QotW: What’s the best mod you can make to a classic car?

Toyota Celica TA21

Last week’s QotW broke records for having the most answers since we started doing our weekly polls. JNCers had opinions both plentiful and strong about the absolute worst mods that could be foisted upon classic cars. Well okay then, smarty pantses, what about the flip side?

What’s the best mod you can make to a classic car?

We aren’t opposed to mods, but whatever they are we hope they are reversible. Therefore we’re going to go with a simple “low down sus” and a set of proper vintage barrels. Not only will this enhance the typical Japanese car’s innate handling prowess, it also looks fantastic. No cutting of wires, sheetmetal or upholstery required.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner from last week’s question, “What’s the worst mod you can make to a classic car?

AE86 Toyota Corolla 4x4

Though we had many decriers of irreversibility, sex-spec Aussie rotaries, or generally shoddy craftsmanship, this week’s winner is Knoonz. Before you get your pitchforks out, the opinions expressed by the winner are do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the JNC staff blah blah blah you get the picture. We just really like the passion with which Knoonz spoke.

I’d have to say oversized wheels are close to the top of the list for me. There’s no reason to put anything bigger than a 13/14/15″ wheel on a classic J car unless it won’t clear the brakes. To me there’s nothing cooler than fitting a set of 13s that are almost as wide as they are tall. After that it’d have to be swapping in modern engines. I get that people want reliable/powerful classics, but I feel like by ditching your carbed L24 for an SR20 you’re really sucking the soul out of the car.

Omedetou! Your prize from the JNC gashapon is a Hot Wheels Super Speeders mystery pack Mazda RX-7!



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42 Responses to QotW: What’s the best mod you can make to a classic car?

  1. Tj says:

    Easy. Multiple side-draught carbs.
    Weber, Mikuni, Dellorto, pick your poison. As long as there’s enough of the greasy, fuel-leaking little buggers to have one choke per cylinder and you’re in aural heaven.

    Put aside all the talk about most effective power adding modifications, forget about everyday tractability and bottom end torque, and don’t mind the fact that you’ll be singlehandedly funding your local petrol station owner’s kid’s tertiary education.

    Whatever your ride, a set of these, wide open in morning traffic will be enough to make a little bit of wee come out of even the most ardent BNR32 GTR owner (I can personally vouch for this)

    Simply roll down the windows (if they’re not already due to the fumes) find a solid roadside wall or tunnel, show the firewall the sole of your right shoe and don’t ever stop.
    You’ll get what I’m talking about.

  2. chin says:

    I Agree with TJ . Other then that I’d say any mod that keeps the car on the road.

  3. DirtyRice says:

    A/C installation! Nothing like cruising down the street on a beautiful summer day while sweating like a pig. Who wants to be sticky and stinky? Yuck! Sure you could roll down the window, but it’s nice to feel that arctic blast too. It’s a simple pleasure, but one that is truly wonderful to have.

  4. E-AT_me says:

    i think we all know what it is.. Black Watanabes. Because any car, regardless of if it’s a Hako or a Dodge Van, looks better rollin on Black Wats..

    • dankan says:

      They don’t have to be black, gun metal or bronze can also be devastatingly good. My current ambition is an FR-S in white or ultramarine with bronze Watanabes.

  5. jivecom says:

    New harnesses. I don’t know about the really good classics, I’ve never sat in a hakosuka or kenmeri or anything cool, but boy oh boy were the belts on my ’85 mazda 626 rubbish. i’m pretty sure i lost a bit of spleen every time i had a panic stop (so every stop, the brakes were worse than the belts)

    • jivecom says:

      New brakes are also a mod I would get behind, as long as you keep the originals somewhere. Of course that might necessitate a wheel change if you get huge rotors like a boy racer, but small rotors work as long as you remember that drilled and slotted rotors make braking performance worse, especially in small brakes as you’d find on a tiny old japanese classic. For most every application, surface area trumps getting rid of the tiny amount of brake dust modern pads generate, and whatever the hell it is drilling is supposed to do besides compromise the integrity of the rotor

      • justin says:

        Better cooling. For street cars its unnecessary but for track cars that are always breaking hard they help to keep the rotor from warping in the middle of a race.

  6. Benjamin says:

    The best modification one can make to a classic car is a JNC inkan on the rear window. A simple $2.99 decal turns a rusty embarrassment of a 620 or a grandma-spec Tercel wagon into a conversation piece.

  7. Aaron says:

    Wheels and suspension, even if it’s not running… wait, especially if it’s not running.

  8. Steve says:

    More power. I don’t mean LSx-swap or turbo-kit power. (Not that I’m opposed to either.) But I think most classic J-cars can benefit from some of the advances in technology we’ve made in the last 30 years. I like to think that if the engineers in the ’70s and ’80s could have built their cars with the same engine specs (displacement, fuel efficiency, emissions, etc) but with 30 or 40 more horses, they *absolutely* would have.

  9. Nigel says:

    A good steering wheel (old school momo).
    And a bigger drivers seat for my fat ass.

  10. Dave says:

    Fender-mounted mirrors on USDM nostalgics.

  11. mikeyee says:

    period correct aftermarket wheels

  12. 31gun says:

    Lower and period wheels.
    nuff said.

  13. Arend says:

    all original accessories from the factory brochure

    I want them all!!!!!!!

    • Ryan says:

      Dude agree so much. 240z optional parts make me feel funny. So many sports option parts available from ‘sports corner’ or whatever it was before Nismo. Rally clocks, sports compe ‘handle’, etc etc. Rally gear knob, never seen one for sale though!!

      Or parts from higher specced models, like Z432 tacho.. drool

  14. Isaac says:

    Easy, front and / or rear strut bar(s). Nothing compares to instant chassis rigidity 🙂

  15. Tyler says:

    Best mod is a driver who can properly whip it around the track, because it a JNC not used properly is a JNC wasted. Buy or borrow a helmet, cough up some money and shred your tires. Don’t forget to match your door number to your chassis code.

  16. ErikFM says:

    Whether its for aesthetics or function, the one thing I have to do to a JNC would have to be a front lip/air dam/spoiler/tongue/spook.

    I feel that tiny little addition to the front not only gives it that classic Japanese look of a body kit, but is just subtle enough to look stock.

    Every JNC looks good with lower suspension and nice wheels: the 510, the RX3, Celica, Hako and Kenmeri automatically look fantastic, but as soon as you slap on that front air dam, it finally completes that JNC style.

  17. Steven says:

    The best modification to a classic car? No modifications at all. No oversized PlayStation steering wheel, no racing seats, no aftermarket wheels, overpowered stereo, or tinted windows. Just keep the car the way it was meant to be.

    Actually, since that’s not technically an answer, let’s try this: The best modification you can make is new fluids, tires, wipers, and hoses. Forty-year-old gasoline and dry-rotted rubber don’t do anyone any good, so those “upgrades” are a definite must.

  18. R134 says:

    New seat belts. Every time I get an old yota I have to replace the front belts. Don’t ask me how they pass inspection.

  19. cesariojpn says:

    Turning it into a track day car. This is the only way I can see as justifiable modifications to a car. The modifications make sense, they are rated (hopefully) to be used on the track, and have a purpose. Whereas other modifications just look garish, ugly, and completely ruin the whole aesthetics of the car.

  20. Tofuik says:

    Sharknose is best mod.

  21. Toepfer says:

    BEST MOD!?


    Plus nice period correct wide SSRs or Hayashis…

  22. Dutch 1960 says:

    Lower the back a little, and the front just a little bit more. Give her a bit of a rake.

  23. Dimas says:

    My Opinion the best mod for a classic japanese sport’s car is ;
    1. Lower suspension set’s or as they say slammed ^^
    2. A set of deep dish watanabe wheel’s
    3. A set of wide donut tire’s to go along with the wheel’s
    4. Bolt on flare’s (in either black or follow’s the car’s original color
    And voila you get a mean, aggressive looking nostalgic car to go along with your ego muahahaha…. ( i saw almost every kyusha i dreamt of with this setup and it make me feel all tingly inside (in good way))

  24. Matt M. says:

    It’s gotta be a brand spanking new hood bra 🙂 nothing like hiding some front end damage with some clean black leather.

  25. longboy says:

    I hate myself for saying this but STANCE!

    We’ve seen it time and time again, you get any car in rusty or pearly condition, you get some lows, you get some wide 14’s and it instantly looks 10 times better!

    This applies to everything!

  26. Darryl says:

    After (should be before) all the ‘look at me’ stuff is an electronic ignition upgrade, if available for your points-sparked distributor. Such a huge improvement in drivability- best few hundred you can spend. In the vein of all the other posts- SIDE DRAFTS! I’ve got Dual Dellorto 48’s for my punched L18/electromotive cammed 510. CAN’T WAIT!

  27. pstar says:

    Whereas, the (right) aftermarket wheels are good for any car;

    Whereas Japan has the best, most diverse, highest quality, coolest looking wheels, vintage Japanese wheels the most stylish and diverse;

    Whereas one of the great perks of owning a Japanese classic is getting to buy, own, and use some of the best looking, most unique, and high quality wheels ever manufactured;

    Whereas wheels can easily be interchanged, not only on one vehicle but between all 4×114.3 hubs, which includes the vast majority of Japanese classics, and British classics likewise;

    Now let it be resolved that:

    Wheels are surely the best mod that you can make to a Japanese classic car.

  28. Token Blk Guy says:

    I would have to say suspension and wheels by far. There are a Plethoria of old school JDM wheels that can turn just about any car into a looker. I threw a new coilover setup and some Hoshino Impuls on my MA61 and it got people to start paying attention to the Supra again. Just ordered some deep Wats so when those get in at the middle of summer its game over.
    Bay Area meets here I come!!

  29. Vic says:

    Just leave it the way it is.

  30. James says:

    Removing rust.

    When you see a classic car roll past with period correct rims that would have cost thousands, and then it looks as if its been sitting beside the gutter for 40 years, with rust bubbles, ruined chrome and cracked arches, I always wish the owner had of gotten some, nice cheap period styled steel wheels and then cleaned the car up before putting on the best and fanciest ‘jdm yo’ wheels.

    buy removing rust you can turn this:

    into this rather than spending money on expensive kyuusha goodies:

  31. pete240z says:

    Panasport style wheels

  32. Geoff D says:

    A reasonable HEI (electronic ignition) is about my favorite mod to do to a JNC.

    Let’s face it: those bearings in the dizzy don’t last forever, and it’s a relatively low-visibility mod that makes a ton of difference in drivability. You can have all the stance in the world, but if the dwell is all out of whack from either balky points or wobbling dizzy shaft, it’s not going to do you a whole lot of good.

    Best mod to my 240Z, hands down: swapping to a late S130 electronic ignition.

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