Stock cars are like vanilla ice cream. Mild-tasting, offensive to no-one and simply… vanilla. Vanilla ice cream’s mass appeal is the flavor’s only saving grace but why would you always agree with the masses? Why stick with something basic when you can have candies, cookies and toppings, nuts and all kinds of things that you could mix into the ice cream?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d probably agree that life is too short to settle for a vanilla car. A stock car is the vehicular equivalent to vanilla, in the same bland state it was when it first rolled off the factory line. You can do better, and if you feel like checking into upgrading with some luxury auto parts, adding a little sugary sweetness to your ride can be easy – if you do it right.
Below you will find a list of shops that will turn your vanilla car into something out of Pimp My Ride (if you so desire). They all specialize in car customization, which goes beyond tuning or performance modifications. You can have a full-on visual bomb by adding classy auto parts such as body kits, wheels, exhausts, suspension, and full-on audio systems. Imagine the equivalent of a rainbow sherbet drowning in all the right kinds of deliciousness.
But before we get going, let us look over some of the most important aspects to keep in mind when it comes to buying auto parts – be they luxury or not.
1. Do Your Research
Now that you’re an official auto parts shopper, it’s time you learn your way around. There are two websites you definitely visit before you even consider buying anything. Car-Par.com, the first one, will offer you the most comprehensive database of used auto parts in every corner of the world. Then you must hit eBay, which just happens to be a surprising juggernaut of remanufactured auto parts sales.
Any successful search should go through some steps. Once you find what you’re looking for on Car-Part.com, check ‘Distance” and then ‘Search’ to evaluate the market price in your area for the required item. Make a note of that and head over to eBay. Perform the same search, but be sure to sort the results by ‘Pricing + Shipping lowest.’
2. Check, Check, and Check Again
Don’t just complete a purchase without calling the dealership first. You need to confirm the specific part number you’re interested in buying, because if you don’t, the grief that may ensue is on you. It can be really frustrating to deal with returning the wrong part if you don’t do your research to make sure you’re purchasing the correct model. You’ll soon figure out which parts are unique to certain transmission and engine combinations. Remember to pay attention to detail when you’re shopping around. This can save you a lot of headache.
3. Negotiate Within Common Sense Limit
Most junkyards admit that it’s common courtesy to match a lower price that you may have found at another retailer in the area. However, you must keep two things in mind. First, make sure you always compare apples with apples. Don’t expect a junkyard to price-match a 20,000-mile engine with another one that has over 200,000 miles on it.
Second, never haggle before you do your homework on Car-Part.com. If you’re well-informed, then you and the guy on the other line can reach an honest deal. After all, he has the same information as you do, and he knows if you’re trying to jerk him around. Similarly, make sure you are dealing with trustworthy and honest people so that you don’t get taken advantage of or sold faulty parts.
4. Buy Luxury Auto Parts in Person
After a while, when you’ll want to up your game, you’ll start looking for luxury or more high-end parts. Classics are unique and many won’t be listed as available on eBay or Car-Part. Therefore, a trip to a nearby junkyard that has the car you want in their inventory will allow you to find unusual gems for lower prices. Specific modules for limited-run or simply older vehicles can create quite a headache. If you’re buying rare, unique, or hard-to-find parts, you’re better off tracking them down in person. Auctions are another great location to find car parts for older models that you can’t find elsewhere.
5. The Dealer is Your Last Resort
You’ve tried everything. You even went down the Craigslist path, but you simply cannot find the part. At this point – and only at this point – are you encouraged to pay a dealer. In all honesty, most dealers are at the mercy of manufacturers, so you shouldn’t blame them for unreasonable costs. Expect high prices when you contact a dealer and little-to-no willingness to negotiate a rate.
Now that you know the ABC of shopping for parts, let’s get on with it. The following auto parts shops are located all over the U.S., so you should be able to locate at least a few of these in your local area.
1. 813 Customs
Location: Tampa, FL
If you’re sick of the 22-inch wheels on your ‘80s domestic sedan, there’s no better solution than to hit up 813 Customs. Not only can this auto shop hook you up with some ridiculous humongous wheels (really, really big), but they can also help you with a gorgeous custom paint job. Need a banging stereo system? 813 Customs can help with that, too. There’s no better way to cruise the Dirty South!
2. Monster Customs
Location: Atlanta, GA
Monster Customs has already built its reputation by showing off their expertise in the 12-volt arena. But they can help you with anything from a head unit radio swap to a completely custom car audio installation – even with the one-off speaker enclosures, if you’re into that! Not to mention everything in between, which Monster Customs can also handle quite majestically. The shop is a “monster” of the customization game in Atlanta (pun intended).
3. Godfather Customs
Location: Decatur GA
For all of you truck guys out there, Godfather Customs has all the parts you might need. For the past 33 years, the Godfather has developed as a business to the point that they provide mail order, as well as retail and installation at its Decatur, Georgia shop. Thanks to the access it has to a wide depth of products, the Godfather is proud to have built custom project vehicles like the Hot Wheels Chevy S-10 truck.
4. Krazy House Customs
Location: South Brunswick, NJ
Established a decade ago in 2007, Krazy House Customs used to have deep off-road roots. Nowadays, however, the shop expanded to also include domestic muscle and European luxury, as well as sports cars. Thanks to their all-wheel drive dyno, Krazy House Customs is an expert in building cars that not look better and perform better on the street. Isn’t that Krazy?
5. Xclusv Autosports
Location: Staten Island, NY
Xclusv Autosports claims they’ve seen it all, and given that they worked with Hondas, Lambos and everything in-between, we tend to believe them. Apart from the vowels missing from the shop’s name, everything’s in top shape. Jokes aside, Xclusv is a serious shop that specializes in working on custom interiors and audio systems, one-off paint, clutch jobs, forced induction (supercharger or turbocharger), and more! Xclusv has supplied vehicles for 50 Cent and Cam’ron to use in their music videos, which is why the shop has become popular.
Location: San Diego, CA
Are you an enthusiast of Japanese luxury brands like Infiniti, Lexus, or Acura? Then Autofashion is the shop to call for VIP style tuning. If you’re unsure of what VIP style is, think of slammed sedans on immense wheels and down-low body kits with superb interior accents (curtains, pillows, and tables). Anything you need to ride like a boss. When it comes to this unique type of JDM modification, Autofashion is the go-to VIP shop in the San Diego area.
7. 713 Motoring
Location: Houston, TX
Based in fancy Houston, 713 Motoring takes pride in representing their clientele and being faithful to their area code. This auto shop has made it their motto to drive the same type of cars as its customers, while also partying at the same clubs and sharing the same music tastes. Stalking vibes aside, 713 Motoring is right to take pride in their builds, because they’ve worked on everything between humble domestics and Italian supercars. It’s also a local pride to be the first shop in Houston to install halo lights on a car. Impressed yet?
8. Globe Tire
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Globe Tire has outlasted most of the fly-by-night custom shops, dominating the Los Angeles area since 1932. But Globe is not just the oldest shop on our list; it’s also one of the few shops that have the word “motorsports” in its title. In other words, you might soon start your track days after you check out Globe’s roster of service. It includes custom exhausts, unique suspensions, cross drilling, and slotting brake rotors. In addition, Globe is sure to still offer the classic body kit, wheel, and window tinting.
9. CNC Autosports
Location: Kirkland, WA
Formerly known as Car Nutz Customz, the now-CNC Autosports is a shop based in Kirkland, Washington. Hopefully, CNC Autosport does not plan to move out of the 20th largest city in the state (like Costco or the Seattle Seahawks did). Otherwise, who will make sure the customers in King County are taken care of with quality aftermarket suspensions, brakes, wheels and tires, exhausts, body kits, custom interiors and all the rest? The kings need CNC Autosports!
10. 702 Motoring
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Praised as the largest and best custom auto shop in Nevada, 702 Motoring has seen a tremendous growth in its 9 years. Among the shop’s biggest achievements is the appearance it made on Rides, the TV show on the Discovery channel (where they restored a beautiful 1969 Lincoln). If you’re interested in custom gloss black paint, fiberglass interior, or alligator skin leather, give them a call. But 702 Motoring can do more than tanning and stitching the skin of large reptiles; it can also supercharge, lower, lift, and build custom audio systems for any SUV.
Using these steps, you’re sure to find an auto shop that can help provide you the parts to make your dream upgrades to take your car from vanilla to full of personality and luxury.