The Rise Of Modified Car Culture In China


Last month, China’s annual GT Show returned to the Suzhou International Expo Centre in the city of Suzhou, west of Shanghai.

There aren’t too many opportunities to indulge in Chinese modified car culture at such a large scale, but since this was my first visit to the GT Show, to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’ve been, it’s safe to say my mind was blown.

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For those who may not be aware, China has strict regulations when it comes to modifying vehicles. Even adding something as simple as a spoiler can be considered illegal. However, many enthusiasts still strive to showcase their creativity, and that was something reflected in the sheer variety of customisation on show.

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Given the country’s hard economic times back in the 1980s and ’90s, you don’t see many special cars from this era on the road in China. There are obviously some around though, and the GT Show brought out the best.

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I counted no less that five RAUH-Welt Begriff creations at the event, each with its own unique look.

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I couldn’t decided which RWB livery I liked best – the classic Rothmans-inspired one, or this distinctive red and white stripe scheme, which pays homage to the iconic 917 Le Mans race car.

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But sometimes, the clean look is appealing.

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The fifth car featured a classic Porsche 917/20 Pink Pig-inspired livery – but it didn’t stop there. The design was also used on a custom pair of RWB shoes, and a truck too.

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We’ve all seen those awesome CG renders of RWB-inspired old school Volkswagen Beetles, but here’s one that has been brought to life.

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I wondered why so many people were crowded around the engine bay of this crazy Suzuki Alto…

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But seeing the kei car from the front, it all made sense. Yes, that is a Mercedes-Benz V12.

Stance style is quite popular in China, with late-model base cars the choice of most modifiers. The wide-body Tesla Model 3 was receiving a lot of attention.

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Chinese enthusiasts are greatly influenced by the Japanese modifying scene, and that extends to bippu (VIP) style.

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Speaking of Japanese car culture, this shiny truck modified in a mild dekotora style is definitely worth a mention. It’s a promotional tool for the drink brand 1087X. Interestingly, ‘1087’ is the Chinese police code number for an illegally modified vehicle.

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I call this one, The Chinese Job.

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The GT Show primarily focuses on modified cars, but supercars get a look in too. During my visit, I spotted a Mercedes-Benz SLS, McLaren P1 with a GTR kit, a Lamborghini Aventador with a Liberty Walk kit, and a Ferrari FF. There was also a McLaren Senna with an eye-catching wrap, but unfortunately it had left the show before I arrived.

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Perhaps an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 race car is more to your liking.

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The lifted safari-style Porsche 986 was a unique concept that attracted plenty of attention, but it wasn’t the only off-road build at the show. There were numerous Jeep Rubicons and Gladiators, as well as Ford Raptors present, showing the rising popularity of this segment in China.

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The GT Show gave me a taste of the diverse and fast-growing Chinese car culture. Despite the legal restrictions on modified cars, enthusiasts remain committed to advocating for their legalization and demonstrating their rebellious spirit. Watch this space.

Eric Gwei
Instagram: ericgwei05

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