Just What is Fast & Furious This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Twin T66 turbochargers hissing, rubberburning, strobe lights flashing - these are the sights and sounds of thestreet racing and auto tuning culture. Commuters see these peoplespeeding by with their obnoxious mufflers and wonder why anyone wouldwant to deface a car, or why they must drive so fast and blast theirmusic. The street racing phenomenon has existed since cars wereinvented, but has recently been invigorated by such movies as “TheFast and The Furious” and “The Last Race.”

Soexactly why do people spend up to $40,000 to customize their vehicles?Why do people need at least 400 - sometimes over 1,000 - horsepowerunder the hood? The answer is simple: speed and individuality.

Tuners (people who customize their cars) spend thousands ofdollars to trick out their cars with anything from nitrous oxide systems(NOS) and extreme aerodynamic bumpers to seismic sound systems that cancrack glass. Typically, sport compacts are used for these custommachines.

Racers try to make their cars as visually appealing aspossible yet keep them blazing fast. For looks, some install aerodynamicbody kits, large custom wheels, trick aluminum spoilers and neon accentlights.

Looks are one thing, but the main focus is speed. With alarge assortment of aftermarket goods available, most tuners installhigh-flow (therefore loud) exhaust systems and cold-air inductionsystems that move denser air into the engine to produce more horsepower.More experienced racers install turbocharger, supercharger and nitroussetups in their vehicles. Turbochargers and superchargers workby compressing the air that comes into the engine, thereby creating“boost.”

When this air is pressurized, the blastfrom combustion in the piston is intense, creating enormous power.Turbocharger systems do this by installing a turbine onto the exhaustmanifold and using the exhaust fumes to spin the turbine as fast as100,000 rotations per minute (rpm). A supercharger setup worksessentially the same way, except that the turbine is driven by beltsrather than exhaust fumes.

Nitrous setups can be the cheapestway to add power to an engine, but they are also the most dangerous andunpredictable. An NO2 system works by injecting nitrous oxide gas intothe intake manifold. This gas is extremely cold and very flammable. Whenshot into an engine, the nitrous-air mixture makes the combustion offuel in the piston much more complete, creating more power for theracer.

The question these days isn’t how fast can you makeyour car, it’s how much money do you want to spend? Anyrun-of-the-mill Honda Civic can be faster than exotic supercars, likeFerraris, through performance upgrades. These cars can blast from 0-60miles per hour in about four seconds if tuned properly. Typicalaftermarket turbo-charger and supercharger systems can cost well over$5,000, plus another thousand for proper installation andtuning.

Why put so much money into these cars? To show off and torace others. Amateurs do it for bragging rights, while professionalsplace high bets. Ultimately, street racing is about the love of speed.There are few rushes in the world that can rival it in terms of dangerand excitement. Races can be organized in industrial parks or otherplaces with few people. Drivers usually go to the races separately inthe middle of the night to deter police suspicion.

Many vehiclesshow up at the meets. Although some race, others are just show cars,focused more on individuality and exterior and interior details than onspeed. Lots of reckless and showy driving occurs. Drifting is a popularexhibition event where racers turn and lock their rear wheels using theparking brake at extremely high speeds. This spins the car into a drift- a slide. The rear slides in front during the turn. When the turn iscomplete, the racer releases the parking brake and the car gets backinto position and drives away.

The smell of burning rubber andhigh-octane gasoline is intense. Racing typically lasts until the policestop it. It seems that cops should have more important jobs to do thanimpound cars and hand out tickets to suspected street racers. The finesand penalties are intense, yet there is still a desire to keepracing.

Street racers want to go faster and drive harder.Although it has roots in the United States, starting with kids pushingtheir dads’ Model T’s to the limit (about 30 m.p.h.) andcontinuing through the muscle car movement of the 1960s, the recentrevival of street racing has lots of Japanese roots. Today’spreferred street-racing cars are the Toyota Supra and Mitsubishi LancerEvolution. When these cars arrived from Japan, so did the culture, whichis typically more embraced by ethnic minorities. The next time you seeone of these tricked-out autos driving around, hopefully you will havemore of an understanding of what the auto tuning and street racingculture is all about.



Editor’s Note: Jazzing upcars is one thing, but street racing, while glorified in pop culture, isillegal and dangerous. Speed kills, so stick to the limit.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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