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Then and Now: 20 Years of Tuning

A lot can happen in 20 years.  Let’s see, 20 years ago I was single, entering my freshman year of college, driving an Acura Integra GS-R and had started my first “corporate” job working at a hospital. Fast forward and I’m married, have our first child, driving an Audi and have been at my current corporate job 17 years…yikes. gsr Disclaimer: These are all scans of actual film images, no phone cameras or digital cameras back in 94' :)  The same can be said for aftermarket tuning – technology grows in leaps and bounds (as we’ve seen with the internet) and it’s easy to forget how quickly things can change, yet stay the same. Let’s take a look back at things then vs. now

Tuning in 1994

As far as “tunable” cars go, this was the golden age…no such thing as OBD, but at the same token, there wasn’t anything readily available at your local performance shop. Hell, there weren’t any local performance shops…. Most parts were ordered from a catalog and shipped from Japan. This was before the term “JDM” even existed. In 94, the sportiest cars were:
  • Nissan Sentra SE-R
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Ford Escort GT
  • Ford Mustang GT
  • Volkswagen Corrado
  • Toyota MR-2 Turbo
  • Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo
  • Mazda RX7
  • Acura NSX
  • Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
3000GT rx7 This was pre-fast and furious nonsense, but NOS was used and available. Depending upon what you had to start with, upgrades such as air-filter, headers and exhaust were rather basic. Cam upgrades and throttle body mods were less common, but used and if you were turbo’d, EVC, FCD and the like would help get your boost game up to par.  A streetable 14 second quarter-mile run was considered “fast”. Suspension consisted of ST Springs and shocks, no such thing as coilovers and air…well, that was for low-riders back then. Hella-flush in 94’ meant you had the wrong offset.

Tuning Today

Fast-forward to today, you can’t let your tire pressure drop without a warning light. The good news is you can go to Pep-Boys and pickup a diagnostic reader that will allow you to turn this off, as well as get detailed info on how your car is running.  A quick search on the net will provide a myriad of results on how to mod/tune your car and you can even find forums with tons of “experts” telling you how to mod your car (forums and the Internet are other things which were just getting started in 1994), think about that for a minute… Today’s sports car list:
  • Honda Civic Si
  • Nissan 350Z / Nissan GTR
  • Scion FR-S
  • Hyundai Genesis Coupe
  • Ford Focus ST
  • Lexus LFA
Fast and Furious is on movie #7, NOS is still used – albeit not as prevalent with other tuning advances. The basic mods still are air filter and exhaust. Coilover suspension is pretty much available for any vehicle, as are software downloads that take place for all the analog tuning that was once needed.  A bone stock Scion FR-S does the quarter-mile in 14.5 and enthusiasts say this car is way too slow. Your car is either “static” or on “air” depending upon your use of coilovers or air suspension (no longer just the low-rider  bag technology) and wheels with low offsets are cool…even if they tear your fenders. The largest tuners 20 years ago are still around as I’m sure you’ve heard of HKS, Greddy, Trust, Mugen and TRD – but there are a lot of very high quality local boutique tuners now such as AMS, COBB and Bisimoto that are breaking ground with both quality and technology. If you’re a gear head do it yourselfer, most parts are available online and can be shipped to your door rather quickly, no more looking thru catalogs, finding an authorized dealer and making a deposit – waiting for it to get slow-boated over! In 94, you were “ballin” if you had a 6 disc CD magazine with a pull off face. A folder full of CD’s in the passengers seat and a remote…yes, a remote LOL and don’t forget that pager on your visor, someone just beeped you.  2014? Your phone most likely holds your music and can be connected wirelessly thru your Bluetooth, which you accept calls on as well…all while driving. Both scary and cool at the same time, right? in-1 Price/Value Rather than go into each vehicle, let’s just take a quick look at my 2 particular favorites: 2 1994 Acura Integra GS-R
  • $19650 MSRP
  • 170HP/128TQ
  • 2650lbs
itr 2014 Scion FR-S
  • $24700  MSRP
  • 200HP/151TQ
  • 2758lbs
frs_rev All things considered, with inflation, technology and performance enhancements – these two cars are pretty much mirror images of each other just 20 years apart. More information about the combo can be found at my previous feature between the FR-S and the Integra. r8_move As much as things have changed, mostly with the aftermarket community and products growing tenfold, enthusiasts have stayed the same - with the same passion and desire to customize and modify our cars. My GS-R back in 94? Lowered on wheels with exhaust, air filter, headers and a wing. My Audi? Lowered on wheels with exhaust, air filter, intake manifold and carbon fiber side blades. Some things NEVER change.
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