As children, most of us probably thought about what kind of car we wanted to drive when we grew up. If you were a gearhead-inclined child, you probably knew exactly what you wanted—the nearly $300,000 Lamborghini Gallardo or the 562-hp Ferrari 458, for example. More than likely, though, you didn't really know what you wanted, just that it should be something cool and fast. And if possible, it should talk. "K.I.T.T., cancel my meetings. I'm going to Chuck E. Cheese."
Unfortunately, then we get older, and during our forced assimilation into adulthood, childhood dreams have a way of shriveling into nothing. Now, we're grateful to just to have a car--ANY car--and we pray to the powers that be that it can get us to work on an eighth of a tank of gas. But just because the struggle is real, does that really mean our dreams of owning a cool car have to die?
Not necessarily. As long as there have been cars, people have been modifying them to fit their needs and to suit their tastes, and the great thing about modding your vehicle is that anything is possible (okay, not everything is street legal, but that's beside the point). Hate the interior? Wish you had more horsepower? Want an eye-catching exterior that'll turn every head? You can do it all.
Of course, one person's cool is another person's crazy. Here are 20 insane beater mods; where would you draw the line?
20 Um... What?
As children and teenagers, most of us want nothing more than to fit in with our peers. We want to wear the right clothes, get the right haircut, and use the right slang so as not to stand out. And if something should happen that makes us feel like a pariah (oh my gawd, I woke up with a huge zit!), we slink around in the shadows and hope no one notices.
But for some people, standing out—actually, truly standing out—is something to be celebrated rather than feared. I'm not sure what this car began its life as. And to be honest, I'm not really sure what it is now. It seems to have taken the concept of scissor doors to a whole new level, but one thing's for sure: it's not afraid of being one of a kind.
19 Nyan Car
Remember the Nyan Cat meme? The video (which featured a cat with a Pop Tart for a body trailing rainbows as it flies through space) took the internet by storm in 2011.
I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but if you've ever thought to yourself, "You know, I love the Nyan Cat meme SO MUCH that I want to mod a car after it," someone beat you to it. The Nyan Car is a modded BMW 5-Series that plays the Nyan Cat theme song on loop the entire time it's racing. And when it shows up at a 24 Hours of LeMans beater-series event, that means it plays for 24 hrs. How the drivers aren't completely insane by now, I have no idea. I played it on YouTube to see how long I could take it, and I only lasted 2:39 minutes.
18 High-brow Hearse
Modern hearses are created for a single purpose: to deliver caskets to the graveyard. Built to be longer and stronger than regular vehicles, hearses nevertheless have a light workload and often last for 30 years or more. The vast majority of hearses in North America are Cadillacs, which means there's always the ironic possibility that you'll be driven to your grave in a nicer car than you could afford to drive in life. In fact, the owner of this hearse seems very concerned about this last point and has clearly taken great pains to make sure your final ride is a comfortable one. Perhaps they took inspiration from the pastel tuxedo fad of the 1970s? But one thing's for sure—if your funeral procession is led by this, everyone will remember your last big hurrah.
17 Super Hero Sprint
Racing cars is fundamentally a pastime meant for fun, no matter how seriously its spectators might take it (*cough* NASCAR fans *cough*). So, in the immortal words of the Joker, why so serious? Why not decorate your cars with the same fun-loving spirit in which they're driven?
Here are two cars from the LeMons beater series that clearly get where I'm coming from: the Nintendo-inspired Super Westerfield Bros. racer next to a Wonder Woman-themed Honda Civic. In fact, the Civic is using a wing section from a Cessna plane to give itself super-powered downforce. Considering that the top speed of a Civic is only 130 when brand new (which slows down further once it degenerates to beater status), I'm not sure the wing was really necessary, but it's unique, and therefore, it earns my applause.
16 Hum Rider
According to Newsweek, American commuters waste 42 hours per year being stuck in traffic. Now, say you got a job at age 25 and worked until you retired at age 65; you'd have lost a grand total of 1,680 hours (the equivalent of 10 weeks) to traffic jams. Try not to let the rage over that fact drive you to an early grave.
Even though it was just a marketing stunt for Verizon, the Hum Rider might really be on to something. A Jeep Cherokee base with hydraulic wheels, the Hum Rider weighs 3,800 kg (twice what a regular Cherokee does) due to its 300 feet of hydraulic lines and the gas generator needed to power it all. But the Hum is capable of lifting nine feet in the air, over any cars in your path. What would you do with your extra 10 weeks?
15 Batman Bōsōzoku
The Japanese word "bōsōzoku" translates to “out-of-control street gang.” It's the name given to the post-WWII subculture of youth bikers that were known for aggressive speeding, reckless driving, and attacking other vehicles with things like baseball bats and pipes (think Akira). But since the Japanese government cracked down on the bike gangs, that same don't-tell-me-what-to-do spirit lives on in a modding subculture that uses cars to pay homage to the Bōsōzoku.
Any vehicle can serve as the base for a Bōsōzoku, but old coupes and vans are a common choice (as you see pictured here). The style is characterized by the excessive, including huge spoilers and front splitters, completely crazy body kids, and cartoonish colors. The Batmobile, this ain't. Just pray you don't come across a roundabout.
14 Skull Candy
Since the 1930s-inspired PT Cruiser only came out a few years ago (it was produced from 2000-2010), it's probably not really old enough to be considered a beater. But it's so ugly that any modding could only be considered an improvement--at least that's what I thought until I saw this. Now, I'm on the fence. On the one hand, it's original, and it does successfully distract you from rolling your eyes and thinking, "Ugh, another PT Cruiser." But on the other hand, someone paid money (probably a lot of money) to cover every inch of this PT, including the rims, with skulls of varying sizes, whether decal or actual 3D skulls. I assume there are no genuine human skulls on there, but it's hard to be sure.
13 Boba Golf
Volkswagen has been manufacturing the little Golf since 1974, and according to TopSpeed.com, it's VW's top-selling model of all time. Produced as either a hatchback or a station wagon, the Golf has never been what you'd call fast. The 2017 model has 210 hp (a world of improvement over the 1974 model's 69 hp), which gives it a 5.5 second 0-60 and a top speed of 130. So, when you hear that Boba Motoring of Paderborn, Germany took this unassuming MK2 Golf, replaced its guts with super-performance parts, and tuned it up to 1,215 hp (in a car that only weighs 2,200 lbs!), it blows your mind. That's faster than a Lamborghini Aventador (740 hp), a Ferrari 812 (789 hp), or a Dodge Demon (840 hp)!
12 Dustbuster Trans Sport
The Pontiac Trans Sport (cousin to the Chevy Lumina minivan) was a front-wheel-drive U body van sold from 1990-1999. With poor acceleration, terrible handling, and a max of only 180 hp in its heady heyday, the Trans Sport was about as far removed from a race car as possible. But that didn't stop the Bad Decisions Racing Team from taking this soccer-mom-mobile and claiming gold. Styling it as Black & Decker Dustbuster handheld vacuum cleaner, the team raced this Trans Sport at the 2015 24 Hours of LeMons Detroit and won the coveted "Index of Effluency" award, the top prize in the LeMons beater-racing series. It's given to the car that's considered most unreliable yet performs best as a race car. Who says minivans aren't cool?
11 Honda Stream
As anyone who's read the Wangan Midnight manga series or seen The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift knows, the Japanese car scene is legend... (wait for it) ...dary. Rainbow colors and psychedelic lights characterize a world where anything is possible with your car. And in a place as densely populated as Tokyo, there's imagination enough to think of just about everything. Anime character wraps? Totally. LED light shows? Of course! A neon roller-coaster wonderland inside a minivan? Yes, do it! Especially if that minivan is equipped with a crazy powerful sound system specially built for competing in sound-off battles. Again, I ask--who says minivans aren't cool? I only wish someone could've done this to the used Chevy Lumina I was stuck driving in high school.
10 Mod Max S15
For film nerds, the most important thing to ever come out of Australia could arguably be the 1979 apocalyptic flick Mad Max, which brought Australian New Wave cinema to the world. Cars play a huge part in Mad Max (especially Max's 1973 Ford XB Falcon GT351, dubbed the Pursuit Special), as well as its sequels. They're brutal-looking vehicles, piecemealed together from spare parts and adorned with lethal accessories. They're wild and dangerous, just like their drivers.
Prior to the release of 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, Mighty Car Mods was inspired to turn a Nissan Silvia S15 into a vehicle worthy of surviving the apocalypse. Using the V8 engine from a Holden Commodore and a small army of expert modders, I believe they succeeded—perfect for a world of fire and blood.
9 Aerodynamic Disaster
Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air, and particular attention is paid to how it interacts with solid objects. When it comes to cars, aerodynamics seek to reduce drag as well as the lift forces that can impact a car at high speeds--which is the key phrase. Unless you plan on racing your vehicle or want to know the best way to mod a getaway car (totally asking for a friend), your car's stock aerodynamics are going to be perfectly capable of keeping your car on the road at speed-limit speeds.
But let's say you do want to mod your car for improved aerodynamics, there are a right way and a wrong way to do it. This is the wrong way. This isn't so much a front splitter as a straight-up liability. What if you come across a speed bump?
8 Toyota's Ark
Because the track at Sonoma Raceway can only fit about 175 cars, many of the applicants for the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons beater race series would normally have to be turned away for capacity reasons. But since the Pointless isn't heartless, they created a second day of racing with all the same prizes just so everyone had a chance to compete.
Water is 800 times denser than air, so doesn't that mean a boat shape should be 800 times faster than a traditional car shape? Not really, but give a big E for Effort to Team Babel for trying with their modded Toyota MR2, which managed a 13th place finish. No word, however, on whether that was with or without two of each animal on board.
7 Nissan Patrol GU
While the Mod Max is amazingly cool, in a truly apocalyptic situation, I might go with a different choice. This off-road beast was once just a regular Nissan Patrol GU, but then Luke Oldfield got a hold of it. He added a 4.2-liter turbo conversion and a lift kit, then chopped off the back of the cab to create a storage space. Now, it's not just a rock crawler— it eats rocks for breakfast, and Oldfield has traveled all around the Australian bush in it. Amenities include a hot shower system, dual fridge and freezers, a travel buddy oven, 12-volt plug-ins, a full DC to DC solar setup, 2 x 120 amp batteries, a canopy, a tent, 240 liters of diesel, and 60 liters of water. Bring on the zombies!
6 The FJ40 Smoke Machine
Although burnouts may have been born of necessity (drag racers need to warm up their tires before racing by spinning them while the car remains stationary), for most people, they're just about having a good time. But like just about everything else humans do for fun, someone eventually decided we should make a contest of it. Now, burnout contests are big events offering major prize money, so if you have aspirations of glory along these lines, you might want a vehicle purpose-built for burning rubber.
At first glance, this Toyota Land Cruiser by BNR Engines doesn't look like a burnout machine, but once you see it disappear in a cloud of blue smoke, you'll be changing your tune. It's got a blown and injected 510ci big-block engine, which gives it nearly 1,300 hp and slightly over 1,000 ft-lb of torque.
5 1993 Mazda MPV
I think teenagers end up hating their family's minivan right around the time they get their driver's license and are given the Sophie's choice of either driving it or staying home. I'd like to tell you that minivans get a bad rap and that they're really not as bad as they seem, but I drove a minivan in high school, and I'm still emotionally scarred from the experience, so there's not a lot I can say in that regard.
David Swenson of Seattle felt the same way when it became his turn to drive his family's '93 rear-wheel drive Mazda MPV. At least you can conceivably do burnouts in an RWD van, but Swenson wanted more. He and his father replaced the 103-hp factory MPV V6 engine with a JDM Nissan VG30DETT-turbocharged V6. Now the MPV's up to 388 hp. That should make getting a prom date easier.
4 Holden Commodore From Hell
If you want to be burnout-competition famous, acquire a million followers on Instagram, and be hounded by girls asking you to sign their chest, you first need to learn what a typical burnout car looks like. You'll need a large-capacity blown V8 engine capable of around 1,000 hp, 7- or 8-inch rear wheels (get the small ones since you're going to blow them up anyways), and a ladder-bar suspension.
For a perfect example of the above, direct your attention to this second-gen Holden Commodore that's been dubbed "From Hell." FH has burn marks on its rear bumper (scars from previous competitions) and an insane paint job that ensures it stands out from its rivals. Let's face it—subtle doesn't get you Instagram followers.
I've never put much stock into the concept of soulmates. The idea that there's one perfect match for every person hidden somewhere among the 7.6 billion people currently on Earth seems like fairytale nonsense. When I read about Grant and Susan Kelley, however, I had to think twice about the idea. If you have a passion for modding old Holden panel vans, what are the odds you'd meet someone with the same interest? And yet, there they are. The Kelleys have a fleet of 13 panel vans. Each mod job starts with a color, and from there, a theme is built. For example, there's the blue WB Caprice-fronted HJ dubbed Cimmerian (after the fictional homeland of Conan the Barbarian) or their green HX named "Poison Ivy" (pictured in the background). The red one here is Lucifer, which came about from the van's original ruby paint.
2 Crazy Beetles
Produced in Germany after World War II as "the people's car," the Volkswagen Beetle is the best-selling single-design car in history. With its cute, ultra-distinctive design, the Beetle is instantly recognizable (which is good if you want to beat your younger siblings in a game of "Slug Bug"), so you could be forgiven for asking why someone might see the need to make it even more recognizable.
These two incredible Beetle mod jobs look like they'd be right at home in a Disney parade. These were very expensive undertakings, and the level of detail is incredible (to be precise, that turtle is actually a red-eared slider, which is a terrapin). I'm not sure if the VW Felis and the VW Terrapin will catch on, but I do know you'll never forget them.
1 Trix Donk
Also known as "Hi-risers," "Box Cars," or "Bubble Cars," Donks are all about fitting the biggest wheels you can possibly find on your car (even raising it up if you have to because safety is secondary to looking cool). They're mostly popular in the South and are typically paired with a colorful, cartoony paint job. Jalopnik calls Donks "the most hated kind of car in the world" due to the resentment of some car enthusiasts when otherwise cool cars are turned into clownish cruisers. But if modding is all about having fun, then what better representation could there be than the Donk? Their impracticality means they basically only exist as an expression of joy, and if you can proclaim your love of breakfast cereal at the same time, then all the better!