It used to be that modifying cars meant extracting as much horsepower and visceral outrageousness as possible out of the steel and oil of a motor car. Since the early days of custom culture and drag racing at Bonneville, it has been the need for speed that motored most after-market aspiration.
But there is a new dawn coming. As resources become increasingly scarce and our planet becomes wrought in the effects of climate change ‘ecomodding’ is destined to become a part of the landscape.
Early hot rodders would slather endlessly over the bulbous blown hemi and the four-on-the-floor – but the icons of this new wave of green car creatives are bolt on aerodynamic panels, moon disc wheel covers and rock hard low friction rubber.
Ecomodders and ‘hypermilers’ (who make a sport out of saving fuel but who might not necessarily customise their car) go to intense efforts to shave extra centimetres out of a litre of fuel. Ecomodder.com one of the hubs of the global hypermiling scene, lists over a hundred easy fuel-saving tips and measures that even the bog-standard driver can build into their motoring life, without tweaking your every day drive with as much as a new air filter.
Of course, most of us know that by stripping the roofrack when not in use, keeping your tyres fully inflated and ditching unwanted excess baggage can save the pennies, but did you know that reversing into a parking space (so that you can drive straight out without stop-start reversing with a cold engine) and ‘listening to slower music’ will also get you more miles per penny?
More extreme, and possibly dangerous measures listed by Ecomodder include engine-off coasting, HGV drafting and no brake-motoring. The more extreme measures suggested read every bit as ludicrously as ‘the Max Power guide to drifting your local roundabout’. Imagine getting pulled over for hypermiling!
Though most modded petrol-misers might not be as sexy as a stripped down ’32 Coupe with an exposed weber-racked hemi, there is a certain appeal to the ultimate low drag shape as epitomised in VW’s experimental car (pictured above), that achieved a record low rate of 0.89 litres of unleaded per 100KM on the Autobahn a couple of year ago.
The lesson to learn is that with customised cars, there’s only one thing that matters: creativity.
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