Simon Hacker searches for DIY tips to boost your car’s performance — and save cash!
Okay, so you’ve leafed through our latest issue and drooled at the ever higher performance of diesel cars. You’ve checked the back of the sofa and discreetly frisked a few affluent-looking relatives, but somehow the capital for a set of dandier diesel wheels is failing to materialise. Don’t despair. Even if your regular ride dates from the days when common rail was the 17.09 to Swindon, even if it’s a beast more suited to the Bath and West show than the Nürburgring, there are ways to make life behind that wheel more thrilling. Just follow our driving hacks listed here, and remember they’re as good for cutting bills as they are for slashing that 0-60mph personal best…
1 Psyche up for speed
Take a good look in the mirror. Remember performance driving starts in the mind, so ask yourself: do you feel zippy? Obvious clues that you’re track-ready may include a reverse-mounted baseball cap, Bluetooth earpiece (larger the better), an extensive set of sleeveless T-shirts and, most crucially, a brutal set of sideburns that would frighten Guy Martin all the way home to Grimsby. By means of tattooage or branding on your backless gloves, a sponsorship deal with a purveyor of energy drinks that taste like a hospital mop signals you’re raring to go.
2 Cut and run
Lopping bits off your prize car sounds drastic, but it’s a technique practised by motorsport engineers and mass-market designers alike. Less weight equals stronger performance. So you can shave cost and performance margins beyond the dreams of George Osborne by scrutinising your car and jettisoning any item that merely drags you back. Take the interior – as in take it out and dump it. Going at your headlining and upholstery like a crazed customs officer might seem a touch drastic (and will leave you with a machine whose noise and vibration levels match a cement mixer), but a subtle bit of removal is feasible and can spell adios to an easy 25kgs. Responsible disposal of rear seating, furthermore, will boost your scale weight by 15kgs-plus. And don’t forget, there’s now no legal requirement for a spare wheel, so swapping a tyre for a can of sealant can slash, on average, 20 to 25kgs.
3 Search and destroy
There are also hidden bits to your car which, once removed, add instant svelteness. Your air conditioning system, for instance, weighs around 10kgs, while your radio, given that there’s sweet music enough from the engine, is also dead weight to the tune of at least that of a moribund cat. In this criteria, don’t forget the hidden weight of a full tank of fuel: that second, top half of your full tank weighs around 20kg. And during the entire first half of your tank’s mileage, it is of absolutely no use whatsoever.
4 Get a GRP
True auto anorexia requires swapped componentry. For example, the bonnet of a standard first-generation BMW 3 Series (E36) weighs 15kgs. Ditched for a glass-reinforced fibre (GRP) panel, you’ve lost 12kgs already. Ditto glass: the average weight saving for polycarb is around 2kgs per window.
5 Unfriend yourself
Possibly drastic, but the statistics make this irresistible: The Office for National Statistics says that the average UK man adds 13.16 stone to your chassis. If it’s a woman’s company you’re after, think hard: they weigh in at an average of 11 stone. This is why there are no passenger seats on F1 cars. If you are serious about the pursuit of performance, it’s time to come to terms with the truth: this cannot be a communal activity.
6 Address your rotational mass
Sounds scary, but changing your wheels for super-light alloys will not only make you faster and more frugal, it will also make it easier for you to make your tyres screech when pulling away. Now, as we all know, wheel-spinning is the scientific opposite of performance because it signals that you are losing traction and converting valuable energy into drama. But they don’t know that, do they?