Which workshop will be the first?

Posted on June 9th, 2008 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Economy,Engine Management,hyundai,Opinion,Power,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

Here in Australia, major car modification workshops are generally well established. That’s said in the light of full knowledge that workshops come and go; but equally, others build a strong reputation and live on for decades. Some even span two or three generations of the one family.


I know that you can always find customers to denigrate any workshop, but places like Turbo Tune in Adelaide, Nizpro and Beninca Motors in Melbourne, MRT in Sydney, ChipTorque on the Gold Coast, and Romano Motors in Brisbane are longstanding workshops with good reputations.


And I wonder which Australian business – either these or others – will be first: the first to realise that there’s money to be made in specialising in a new-age of car modification.


As I have mentioned elsewhere, I think that the time of large engine, thirsty and heavy cars is in decline. Not in a decline for those enthusiasts who target such machines over anything else (and, good luck to them – I will always admire hot rods with huge engines), but in decline for mainstream car modifiers.


The shift away from traditional Australian family cars with their large engines and massive weight and size is obvious in new car sales; the same thing (I think) will happen in modification. Despite many people suggesting otherwise, I don’t think parallels can be drawn with the 1974 fuel price crisis, or for that matter other more recent events: the current move towards more environmentally friendly cars is at societal grassroots level.


It’s a sea-change.


In Australia, three things tell the story: the relative success of the hybrid petrol/electric Toyota Prius, the amazing growth of diesel passenger car sales, and the decline in the sales of large cars – primarily those manufactured by (the now departed) Mitsubishi Motors Australia, and the (present manufacturing) bases of Ford and Holden – and, to a lesser extent, Toyota.


Now for those people reaching for their keyboards, I am NOT saying that the Prius is about to outsell the Falcon, or that large Australian car sales are about to drop to nothing. I am also well aware that SUV sales are climbing – but many of these are diesels. (In fact, the very best car I have ever driven for per-person fuel economy is a Hyundai Santa Fe diesel – on a trip it can achieve less than 1 litre/100km/person!)


The decline in sales of large Australian cars, the growth in diesels and the far greater sales acceptance of hybrids than was previously thought possible – these all represent more than just a blip on the radar, a temporary perturbation.  Instead they are a new direction.


And so, as I write this, the field seems completely open for an established Australian modification workshop to enter the field of what (in some overseas markets) is called eco-modification.


I am talking specific diesel power upgrades – Mazda 3, Ford Mondeo, Peugeot 307 and 308, Golf TDi, Hyundai i30… there are plenty of cars. Yes, there are locally available upgrades for these cars but as far as I know, all are sourced from elsewhere and primarily consist only of chip rewrites.


So, right now, the modification market for diesel cars is wide open. Turbos, tubular exhaust manifolds, intercoolers, exhausts, engine management.


And there’s also another huge market opening. It’s working on the traditional cars – Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Impreza WRX, the Nissan turbos – but looking not only at power but also fuel economy.


Power and economy – the two are not mutually exclusive; with careful tuning for improved volumetric efficiency (and so peak torque) modifications can result in better performance, better fuel economy and better driveability.


And all three are especially important at part-throttle – where 99.9 per cent of driving is carried out.


The subtleties of this will be lost on many workshops. Those workshops that never run their cars on dynos at other than full throttle; those that have no knowledge of Brake Specific Fuel Consumption; those that don’t bother spending any time on carefully tuning light-load cruise fuel and ignition maps.


But other workshops will leap to the challenge. The turbo mod that provides better spool-up at part throttle, the use of aftermarket tuned intake manifolds to provide much better low-rpm and mid-range torque; the completely different approach used to chip-tune lean cruise versus full power.


They’re all still modifications – with all that implies for individuality, driving fun and performance – but they’re not predicated solely on a quarter mile time or dyno power output.


“20 per cent more power from your WRX but better than standard fuel economy!”


“Get 750 kilometres from a tank, not 600.”


“Sick of your weekly fuel bill? Save with a custom chip tune.”


OK, so I am not an advertising copywriter, but you get the idea.


I reckon the first well-established and reputable workshop to embrace this approach will own that market for quite some time to come…


5 Responses to 'Which workshop will be the first?'

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  1. Martin said,

    on June 9th, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    I went from an AWD turbo subaru similar to your old car, to an economical and fun 1.3L nissan city car. Then I drove down to the NSW snow fields and after snow chains, wide open throttle to get over 100km/h and less than confident traction & handling i’m thinking about removing myself from the ‘small car enthusiast club’ in the interest of seeing more of Australia and sitting comfortably on the open road speed limits. I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon looking for another AWD subaru. It will cost $30 more per tank to fill (almost double what the nissan costs) but it’s independent rear suspension, all wheel drive and turbo performance will make up for it. As will the economical motorbike sitting in the garage. To relate it to your blog post: if the workshops won’t do it, then the DIY people certainly will. Having all of the above benefits and managing to tune the car to achieve the best possible fuel consumption figures is something i will continue researching and doing in my own time.

  2. Alan said,

    on June 10th, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    I have been watching with great interest the developments in diesel tuning here in the uk. I have always been an owner of 2l + engined cars here in the uk and have carried out various modifications to improve performance. However a few years ago i had to find something more economical due to the need to commute. The prime candidate was a 2.5tdi audi a4 quattro, however they were way out of my price range so i opted for a 1995 bmw 525td, the car stock was pitiful in performance and not too great in economy. But since then i have been playing with the engine, with all the usual mods and a whole list to come and i have founfd it to be the most satisfying car to tinker with, small modifications yield huge gains for little cash! Still the modifying community on on diesels lives mostly in europe so more hardcore tuning information is hard to come by. I look forward to future articles on autospeed for derv heads like me.

  3. Grant McAuliffe said,

    on June 10th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    The challenging thing is coming up with something that proves improved power at part throttle, and is meaningful to Joe Bloggs. Having been a past member of a four wheel drive club with a number of close to identical vehicles, I can attest that diesel Patrols equipped with the infamous “Hiclone” always got better fuel economy than mine and “felt” punchier at part throttle, but I’m sure that if we had bothered to test on a dyno, my non hiclone equipped vehicle would have shown greater full throttle power (owing to no intake flow restriction). The Hiclone always suffered from the ridiculous marketing that claimed improved power, which of course was never the case when tested by reputable magazines on dynos at full throttle.

  4. Andrew said,

    on June 12th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    One other aspect that I think will eventuate is the establishment of hybrid/electric conversion shops. Given that there are still plenty of petrol cars on the road, and fuel prices will only ever go up, once it hits a certain threshold people will be willing to invest a little more on their cars in order to make them a whole lot more efficient.

    The government is giving grants/subsidies to car companies that are willing to provide more fuel efficient cars (eg. Toyota’s deal with the Aussie Government for $35million), but I think that would extend to companies that are willing to convert older petrol cars as well.

    The thought of being able to convert a car from full petrol to hybrid/electric at minimal fuss and cost seems like a pretty good project too! 🙂

    My 2c.

  5. Ben said,

    on June 12th, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t know about minimal fuss and cost… But it’s definately possible on a DIY scale. I have read about a large motor/generator style device that replaces the alternator (and requires a strong pulley system). I think they called it a bolt-on-hybrid. Something like that wouldn’t be out of the question for the basis of a hybrid conversion kit.

    Another option is the compressed air hybrid system that was trialled in the U.S. on delivery trucks. Something about a compressor/motor after the gearbox was mentioned. It sounds like it could be copied relatively easily.