Opinion: Yes, My Car is an Elantra

Two Elantras too much for you? Not for me.


Hi. My name is Jahan Kalam, and I like Hyundai Elantras. Not the new ‘fluidic sculpture’ one, I’m referring to the older one. Yeah, that’s right. The one you have absolutely no idea about.

I’m sure that no matter who you are, a Hyundai Elantra of my generation does not spur the loins, at all. It does not evoke visions of grandeur, provoke you with either erotic beauty or purposeful grotesqueness, nor make you invoke Hail Marys due to sheer speed.

You could buy more exciting cars in the Philippines in the same class back in 1998. You could have bought a Honda Civic SiR that had an astonishing 160hp from 1600cc, or a Toyota Corolla with a TOMs turbo kit as a dealer option (!), or a Nissan Sentra GTS, which did not have more power than standard but had a great appearance package. The only sporty things about the Elantra were the bootlid spoiler and the leather gear stick gaiter. And that it won local production class circuit racing championships for two years.

But racing pedigree nor pretense didn’t matter to my father. All he cared about was that the car was cheap and it had a strong aircon. Did I mention cheap? So he bought one. He liked the rest of the car so much he bought another Elantra two years later. We still own both, a black and a white one, both 1.6L GLS M/T sedans.

When I used to alternately drive the both of them it drove people mad figuring out what color car I had, as if I wasn’t nuts already for driving them alternately just to drive people mad. Eventually I got to mess around with the black one. When I was growing up the underground street racing culture was thriving, and like every pubescent petrolhead I wanted a modified car like those in The Fast and The Furious, less the Motec exhaust.

Finding speed parts was tough. Chuck Norris tough. Hyundai wasn’t as popular then as it is today. No one quite knew what Elantras were. When people saw my black car, they thought it was a fake Honda with a butt lift. With only 2000 units officially sold, plus infinitesimal street cred, parts are understandably scarce in my country. It would be a retarded man indeed to soup up an Elantra. Uh huh, right here. Why? Because if you’d crunch what we’ve spent for mods alone it would outstrip the brand new purchase price of the car. Furthermore, it would also amount to five times the car’s current used market value!

But hey, despite fiscal irresponsibility, I can still lay claim that my Elantra has a 2.0L Beta engine purchased brand-spanking new over the Internet. It remains internally stock but is blown by a Garrett GT2871R ball bearing turbocharger bolted to it by a custom unequal-length exhaust manifold bought used from another nutjob like me who was parting out a sweet Coupe. The intercooler is a hand-me-down, the blow-off valve pilfered from the surplus yard. Engine management is done by an E-Manage Blue controlling two extra fuel injectors, a solution that I am not satisfied with. I can probably achieve optimal stoichiometry by pouring the damn fuel myself with a tabo.

Besides the engine stuff, the car features an international ensemble of performance parts like lowering springs from Korea, rear anti-roll bars from Malaysia, tires from Indonesia, wheels inspired by Japanese cutlery but made in the Philippines, limited slip differential and bucket seats from Britain, AGM battery from the USA, and uh, since I’m running out of parts and countries, gasoline from Arabia?

With all the go-fast stuff, it was going like the clappers. Operative use of ‘was’. That was before I decided I can do some work on the car all by myself. I’m no mechanic, but I can hold my own against many an enthusiast. For example, I can change my car’s shock absorbers, and I have laid the wiring for my relocated battery all by myself. But the one thing I cannot do, besides welding and engine rebuilding, is to overcome procrastination. So for the past several months my Elantra is on jackstands, obviously immobile and unable to scare the lights out of me.

But someday, I will get it back on its wheels. My vision for the car is for it to hold its own in amateur autocross/slalom/ gymkhana and circuit racing events, but not go so far as denigrate it to becoming a trailer queen. I’ll modify the engine internals, change the engine management setup, probably try to repair the coilovers I used for two years until the shocks wore out, and buy meself some better tires. And, for the ultimate modification, not be so damn lazy and do them all.

In the meantime, I’ll still be driving the white Elantra around. It may be due more to Stockholm Syndrome than anything else, but I like it very much. At least until I can upgrade to that new Elantra. Or commit myself to a mental institution.

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