Can aftermarket/custom be comparable in quality to stock?

Hi everyone. Despite being in early 30s, I’m only just gaining the ability to drive and own a car. It’s a long and sad story, but it is what it is.

Recently I’ve grieved quite a bit the Dodge decision to end V8. I’ve always admired muscle, was celebrating their return in the late 2000s and hoped that I’ll get a chance to order a new Charger when I’ll get to the point I can, exactly in the factory color I want in the trim I want. Now it looks I’ve missed that train. Of course it’s not the only kind of cars I’m passionate about but let’s take it as an example.

I know that it’s technically not impossible to buy a used one and repaint and modify to my preference, but my experience and knowledge of aftermarket mods is limited, mostly to movies like F&F, haphazard mods by young admirers and my stay in Istanbul where they just love to modify vehicles. What I’ve seen some cheap plush with a lot of bling, or just stripping the car from everything except most essential parts. I’ve also seen “Pimp My Ride” debunk/after years videos, so I’m quite disillusioned even about professionals. I’ve used limo services that mostly offered Maybachs and such, no older than 4-5 years, so that’s what quality associated with for me.

Straight to the questions, let’s consider a theoretical situation, with buying a used car from between 2005-2018. Would it be possible, with enough money, to repaint it and/or replace the upholstery so the car doesn’t end up worse than it was? It may be a silly comparison but there’s a reason you build a Lego set in the exactly defined order, and modifying a car in my understanding means breaking that order, including things screwed on to a wrong torque ending up bending the panels or leaving nuts or bolts to loosen on their own, getting seat rails bended to remove the seats, etc. Also repainting concerns me very much as well, because the only way to remove the old paint is to sand it off, which means removing a layer of metal, adding scratches etc, so the structural integrity would be compromised. I also tried to look up if high quality audio exist, but it looks say Bose offers only factory options, and I’m not sure if an aftermarket audio can be compared to high quality factory.

I’ve recently learned that say Brabus buys not even “build kits” but finished cars and rebuilds them, but do shops like that, with comparable quality and attentiveness, exist for other brands? And do they offer solutions that don’t have tradeoffs, like “better audio quality but no wheel controls working” or seats that look like a part of interior, not something put in and standing out?

Sorry for probably very naïve language and thanks for your input.

no metal is removed with sanding. they might have to replace a whole panel if the rust is too bad to repair. slight micro scratches are covered with a skim coat of a bondo or like. then primed, painted and buffed.
with enough money you can have any vehicle rebuild to your liking.
there are plenty of aftermarket stereo systems that are better than stock stereo systems.


If you’re wanting to change the car’s color, I’d consider a ‘wrap’ instead. It’s reversible, and doesn’t have near the work required. A true color change is a HUGE amount of work.

Younger people tend to see a car/truck as an extension of themselves, part of their identity. Some people spend an astounding amount of money to “upgrade” their vehicles, generally in a futile effort to impress strangers.

As we get older, we should have other priorities in life aside from useless spoilers, mud tires, LED light bars, and brightly colored tow hooks. Results and timing may vary, though.

All that to say…if you’re already in your 30s, surely you have something else to worry about than customizing a muscle car to some image you imagined in your 20s.

I fully realize there’s an entire industry out there for older/retired people wanting a resto-mod '57 Chevy and that sort of thing. But a lot of those folks have already made it through the “fires” of life and are fully able to indulge in a desired car. And that’s fine. I just hate it when I see a younger person spending a ton of money on a car, of all things, when he/she ought to have other priorities. Like a reliable, decent stock car to get back and forth to work.

But to each his own.

Given sufficient cash, a skilled shop can repaint or reupholster a car so that it looks as good as new.

Then, there is the question of whether that type of outlay of cash would make sense with a 17 year old luxury car that would likely be in need of very expensive repairs in the near future. Hopefully the OP would have any finalists for purchase fully vetted by a mechanic of his choice, prior to purchase.

The quality of aftermarket work is a function of money. You can get better-than-factory paint jobs with skilled body shops. You can get Maybach quality and better upholstery from high end custom shops. You can get nearly ANY changes you might desire with enough money. It is a bit of a minefield because you need to know and trust the quality of work the shop does. If they have built a fancier car than you want and it turned out well, that is a good sign.

Ignore F&F and Pimp My Ride, these are Hollywood jokes, as you determined.

US based customizers like Icon, Kindig Designs, or Foose can do most anything you desire. German Porsche customizers like RUF, Gemballa or Singer can make an older car nicer and faster than any modern Porsche. Mercedes has Brabus.

Remember, custom work is VERY expensive.


Yes, quality custom work is possible but not cheap as mentioned. Low-quality aftermarket crap is unfortunately everywhere and can ruin a car. Look at some of the cheaply done ricers/tuners with ruined suspension with camber, etc. This video pretty much takes the cake for how you can ruin a car with poorly done mods. Stanced Civic Struggles to Exit Driveway - Honda-Tech

There are V6 engines that give a lot of power and many inline Turbo 4 cylinders that can really perform . I think you are in Argentina and I don’t think this Forum has a regular member . It might be best to buy something you like at a low price at first . Then after you have driven for a while your wants might change a lot.

The amount of money spent by some younger guys on modifications that they think will make them look “cool”, or… whatever… is almost always a pursuit of attention from the wrong kind of people. Over the decades, I have seen a lot of younger guys spend more money than they should on “upgrading” the appearance of old cars that are ready for retirement, and instead of focusing on needed maintenance and repairs, they waste their money by festooning their car with questionable accessories.

I see a whole lot of “modified” cars/trucks on the ide of the road, with either hoods up or flat tires…


… but they have really impressive paint jobs and/or very expensive aftermarket wheels, plus VERY loud mufflers… when their engines actually run…


On a… supposedly… adult level, I know a guy who goes into hock to lease a new Caddy every 2 or 3 years because “It really impresses the doorman at the casino”, and this type of purchasing decision is not very much different in the long run–i.e.–people spending money that they don’t actually have, in order to impress people with whom they shouldn’t be concerned.

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The best thing to do here is to make a list of desirable models and the factory paint colors that you like. Then do a nation wide search for vehicle that is on your list. This will save you an expensive paint job.

You may have to repeat the search weekly for many months before finding a candidate. When you find one, then arrange to see it in person, but beware of Marketplace (facebook) and Craigslist as criminals will arrange meetings just to rob you and sometimes even commit murder. It is best to meet in a police parking lot.

Have the car checked by a mechanic is a good idea but may not be practical in a strange area. If you desire a different engine, crate engines are available. Complete HP engines and transmissions are available from trusted sources like Summit Racing. If you upgrade the HP significantly, you will need a corresponding suspension and tire and wheel package. In extreme cases you might even need a frame upgrade.

Finding a good shop is critical for success though, so start there before looking for the vehicle.

Edit: go to and look at some of the projects they have done. You will learn a lot about what is involved and what options are available.


In most cases it is better to buy a muscle car that is already done. if you build your own or have it built, you will never get all the money back that you have put into it. it will be a lot cheaper to get one already done and then put your personal touches to it.


I expect what you want to achieve is definitely do-able. Suggest to watch a few episodes of tv show “Counting Cars” to get an idea of what’s possible for various budget schemes.

If that show isn’t aired by your local tv stations, a little Googling shows a DVD box set for the entirety of season 1 available for less than $10.

My goodness, so many answers. First of all, thanks for replies and for effectively a warm welcome. You guys are inspiring. Anyway.

Interesting, is the abrasive used just soft enough to remove only what isn’t metal? Mind I’m not an expert, not yet anyway, and I had an F in a semester for high school physics ones (long story).

I’m familiar with the wraps, well at least on paper/photos, and from what I’ve seen they look plasticky/toy-ish and that’s the opposite of the result I want to achieve. I want to be as far from giving out the “ricer” look as possible.

…None of which is nearly what I consider a “good style.”

You have no idea. But I was deprived from good things all my life, so yes, I will be catching up. A girl can live a little, ain’t I?

And by “look,” do you mean look or look, feel, and be durable as such?

I have some ideas but I definitely will be getting my cars after careful research and try to find someone who knows the particular model. That’s always a good thing. If anything, it’s finding negotiating points.

I remember about RUF now, but I was completely unfamiliar with the American ones. I need to do more research into that.

Passion isn’t rational :stuck_out_tongue: I understand, but I also want to touch what I was always admiring as well.

I’m moving to Canada early next year then to the States. Argentina is a temporary stay, for… reasons. I had to leave the country where I was born due to certain recent events… Sooner than I was planning anyway. It’s a really bad place and I’m glad to be out.

@keith Awesome explanation, thank you, I will definitely take a look.

Already done by who? That’s exactly the reason I’m grieving I won’t be able to order one from factory. I really hoped to at some point, but ICE are becoming a thing of the past, I do hope they’ll reemerge but… And I’m not driving an EV, it’s an easy mode car, even with all the performance provided. The only EV I ever respected is Teslonda, and I’m mildly interested in the new Charger concept.
Well, probably I’m being a little too pessimistic because I’ve learned that good things mostly do come back. BMW 8-series is back after all.

Thanks, I’ll take a look.

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Yep! I have noticed that as well. One that I particularly remember was one of the coal rolling diesels that can black out an entire neighborhood with thick nasty black smoke. These do not do that stock and this is illegal of course. My girlfriend and I were about to get on the highway and one of these passed us before the on ramp, leaving us in a cloud of smoke. She really hates these and says this means the owner has a small ****. Anyway, it took off down the entrance ramp, leaving thick black smoke behind. It took off and was gone.

We went a few miles down the road and there it was on the shoulder with smoke pouring out from all over. I am sure this wasn’t the kind of smoke they wanted but we were not too upset.

One of my buddies had one of these in his neighborhood. The owner would just sit there in park and floor it. Black smoke would just pour out and the thing was LOUD so he wasn’t real happy with the situation. The guy would just sit in his driveway and floor the truck in park. One day he was doing this and my friend was home. There was a loud bang, the sound of breaking metal, and the engine stopped. My friend went out later that night and could see a pool of oil and metal pieces under the truck. It sat there like that for about a month and then it was gone, never to return so my friend was quite happy.

just so you know you can still order an ICE 2023 charger or challenger starting in December. the ICE mustang will still be around for a few more years. I just ordered a 2022 widebody scat pack challenger, with a shaker hood and a 6-speed manual. with all the plant shutdowns because of parts shortages it is taking forever to be built. maybe they will push the 2023 into 2024 if the shortages and plant shutdowns keep continuing. so maybe there is a little hope for you to order one yet.

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Yeah, one can hope… I really do think we’ll see renaissance of ICE, at least in the enthusiast circles, maybe even hydrogen based.

Stay safe up there in Port Charlotte @weekend-warrior. Ian is headed closer to you than us. Keep your head down and feet dry!

If Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore is standing on your street corner with a microphone… might be time to head inland! :wink:


thank you. we should be good. it is a new home; the land is elevated, and we put on the metal window and sliding door shutters just in case.
I hope all goes ok with you too.