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Did Carbon Fiber Kill the Sleeper Car?

January 20, 2007

I remember way back in the day when carbon fiber was reserved solely for the exotic racecars of Formula 1 and multi-million dollar military fighter jets. In those days, I never dreamed that only a few short years later every other Honda Civic that I pass would have a carbon fiber hood or wing. But it's true. While carbon fiber is still extremely expensive compared to the corresponding steel or aluminum parts, it has, in a way, lost its rarity and mystique in the tuning community.

Nowadays, any car you see on the pages of Turbo Magazine or even Japanese publications such as Option have some kind of carbon fiber accessories. Instead of being rare and unique, carbon fiber has become a prerequisite for show cars and many tuner cars around the world. From one point of view, I suppose that this is a good thing since I can now easily go to a wide variety of part suppliers and buy a carbon fiber piece just like I would with any other part. They're not difficult to acquire, just very expensive.

Thus, many tuners now have access to parts that can improve the performance of their cars through increasing rigidity and reducing weight. So even though I feel it's completely unnecessary for so many tuner cars to be sporting carbon fiber parts, I do believe that advances in carbon fiber technology have indeed made major positive contributions to the tuner community.

So carbon fiber is a great thing, but there's still one aspect that I really don't understand. That is the aesthetic appeal of carbon fiber. I mean carbon fiber is meant to be a performance enhancer, but 99% of tuners simply use it to "improve" the look of their car. I suppose using performance-enhancing products to improve aesthetics is certainly not something new to tuning. That's happened with nearly every type of part from body kits to large diameter brakes. What I don't understand is why tuners are so in love with the look of carbon fiber.

Okay, maybe a carbon fiber hood is a nice touch to a car. It gives it that elusive piece of unique flare that every car builder is looking for. But having carbon fiber hood, doors, decklid, mirrors, etc. all on the same car is ridiculous if you're just doing it for cosmetic reasons. This makes your car look like a patch quilt since you have a painted car with patches of black weave carbon fiber all over it. I'll admit that this is a matter of personal taste, but I think that many tuners would agree with me in that too much carbon fiber can be a bad thing.

Still, my main problem with carbon fiber is that it killed the whole "sleeper" car style. The most basic definition of a sleeper is a car that is very fast and highly modified but retains its stock exterior and interior look. Carbon fiber truly ended the age where you did your talking through racing, not showing off. Now, instead of comparing quarter mile times, tuners show off their carbon fiber goodies trying to advertise how quick their car can go. I would have more respect for a car that has an entire aftermarket carbon fiber body painted to look like stock over a mostly stock car that has an unpainted carbon fiber hood or doors. Tuners should get back to what started car culture in the first place: speed. Leave the showing off for rappers with gold chains and 24-inch wheels.