Ever wondered what came thundering past you on the highway, brightly coloured, sounding like a jet plane and travelling at the speed of light?
Time Out Bahrain staff
Bahrain has long been known as a country that embraces a diverse range of cultures. However, if there’s one that is frequently overlooked, it is the culture of car modification. If there is one thing history has taught us, it’s that we are always on a quest to stand out from the crowd. So why should vehicles be any different?
Although car modification is better classified as a sub-culture, here in Bahrain it has a huge following. Indeed, every kid in Bahrain can’t wait for the day he gets his own car so that he can change the wheels, modify the engine and enhance its looks. Truth be told, I myself was one of them and even now, at the age of 30, I still find myself unable to keep my cars in their original form.
Buying an super car like a Pagani Zonda or a Lamborghini Murcielago is out of the question for the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. So the next best thing is to find a car that you can actually afford to buy and then modify it to be just as fast as the Pagani or Lamborghini. You see them on a daily basis on your commute to work, or during your weekend cruise around town: big wheels, obnoxiously loud sound system, and an exhaust the size of an oilpipe line. If you drive in Bahrain, chances are you have already been forced to pull over to allow a modified car to race by.
So what is it about modifying that has over 80% of Bahraini youths spending money in an industry that is worth billions of dollars? Well there are four simple answers: speed, power, credibility and honour, and it is the last of these that is perhaps the most important. In a culture where your car tells people what kind of a person you are, the last thing you want is to have a car that make you look like a second hand vacuum cleaner salesman. Even if you are one.
There are so many tastes in car modifying that the list of possible modifications is endless, but most of those that change their car, change for looks and speed. Those that go after looks are the ones that will usually leave the engine compartment untouched and concentrate on modifying the exterior with outrageous paint jobs and a completely redone interior filled with speakers, screens and a playstation, making them easy to spot on the road. However, in recent years there has been a noticeable demise in the number of ‘lookers’, thanks to the fact that most high end car manufacturers pump millions of dollars into making the car’s interior just as impressive as it is on the outside. Chances are, if you have the cash to splash on a swish car, you won’t need much modification anyway.
The speed freaks, in Bahrain at any rate, are on the increase. A more subtle and less flamboyant breed of driver, you’ll most likely be able to spot an adrenaline junkie from the loud drone of the exhaust. Open the bonnet though, and it will quickly become clear that the car in front of you is housing a stable of steeds capable of propelling its occupants to three figure speeds in a matter of seconds. The modifications don’t stop there either, because underneath the clean exterior sits carefully selected suspension and transmission modifications that help put all that power to the ground through an equally selected set of wheels and tires. After all, what’s the point in having all that horsepower if you can’t properly control it?
How these aficionados decide on what’s best for their pride and joy comes from an incredible network of online forums which span the entire globe. No matter where they are be it Bahrain, America, Japan or Australia, they are always in touch with each other on a daily basis teaching and learning something new every day. In fact most of them become so friendly with each other that they actually make the effort to visit one another in order to find out what the others car is like up close and in person.
The internet has been a god-send to these horsepower slaves, online you can find thousands of websites offering different aftermarket parts for almost every car manufactured on the planet. Pricing for some of these parts can range from a reasonable BD10 to a mind-boggling BD15,000. It doesn’t matter if they want to build a fully fledged race car or an aesthetic masterpiece, there is always an aftermarket manufacturer that has something for everybody no matter what the car.
Finding a reliable place to install these parts though is the hard part as there is a deficit of qualified mechanics and painters available in the industry. Although most of the modifiers are quite capable at handling light installation jobs themselves, there are many installations that require a trained professional, however heavy on the wallet this might be.
So when you’re next watching in terror as the headlights of a speed freak come racing towards you, or your car radio is drowned out by the passing guttural groan of a modified car, remember this: it is a piece of road art that is hurtling past you, and if you had the money, chances are, you’d be doing the same...
The Bahrain Circuit Racing Club, CRC, organise events at the BIC in order for these speed demons to let their hair down a few times a month in a controlled and safe environment. For more information, visit www.crcbahrain.com.
Bahrain International Circuit, home to the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, holds regular Open Track Days, during which you can speed your car around the track. Session are from 9am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-5pm. It’s BD75 for a full day, BD50 for a half day. And for BD12, you can get driven around by a pro driver in one of the circuit’s V8 Lumina supercars. More info at www.bahraingp.com.