[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Tricked-Out Rides: Flaunting cash with fancy cars

By Jeremy Da Rosa on August 1st, 2009 •

For hot rodders, the saying goes that a little is good, more is better, and too much is just right. They’re talking about horsepower, but when it comes to customizing cars, deep-pocketed celebrities and gearheads make it apply to all sorts of add-ons.

Luxury cars are often a milestone for celebrities-–only those with outrageous incomes can afford vehicular insanity. Even a fairly average car like a Cadillac Escalade has to be modified with custom rims, plasma TVs and IMAX-quality sound. Taking it to the next level, Boston Celtic Stephon Marbury started his own customization company, Star Motoring, and promptly crossed an Escalade with a Rolls-Royce Phantom, creating the Viant SLV 365. This Viant has wireless Internet, DVD, CD, and iPod players, and satellite TV, among other amenities. Costing $300,000, the Viant is probably only affordable to Star Motoring’s high-profile clients, like Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z.

Six-figure rolling media centers not your can of petrol? Don’t worry: customizations that choose insane style over functionality don’t stop with money-laden celebrities. Lowriders, import tuners, and muscle cars proffer endless opportunities, with local and celebrity (Chip Foose, anyone?) shops ready to trade customizations for cash.

  • Lowriders. Getting high-centered on speed bumps apparently has its charms. Plus, for just $5,000, you can get a hood mural, or add a hydraulic kit for only $8,000 more, according to lowridermagazine.com. From there, rims, tires, and interiors--complete with plush velvet seats and gold-chain steering wheels--beg for upgrades. Why refuse them?
  • Import tuners. Don’t let great gas mileage, compact design, and long-lasting quality slow you down. Blow some cash by turbo-charging that import for about $4,000. Or choose from a list of add-ons that includes (non)essentials like neon underbody lights and racing pedals.
  • Muscle cars. Single-digit gas mileage leaving too many Benjamins in the wallet? Fear not, there are plenty of other ways to spend on vintage American gas-guzzling iron--from $400 hood scoops to $2 million on an original 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda.

Even if the car isn’t cool, an aluminum spoiler (only $99!) can be bolted to any trunk, and sticker decals can be added to distract from obvious deficiencies like mismatched paint and leaking oil. This all goes to show that no matter the vehicle, there are numerous foolish ways to empty a savings account.

The Bottom Line

Bottom Line: In 1925, a Model T cost about $360, which converts to $4,376 in today’s dollars. Learning a lesson from Henry Ford and sticking to the basic model won’t boost the ego as much, but the budget won’t be busted either.


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