Ok. This is a tough one. Part of me wants to say ‘build it your way’ like Burder Kang or something, and the other part of me wants to say ‘the word build is overused, often incorrectly.’ To what I am referring to is obviously the time-honored internet tradition of arguing over whether slamming your car on some flashy wheels (along with a few other bolt-ons) can be considered a build or not. Today, we’re going to explore both sides of that argument and let you decide which side is the one true god. 

Let’s define the argument a bit before we begin. Enthusiast culture is made up of roughly four groups, being reductionist. There are your ‘casual’ enthusiasts who simply appreciate their car, and cars in general, the way they are. They might be brand-loyal, but oftentimes they just appreciate their car as more than transportation and that is the extent of it. 

Next, there are the ‘scene’ enthusiasts, who are not necessarily brand specific but use their car and their modifications to express themselves (or what they perceive to be something that makes them popular) and are mostly interested in sparking discourse about whether or not they ruined their car. 

The third major group is your boomer-style enthusiast who is only in it for the nostalgia and exclusively likes ‘classic’ cars, generally American, and prefer to attend every car show they can where they post up behind their ride they probably trailered, sit in a lawn chair the whole time, and hope someone comes over to vindicate them with praise about their barely-driven ‘conversation’ piece. 

Lastly, there are motorsport enthusiasts. Whether that means a few AutoX events every season or dedicated club racers, rally drivers, Spec racers, drifters, or any number of motorsport outlets is irrelevant. What they do is purely outfit their cars to meet the restrictions of their class and go around, up, down, or sideways through a track as effectively as possible. Generally speaking, these folks are entirely devoted to racing and are usually quite brand specific and invested because some governing body has input into how their car is set up, what is in their car, and what kind of car it is, so they have to be creative inside boundaries while everyone else is unlimited.

Predominately, it is the latter three groups who argue over the issue at hand. Racers and boomers tend to agree that slamming a car on its face and tossing some three-piece wheels on it, maybe with a wide body, big diffuser, and blast pipes, does not constitute building a car. But why?

The two groups who naysay the other tend to believe that building a car involves more than just a few bolt-ons. They either went to great lengths restoring a car to its original condition or custom building a dedicated race car that meets certain criteria for safety and regulations. They spend hours getting details just right, they have a specific goal in mind, and shell out oodles of cash to achieve their idea of perfection, generally with the assumption that whenever they reach that pinnacle, they will work towards a next one, continuously improving and perpetuating the cycle. Put simply, they feel invested in time, energy, and money to a great deal. This is the root of their argument. To them, something is done with relative ease, a few thousand bucks, and no real goal other than ‘looking good’ isn’t comparable to the excruciating work and eye-watering monetary investments in their ‘builds.’

However, that conceit is, in my opinion, unfounded. Speaking as someone who did actually build their car, down to custom fabrication, retrofitted modern components like the engine, LSD, fuel system, electrics, and much, much more, I can still see the merit in something so ‘simple’ as wheels and a drop in ride height being considered a build. If a build is something you create, regardless of how simply you do it, and is performed with a goal in mind, then slamming your car on three-piece wheels or whatever is definitively a build. Hear me out: 

The fellow who finds a neat old car like an Audi 1000 or something, makes it run, and enjoys it as it was but wants it to look a little cleaner is certainly in for some work to achieve the neck-breaking fitment that has become popular. And that’s just an example. It can be any car. Old, new, big, small, performance, economy, whatever. The point is, to them, the way it looks best and the most they need to do to be satisfied is to achieve a perfect fitment. How to do that generally involves bags or coilovers, rare wheels, and lots of math to reach their goal results. 

This bit of creativity, their personality, is then embodied in their car. With that, they have easily achieved their result, in comparison to what the boomer and racer did, and are incredibly happy with it. So, it seems, the real issue is that people who spent a bunch of time, money, and energy on their projects are upset someone could do less and spend less and be just as satisfied as them. In essence, the whole argument boils down to some elitist viewpoint that there is some set threshold of work, money, custom fabrication, and hardship that amounts to a build, leaving anything less to be considered child’s play. On that, I must disagree. I think the term ‘build’ might be overused, but really, it isn’t descriptive of something you ‘built entirely yourself from the ground up,’ at least, not exclusively. I think it more accurately refers to a goal or vision you build for yourself and then enact in the form of whatever changes to your car make you happy and make it yours, regardless of why you do it or who you do it for. All said, if it makes you happy, if you feel accomplished in your results, and you feel that your goal has been met, then I think you can call whatever you’ve done a ‘build’ the same way someone can build legos, or a retaining wall, or anything that maybe isn’t the most creative thing ever, but it’s theirs and no one can say otherwise. So go out, put your car on bags and wheels, enjoy your work, and call it whatever you want. It’s your car. It’s your life. Live it your way.