offers everything from sport exhaust systems to aerodynamic upgrades like front splitters. For those die-hard Mustang fanatics out there, a complete RTR-C package is currently only available for the 2011 Mustang GT, complete with a carbon fiber exterior, supercharged engine, upgraded brakes, alongside dozens of other options. While the majority of its services and products revolve around the 2010 and up Mustang chassis, it will entertain the option of building customers its own version of Ken Block’s car if the price is right, and has even come out with its own line of wheels for the Mustang.
5. FAB Design
Believe it or not, there are people out there who feel that owning a McLaren 650S Spider just isn’t going to cut the mustard anymore. Maybe it just isn’t aggressive looking enough. Or perhaps the exhaust and intake systems that helps the 3.8 liter twin-turbo V8 produce 641 horsepower is still just a tad bit restrictive. Well there’s good news, because Swiss luxury tuner FAB Design has recently released a tuned model at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show that is sure to make any hypercar enthusiast smile.
This kit, appropriately named “Yayu” (after the Vedic god of wind) sports redesigned aero all around, a diffuser of extreme proportions for added downforce and raking, three-piece forged wheels in a 20-inch configuration, posh interior upgrades, and a gargantuan air induction system that works in tandem with the custom exhaust snarling from the rear. Not a McLaren owner but a full-blown Benz enthusiast? Not to worry. FAB Design specializes in all manners of aftermarket upgrades for the Mercedes G Class, SLS AMG, S-Coupe, and SLR McLaren.
6. Underground Racing
The Lamborghini market is a small but dedicated fraction of the vehicles on the road. This inevitably makes the amount of aftermarket support all that much harder to obtain. Underground Racing has decided to detach itself from putting twin-turbos on Dodge Vipers, and instead focus these same skill-sets on the Lamborghini brand. With results of upwards of 1,750 horsepower on the Gallardo (no, that is not a typo), and with up to 1,500 horsepower recently squeezed out of the Audi R8 V10, Underground Racing defies all odds when it comes to making the world’s supercars that much more spectacular.
There is something refreshingly nostalgic about a classic car. With their bulkier bodies, blockier lines, and unrefined charm, these timeless dinosaurs continue to grab the attention of even the most untrained automotive eye. So when Japanese-based tuning firm Office-K opted to build the great grandfather of the mighty Skyline GT-R, they had to walk a thin line in many ways. Older Nissans, or Datsuns as they were once called, have become a highly sought after commodity in recent years by the aftermarket community. With their timeless styling, lightweight body, and rear wheel drive drivetrain, these micro machines have seen a plethora of aftermarket support thrown their way in the last few decades.
So when Office-K opted to throw a modern turbocharged Nissan engine along with upgraded suspension and fenders reminiscent of the aforementioned RWB Porsches, it had little issue attracting attention. But the fun doesn’t stop there, because widebody Forgiato C7 Corvettes, opulent Bentleys, and luxurious Lexus LFAs are just a few of the brands Office-K supports. There are no restrictions on what can be achieved at this shop, just as long as one’s pocketbook is weighty enough.
So there it is. A rugged Mercedes sport utility vehicle that has been modified to appeal to the most urban setting. With almost 5 inches added to the overall width of the truck’s body, LED step lights are activated when one pulls on the door handle or presses the keyless remote, and 12 piston front calipers to keep the driver firmly planted. If that isn’t enough, the potent V12 found in this model of the Mercedes G Wagon has been tuned to 690 horsepower*, and has the capability of catapulting its owner from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds*. Not interested in owning one of the world’s fastest off-road vehicles? Brabus offers a wide range of aftermarket options for many modern Benz platforms.
Few names in the aftermarket realm are as recognized as that of the renowned German car customization specialist Mansory. With a penchant for high-end British brands, Mansory continues to carve itself a niche in the world of aftermarket extremism. Take for instance the recently released GT Race version of the Bentley Continental that premiered at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show. While the flashy interior is a creative blend of hand-stitched leather, Alcantara, green carbon fiber, and a set of seriously sinister looking seats made from 100% carbon fiber, it is the bonafied face-lift that makes this suave coupe really stand out. Alongside a carbon fiber bonnet, there is a completely redesigned carbon front end that sports some aggressively accentuated lines. Mansory says that the car also sits 70 millimeters wider, courtesy of carbon crafted fender flares, the doors have been replaced with lightweight renditions, and the side mirrors and side skirts have been upgraded as well. A redesigned rear bumper now sports a fully functional diffuser living beneath one beastly GT3 wing. Not surprisingly, everything comes constructed from carbon fiber to cut down on any unnecessary weight.
But all that lightweight show needs a healthy splash of “go,” or all the external upgrades would be pointless. And boy does Mansory deliver the goods in this department — power numbers quickly skyrocket courtesy of a free flowing exhaust system, beefier pistons, stronger connecting rods, a custom camshaft, a score of turbo system upgrades that include a larger intercooler, and retuned engine and transmission computers to keep everything working in harmony. According to Mansory’s website, “The interplay of these components results in an output of about 1,001 hp,” and that, “Acceleration from zero to 100 is achieved in 3.9 seconds.”
No performance car list is complete without mentioning one of the world’s most amazing manufacturers: Ferrari. While Ferrari is an astounding performer right out of the gate, some designs can always be improved upon, especially when it comes to all things automotive. Enter the godfather of fast: Gemballa. Founded in 1981 in the vineyard-clad foothills outside of Stuttgart, Germany, Gemballa has made a name for itself over the past 34 years as being a Porsche specialist. But in more recent years, they began to branch out by building a select few chassis from the likes of Mercedes, McLaren, and Ferrari. The Ferrari Enzo pictured here is a perfect example of what these guys are capable of when the cards are down. While this dream machine surely performs like a champ right out of the box, Gemballa has thoroughly looked the car over and said, “Let’s make it even more extreme.”
This insanely sharp MIG edition is about as exclusive as it comes, with only five production copies available to the global aftermarket community. Its carbon fiber aero kit helps acceleration and top speed, reduces fuel consumption, and enhances stability at high speeds, all while being 80 millimeters wider up front, and 100 millimeters wider at the rear. Gemballa also has thrown one-off custom forged wheels and adjustable coilovers in the mix, along with 45 millimeters electro-hydraulic ride height adjustment capabilities. This last mod is great because normal ride height can now be obtained either by a mere touch of a button, or automatically when the car reaches 80 kilometers per hour. But to get to that point, power has to be upped via a full race exhaust, reflashed computers, and increased cooling capacity. According to Gemballa, the MIG accelerates to 62 miles per hour in an incredible 3.1 seconds.