2 Fast, 2 Furious for Auburn

Students with a passion for upgrading their cars have found a sense of community with each other.

Students such as Jamie Coker, a sophomore in electrical engineering, have seen a common interest benefit both their social lives and technical skills.

"There's something to be said for driving a car you've worked on," Coker said.

His 2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLI is a product of many hours working under the hood.

"All of the stuff I've done myself," Coker said, referring to the Volkswagen's numerous engine, exhaust and body modifications.

While Coker expressed great pride in the results of his work, he was adamant about his passion's greatest benefit. The fellow enthusiasts he found in Auburn have proved to be great friends with common goals.

These friends have helped Coker pursue the latest trend in customization, he said.

"You lower it as much as you can," Coker said. He also said adding suspension work can be complicated for customization novices.

"You need to be aware of what you are getting into," Coker said.

Students interested in customization can look to local body shops when their desires go beyond their abilities.

"You have a lot of people who like to focus on upgrading wheels and tires," said Warren Tidwell, assistant manager at Downtown Tire and Auto.

A 1967 Impala sat in the far corner of Tidwell's shop having suspension, engine and brake modifications installed. Tidwell explained the overhaul involved a lot of work.

"You basically have to redo the entire front end, so it's a pretty complex thing," Tidwell said.

The complicated process of work was not lost on Coker.

"Learn how to do it yourself," Coker said. "If you can't do it yourself find someone who can help you do it."

Coker said students attempting too great a challenge can be frustrated and cause the vehicle to become less reliable.

Professional shops can also provide engine modifications using tuningtools. These tools manipulate the air and fuel ratio in the engine to supply more horsepower, gas mileage and performance.

"Entry-level enthusiasts may want to start with smaller upgrades though," Coker said.

Window tinting and lighting upgrades provide an immediate visual effect while requiring a small investment.

These cosmetic changes are a good first step for a student curious about learning to modify their vehicle.

"It's a self achievement kind of thing, it makes you feel good about yourself," Coker said.

For a more advanced project Coker recommends new wheels. His own set of wheels is Brock V2, a custom wheel company in Germany.

Professional mechanics also see a lot of interest in new wheels and tires.

"The most popular upgrade is the tire and wheel package," said Charles Kerr, shop foreman at Downtown Tire and Auto.

Tires and wheels are popular because they can be upgraded for a range of budgets.

"You can go anywhere from $250 to $2000 depending on the applique on the wheel and the tire package you pick," Kerr said. "The fancier you want to get the more you can expect to pay."

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