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Thread: custom car?

  1. Default custom car?

    hi all!
    if you had the option of customizing your car for the purpose of roadtripping what would you do to it (no matter how farfetched or unfeasible)? also, what kind of services would you like a dealership to provide to maximize your experience?
    this is just something i've been mulling over for the past couple of weeks. all suggestions are appreciated!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Stock

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    There actually are very few custom features that I'd want to add to a car. Quite frankly, most cars come pretty well equipt these days and can include most anything you'd really want. When you start getting into real customization, you're adding things that could potentially break or fail while you are on the road, and when it comes down to it, it seems like most custom features are done much more for appearance than for real practicality.

    Having said that, if you want a good model for the ultimate custom roadtrip mobile, I'd really check out the Phoenix One

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Utility Trumps All Else

    I agree with Michael that what usually passes as 'customization' is irrelevant to what makes a good RoadTrip vehicle. Yes, you can trick out a van or SUV or RV to come up with what is a pretty much self contained car/home/office/womb, but in the end what makes for a good traveling vehicle is what meets your own needs for the least amount of money and with the least amount of fuss. My own two favorite RoadTrip vehicles would hardly be on anyone's top ten, or even top one hundred, list. But they had what were for me the two most important qualities: range and comfort.

    The first was a car I'm sure that most people are unfamiliar with or have not even heard of, a 1957 SAAB 93. At first glance I suspect most people might mistake the car for a VW Beatle, but the engine was in the front, and the hood was hinged on the front bumper - opening forward, and the doors were hinged on the back opening backwards, and the power plant was a 33 cubic inch 3 cylinder two-stroke, and on and on. What made it great for RoadTrips was that it came from the manufacturer with a bed conversion. The back of the back seat was removable, revealing a large pass through to the trunk, and fit between the back bench and the front seats making a flat surface from the rear bumper to the dash. Although the car only had a 10 gallon tank, it got 30+ mpg on white gas due to the car's low weight and drag and the fact that it had 'free wheeling', a sort of automatic clutch that disengaged when you took your foot off the gas and allowed the car to coast when going downhill.

    The second was a much maligned 1972 AMC Gremlin. As one of the first hatchbacks, the Gremlin could also be made into a bed by folding down the back of the rear seat and, after a simple 1 bolt modification to the back of the front passenger seat, moving it fully back and folding its back forward to the dash. The Gremlin came with a 21 gallon tank and got 25 mpg giving it a range of over 500 miles which came in very handy when the first gas crisis hit in 1973.

    So you see, neither was a particularly fancy car. Both would, in fact, be considered low-end economy vehicles. But each served brilliantly as a great RoadTrip car pretty much off the dealer's floor with little or no modification.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-31-2009 at 07:50 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Agreed that most vehicles these days have (almost) everything for comfort and safety.... The only two things I would add are:

    1. A 12 volt outlet in the boot or cargo area - I have already added this to my Outback, to run my Waeco fridge.

    2. Solar panels on the roof... even if only for extra battery to run the fridge / radio / computer / light when I am tent camping.

    I note that with all its gadgetry, the Phoenix One, does not mention solar panels. I have seen many mobile home vehicles here, with panels on the roof. More than a decade ago, when I went on a camping tour of Kangaroo Island, the fridge-trailer ran completely from the solar panels on it.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Trickle power

    Quote Originally Posted by Lifemagician View Post
    I note that with all its gadgetry, the Phoenix One, does not mention solar panels.
    You gotta remember, the Phoenix One was designed and built in 1993 -- but it did have two solar panels -- both used to provide trickle power to each of the two house batteries. We had an advanced regulator on it because the solar panels generated way too much energy for normal use.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    Well, blow me down! I did not see any mention of them.

    The heat must be getting to me.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-01-2009 at 12:54 AM.

  7. Default

    It may sound goofy, but I now have a Civic Hatchback that has a ton of interior space, but nothing that is "sleepable". I've been throwing around ideas of taking out the passenger seat(since my RT's are always solo) and using plywood to build a raised platform thats 6' long from where the seat was to the back hatch(requires removal of upper portion of back seat) so that I have a place to lay out my sleeping pad and sleeping bag at night.. I havn't made it past the "I'm driving so I need something crazy to think of stage" but in my head I've got a pretty good idea of how to make it work. Possibly using the space underneath the platform as storage if i were to hinge the top. Also, there would be a ton of newly uncovered floorspace to use for gear, cooler, computer, whatever you wanted

    Other than that, custom and roadtrips don't really go together. The more custom a vehicle is, the less reliable it tends to be.. typically

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Mild "mods"

    The only modification I've done to any vehicle for the purpose of taking a trip was removing the rear seats in my former ride, a Jetta TDI wagon. Usually this was to fit all of our stuff in the car so I could still have a clear view out the rear passenger side window. The seats were easily removed and replaced so it wasn't a big issue. I think over the five and a half years I had the car, I had rear seat passengers maybe five times. Of course, with the extra room, we ended up bringing extra stuff.

    Otherwise, you can option out a vehicle with almost everything. That vehicle had a power outlet in the cargo area, as does my current vehicle. Strangely enough, the one option (that seems to come on everything) that I rarely if ever use is cruise control.

  9. Default What I have; what I'd like

    I own a Honda Element because I like road trips. Some of the features I like, which some cars might need customizing to accomplish:

    * No carpeting anywhere in the car. So I can hose off the whole floor if I want.
    * Higher off the ground than most cars.
    * Both rear seats can fold completely flat, so you can sleep if you want. (Has a big moon roof in the back, so you can stargaze as you drift off to sleep.) The rear seats also are easily removable, in case I want more storage or want to lighten my load to save gas.
    * Rear suicide doors on both sides, and top and bottom trunk doors, which maximize loading. For instance, I can put several bicycles inside if I remove the seats. (On shopping trips, I've been able to move armoires, an easy chair and six dining chairs with my Element, no sweat.)
    * Lots of headroom and side space. When I drive other cars now, they make me feel claustrophobic.
    * The sun visors have extenders, so I can cover the entire top of my windshield and avoid being blinded when driving into the sun. (Most car visors leave a gap in the middle.)

    I added:
    * I had a dealership add a roof rack, then I bought a rooftop storage box for baggage. That way, I don't have to worry about my belongings being in plain sight in my car (no trunk) while I sightsee.
    * I also added a stereo system with MP3 and input jack.

    Things that bug me but I don't want to spend much to remedy:
    * I don't like having my GPS charge cord dangling from my windshield to my cigarette lighter. I wish I had a dashboard mount.
    * Not enough storage because there's no center console, even though there's plenty of room for one. I saw one on a Web site, but the price turned me off. As it is, I bought a $3 garbage can that fits tightly in between and I store stuff in there.

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