Been Reading Issue 18

All of us like modifying our cars. Of course we do; we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. We’d be reading Factory Standard Machine. Some modifications are purely aesthetic, but one of the phrases you hardly ever hear at SM-type events is, “That’s quite enough power for me, I think I’ll stop there.” But are those power or handling modifications actually working? This book could help.

If you’re into the car club measuring contests, as in “I’ve just fitted an upgraded, polished billet aluminium prepuce stroker to my engine and it cost me £X,000,” just to hear the gasps of admiration, then it’s probably not for you. If you adhere to the principles of what the Americans call ‘Ricer math’ – “the brochure says that my engine turns out 150bhp, and I’ve just fitted a fancy-schmancy air filter that the adverts say is worth 25bhp, therefore I have 175bhp” – then almost certainly not. If you want to find out whether your modifications are working for you, against you, or whether you’re just piddling your time and money away, then you should get a copy.

First off, this is an exceedingly geeky book, but that’s no bad thing. It’s all about measuring the forces that you’re trying to improve upon – acceleration, power, torque, air flow, lateral g of grip, and so on. The author manages to explain some fairly complex physics in a way that doesn’t require you to be channelling the spirit of Sir Stephen Hawking, nor does he dumb it down to sock puppet level. He shows you how to make measurements using simple tools such as your smartphone, or gauges you can pick up cheaply from eBay, and from those measurements, determine what works, what doesn’t, and where further improvements can be made through simple (and legal!) on-road testing. It’s clever, readable, and won’t break the bank.

Optimising Car Performance Modifications, by Julian Edgar, is published in softback by Veloce (www.veloce.co.uk) with a RRP of £14.99.