Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the end of 2019. This signifies not only the end of this year but the end of the decade. With the 2010’s coming to a close, we have an opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the past ten years. Today, we’re going to look at a few car trends that have come and gone, some that are persisting, and make some predictions about what we think will be big in the roaring 20’s yet to come.
In 2010, I was 18 and deep in the import scene. Living in Nashville, I was in attendance at the last Nashville Import Alliance held at the Nashville Motor Speedway with my Acura Integra GSR. At the time, small cars with big wheels, stuffed under fenders, and frame-banging ride heights were all the rage. I was running some 18” Motegi ten-spokes on my GSR with a blast pipe, AEM intake, red MSD ignition wires, a used short-shift kit, and TEIN coilovers. In short, I thought I was THE SHIT and nearly every other Honda/Acura there at IA fell into the same category. The only thing I was missing was the JDM front conversion and some underglow.
At the time, while I look back and cringe now at this car, it was fairly in-line with the trends that were popular. That year, however, the stance movement began to gain serious ground. People slamming their imports on three-piece wheels, running serious negative camber, and topping everything off with insane aero components became the hottest fad.
As the decade continued, the wheel game became something incredibly competitive. Real versus Fake wheel arguments ensued, enthusiasts were searching for the craziest specs, and eventually, everything came to a head when ‘show cars’ were more about the wheels and suspension than the car itself. A subset of that movement can be seen in the cars most enthusiasts would not consider ‘cool’ that are made to be eye-catching with an incredibly low stance, vintage three-piece wheels, and some JDM influence. This is something that has become more popular here at the end of the decade thanks to the 25-year-import-rule and the emergence of 80’s nostalgia. Think gen1 Preludes on some insanely spec’d Weds Kranze wheels.
Now, we are seeing that trend taper down to a milder setup. Wheels that don’t require wide-bodies to run are becoming popular again. Deep dish wheels are still popular, but the blend of actual performance and beautiful form is reaching a 50-50 distribution now. The stance movement isn’t dead, but it is certainly slowing down. A note the popular YouTube channel ‘Fitment Industries’ made was that the ‘battle stance’ or beefy fitment stance is something that has made a big comeback and will likely be the most popular trend as we approach the next decade. We tend to agree; people will be more interested in a ‘functional’ setup that still takes advantage of unique or vintage three-piece wheels.
However, for our prediction, we think the three-piece craze is going to settle down a bit. Namely, it will be reserved for those of us who are into ‘period correct’ mods or vintage wheels on modern cars. Personally, this is my style. I like keeping my E30 as period-correct as I can with the theme being ‘how would this car be modified to the craziest extent if it was 1998.’ That is how I built the car and why it looks the way it does and has the engine swap, parts, and setup that it does. For my daily, a 2015 WRX, I just scooped some Volk Racing C-Ultra three-spoke vintage wheels from Japan. I didn’t do this because I thought it would be popular, I did it because they fit my style. That said, I’m fairly confident from my research that the three-piece wheel gang will be more interested in vintage or rare wheels rather than building new ones. The new wheels you will see on cars will likely be rotary forged monoblocks that favor lightweight performance, good looks, and lower price points while still offering the fitment and functionality we are seeing become popular again.
To explain that point, wheel manufacturing has dramatically changed. In the early part of this decade, your choices were either to pay out the nose for custom three-piece wheels or spend a fraction of the price on some replica monoblocks or fake splits. Now, with rotary forging becoming popular, there is a happy middle ground that isn’t too pricey without sacrifice to integrity and ‘scene points.’ Rotary Forged, Flow Forged, Flow Formed, or whatever you want to call it, is a process that semi-forges wheels to be lighter and stronger without driving the cost up much higher than traditional low-pressure cast wheels. These are going to be the biggest presence on cars in the early part of this next decade, and are already quite popular today. We think, if you want to get ahead of the trend, you should either consider a new set of rotary forged wheels that give you a beefy fitment or go for a vintage set of used three-piece wheels straight from Japan and keep that retro-wave style alive.
At the beginning of the decade, I can remember heated arguments with my friends about bags versus coilovers. Back in 2010, regardless of whether you were going to spend time on the track or not, functional performance mods were considered ‘better’ because they could be useful if you wanted them to be. The static stance was king, bags were considered for groceries. As the decade progressed, air suspension greatly improved to the point that there are kits you can buy from Air Lift that is designed for daily driving, show stance, and track use from the same setup with the touch of a button. With the ability to do it all, bags became the choice of everyone who wanted to ‘stunt’ on the crowd.
Now, with functionality coming back in vogue, coilovers are going to be big again. We think static stance is going to come back in a big way with one caveat: air cups. Air cups allow you to raise the suspension slightly like you can with bags but retain actual coilovers for true performance. You aren’t going to air out on anyone, but if you need to put your car on a trailer or clear a speedbump, just press a button and raise the front end. Think supercar tech finally bleeding into the traditional aftermarket community.
That isn’t to say bags are going to fall by the wayside, I think just the opposite. I see bags as being the preferred choice for someone looking to go all-out, but I certainly think they will be less of a popular choice for the up-and-coming enthusiast who can pick between an air setup and an air cup setup. Racing, especially drifting, in the enthusiast community is gaining popularity once again, so modifications that play to that outlet will be more prevalent than modifications that are purely aesthetic.
In 2010, the Fast and Furious style aftermarket bumpers, side skirts, and wings were finally dying out. In their place, the bolt-on overfenders and fender flares found their niche. Front lips, diffusers, carbon fiber body pieces, and exposed-hardware wide-body kits became the defining features of the hottest cars. With the peaking 80’s nostalgia, retro-styling is coming back. That means underglow, paint-matched or wrapped carbon, vintage wheels, and period-correct body pieces will be king.
With regards to widebodies, I don’t think they will exactly die out, but I do think the early 2000’s molded wide body cars will come back. Exposed hardware will lose out to molded kits, molded ducktail spoilers, and vintage liveries will be the top-tier builds in the ’20s.
Speaking of wraps, we think vinyl wraps will become even more popular. People will push boundaries with patterns, liveries, and designs since the world of automotive vinyl wrapping have become much more advanced. At the beginning of the decade, wrapping was just as expensive as paint. Most people chose to paint their cars in crazy colors with tons of flake or a wild style. By the middle of the 2010s, Plastidip became the ‘inexpensive’ way to quickly add some color to your car. At the end of the decade, crazy colors and liveries were losing to the ‘grayscale’ colors. White, black, and gray became the preferred choices, and not just in the enthusiast community. Now, people want to get away from that color palate and go back to something crazy. But why stop at just a crazy color when you can go for something truly unique like a full livery? With wraps now at an all-time low price point and incredible longevity, everyone will go towards that route rather than paint or Plastidip.
This is actually something that has both changed a lot and simultaneously not changed at all. Fundamentally, making a car perform better is a simple base function. Add displacement, reduce restrictions, increase fuel, and improve suspension/brakes/tires. The parts you choose and the way to reach those goals have changed, however, with the advancement of automotive technology from the factory. With the popularity of highly efficient, small-displacement, turbocharged engines at the end of the decade, the formula for more power and better handling has streamlined.
Before, engine swaps, stroker kits, big cams, huge exhausts, and tons of suspension mods were the only path to the best performance. Now, an intake, exhaust, tune, and springs are all you need to outperform even the best builds from over a decade ago. With that, we think ‘performance packs’ will be the big hits in the next few years. These kits include all the upgrades you need to gain up to 100 hp in one box for an affordable price, which is highly appealing. We think that a ‘well rounded’ build is going to be the biggest segment in the next decade. That means intakes, exhausts, tunes, springs, wheels, and aero will be the most common mods.
With the decade closing, we are happy to announce that many of the ‘less exciting’ car trends are dying out while the scene itself has progressed. Unfortunately, that means less variety in the formula, but arguably, more creativity required to build something unique that still falls into that category of ‘popular.’ The list we created here is, of course, subjective, but the look back is something we can use to look forward with some accuracy. Really, the biggest thing we have noticed is that anything goes. Breaking the mold IS the mold. So don’t just look at what will be popular. Do what you want and do it with intention. This is the surest way to make your car what you want and catch all the attention you deserve. So go out and build something that represents you in the roaring ’20s to come!