Interior Modifications: Part One

In part one of this two-part series, we look at interior modifications that improve the driver’s performance and comfort.

So you’ve got your engine putting out the power, your suspension/wheels/tires are dialed in, brakes are beefed up and the body is done. Now it’s time to turn your attention to the interior. With your ride’s notably increased performance and handling capabilities come increased responsibilities for the interior. Specifically, keeping the driver securely in place during high-performance driving, providing him with an effective interface between the car and himself, and monitoring additional engine parameters, such as turbo boost.

In the first installment of this two-part series we address seats and steering wheels, two important components that can optimize the performance of the most critical component in the car – the driver.

Get a hold of yourself

Now that you’ve got the more capable suspension and stickier tires, you don’t want to be sliding around in your seat while you’re unraveling your favorite twisty mountain road or taking part in a high-performance driving event, such as an autocross or a track day. A well-bolstered sport seat is key to holding your butt (and the rest of your body) securely in place while you’re enjoying your car’s athletic handling. It’s also a safety benefit, as you can better concentrate on the task at hand rather than having the steering wheel double as a grab handle as you try to prevent yourself from hip-checking the center console.

There are basically two types of performance seats, fixed back and reclining back. As the name implies, the fixed back seats are non-adjustable for recline. Advantages of a fixed-back seat include an abundance of lateral support and excellent compatibility with five- and even six-point racing harnesses. Fixed seats tend to be the choice of those whose car sees more racing duty than daily driver duty. Going with a reclining seat means you’ll enjoy greater comfort, much easier ingress and egress, easier rear seat access and considerably greater compatibility with stock seat belts. Reclining sport seats provide a nice balance between high-performance driving support and daily driver livability.

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

Recaro fixed back seat in a Porsche 911

There are a number of companies to choose from when selecting a sport seat, such as Corbeau, Procar, Recaro and Sparco. Recaro seats in particular have been found as either standard or optional equipment in various high-performance cars over the years, ranging from Fords to Mitsubishis to Porsches. That said, all these manufacturers offer well built, comfortable and supportive seats for a wide array of applications.

Steering you right

Unless your car is over 20 years old, it probably has an airbag-equipped steering wheel. As such, you may choose to keep it in place for the added safety factor. That said, some enthusiasts prefer to swap out that original equipment wheel for an aftermarket unit. A few reasons are that a smaller than stock diameter wheel provides slightly quicker turning, a rim wrapped in leather, suede or Alcantara (artificial but very convincing suede) gives a more tactile grip, and an aftermarket wheel usually looks at least ten times better than that typically blocky stock affair.

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Momo steering wheel in a Mazda Miata

Just as with the wheels you wrap your tires around, the wheel you wrap your hands around comes in a dizzying array of brands and styles. Check out the sites of Momo, Grant and Nardi and you’ll see what we mean. We prefer the classic three-spoke racing style with a traditional, non-sculpted rim, but your personal preference may dictate otherwise. Given the rather large amount of time you spend using the steering wheel, the importance of selecting one with the right overall diameter, ideal rim thickness and preferred grip cannot be overstated. As such, we suggest going “hands-on” and checking out the wheel (or wheels) you’re interested in at the store in addition to researching them out on-line. As they say in the car selling business, “the feel of the wheel can seal the deal.”


Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts is ready to help with a large selection of quality parts and accessories. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Let’s talk about smoke…and Tony Stewart

If you’re like me, you obsess over car trivia and stats much like a kid does with a new set of baseball cards, or in my little cousin’s case, Pokemon cards. That leads me to NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. Stewart’s nickname is “Smoke.” His early skills for smoking the right rear tire and later for blowing up engines, has earned him the famous moniker. While he may not be known for drifting theatrics, or for a coveted collection of pimped-out street imports, I’m a fan. Recently, Mobil 1 asked their fans to vote on Facebook for which of four vehicles they’d like to see him drive in an exhibition. They voted him into Formula D driver Tyler McQuarrie’s Mobil 1 Formula Drift Chevy Camaro SS. My reaction? “Wow.”

Tony’s NASCAR season will be winding down in a couple more months and that got me to wondering what his winter plans are. Now that he’s driven Tyler’s car, has he ever given any thought to competing in Formula D? Maybe, he’ll spend the off-season building the ultimate drift car—in my dreams. But, if he did ask for my opinion, I might steer him toward an AE86, perhaps an RX-7, or maybe even a 944 Turbo. What are your thoughts on the subject? Regardless of what he would choose in this fantasy project, he’d be wise to pay some attention to car tires, like I do.

When you think about your import’s high performance parts, car tires have to be part of that equation, much like adjustable shocks, performance suspension, lowering springs or other performance upgrades. Whether you’re driving a 2012 Scion tC that’s been Optimized, or an old-school Mazda RX-7 SA/FB with a performance suspension, the rule applies – neglect your tires, and you’re sitting on the side of the road—instead of driving to one of this year’s Wekfests to check out the latest in suspension tuning or aftermarket performance auto parts.

Car tires matter—as much to your tuner’s performance as to its overall look—and should be included within your vehicle’s high-performance parts equation. Running the wrong tire pressure can seriously undo investments made into a performance suspension, or for several other aftermarket performance auto parts you may have installed. Checking tire pressure regularly is the best way to ensure that your car tires deliver long, reliable performance, and will help you save money at the gas pump. So, when you’re shopping for aftermarket performance auto parts, add a good digital tire pressure gauge to that list.

Look for the recommended inflation pressure on your driver’s side door-jamb or in the glove box, and check the pressure when the car tires are cool. You can improve fuel economy and reduce wear. Of course, if you’re smoking your tires every weekend, you’re not going to be too worried about wear. It’s already happening.

Watch Tony Stewart drive Tyler McQuarrie’s Mobil 1 Formula Drift Chevy Camaro SS here.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of car tire accessories, and high performance parts. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store.