Faster than the other guy
'Tuners' tweak cars, seek individuality in modification

By Daniel Silliman


He painted the car a bright, canary yellow.

Like a regular canary yellow wouldn't be bright enough -- this thing was going to attract attention.

When Danny Karr was 15, something like that, he and his stepfather bought a 1970s Volkswagen Fastback, and he still remembers that paint job.

That was the first one - the car that turned him into a "Tuner."

It was nine different colors and botched up with bondo when they bought it, but Karr fixed it up, modified it, loved it, and painted it that bold, bright, unavoidable color.

He took it to NOPI, a convention for modified cars, and he was hooked on the whole scene of Tuners. He loved the way each car was different, not just modified, but custom and individual -- unique.

He loved the mechanical challenges, the way these men, and boys (and occasionally women and girls), would take their technical skills and do all sorts of things to make cars go faster, perform better, and make them pretty-near perfect.

Eventually, he wrecked the Fastback, "broke the crankshaft in it, drag racing a Corvette," but that didn't damper his new lifestyle.

"It was one car after another, after that," said Karr, a 27-year-old Stockbridge man. "I've had a lot of cars. I've had cars all my life -- 17, 18 cars. I've tuned all of them."

Karr has two modified vehicles, at the moment. One, sitting on the side of his Stockbridge house, is a 1993 Eagle Talon sports coupe built by Chrysler and Mitsubishi. He's painted it "bronze-metallic-black." He's had it for about three and a half years, and has taken if from about 125 horsepower to 210.

It could go up to about 300 horsepower with the proper money poured in, and then it could run a quarter-mile drag race in something like seven seconds.

It needed a clutch and an interior when he bought it for $150, and he's spent about $5,000 redoing everything from the headlights to the gearshift; the intake to the exhaust; the oxygen/fuel mixture, to the all-wheel suspension.

"You put your money into technology, basically, and it's how much technology you put in that tells you how fast it's going to go," Karr said.

He's been thinking of selling this car, the Eagle Talon, but he's been thinking of buying cams, too, to get some more horsepower. He hasn't decided what he's going to do.

"I cranked it up to do a little tuning," he said, "adjust the idle. And of course, what happens with an old car? It jumped the timing. And when it jumps the time, it will bend up valves and stuff. So I don't know what I'm going to do."

His other car is sitting in the driveway. He had it washed yesterday, but they did something funny with the soap, and the black car's covered with water spots, so he's wiping it down.

"I think I'm going to keep this one for a while," he said. "It's still in the beginning stages. I haven't really tapped it out, yet."

The car's a 2008 Honda Civic Si. He said it's a 14-second car on the quarter-mile track.

So fa,r he's added a cold-air intake system, a Flowmaster exhaust, a 10-inch suspension, a "tornado" oxygen-fuel mixer and sticker saying: www.tunersunlimited.net.

Karr's been the vice president of Tuners Unlimited since it started almost four years ago.

The car club was founded in the Southern Crescent, with mostly Clayton County and Henry County Tuners who were tired of the tight rules of other car clubs, rules regulating how much money you had to spend, and what kind of car you could modify.

Beckie Smith, co-founder and group secretary, said they wanted it to be "unlimited" and "a place for friends, and people who truly enjoy working on cars, trucks, showing, racing, or hanging out."

Karr said the club's rules mostly have to do with keeping the club clean, keeping out people interested in drugs and street racing. They've had to kick out a few people, but pretty much have maintained their reputation for being about cars.

There's about 25 people in the club -- there have been as many as 70 -- spread from Tennessee to Northern Florida.

They get together once, or twice a month, and do charity shows and drag racing at area race tracks.

Next weekend, Aug. 9, they're doing a Show 'n' Shine at Hooters in Conyers, 1099 Iris Drive. Half of the proceeds will go to breast cancer awareness and stocking a food pantry at the Society of St. Vincent De Paul. They'll be every sort of modified car there, including trucks and motorcycles, hot rods and imported NOPI-style cars.

"Everybody does what they want," Karr said. "A lot of people like to just buy wheels and paint it, make it look good. It's about being different, being different from everybody else. That's probably the biggest draw to tuning. That and going faster than the other guy."


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