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Top 10: tuners that automakers should hire

October 19, 2022

Audi – ABT

Since 1970, the family-owned company ABT Sportsline has been responsible for sporty upgrades for numerous models in the Volkswagen Group. From Audi and Seat to Skoda and Volkswagen; you can go here for both cosmetic and technical improvements to your car. Christian Abt, the son of founder Johann Abt, has underlined the tuning company’s credibility as a successful racing driver; with his own Abt racing team, he triumphed in the German Touring Car Championship and in the FIA Formula E electric. Want an Audi RS3 with 500 hp? Or are you looking for an Audi RS6 with at least 700 hp? As far as we’re concerned, Audi may incorporate this tuner immediately.

Porsche – Gemballa

Porsche sports cars have always been a favorite object for tuners. The choice is vast; you can turn to RUF, Techart and 9FF, among others. Our choice, however, falls on Gemballa, the company that founder Uwe Gemballa started in 1981. Sensational was the Gemballa Avalanche, a Porsche 911 with a particularly wide bodykit and Ferrari Testarossa-like air slots. Yummy 80s!

Later, Gemballa also took on the Carrera GT (Mirage GT), Cayenne (Tornado) and Panamera (Mistrale). And what turns out? This tuner does not do subtle. In addition to extra power, these cars get big wheels and substantially expanded bumper and spoiler work. Deliciously extravagant, everything Porsche itself is not. And that is precisely why Porsche should consider acquiring Gemballa.

Peugeot – Dimma

Speaking of 80s, how about the extra-thick editions of the Peugeot 205? This GTI is considered the holy grail of hot hatchbacks. For those who did not find this compact street racer substantial enough, there were tuners like Dimma (from Belgium) and Gutmann (today a German Peugeot dealer in Breisach). In addition to some extra power (up to 180 hp) willing to provide you with an extra-wide body kit and ditto rims.

In 2020, there seemed to be a rebound. Dimma delighted us with a lightweight Dimma Peugeot 205 GTI, equipped with a 300-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and a six-speed manual transmission from a modern Peugeot 308 GTI. A new carbon fiber body kit would make the car weigh only 800 pounds. After that , however, things remained quiet. As far as we are concerned, it is time for Peugeot to get serious about this.

Opel – Irmscher

Did you used to want a tougher and sportier Opel? Then you went to Irmscher. Since 1968, this German tuner made a name for itself when it came to nicer Opels. For some time, Irmscher was even responsible for racing cars, such as the Opel Ascona rally cars and the Astra DTM racers. Many enthusiasts cherish great memories of fast Mantas, cool Corsas, improved Vectras and sensational Omegas. Think slightly more power, a sporty steering wheel, a glitzy color scheme, fat exhausts and especially cool spoilers.

These days, Opel does not sell fast OPC versions or cool GSI versions. Isn’t the incorporation of Irmscher a golden opportunity to revive Opel’s sporting history?

Jaguar – Lister

Jaguar’s future is 100 percent electric. However, we remember the days when Jaguars made mostly fancy sedans and comfortable coupes for older gentlemen. To shake up that image a bit, tuner WP Automotive brought out the Lister Jaguar XJ-S in the late 1980s. The somewhat bedraggled XJS was turned into a brutal racer.

In collaboration with engine builder Cosworth, the XJS’s powerplant was thoroughly overhauled. The 5.3-liter V12 was boosted to a whopping 7.0 liters and then produced not 303, but 502 horsepower. For those for whom that wasn’t enough, there was also a version with two superchargers, which increased the power to over 600 hp. Knocked-out wheel arches, modified cooling and different headlights complete the picture. Also available as a convertible. One wonders: what would a contemporary Lister-Jaguar look like?

Chevrolet – Hennessey

Since 1991, Hennessey Performance Engineering has specialized in “making fast cars faster,” according to the Texans themselves. They got their first notoriety in 1996 with the Venom 650R, a hotter version of the Dodge Viper. Thanks to a power boost, the V10’s output increased from 415 to 650 hp.

More recently, they built the Hennessey Venom GT, based on the Lotus Exige. Thanks to a 1,244-hp twin-turbo V8, this car was briefly the fastest car in the world in 2014. Only a handful were made; singer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith was one of the customers. In addition, existing American tearjerkers were also tickled by Hennessey. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is available with 1,000 horsepower as “The Exorcist. We wonder: why would Chevrolet not acquire Hennessey?

Volvo – Heico

Until 2015, Polestar was Volvo’s tuning specialist. They made fast Volvo’s: more power, improved suspension and recognizable by the light blue paint. But Polestar has become an independent brand, building electric cars. So who can you turn to for a tuned Volvo?

The answer comes from German specialist Heico Sportiv. They have 30 years of experience with Volvo. It shows: they offer upgrades in engine technology, exhaust systems, chassis, brakes, rims and exterior beautification. Fun fact: you can also go to Heico for your Polestar 2. In short: high time for Volvo to seek an official partnership with Heico?

Honda – Mugen

Since its founding in 1973, Japan’s Mugen has focused on tuning Honda engines. Mugen means “without limit,” a hopeful philosophy. Even though, as Honda’s home tuner, the company maintains close ties to the brand, it was never owned by Honda. We may change that.

Mugen’ s background is spot on. The company races Honda cars in Japan’s Super GT and Super Formula championships. In the 1990s, Mugen made engines for Formula One teams such as Tyrrell, Footwork, Ligier and Jordan. This knowledge was also applied to the high-revving engines in sporty street cars, such as the Honda CR-Z and Civic Mugen. An exciting addition to Honda’s model lineup, right?

Ferrari – Novitec

Is a standard Ferrari still not enough? Then the Bavarian tuning company Novitec offers the solution. Since 1989, the Germans have devoted themselves to further coddling Ferraris. Over the years, a Ferrari was easily recognizable after a Novitec treatment by their black tinted taillight units.

These days, tuners take a slightly more sophisticated approach. Less noticeable optical changes, more power. Using electronics and exhaust systems, the power of a Ferrari F8 Tributo (standard 720 hp) can be increased to 818 hp at Novitec. That way you can distinguish yourself as a professional footballer or pop star even better from mere mortals, right?

Ford – Shelby

It all started when American racing driver Caroll Shelby was forced to stop racing in the early 1960s. Thereupon, he decided to equip a British AC Ace with an American V8. After the birth of this AC Cobra, Shelby would focus on tuning numerous American classics, including the Ford Mustang.

VIEW THE VIDEO: This is what the new Mustang Shelby GT500 sounds like

The Mustang has always been an iconic car, but Shelby’ s versions are perhaps the most famous. Who doesn’t remember the GT350 and the GT500? World-famous is the famous chase with Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1967), but Shelby Mustangs also shine in such blockbusters as Gone in 60 Seconds and I Am Legend. These days, any mortal can rent a Shelby-tuned Mustang. Enough reason to make this Ford’s home tuner, don’t you think?

Smart – Brabus

Brabus? Those are those Germans from Mercedes-Benz’s ultra-fast Autobahn monsters, aren’t they? Yes. But because Smart is part of the same consortium, the Germans have also made some inroads into small city cars. That led to some roguish little cars, such as the Smart Roadster Brabus (2003-2005) and Smart ForFour Brabus Xclusive (2017).

Smart, meanwhile, is fully engaged in electrification. Indeed, the brand is fully committed to electric crossovers that the whole family can fit into. Their first new model, aptly named the #1, also comes as a Brabus top trim. That means a second electric motor and thus all-wheel drive. With 428 horsepower and 0-100 in just 3.9 seconds, this compact crossover is smooth, too. One wonders: what does tuning in the electrified age look like? As far as we are concerned, Smart shows with the Brabus version that it can be done quite well.