It is not your imagination. This red-light driver turns his engine so hard he can trigger car alarms. Then it roars when the signal turns green, even if it’s just the next red light.
Like some kind of primitive cry inspired by a pandemic, this floor pedal thing is going everywhere. This is because a global semiconductor shortage makes new cars scarce, and low inventory makes used cars expensive, so people with time and money are diving them into their old ones. rides – and some make them as fast and loud as they can get.
Sales of parts to make vehicles faster, more flashy, and sometimes much noisier, contributed significantly to the record $ 47.9 billion in sales in 2020 for the California auto aftermarket industry, the largest of its kind in the States. United, according to data from the Specialty Equipment Market Association.
For devotees, spending money on their dream projects represented a psychological refuge from the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic, SEMA Vice President Mike Spagnola said.
“When people couldn’t travel, couldn’t spend money on hotels and food, because they couldn’t go out and do concerts and all those kinds of things, men and women. women put time and effort into their cars and trucks, ”he said.
Jonathan Rodriguez was looking for something to break the isolation and monotony of the pandemic.
The 20-year-old Long Beach resident found it in a 1963 Chevy Impala Super Sport lowrider, which can be heard and felt before it is visible, thanks to a General Motors LS2 V-8 Corvette engine 6.0-liter engine developing 400 horsepower. Realizing the car’s ability to roar, Rodriguez said he was careful to drive carefully in residential areas so as not to disturb people.
“I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know when this lockdown will be over,’ but that gives us more time to get our rides to where we want them to be,” Rodriguez said. “I did a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done without the lockdown.”
Rodriguez re-chromed the car’s bumpers, installed a new audio system, new headlights, new driveshaft, new suspension coils and made improvements to the hydraulic system that lifts the car to different heights and angles which, to a novice, would simply not seem possible.
Much of the work was done around the corner from the family home at Speedy’s Metal Finishing, under the tutelage of his father, Luis “Speedy” Rodriguez, a legend among California aftermarket companies that cater to lowriders. As restrictions relaxed, the car was further polished by a variety of other Southern California specialists.
“Speedy” has been quite a demanding mentor; whenever Rodriguez thought the car could finally be finished, he was told no, it isn’t. Attention to detail has apparently paid off; Rodriguez just sold his car to a Florida bodybuilder for $ 150,000. He says he hopes he’s driven a lot and not just used for the show.
“It’s made for the streets, never too pretty to get dirty,” he laughed.
Aftermarket pros like the Rodriguez family and weekend hobbyists are quite angered by locked street runners who make them all look bad. Pandemic restrictions have led to a sharp increase in the number of drivers letting off steam in dangerous exhibitions fueled by social media.
The California Highway Patrol responded to nearly 26,000 street racing calls last year, up almost 16% from the previous year. In August, four people were killed in separate incidents in Burbank and Riverside when street racers lost control of their cars.
The California legislature recently voted to allow judges to grant driver’s license suspensions of up to six months to anyone participating in so-called side shows, which the measure defines as two or more vehicles blocking traffic to perform vehicle stunts, speed contests or reckless driving for an audience. This is the same sanction that already applies to illegal street racing, which has increased during the pandemic.
Lawmakers in Los Angeles and other cities are in a hurry to increase the number of speed bumps, roundabouts and other measures to slow down cars. “Noise-canceling cameras” are emerging in New York, Florida and Britain to quell noisy exhaust systems.
“A lot of people take to the streets, and I’m really against street racing,” said Tatiana Weiss, 49, a Pacific Palisades real estate broker who drove an blazingly fast 485 horsepower Dodge Challenger R / T Scat Pack. . Then, as an actual character in the “Fast and Furious” movie franchise, she decided it wasn’t fast enough.
“I’ve been called out a lot, but I’m not going to run in the street. ‘You wanna bet me money you’re faster?’ She said. “Meet me on the track and let’s go. “
On a medium called the City-Data.com Forum, a national platform for exchanges on local issues, the debate on noise is broadcast regularly.
“For some of us, the sounds of a powerful engine make us happy, and the sound in a tunnel or the echo of buildings is pleasant,” said one member.
“The sound of a V-8 engine relieves me of stress and I love to hear it,” said another.
But angry people weary of noise have had enough.
“Just yesterday something happened and it was so loud my ears were cracking and I know it must have been hundreds of yards away from me. I am stunned by the noise of some cars, ”wrote one member.
David Barnes, a 59-year-old Southern Californian who works in industrial safety, said he didn’t really understand the push for ever greater powers and loud exhausts. But when he went to buy his 19-year-old Ford F-250 pickup with 191,000 miles on the clock, Barnes had the shock of a lifetime.
“I looked at the new trucks and everything I wish I had a newer version of what I have now,” Barnes said, “and I was going to look at a truck that was going to cost $ 80,000 to $ 100. $ 000. “
Instead, he turned to a performance parts specialist who completely updated his truck for around $ 10,000.
Gale Banks Engineering in Azusa.
Barnes ‘truck spent a week at Banks’ garage, where a new cold air intake, new exhaust system and replacement intercooler were installed along with a turbocharger upgrade. Banks mechanics also added a new electronic controller for the truck’s transmission. The cost of the makeover, Barnes said, was a very reasonable $ 10,000. The verdict: better than a new version of his old truck.
“It was a no-brainer actually,” Barnes said. “I picked up the truck from them and I was a little shy at first. and I have to tell you, I thought, ‘Let me light this thing,’ as I walk away from their establishment. It was like, ‘OK, this is like brand new.’ “
Gale Banks Engineering is having its best sales year ever, said Banks, 79. Pandemic isolation, he said, inspired many people to overhaul their old RVs, giving them their own bubble in which to travel. The other big business these days is the auto conversion of older vehicles.
“They go to exhaust systems because the price-performance ratio is really huge. By that, I mean, it increases fuel efficiency and mileage for a very affordable price, ”Banks said.
In July, Buycarparts.co.uk Inc., said a record quarterly sales of $ 157.5 million, up 32.5% from the same period a year earlier. The Torrance company, which sells more than 100,000 types of auto parts and accessories nationwide, has recorded six straight quarters of sales growth, which chief executive Lev Peker attributed to aging vehicles nationwide.
Peker said the average age of his customers’ vehicles is over 12 years, the highest ever.
“It points directly to our sweet spot, which is the 6-14 year old vehicle,” Peker said. “For us, it’s a tailwind, because it entails more maintenance. This results in the purchase of more parts for these vehicles as they need repairs. So that’s definitely the driving force behind business, and we expect that to be a tailwind for the foreseeable future as well. “
Weiss decided to take his interest in speed to a different level.
For Weiss, the lockdown “was absolutely what skyrocketed my course in the race 100%. and it’s funny, i didn’t realize that was a trend, that a lot of other people were using that time to work on their cars. I thought it was just me because I had waited my whole life to do something like this.
Weiss believes she invested $ 40,000 in a 797 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye, modified for drag racing.
The original, perfectly pleasant driver’s seat weighed 80 pounds; she replaced it with a 12-pound racing seat. Weiss added a roll bar, seat harness, larger fuel injectors. The car was fitted with Italian Brembo brakes, considered by many to be the pinnacle of stopping power. Weiss said they were too heavy and replaced them with an even more exotic brand, from Wilwood Engineering to Camarillo.
The result is something that pushes her back into her seat and takes her breath away.
“It’s like someone opened that door to say, you can have this zest for life. and all it takes is to go the quarter mile fast, ”Weiss said. “It’s so exciting to be able to beat the guy down the other hall. It’s incredible.”
Weiss was good enough to win a role on the Discovery reality show “Street Outlaws,” where the races appear illegal, but they take place in closed streets with permits and police escorts. Still, the filming usually generates many noise complaints from nearby residents.
That’s why Weiss said she prefers real racetracks. There, no one other than the paying spectators will hear your car scream.
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