Car Culture & Entertainment

The Crystal Ball: 10 Automotive Aftermarket Trends on the Horizon

In honor of the 10th anniversary of OnAllCylinders, we’re asking some of our regular contributors to write a few stories on the automotive industry. First up is Wayne Scraba and his thoughts on the future of automotive performance.

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The automotive world is changing at warp speed. No secret I’m sure. But in concert with the regular automotive biz is our little corner of the garage. The high performance aftermarket has evolved rapidly and we’re seeing trends pop up seemingly overnight. Some disappear as quickly as they arrive. Others tend to stick. Some of those trends evolve while others morph into things you’d never recognize. The internet could very well be responsible for this speed of change.

I’ve been tasked with trying to figure out where we’re headed. As a result, you’ll see this through my lens. Honestly, I certainly do not have experience from all angles of the industry. But what I’ll do here is provide you with a snapshot of where I think the automotive performance aftermarket (aka “Hot Rodding”) is headed.

10 Future Automotive Aftermarket Trends

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Summit Racing’s got its own hotrod Tesla. Learn about Project White Lightning here. (Image/Summit Racing)

10. More Electric Cars

More and more electric vehicles are on the way. How popular or widespread they will really become is beyond me. I believe the limiting factor with electric propulsion will be the mechanics. Electric motors require some safety precautions many of us are very unfamiliar with and if you get it wrong, you may need more than a bandage from your garage first aid kit. I suspect the initial mods will center around suspension, brakes, and tires. And you might find quite bit of performance in weight reduction too (although battery weight could very well prove to be the limiting factor).

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I see traditional sanctioned drag racing continue to evolve. We’re sure to see more and more heads up racing, more “fastest street car” racing, more street car racing, more no prep, and more drag-and-drive type events. When these alternatives first burst on the scene, few gave them a chance of survival. Now they’re only getting larger. (Image/Jim Greenleaf)

9. A Transition in of Sanctioned Drag Racing

This is a fascinating topic for me, because I started out my career decades ago as a freelance writer for Super Stock & Drag Illustrated. I really dig class racing, but I think you’ll eventually see sanctioned drag racing (as we know it) go through a transition. That doesn’t mean drag racing is dead. Far from it. I think what you’ll see is the fans and drivers migrate to more and more heads up racing events, more No Prep, more Grudge Racing, and more street legal heads up racing. Those events are already here. They’ll just grow exponentially.

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To combat rising fuel costs, I can see internal combustion engines getting smaller (displacement), more efficient, and even making more power. Case-in-point is the new 500+ HP Hurricane 3.0L inline six from Stellantis. (Image/Stellantis)

8. More Efficient Powertrains

While I personally have a brute force carbureted street car, I believe the direction will eventually shift toward very sophisticated setups that make more power and have more tractability on the street (we can see this already). We’ll see more and more high power, smaller displacement engines. Boosted engines and EFI will obviously be the hallmarks. We’ll also see better and better transmission choices (perhaps more compact). We might even see cost reductions on sequential shift examples and “manumatic” (dual clutch semi-automatic) transmissions.

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Piston-Powered-Auto-Rama-Rat-Rod
While we’ll continue to build rat rods, I can see them becoming more sophisticated with great engineering and fabulous fabrication techniques—without losing that “unfinished” look. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

7. Better Executed Rat Rods

I think these will morph into something similar to high end cars, but without the high dollar paint jobs and interiors. There are many of these vehicles out there now and I can see this trend evolve and simply getting better. The lack of trick paint and an expensive interior really allows one to use the car: Gravel road? Greasy blue jeans? Who cares? Not only does it save considerable costs, it cranks up the fun meter to full volume. To me at least, I have a burning desire to build one.

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Read more about Matt Maier’s awesome overlanding rig here. (Image/Matt Maier)

6. An Evolution of Overlanding

I can see off-roading and adventure travel increasing in popularity. There’s a big world out there for us to explore and what better way to do than to build your own dedicated adventure rig—one that reaches all of the performance goals necessary to get the job done and simultaneously pushes all of your buttons. I also see this evolving into something that truly integrates the interest of overlanding with dirt bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles. For me at least, the fun factor would be pretty high.

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How do you stuff an LS6 into a Lotus Europa? Find out here. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

5. More Daring, More Different

I can see things like mid-engine, LS powered imports, along with other radical swaps involving modern power and off-the-wall cars. A good example is the Hellcat-powered Prius the folks from American Racing Headers built a few years ago. And what about all the EV drivetrain conversions, like Hot Rod’s recent transformation of Project X? It definitely rattled a lot of senses and I think a cleverly engineered, off-the-chain project could be a lot of fun.

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Meet “Old Smokey,” a 1,200-horsepower, Cummins-powered 1949 Ford F-100. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

4. Increased Diesel Performance.

This is no brainer. The heartland of North America is filled with diesel pickup trucks. Diesel engines have picked up steam over the past few years and the diesel performance parts aftermarket continues to grow. Used trucks are plentiful and there are all kinds of powertrains available from wreckers and even rebuilt diesel crate engines you can buy online. You might even want to consider mixing and matching some of the other ideas (above and below) to build a spark plug-free hot rod.

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Though big wheels and tweaked bodywork may be de rigueur, I believe some restomods will morph into much more stock appearing cars. Folks like you are certainly clever enough to seamlessly integrate modern conveniences into old cars without changing the look and the flavor. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

3. Renewed Interest in Restomods

Yes, they’ve been here for a long time but in many cases, today’s restomods also tend to incorporate a huge amount of bodywork coupled with sometimes extravagant custom interiors and slicked out engine compartments. I can see a trend emerging where the cars will appear much, much closer to stock but feature seamless integration of modern conveniences. Ponder a very stock appearing Mustang Boss 429 clone powered by a new blown, intercooled GT500 engine. Not inexpensive, but it would surely get your pulse racing.

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Ripp noticed some performance anomalies in stock Pentastar coils. So, it decided to make better ones. (Image/Ripp Superchargers)

2. More Aftermarket Performance Product Depth

Today, many aftermarket companies are being swallowed up by huge corporations. No secret. But I see opportunity for smaller companies that can efficiently zoom in on specialized parts. They’d fill voids missed by the big performance conglomerates or they’ll take on those big corporations head on with better built, ingenious components. Basically, I see the rise of a cottage industry in the high performance aftermarket.

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Print media will continue its fusion with digital media. This may be the future for books too. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

1. Increased Digital Media

Print magazines continue to shift their focus online. No surprise to anyone I’m sure. When it comes to digital info, short tech articles tend to be the most popular. They’re quick and easy to read. But as a tech writer, I really believe there will be a need for more in-depth comprehensive articles. I can see multiple photos and videos mixed in with the printed word to create these articles. This is something you obviously cannot accomplish with print.

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And that’s it. That’s my personal take of where we are headed. And from what I can tell, there are some exciting things coming down the road soon.

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