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29 July 2009 - 00:00

How low can they go?

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Well, the wally-pollies have done it again. This time the NSW State Government have outlawed aftermarket suspension mods on cars and 4WDs. From August 1, new regulations will prohibit motorists from raising or lowering the height of their rides unless the alterations are approved by licensed RTA engineers.

Until now, it has been legal to raise or lower a vehicle by 5cm without RTA approval and by 15cm with approval. Modified car owners with serious suspensions mods are also required to carry any relevant engineer's certificates with them in case they're pulled over for a random check by the fuzz.

The big question with any mod is whether it's warranted. Ideally, mods should offer gains or improvements to performance, ride or the highly debatable area of looks. We can all agree that a badly modified car can be lethal in anyone's hands, let alone an inexperienced driver; but we can't help but wonder whether this decision is really about safety concerns or more about hoonish behaviour.

It's an expensive question to ask - there are two problems with this from the get go. One, the cost to get an RTA engineer to certify the alterations - which could cost up to a grand of your hard-earned cash; and second of all - there aren't enough RTA engineers to go around, meaning long waits and inevitably higher costs that will come with such demand. Naturally the AAAA (Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association; not to be confused with the Agoraphobic Artichoke Awareness Association) is not happy; concerned that thousands of jobs in the modifying sector will be lost, as hundreds of mods are currently performed on Aussie cars every day.

For many modifiers, run-ins with the "Canary Gestapo" and copping a yellow defect notice are common, but under this new ruling, modifiers could be facing fines worth more than any engineer's certificate, running up to a whopping $7,700.

This begs a question that Clarkson has asked of modifiers before: why not spend the money on a new car? The answer in the eyes of most modifiers is personalisation. Whilst the new Ford Fiesta might be a great car (which we're tipping to be the new modifier's car of choice), there are a slew of them on the road that are all the same. Of course, we realise that we have entire galleries dedicated to car modifications gone wrong, but what about the honest punters who just want their car to perform better? The situation will no doubt incense countless modifiers in NSW, but we know that this won't deter the diehards.

The modified car market thrives on ingenuity under restrictive circumstances, so it's only a matter of time before those workshops, race divisions and other mod professionals out there devise new ways to customise rides, without enraging Johnny Law.

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