Whether you’re looking to mod your first car or your 30th, you’ll find no shortage of UK tuner cars for sale that you can customise to your liking.
But turning an old, beat up car into a super-powered driving machine isn’t exactly cheap - that’s why we’ve created this list of the best cars to modify under 5k.
The more you’re able to save on the initial cost of the car, the more you’ll be able to spend on performance modifications and cosmetic improvements – in other words, you’ll end up with a cooler, more personalised ride.
Why Mod Japanese Cars?
With enough knowledge, patience, and perhaps most importantly, money, you can modify any car. So why are Japanese cars such a popular choice in the modding community?
For starters, they’re affordable. At the same time, they’re not hunk-of-junk cheap - Japanese automakers have a reputation for manufacturing cars that combine high-quality with high-value. They’re also some of the most reliable cars on the market, meaning less money you’ll have to sink into repairs along the way.
So let’s get into our list of the 6 best cars to modify under 5k from Japanese manufacturers.
1. Mazda RX-8
If you want something sleek, well-equipped, and easy to drive fast, look no further than the Mazda RX-8. A cheap gem that has largely gone under the radar, the RX-8 provides a truly exhilarating experience.
When it comes to performance mods, a starter motor upgrade is a good place to begin. The original RX-8 that was introduced in 2003 came with a puny 1.2kw starter. If it hasn’t been upgraded already by the previous owner, switch to a 2kw first thing – you’ll feel the difference right away!
2. Honda Civic
Honda Civics are commonly hailed as one of the best tuner cars for beginners, and it’s easy to see why.
For one thing, you can find them at prices as low as £1,000. If you’ve never tuned a car before, you’re probably going to feel a whole lot better about messing with something you only spent £1,000 on than a car you sunk £10,000 into. And because they’re easy to maintain and work with, you can focus on learning modding techniques without having to worry about much else.
Practical points aside, Civics are just nice looking cars - well, most of them are. The 7th generation was a bit of a misstep, exchanging the sleek curves of the 90’s models for a sort of dull roundness.
No matter what style you prefer, though, you can’t go wrong with this all-around car.
3. Mitsubishi Lancer
Next on our list of the best cars to modify under 5k is the Mitsubishi Lancer. Like the Honda Civic, there’s no shortage of resources available for these cars, making them a great choice for any first-time tuner.
You’ll have to pay a bit more than 5k for a high-performance Evo VII model like the one driven by the late Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but there’s still plenty you can do with the more affordable models. For instance, you can improve your Lancer’s steering response by installing lowering springs, or you can give it a more aggressive look by tinting the headlights a bit.
4. Nissan 300ZX
With a ground-hugging front spoiler and the same exact headlights you’d find on a Lamborghini Diablo (the 300ZX did it first!), this is a popular favourite among classic sports car fans.
You can absolutely get a Nissan 300ZX for under 5K, but it’s probably going to need a good deal of TLC.
It may not be one of the best tuner cars for beginners starting at square one, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll come out with a car that’s insanely fun to drive.
5. Mazda 6 MPS
With 4WD, excellent handling, and a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine, the Mazda 6 MPS is one of the most powerful UK tuner cars for sale under 5k. And it gets even better – if you’ve got a need for speed, you can push the Mazda’s horsepower to the max with the right modifications.
But before you do anything else, you’ll want to retune the ECU using a specialised tuning device. This lets you monitor your vehicle’s performance without the need for bulky gauges - everything you need to know is on a convenient LCD screen. Believe us, you’ll be glad you did this later.
6. Subaru WRX
A word of advice? The best cars to modify are the ones that you actually enjoy driving. That sounds like a no-brainer, but when modding gets frustrating (and it will), it helps to be working on something that’s as enjoyable to drive as a Subaru WRX.
Designed for rally racing, you can definitely sense that when you get behind the wheel. Right out of the box, the 2.0-litre, 4WD turbocharged engine makes you feel like a speed demon. Not bad for a car that’s more than 20 years old!
Small details like a new shift knob or a nicer engine shroud under the hood are an easy way to personalise your new old car. But if performance mods are what you’re after, investing in a turbo heat shield will help reduce temperatures under the hood and help the turbo spool faster.
Deck Out Your Modified Motor
After you’ve finished upgrading your car’s performance, it’s time for a major appearance upgrade.
Don’t waste your time and money on an expensive paint job - deck out your newly-modded motor with a high-quality car wrap.
For wrap design ideas that will turn your car into something out of a Fast and Furious movie, talk to us at Autowrap Centre Liverpool.
PS. If you've already got your tuned prized possession and you're looking to keep it looking fresh for longer, check out this guide to paint protection films.
For something a little simpler, car window tinting can really make a difference to your motor.