Now and then, beautifully modified cars are called ‘ricers’, often making the owners of these cars angry, very angry. So, what exactly is a ‘ricer’ car, or a ricer mod? And why will most Indian car mods always be ricers. We explain.
What is a ‘ricer’ car or a ‘ricer’ mod?
The term ‘ricer’ was first used in North America’s car underground (illegal) modification scene. Ricer refers to cars from Japan, modified mainly in terms of looks, but that have no performance modifications. So, cars that used to look flashy, with lots of body modifications, and stickers, but whose engines were untouched, were called ‘ricers’, in a derogatory way. A modification that is meant to only enhance the car’s looks but not make it go any faster is referred to as a ‘ricer’ mod.
Now that we know what a ‘ricer’ is, let’s understand why most cars in India are ‘ricers’ and why the modification scene is likely to remain like this for some time to come.
Anything apart from the mildest car modifications needs RTO approval in India. While the same is applicable in other countries like the USA and UK, the transport authorities there have well defined standards and approval methods for modifications.
In India though, there are no such standards. And most RTOs are said to be highly corrupt making the endorsement of modifications quite difficult. What this does is, it prevents a lot of enthusiasts from attempting major modifications on their cars.
For example, engine swaps, which are very common abroad, are frowned upon by the RTO in India due to draconian rules drafted many decades ago. Any attempt to deviate from a stock car can get your into trouble. Why, even adding a roof carrier to your car may require RTO approval in many parts of India.
So, most enthusiasts here choose to play it safe, and stick to what is known as ‘ricer’ mods on their cars. That includes big wing spoilers on the boots, loud exhausts, lowering kits, suicide doors, body kits, stickers, wraps and paint jobs. While the RTO can still fine you for these modifications, they generally take a lenient view to the modifications we’ve listed above.
A very small enthusiast-base
Most Indian car buyers are more concerned about the mileage that their cars deliver than the kind of performance they’re capable of. The number of people buying high-performance/fun-to-drive cars is still low. In other words, the number of ‘actual’ car enthusiasts in India is low.
That explains why high performance affordable cars generally fail to sell well in India. Take for example the Fiat Punto Abarth, which is very fast and affordable (by hot hatch standards). It sells less than 20 units each month. The Fiat Avventura Abarth does no better. Even the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI/TDI models are poor sellers.
Since car owners seek to keep fuel efficiency unaffected, visual modifications are often the way to go. For example, adding a few kilos of weight to the car through a big rear wing spoiler won’t really reduce your mileage by a big deal. The same is the case with a body kit. However, a engine modification job like adding a turbo could hit mileage adversely.
Competent tuners few and far in between
The car tuning (mainly engine and suspension modification) scene in India is not very strong. Competent car tuners are few and far in between. Now and then, horror stories about how the so-called car tuners messed up a perfectly good car with poorly executed modifications make it to the interweb.
This drives many potential enthusiasts away from engine and suspension modifications. Most people generally prefer to buy a faster car from the manufacturer, as such cars have reliability built into their designs. This again brings us back to the rest of the modifiers, read ricers.
To sum it up, India as a car market is yet to evolve, and the Indian car enthusiast also needs a few more years to become at par with enthusiasts in developed car markets. So, until this happens, we’ll continue to be a land with more ‘riced’ cars than actual fast cars.