In the age of social media, we’re no longer simply individuals anymore. We’re ambassadors of our own personal brand. Whether we like or or not, whether we’re even aware of it or not, everything we post, say, do tag or are tagged in on social media comes under scrutiny from everyone to our bosses (so probably a good idea to untag yourself from any raucous stag do pictures) to our parents (so definitely a good idea to untag yourself from any raucous stag do pictures) to our spouses (seriously, for the sake of your own health, untag yourself from any raucous stag do pictures).
In a consumerist society, it goes without saying that a lot of how we project our character and personality to those around us is through the purchases we make. Our clothes, our jewellery, our aftershave, they’re all part of a rich tapestry that says “For better or for worse, this is me”. Thus, we decorate our homes in a way that subtly infers our character, and customise our desks at work in a way that subtly tweaks our persona by filtering it through a professional veneer.
With this in mind, it seems bonkers that we don’t make the same efforts to customise our vehicles, especially in an era where technology has given us more opportunities than ever to make our vehicles our own. Of course, in a perfect world this would mean buying a brand new car that’s made to spec, giving us complete control over everything from the paint job and interior to the onboard entertainment to keep the kids busy on low road trips. The reality, however is that most of us must make the most of what we have. Fortunately, you can make virtually any car an extension of your personality.
Of course, when customising your car you walk a fine line between coming across as an informed sophisticate who’s not afraid to bend his car to his will and looking like some sort of boy racer stereotype. Here we’ll walk you through every step of that tightrope walk…
Personalised plates? Sure, just keep it classy!
Your car is your pride and joy, so why wouldn’t you want to splash out on lending it the personal touch? Private Number Plates are a divisive subject among drivers. Some think they lend their car a certain sense of prestige and personal ownership… Others think they’re naff.
When all’s said and done, the only opinion that really matters is your own. If a private plate will make your driving more pleasurable, go ahead and get one. It’s an easy and administratively light process to source them and getting them on is a doddle. Just don’t forget your original. Without it you could automatically fail your MOT. Our only caveat is that you keep is classy. A variation on your name, nickname or profession is all well and good buy don’t expect people not to judge you if you’re driving round in B1G 80Y 1.
Chips, mods and remapping
Most cars these days allow us to command our car’s Engine Control Unit (ECU) to adapt itself to our preferred driving style. Thus we can drive with either performance, fuel efficiency comfort, or our own customised style that fits somewhere in between. If, however, this is not an option for your vehicle (or you want to push your car that little bit harder) some drivers prefer to add aftermarket “chips”.
These are modifications that remap your ECU to boost or otherwise influence your engine’s performance. If you choose to do this, however, be aware that it comes with inherent risks. ECU modifications are technically legal, but they’re still a bit on the dodgy side, and can create problems for your engine later on down the line.
They may also create issues if the engine (or part of it) is recalled by your manufacturer. Volkswagen, for example, will not install the ECU update that fixes the Nox emissions issue that created that big hoo-ha a couple of years back. While it may be a cool way of customising your vehicle, it’s one that we can’t recommend in good conscience.
Aftermarket stereo system
Car stereos have come a long, long way in the past few years. Right off the bat, the last half decade or so has seen a marked improvement in sound quality; Audi, Nissan and Mazda have used Bose speakers for a while now, while Volkswagen have incorporated Beats by Dre Dre on their Polos and Ups (because God knows the Up really, really needed a USP!). Moreover, the advent of Bluetooth technology and screen mirroring solutions have made the humble infotainment system a powerful and multifaceted tool for drivers.
Nonetheless, for the true music lover, a little something extra is required to make their car their own. Pick up one of these sweet aftermarket bluetooth equipped stereo systems and refit your boot with aftermarket speakers encompassing your tweeters for sharp high frequency notes, subwoofers for deep meaty bass and sturdy mid range speakers for everything in between. Just be sure to leave yourself plenty of boot space. The last thing you need is for your speakers to be crushed under the weight of holiday luggage or golf clubs.
Just make sure you’re considerate with your volume, especially waiting at lights. The old lady trying to cross the road may not share your passion for late ‘90s hip hop.
Seat and be merry
Nobody wants to drive around for hours and hours in a state of discomfort. If you spend a great deal of time in your car (or you simply don’t feel that your current seats have the panache that your vehicle deserves) there are a range of aftermarket seats to suit virtually every taste.
If you’ve made modifications to your vehicle to make it sportier, you also owe it to yourself to get a sports seat that will give you the support you need. The last thing you want is to lose control of your vehicle as you’re sliding around in your seat on a tight corner.
3D printing, the future of customisation?
All this said, it could be that the best movements in customisation could be yet to come. The advent of industrialised 3D printing has lots of untapped potential for manufacturers to offer drivers customised chassis and body work solutions both at point of sale and aftermarket.
While this hasn’t caught on in the UK in a big way just yet, most 3D printing enthusiasts argue that it’s just a matter of time.