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Motorsport & Its Influence on Auto Modification

Nick Schrader


English III

February 22, 2018

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Motorsport & Its Influence on Auto Modification

Motorsports have brought about a culture that has survived over the last century. The

automobile, (including all motor vehicles in general) makes one of the most diverse topics to

date. It also has one of the richest histories of any profession. Many countries, people, teams, and

manufactures have taken part in the auto-performance industry, involving professions such as

body or chassis design, engine performance, road going conversions of track vehicles, coach

building (creating a new body), restorations, and beyond.

Popularity of these certain communities depends on different regions of the world. For

instance, Italy has an interest in restorations, coachbuilding, and track based vehicles. Examples

could include companies like Carrozzeria Touring (coach building) as well as Pagani and Ferrari

with their factory track vehicles. Japan has an interest in engine performance and street

performance. Though many Japanese based performance companies will not explicitly say that

they endorse street racing, though, a good deal of parts end up there.

Plentiful resources make it relatively easy to start business. No real education criteria

exists when it comes to starting and owning a business (“​Education Requirements for

Business​”), but some knowledge in business administration will come in handy. One resource in

particular will ensure success: knowledge in a specific field of expertise. For something such as

automotive performance, (particularly the design and efficiency portion), an engineering degree

helps one gain experience to use in an automotive environment. (“​Automotive Engineering

Schools with Degree Program Overviews​”) Most colleges provide an engineering program of

some sort. This can vary from computer engineering to mechanical engineering and beyond. Of
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course, any STEM program in high school will make a good start. (Redkar, Sangram, "​Teaching

Advanced Vehicle Dynamics Using a Project Based Learning (PBL) Approach​.")

Schools such as Universal Technical Institute and the California Institute of Technology

make perfect examples of specialized education establishments. However, any regular college

with a program for engineering will do. Education in this sort of field will include a large lump

sum of math and hands on training with vehicle internals or computers. Computer engineering

plays a critical role in working with the code in an ECU (Engine Control Unit). The ECU and

main computer contain scripts for regulating the engine for maximum efficiency as well as

infotainment system data in more recent cars. An education in system development and or

software application development applies to this as well. (“​Education Required to Be a

Computer Engineer​”) If marketing or sales is one’s forte, a master’s degree in any form of

marketing will help get one up to speed.

Vehicles being modified in the United States are generally muscle cars, cult classics

(whose styles and designs differ depending on intended market), or trucks. The history of

performance mods in the United States goes back to the 1910s, when it was no more than a

hobby for aristocrats or wealthy thrill-seekers. It was not until the roaring 20’s when racing and

performance became accessible to blue-collar Americans. During the prohibition age,

bootleggers would modify their automobiles with whatever parts they could use. These

rum-runners would swap out their engine with larger engines (Examples include anything such

as truck engines or even a marine [boat] engine), swap out carburetors, tighten up their

suspension, or toy with the gearbox to accelerate more quickly.

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They would make their cars fast enough to outrun police vehicles from that same time to

deliver their “goods.” During their pastime, these bootleggers would meet up at some dirt road or

city street and race each other to see who had the fastest vehicle. In certain instances, the

bootleggers would see who could outrun the police in the least amount of time. Eventually in

1947, a racing organization put together a formal race event. Inspired by the stock vehicle races

of decades before, this race would involve completely stock vehicles racing around a dirt track,

(later asphalt), for a predetermined amount of time or laps. Not only was this the the precursor to

NASCAR (Fieldman, “​Encyclopedia of Stock Car Racing”​), but also the birth of street racing

in the United States.

By the time the 50’s had come around, a new form of tuning/racing had formed: drag

racing. This race involved two cars, (most commonly hot rods or muscle cars), who raced each

other in a straight line. More often than not, this race takes place in a quarter mile. The racer with

the lowest time would win the race. This race type was more focused on straight line speed than

cornering speed. Its affordability and accessibility made it a favorite amongst the younger

demographic. It also became a favorite amongst street racers who raced between lights.

In Europe, their first real experience with motor racing started in 1895 with the then

unofficial Grand Prix. (Paolozzi, Rémi, “​1895 Grand Prix and Paris Races​.”) The race began

as more of a street race than an organized sport. This sport would later be founded by the club

Automobile Club de France, (meaning Auto Club of France), and started with cars that could go

no faster than 30 mph. The course took a path from Paris to Madrid, which looked impossible for

the day. This race in particular claimed the lives of both the racers and pedestrians alike. To

avoid any further casualties, the next Grand Prix proceeded in a closed circuit with barriers to
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protect spectators. Later on, the Tour de France was made for anyone who had a car and was

crazy enough to take it across France. Competitors who met the criteria could enter the race and

take a long, demanding, and potentially dangerous trip. In the twentieth century, (specifically

1903), the first official Grand Prix took place in Le Mans France.

Manufacturers soon wanted in on the Grand Prix to boost sales and assert their

engineering dominance. In its early years, the cars involved were almost entirely custom from

the ground up. (Usually having tell tale signs of a production vehicle underneath) (Coachbuilt

Org., “​Encyclopedia​”) Later into the mid twentieth century, these cars had to contain an engine

used in a production vehicle. Another set of regulations required that cars have smaller engines

installed in the cars. This resulted from the increasing strictness towards emissions and fossil fuel

vehicles. A single turbo was added to compensate for lost displacement, torque, and horsepower.

These motorsports of yesteryear laid the groundwork more modern forms of racing. The

sport, over the decades has become more accessible to the general public. Anyone and their

brother can go to a weekend track event. These events encourage the participants to work on

their car and fine tune it to get the most out of it by doing so. Similar meetups of this sort sell

aftermarket parts right at the show or event. The family van can be off limits as an option. With

that in mind, getting a beater and turning it into a track car would make sense to do. (Cline,

Kristin. “​Getting A Start in Racing​”) This will engage the owners as mechanics and improve

their driving skills. It allows them to know their car and create an enjoyable, comfortable, but

also inexpensive setup for their car.

If one does not see it desirable to get their hands dirty, they can take their car to a

specialized company to have their vehicle tuned or modified. For instance, the company Alpina
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is a company that specifically modify BMWs with a luxury or performance package or give an

entirely new appearance. (Coachbuilt Org., “​Encyclopedia​”) On the other end, those who are on

a budget can go to King Motorsports to give their family sedan a few hundred more horsepower.

Particularly, in North Carolina, (considered the birthplace of American motorsport by

many), (Fielden, Greg. “​Nascar: a Fast History​”), a large selection of modification companies

and performance vehicle dealerships reside. Anything from coachbuilders, restoration

complexes, race and track car companies make their home in this particular state. Establishments

such as race tracks attract petrolheads for track days, (particularly drag strips). Every other

weekend a ‘Cars and Coffee’ or owner’s club meetup takes place. With such an enthusiast based

demographic in the state, finding a place to test a car’s limits will take no effort.

“Starting a business in this field is not for the faint of heart, or for that matter, is any

business.” (Thad, ​Hyperfast Cars​) Buying an establishment will cost a pretty penny. On top of

that, one has to get the proper resources and tools to create their product(s). This could include

anything such as regular tools like wrenches or screwdrivers. This also includes the larger items

such as lifts to work under the car, (or lower the engine out of the car if required). This may end

up even more pricey if a business decides to create products from less common, more exclusive,

or harder to produce materials, such as carbon fibre. Next comes the labor. They will cost money

as well. These new employees should have experience in your required expertise to ensure that

the job will get done. Though maybe not as much as some of the other equipment required for a

business, such as the building that houses it. Finally, a business may consider marketing their

product or service. The use of social media makes this relatively cost free. If a business wants to
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hunt for more exposure, they could build a website and run ads, get a partnership with a network

and run advertisements there, or they could rent a billboard.

A normal day at an automotive performance establishment can never truly be seen as a

‘normal one’. Every day offers something new to work on, and, inevitably, something to go

wrong. If the business in question is of a larger scale, they will experience more of this.

Businesses in this class would involve anything from Saleen to Roush to GMP. When talking

about a smaller business, there lies the potential of getting repeat customers. The business can

establish a relationship with the customer, leading them to spend even more money at the

establishment and recommending others to it. This, in theory, will lead to growth.

Automotive performance companies of a smaller status usually design products in-house.

This does not necessarily mean that they make their products in house. In many cases, companies

do not have the machinery to create a certain product or find it cheaper to outsource than make it

themselves. If a part that needs to be carved from titanium, more often than not, a small business

would not have items and equipment to produce said part. Rather, another company with

specialized equipment would do the job.

Carbon fiber continues this same narrative. For those who do not know, a considerable

amount of carbon fiber comes from China. They have the materials and the equipment to create a

desired shape. This means that those million dollar hypercars you see with carbon fiber

everywhere had their carbon fiber outsourced from Chinese manufacturers. Though, this does not

necessarily mean that manufacturers are cutting costs. Even with China’s notorious for its

sub-par products, carbon fiber has a different story to tell. Not all carbon fiber have the same

strength or properties. Different grades use a “K” system to define the strength, bundle, and
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weave. This K-grade refers to the thousands of fibers bundled in the weave of carbon fiber. For

example 1K carbon fiber classifies as a lower grade carbon fiber than 50K. (Calfee Design Org.,

“​Grades of Carbon Fiber​.”) Carbon fibre also uses a modulus of elasticity scale. Some parts of

a car require more flexible parts than others. For instance, if a racing vehicle requires a roll cage,

it must be stiff enough to withstand multiple rollovers at high speeds, (without shattering), to

ensure the driver’s safety. On the other hand, active aero may need to have some flexibility as a

means of keeping the parts from shattering under tremendous downforce.

Scripting knowledge massively reduces the difficult of working with the ECU (Engine

Control Unit) and the moving parts of a car. Modifying the ECU requires knowledge in C

language, as well as other programming languages based on the region where the car was built

along with the year of the car. (​Computer Engineering Education​) When giving a car more

power, most people would enjoy having high horsepower in an easy to use package. In a

road-going racer, this serves as the main purpose of the ECU. In more common daily drivers, this

serves as the diagnostics software for when issues come up with the engine internals. However,

these are not the only functions the ECU. It also contains the scripts for moving parts in higher

end cars. This can involve something such as air suspension settings, moving active aero bits,

and also helps other computers in the car to run properly.

For the design portion of automotive modification, an art major will set the path for

success. A good deal of successful designers have come from Japan, Sweden, Italy, and the

United States. In particular, they come from California. The Art Center College of Design in

Pasadena, California exhibits the artistic brilliance of its students. (Hull, Nick. "​How To Become

A Car Designer​.") One thing that most people tend to misconceive is the fact that engineering
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knowhow does not give an advantage over other designers. As a matter of fact, the most

successful transportation designers have very limited application of engineering in their work. Of

course, a few exceptions do exist. One of these exceptions includes Horacio Pagani who uses his

engineering genius and design tactics to create some of the most beautiful and exclusive cars on

the market. Along with Pagani, Christian Von Koenigsegg makes groundbreaking design and

innovative technology. With his engineering knowhow and artistic design, he has implemented

his new technology in a sleek, modern, and relatively easy to use package.

The desire to push the boundaries and go faster make up the driving force to make the

performance and luxury vehicles that occupy today’s market. Over the past century, motorsport

and automotive performance modification have coexisted to create some of the world’s most

luxurious and advanced vehicles of today’s generation. The different philosophies of different

companies keep the automotive community diverse and interesting. Some like to keep traditions

and go with an exotic grand tourer, some enjoy lots of straight line power and go for a drag car,

some like light, agile hatchbacks, some may feel that the street does not give them enough

freedom for speed and get or build a track car. On the more technological side, some people

would prefer an ultra-refined flagship while others want to go full electric with a Tesla Model S

or a BMW I8. The community has something to offer for basically anyone.
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Works Cited

(Education requirements) “Business Owner: Education Requirements and Career Information.”

Study.com​, Study.com,

“Automotive Engineering Schools with Degree Program Overviews.” Study.com, Study.com,


(Education Required to Be a Computer Engineer).” Study.com, Study.com (Working Scholars),


Redkar, Sangram. "Teaching Advanced Vehicle Dynamics Using a Project Based Learning

(PBL) Approach." Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, vol. 13, no. 3, 01

May 2012, pp. 17-29. EBSCOhost,



“Coachbuilders, Coach Building, Coachbuilt Cars, Coachbuilding History, Encyclopedia,

American Coach Builders & Coachwork, Carriages.” Coachbuilders, Coach Building,

Coachbuilt Cars, Coachbuilding History, Encyclopedia, American Coach Builders &

Coachwork, Carriages, www.coachbuilt.com/.

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Paolozzi, Rémi. Autosport.com, 28 May 2003, forix.autosport.com/8w/bdb.html.

“1895 Grand Prix and Paris Races.” TeamDan,


Freedman, Lew. Encyclopedia of Stock Car Racing. Edited by Peter Colenblock and Greg

Fielden, 1997.

Fielden, Greg. “Nascar: a Fast History”. Publications International, 2005.

Interview with Thad of HyperCar Development:


Cline, Kristin. “WAYS TO GET A START IN RACING.” Www.drivingline.com, Nitto Tire, 23

Sept. 2013, ​www.drivingline.com/articles/10-ways-to-get-a-start-in-racing/​.

Hull, Nick. "How To Become A Car Designer." Card-Design-News. Ultima Media, 25 Sept.

2006. Web. 6 May 2018.



“Grades of Carbon Fiber.” Grades of Carbon Fober,