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Fun Used Cars

Summary:
The ‘90s/early 2000s was the last time messing with cars was a commonthing among teens and 20s. These were the “ricers” and “tuners” – kids who worked on mostly Japanese stuff, especially Honda Civics and their higher-brow Acura cousins, which came with the hotter engines  . . . from the factory. Italicized for reasons that will become clearer below. The signature Ricer mod was a loud exhaust with a disproportionately huge muffler. Some put whistles in the pipe to mimic the sound of a turbo spooling up. This was Gen Y’s version of Gen X’s flipping the air cleaner lid over so that you could hear the four barrel moan when the secondaries opened. But you don’t hear the buzzsaw sound of a tweaked out Civic or Integra much anymore.

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The ‘90s/early 2000s was the last time messing with cars was a commonthing among teens and 20s. These were the “ricers” and “tuners” – kids who worked on mostly Japanese stuff, especially Honda Civics and their higher-brow Acura cousins, which came with the hotter engines  . . . from the factory.

Italicized for reasons that will become clearer below.

The signature Ricer mod was a loud exhaust with a disproportionately huge muffler. Some put whistles in the pipe to mimic the sound of a turbo spooling up. This was Gen Y’s version of Gen X’s flipping the air cleaner lid over so that you could hear the four barrel moan when the secondaries opened.

But you don’t hear the buzzsaw sound of a tweaked out Civic or Integra much anymore.

The ricers have . . . retired. And no one has taken their place.

Yes, there are still some kids who mess with cars. But it’s not common anymore. Most gatherings of the car cognoscenti are populated by those long out of high school – and often well into middle age.

Why?

Several reasons come to mind.

The main one is – probably – lack of suitable raw material. Gen Y (which was in high school and college, the prime car-centric years, during the ’90s) was the last generation that had abundant, easy access to viable used cars.

Cars they could afford to buy on a teenager’s budget – and cars they could wrench on, without master mechanic skills and tools.

These have largely disappeared, because new cars have become orders of magnitude more complex since the early 2000s, with systems beyond the ken (and finances) of most current high school/college-aged kids. Drive-by-wire, direct injection . . . more app than automobile.

When these cars hit the used car market – or by the time they are teenager affordable – they are usually in an advanced state of deterioration. But that is not the real problem.

Thirty or 40 years go, a basket case car could be rehabbed, upgraded or at least made driveable with cheap used parts from the junkyard – but junkyards have become scarce and most cars built since the turn of the century have proprietary/integrated systems specific to that particular make/model/year that can’t be mixed and matched and made to work. Late model cars often require catastrophically expensive factory parts and hugely expensive diagnostic equipment – just to decrypt what might be ailing them.

The used Hondas of the ’80s and ’90s favored by the Ricers were favored for the same reason the used Chevys, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Fords and Mopars of the ’60s and ’70s were favored by the Gen Xers who preceded them.

They were easily tunable. Parts interchanged.

One could swap out a junkyard ’98 Integra’s high-revving VTEC four and slip it into a serviceable Civic’s body as easily – just about – as a Gen X’er back in ’86 could drop a cammed-out and stroked 383 small block Chevy into a ’78 Camaro.

That’s much harder to do today – and not just because it’s harder to do.

It is also harder to get away with doing it.

Eric Peters
Eric Peters is a freelance car/bike/political columnist. He escaped the corporate-owned media Big Boys years ago. Without the censorship of the corporate tools

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