Published May 27th, 2021
Words and Photography: Michal Fidowicz
A few weeks ago, a few friends and I found ourselves reminiscing on being kids. I’m only 23 now, so in the grand scheme of things I’m still a relatively young guy I guess. However, I can confidently say I’m no longer the childish youngster I was 6 years ago back when I turned 17. The conversation naturally shifted to talking cars, where I said it would be nice to know the things my friends and I know now back when we were 17.
Cue the lightbulb moment, and cue the article. Now, being a nerd I do keep one eye on Candy’s analytics which tell me that 44% of my followers are between the age of 18 and 24. Whilst not quite the 17 that makes my clickbait title work, realistically a lot of people who get stuck into their car are in the age bracket I just mentioned so we’ll roll with it. This one is for you, the car enthusiast with a great idea but no gear what so ever. For now.
Before I continue, the article will feature photos of my good friend Levi’s car. Levi has just turned 18, and has been building this static 6n with the help of his dad for a good 6 months now. Its his first car, and absolutely fits the bill of what I’m on about here. Having pinched a set of his dad’s RS for his first show with the Polo, it would have been rude not to make the most of the occasion and shoot the car in the evening.
Also for clarity, what you are about to read is simply the experience and opinion of one man; me. I am far from an engineer, mechanic or anyone of a qualification to be giving formal advice. I am nothing more than a monkey who has access to the internet and has now owned 4 shit BMWs. Being a little self aware of this matter, I’ve also reached out to some friends whose thoughts and experience I trust and want to share with you. You’ll be able to find this below, along with the following:
- “Expectation Management”
- Make the most of your reality
- What I’d change
- My advice
- My friend’s advice
From memory, I first started to get into the whole stance malarkey when I was 15ish. Having been generally interested in cars as a child, in my mid to late teens I had absolutely no idea about anything to do with them. No idea how an engine functioned, didn’t know what the hell a clutch was or why a car had 3 pedals. I knew one thing though, they really caught my attention and sparked a curiosity I’ve never experienced before. Having always been interested in activities that allowed my creativity to flourish, I was naturally drawn to the idea of taking a car commonly found on the road and making it my own. The obvious as a kid is bright paint jobs and brash body-kits. It wasn’t until I signed myself up to Instagram that I was exposed to this one thing that has brought us all together: stance. I soon found the occasional car page which ventured into this niche genre of car ownership. We’re talking real basic, shitty American repost pages which posted the Initial D AE86, or the VAG pages where every other photo is a MK2 golf on Ronal Teddies which ironically are the last thing to attract a woman. But, the interest and curiosity only grew from here and it wasn’t long until that I thought to myself, “I wonder if someone does this in the UK?” As I well now know, they do. Chances are, if you know about Candy, you have a relatively good understanding of the community we are a part of. So you’re already off to a flying start, you’ve done what I remember taking me forever, finding the UK’s stance community. On reflection, I’d say the online community today is probably 10x as large as it was back in 2014/15, only making our lives more convenient and entertaining.
Having worked in the Communications sector before, I was taught that expectation management of the receiving party is one of the most crucial parts of a successful, informational piece of writing. So, let’s start with what you should expect as a 17 year old getting into stance.
Cars are expensive. In fact, even more so when you’re 17. When I was 17, my first job was working in a party store blowing up balloons and selling costumes to NPC parents for their children’s school plays. I worked 2 days after school on a Wednesday and Thursday and full days on the weekends. For the sake of this article I’ve actually dug out an old P45 from my first job, and having worked there for 11 months I earned a staggering £3136.50. I was 65p over minimum wage. £500 of that went buying a 2001 VW Polo, £1450 went on insurance with a black box, leaving me with less than £110 a month to spend on fuel, tax, any modifications I wanted to buy, going out with friends… and the rest of life. So, plucky 17 year old, be prepared to go into your dream modified car ownership with no cash.
The good news here though is you can simply choose to be rich. I was a student with limited time to work so was poor by default, but if you’ve finished college/6th form and don’t go to uni, you can end up at a full time job. I ended up taking the apprenticeship route in life, and had a reliable income which allowed me to get a shitty 318ci. Everyone’s circumstances are different though, I was incredibly lucky enough to live with mum and dad so I didn’t have to worry about a landlord taking half my income for rent. You might not be as lucky, and will have to hustle your own way through life.
There is one thing that is certain though, you will end up having a fucking black box on your first policy. This is good or bad depending on who you’re with. I was with Tesco, where my black box simply did not work. During my year of driving it only registered 800 miles of driving with a perfect score in everything. I had no ability to declare my modifications, so did not pursue the crazy sexy stance lifestyle with my Polo (not that I could afford it anyway) and sucked up this shitty first year of driving. The reality is though, I was a 17 year old kid with my first real taste of freedom at his finger tips. I didn’t need to mod my shitbox car, and in hindsight I definitely benefited from not having the stress of being super skint with booky insurance details.
To summarise, expect to be skint, expect to have a shit car and don’t expect to mod it if you care about your mental health.
Mental health, with all cheap memes aside, is arguably the hottest topic of our generation regardless of who you are and where you came from. And for good reason of course. I have strong memories of my first car giving me mild anxiety, primarily because I was poor and the polo was an absolute shit heap. Take it from me, approach your first car as something that you should not care about. Disconnect the idea of it being your heavenly gift from the gods and embrace the reality of its shitness. Do not think an engine light is the end of the world, as it is not. It is most likely a sensor that has shat the bed. Do not worry about getting a car park ding on your bumper, because you’re likely to do one yourself soon. This is okay, because it is just a car and not a gift from the gods.
It will make funky noises. This is fine, it is most likely not falling apart and most likely a loose exhaust bracket/bush. The bubbles on your bootlid are just that, it doesn’t write your car off. You have your whole life ahead of you to have something immaculate, and this right now is not the time to be worried about it. Right now, it’s your time to have fun and you will never own a better, shitter first car to have fun in that your own one.
Most importantly, never be anxious of asking people for help. The car community is great, and there are endless resources scattered around YouTube, FB groups and old internet forums. Get stuck into the social side of cars and see what it’s all about.
Make the most of your reality
So, now we’ve got the soppy stuff out the way I think we can start to finally get into some actual advice. Use the car as much as you can. The best thing about cars in my opinion is that they are a door opening to new experiences and new connections with-in something I am most passionate about. Engaging with people. I’ve met the majority of my closest, best-est friends through cars. Cars have this incredible power to bring all sorts of people together, and I’ve made some of the best memories of my life through them.
Equally, it’s worth remembering that the car isn’t directly you. You are not reading this because of your car, you are reading this because you are an individual engaged with a passion, looking to be entertained and engaged. It’s hard to find the words that best explain what I mean, but I never think of a person as an interesting individual because of their car. I think it’s the opposite, a car is interesting because of the person who owns it and because of what they do with their life. I’m not suggesting you have to go out and have a million hobbies, but it’s healthy to understand that the car world is there for you to benefit and learn from, rather than you being there for its entertainment. Drive the culture forward, rather than being driven by the culture. I feel like I’m just using different metaphors to make the same, very blury point so I’ll wrap it up here before I confuse even myself.
What I’d change
Corr, bit of a loaded one. If I could go back to 2015 and speak to my 17 year old self, I’d probably tell him (me?) to rag the car more. I remember driving the shit out of it anyway, but I definitely didn’t do as many burn outs as I could have. Cars are generally far less fragile than I think they are.
I’d have definitely ditched my god awful Wolfrace wheels that came with the car instead of rattle canning them grey. Back then, FB market place didn’t exist. Believe me now, FB maketplace is a gold mine for anyone who has a £100 budget with a £10000 taste. I’d have bought a set of OEM 16v wheels and spacers and sold the Wolfrace to some fresh West London guy, forgetting all about their existence.
Finally, I’d probably have bought a totally different car. Just because everyone had a Polo or a Clio doesn’t mean I needed to get one. There are so many interesting cars out there, older 90s cars or even something with a little more flair. Something French maybe? Variety is the spice of life… he says after owning 4 cheap BMs in a row. *Post publication edit* I’ve given it some thought and I’d definitely buy a k11 Micra as my first car if I could start again.
Right, we’re finally here. This is actually why you came to this article in the first place I guess. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to jump into this list, but before I start going off on one it’s worth reminding you that the below is mainly subjective. I don’t claim any omniscience here, and I don’t claim my opinion and advice as important, but I do claim that it’s worth considering.
- Mod the second car first: As covered already, save the mods for your second car. Go have fun with your first car and learn the roads before you start worrying about wheel and suspension shit. You’ll be richer when you get your second car anyway.
Now, lets actually talk about getting yourself into the stance side of things.
- Less is more: Be a good judge of tack, and stay away from it. Cheap paints, cheap wraps, shitty goth stickers. Stay away from it, stay away from it all
- Replica is bad: Spending cash on fake equipment is literally pushing you further away from your desired, real equipment
- Patience is paramount: No one, and I mean no one expects you to have a car built for a certain time frame. Spend an extra month waiting for the right set of wheels, saving for the suspension set up you want, and it will all be worth it in the end. The Polish have this incredible saying “Gdy się człowiek spieszy, to się diabeł cieszy”, translated meaning “When someone is in a hurry, the Devil is happy”
- The car designer knows better than you: Your custom bad boy bonnet and smoothed boot badges change the lines the car was designed with. Why are you changing the lines of your car? How would you feel if your car smoothed your face and removed your eye brows? You’d feel sad
- You are not a goth: No seriously, remove that emo sticker
- Put your number plate back on: If you DM me and have moved your plate down from your recess to a cable tied position in your grill I will block you
- Silver wheels are best wheels: Silver wheels are best wheels
- Expensive doesn’t always mean better: My E46 wheels off a 7 series cost me £250 and in my opinion looked better than a lot of fresh one piece aftermarket wheels people were buying at the time. FB marketplace is your friend and should be relied on here
- Fitment can carry a build: Finessing the tyre size and wheel fitment for the style you want can really turn an interesting car into an amazing one. I’d even say fitment goes further than car height
- Funky cars rule: I say this with the most boring car history of all time, but there are so many interesting cars that I’ve not seen at a car show. For example, a Renault Megane. Someone take one for the team and build a static one please
- Little details go a long way: Rare colours, trim level stickers, orginal dealer number plates. Have a flick through some of the cars I feature on Candy’s Instagram page and see what I take detailed photos of. Should give you a clearer idea of what I mean
- Go talk to people: People are must more interesting than cars. Go talk to them and be nice 🙂
You know, I could go on forever but I don’t want to bore you with my shit. My friends are far more exciting than me, and actually know how to work on cars.
My friend’s advice
I approached a few of my close friends asking if they would like to contribute to this article, and they were happy to get involved. The below is an unedited, direct copy and paste as I like the thought of keeping their thoughts just as they said it to me. Many thanks to the lads below, I’ve known them for years and have seen the graft/learning curve from them first hand. You can check out their work but clicking on their name.
- My advice on first time modding, is try to be legit as early as possible lol, too many kids see Tyrone doing sketchy shit to his mk4 golf in America and think it’s ok lol
- Buy spigot rings, and the correct bolts, makes so much difference, may just be small items but literally very important
- Also, having a stiff as shit car isn’t the way forward
- My advise also would be to not read a bunch of shit online but just approach more experienced people irl, because the internet just lies and is full for forums from 2007 where they say you can’t do xyz, when in reality you can because there’s so much more you can do
- Just cause you can’t buy it doesn’t mean it’s not possible
- Try not to go too far with a car
- It’s all well and good getting new wheels and beating the arches out until they just fit, burn the arches etc etc
- But realistically you can change a rear quarter very easily so you’re legit stuck with one set of wheel sizes forever
- Any drastic mods you gotta be sure cause that will ruin the motor lol
- Also skimping out and getting a cheaper alternative is never the look, like if you can’t afford the genuine carbon fibre mirrors don’t wrap them carbon, kids will have the attitude of, ohh it was only cheap so why not, no no, just don’t buy it at all it looks whack, something being cheap doesn’t make it ok to have on your car. That’s whack bro!!!
- Try not to kill your self or others lol, like yeah have a great time fuckin about with cars and experimenting, but don’t take all your springs out and drive down the road because you think it’s the only possible option to go low, you get pulled over for pogo sticking down the road and they find that out you give the rest of car people a bad name
- If i can step back in time and advise myself, i’d still probably say buy a Lupo or 6N as a starter car, but not live with it for nearly 7 years. Throw all the tacky stickers in the bin, don’t buy reps because they look just like the real thing (they don’t), and throw the lowering springs in the bin and buy some shit coilovers instead. Save up for a few years while running your little shitbox, then when you turn 19 buy something other than a shitty hatchback
- Don’t bother modding your first car; just rag it and wait a year till you can insure something better
- Keep it simple, don’t spend months building something. You like cars because they’re fun to drive, so drive
- Don’t be a beg online
- Don’t be a messer when buying / selling
- Fitment / ride height is the first visual mod you should do
- Declaring mods with Admiral is free
- Don’t take your front plate off if your car has a recess for it
- Don’t relocate it, it always looks terrible
- Don’t straight pipe it unless it has more than 4 cylinders, and even then just don’t do it
- Nobody wants to hear your pop and bang map at meets
- Don’t make an instagram for your car and definitely do not put your chassis code or numberplate in your insta handle
- Being rare or different is only cool if it looks good as well
- As soon as you can afford one, buy a BMW.
- do not buy the cheapest fastest bmw you can afford
- yeah my advice is
- get a bus it’s not worth it
On that note, I’m going to wrap this one up here. If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for sitting through 3300 words worth of our nattering. I really appreciate you all being here, and I hope you’ve been entertained in one way or another whether you’re about to buy your first car or about to start building your 5th project.
I’ll see you in the next one.