We're a breed of people who are always looking to make something better. Massive gains, marginal gains, look better (even if we're the only ones who see it), corner better, etc... This means looking to solutions that help us achieve the goal. Usually, this entails many hours spent researching, talking to people on social media, chatting with people who we know and trying new ways to get the info that we want and validation that the decision we are going to make is "the best solution" to a problem. This is a lot of work, a lot of time and it uses valuable resources.
Finally, that decision is made and the new shiny solution shows up. Happy days are ahead as the postman drops off your package. You take the time to install and make sure everything is set up exactly as you envisioned it. Everything is wonderful. Then company x brings out a part that is marginally better in one way or another. Frustration and hand-wringing ensue. Usually, a little bit of self butt kicking as well because now you aren't sporting "the best" part available. You know and understand that this new shiny part doesn't devalue what you currently have but you gotta have the new "precious." So, you start the entire process over again and get caught in the upgrade cycle. It's worked well for computers, cell phones, and just about any other product type that has ever been introduced in the last 100 years. But, at this point, are the gains worth it in the long run versus just sticking with your decision?
My belief is that you do not discount all of your work in conducting research, seeking opinions, and buying the piece. Use the part to it's fullest extent until you absolutely need to upgrade the thing. If you are at the point in competition where you absolutely believe that adding a 1% change to the car will help you win, go for it. But don't discount all of your work and hard earned cash just to say you have something better.
My personal experience has been this. Often we find ourselves buying a part out of impatience. We simply cannot wait for something that will serve its purpose well, or we have the insatiable itch to modify *something* no matter what it is. This was me with my first Subaru. I wanted a cold-air-intake for my 2004 Outback Sportwagon. I bought the first item I saw on eBay that matched the description only to find that I had no idea what I was doing when it showed up. The "kit" contained several pieces of long and bent piping of which I stared at blankly. Ultimately, it sat in a corner of my garage until I sold the car. I had wasted $150 on a part that never saw installation.
As both a parts-buyer and now a parts-maker, it makes MUCH more sense for me to spend the extra time researching exactly how the part I'm looking at will benefit the performance threshold of the car. Consider something like a suspension upgrade, be it a coilover kit, an anti-sway bar, or a new set of springs. One of the biggest factors for most people is going to be cost, as it should be. However, most of us, myself included, often factor cost into the equation as a short-term variable instead of a long-term variable. If I buy a spring with a rate that is outside the valving of my current damper, I will inevitably shorten the life of the damper by a considerable margin. I'll have to replace the damper sooner than expected, and that costs additional money. Many times, we end up spending the same amount or more on "fixes" because we didn't want to pair parts with their correct counterparts as we would have picking up the right piece in the first place. From personal experience, this is extremely frustrating, and sometimes it can be hard to learn from. The itch to modify is a strong urge.
My parting words for this week are these. Buy the parts that make you happy, BUT be smart about the purchase. Think about the cost factor as a long-term variable. Understand that a decent percentage of the part description on a manufacturer's website can be marketing verbiage. Glean information from people who are knowledgeable and have experience with the specific parts you're considering as well as comparable parts. It's always good to have options. If you're deadset on a particular part, that's certainly ok. It's also ok to explore other options.
Until next week - Luke
This week's car belongs to Nathan Grodowitz. Take a look at his build progress here @sti_hacker on Instagram.
Photo credit goes to Jon Seaton, a professional photographer who also participates in rally; check out his work @dashncars on Instagram.