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TAIWAN FUN MAGAZINE, October 2002.
CAR CRAZY IN TAIWAN
By Priscilla Chen and
Translated by Cheryl Robbins, Jacpues van Wersch and
take a careful look at the cars being driven around Taichung
these days, you'll notice that more and more car owners aren't
content with standard factory equipment. Many people have
begun customizing their cars, though most of the changes are
cosmetic rather than functional. Women like to prettify their
cars with dangling dolls, or opt for unusual seat covers.
Men tend to want to make their cars more stylish or ferocious-looking,
so their additions include aerodynamic bumpers, spoilers,
extra-large headlights and special wheel rims. Men who are
really serious about customizing will even modify their cars'
engines and change the chassis.
aren't necessarily just for transportation; they are a manifestation
of a person's social standing and taste. And, of course, driven
at high speeds, cars can be instruments of exhilaration. We
can't overlook the fact, however, that as the car-buying population
grows, the types of car owners gradually become more distinct.
This month, COMPASS has provided a brief overview of car customization.
Naturally, readers will be more or less inclined to make changes
to their vehicles depending on their needs, tastes, and financial
of people like to jazz up their cars by putting objects, such
as dangling dolls or decals, in the windows. Other cosmetic
options include adding front or rear aerodynamic bumper guards
and spoilers, or opting for customized lights. Since these
changes don't in any way affect the car's basic structure¡Xeven
though they can make quite a difference in appearance¡Xsome
assembly is required, but practically anyone has sufficient
expertise to carry out installation.
The best way to get these accessories is to visit one
of Taichung's large car accessory stores, like Car
Fans (77, ChungTeh Rd., sec. 3, Peitun District; tel.
04-2422-5419) (820, Yung Chung E. Rd., Nantun District;
tel. 04-2384-7585) or Autopia NODA (175, TaTun
Rd., tel. 04-2471-2695) (853, WenShin Rd., sec. 4; tel.
04-2241-9836). Almost every car product imaginable can
be found in these stores, from replacement lights and
decals to shock absorbers and mufflers.
Car emporia aren't for everyone but, for car buffs, they're
a veritable paradise. If you don't want to tackle installation
yourself, you can visit the service departments of these establishments,
where the staff will happily install your purchases for a
accessories are items that require significantly more know-how,
or specialized equipment, to install than light accessories.
Sam Kuo, owner of Shin Shang Motortech (222, ChungMing
Rd.; tel: 04-2322-0666) has many years of experience in both
racing and modifications. He says that the average modification
job these days is around NT$300,000, although some go well
over NT$1 million. Many people embarking on the road to customization
begin by changing tires, rims, suspension, seats and brakes.
Good ¡§sticky¡¨ racing tires, essential because of their ability
to grip the road, can cost NT$5,000 apiece and usually are
replaced after only 3,000 kilometers. New bucket seats can
range from NT$5,000 to NT$25,000. Some serious racers turbocharge
their engines, or replace them altogether.
The five most-changed accessories on Taiwan's cars are
rims and tires, shock absorbers, tail fins, steering wheel,
and mufflers. Prices vary. Examples of retail prices include
a Momo-brand steering wheel (half wood, half leather;
with a diameter of 36.5cm) that goes for NT$15,000; a
complete replacement muffler for a Honda City sells for
NT$31,500; and Koni shocks that are compatible with European,
Japanese and American cars can be purchased for NT$5,300
per pair. Of course, original factory parts are more expensive
than parts from secondary suppliers. People with limited
budgets should consider getting the latter, as the quality
isn't necessarily inferior to that of originals.
that the most popular cars used in modifications are the Honda
Civic, Mitsubishi Virage or Lancer, and Subaru Impreza. Kuo--who
speaks fluent English and has studied car racing and tuning
in California, the UK and France¡Xdeals with Taiwanese and
foreign customers, handling everything from racing modifications
to simple oil changes. According to him, the biggest cluster
of auto customization shops can be found on a stretch of AnHo
Road, between Taichung Kang Road and the big new red bridge.
Online Car Buff Clubs
information superhighway expands its horizons, car-related
traffic is on the increase. Many car buffs trade information
and tips online and information on all car models is available.
Customizers can find out about outings and the occasional
competition where they can show off their creativity and see
how they measure up against the others with similar interests.
One popular local site is www.station.net.tw
want to find folks who are nuts about BMWs, check out the
website. There's a Nissan March club at www.nippon.idv.tw/,
and a place for Honda lovers at tw.club.yahoo.com/clubs/vteccoupe/.
At Audi's website (www.audi.com.tw/),
you can consult a list of recommended garages and auto accessory
shops, or log into a forum to get help with any problem you're
having with your car.
Racing Your Car
left after souping up your car? Racing seems to be the logical
answer. The 1.8-kilometer Lung Tan Racetrack (218,
YangTong Rd., sec. 1, LungTan Hsiang [township], Taoyuan County;
tel. 03-471-7688), also known as the Taiwan International
Speedway, is currently Taiwan's only standard racetrack and
is managed by the Chinese Taipei Motor Sports Association
(CTMSA) (55, Ba De Rd., sec. 4, 2F; tel. 02-2764-5169). It
holds races on Saturdays from 4 to 5 p.m. and from 10 to 11
p.m., as well as Sundays from 2 to 3 p.m.
include those for novices and veterans, as well as for cars
and motorcycles. You don't have to be a professional racecar
driver or completely outfit your car to race here. The aims
of CTMSA are to stop illegal drag racing on city streets and
promote the sport of racing in a safe environment. Thus, it
has opened up opportunities to allow the public to race their
cars and motorcycles against the clock. Association President
Yang Kuang-jung suggests that race enthusiasts first watch
some of the weekend races at Lung Tan, to experience the excitement
of racing and understand the rules of the track. A NT$2,000
membership fee also allows you to use the track during Saturday
practice times (cost: NT$300 for 30 minutes for cars and NT$150
for 30 minutes for motorcycles). If you would like to experience
competition, enroll in a training course and obtain the appropriate
license. For more information, visit online at www.motoringfans.com.tw
Many racers, including Kuo and Taichung-based Serbian
racer Boris Djordjevic, aren¡¦t big fans of the Lung Tan
racetrack, saying that it is too short, too narrow and
has too many corners. Instead they opt for a variety of
organized rallies¡Xoff-road, gravel, 4x4, mountain climbs
and others--held in locations around the island, including
Pingtung, Hualien and Taipei. Most are 200 to 300 kilometers
racing with a VW Golf and Honda Civic, has won 39 champion
cups, including the 1996 555 Subaru Championship. Djordjevic,
one of two foreign racers on the island, recently managed
to grab the 1.6-to-2-liter division championship against
all odds with his little 1.4-liter Citroen AX. A few really
serious local racers, like Kuo, also go to international
rallies in places like China.
is no denying the fact that, although it is illegal and dangerous,
many local street racers congregate regularly on weekends
at places like the Taichung Metro Park, the Taichung-Changhua
Expressway and a stretch of the second north-south freeway
near Tsaotun, Nantou County. A single evening can see 200
to 300 cars at one location, effectively overwhelming police
efforts to crack down. Fortunately, according to Kuo, the
number of accidents from such illicit activities has remained
this information helps provide some insights into how and
why so many Taiwanese residents are into cars. Whatever you
may be driving, there is no shortage of ways to modify it
to reflect your tastes and style.