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The Worst Mods on “Pimp My Ride”

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If you drive an old car that’s held together by bailing wire and prayers, you’ve probably fantasized about the day you could finally trade it in and upgrade to a nice, brand new car with modern amenities. At the very least you’ve probably dreamt of getting it to finally stop making that noise when it starts up. In the mid–2000s there was a whole TV show for people in this exact predicament. It was called “Pimp My Ride” and it took beat-up old cars and turned them into one-of-a-kind dream cars with fancy paint and new rims. Its host, Xzibit, would take the former junker and have it upgraded, leaving the contestant with a flashy, unique ride instead of one with a room-temperature bluebook value. 

Except the show had a penchant for upgrading these cars in ways that didn’t make much sense. Rather than take a car with tons of mechanical problems and a drab interior and make it into one that the contestant could drive for years to come, they spent seemingly the whole budget on eye-catching visual upgrades and state-of-the-art sound systems. The show’s creators seemed not to understand that cars were designed as transportation and not quasi-living spaces that needed to be stocked with plenty of food and entertainment at all times. Although it’s hard to say if the show pulled off even one worthwhile upgrade in its six-season stint, the following modifications were perhaps the very worst.

Mud Flap Screens

Jumping the shark was the starting point for this show, so it’s not really surprising that many of the so-called upgrades they made to contestants’ cars were pointless exercises in spending money. Pretty much every car that rolled through the “Pimp My Ride” Garage (West Coast Customs for seasons 1-4, Galpin Auto Sports for seasons 5-6) got LCD tv screens added to it. 

These could certainly have come in handy before the tablet era, when watching a movie in the backseat on a long car ride was still the height of luxury, but the mechanics behind the makeovers also liked putting them in places like the rear view mirror, and in one case, on the mud flaps of a contestant’s truck. Nevermind the fact that this was probably incredibly distracting for drivers behind the car in question, but at what point was he supposed to get out and watch stuff on his 7” mudflap screens, exactly? This was just a mile marker in a long highway of pointless mods in the show’s history.

Useless Food Stuff

There were some mods that pretty much came standard for every car on “Pimp My Ride,” including the previously mentioned LCD screens. These also tended to include body kits, new paint jobs, and sound systems. Then the team down at the garage also included a personal touch that was supposed to reflect the contestant’s personality or career somehow. On more than one occasion this just ended up being some kind of novelty food-maker. Apparently the mechanics responsible for these mods found the idea of plugging in food-related household appliances into cars really cool, because they would not stop doing it. Contestants received a popcorn maker, a sno-cone machine, a cotton candy maker, a coffee maker, and even a chocolate fountain. 

A lot of times they would put these in the trunk for some reason, so not only was the food-related appliance not usable while driving, it also occupied what had once been perfectly functioning storage space. Maybe these people had never had to move or travel with a large suitcase by car before. And don’t even get us started on spare tires. Let’s just hope the contestants practiced good hygiene with these machines and didn’t leave them sitting out full of chocolate and wet coffee grounds for days on end!


Speaking of things that need routine care, a couple of times the show’s brain trust decided it’d be a good idea to put pets inside the cars. One contestant received a terrarium and another received a fish tank. Since the garages that performed these makeovers were located in Southern California they might be forgiven for thinking that temperatures don’t fluctuate too much during the year, but you’d at least think they would know how hot the inside of a car can get during the height of summer. Maybe it’s just that they didn’t realize pets like snakes and fish need a stable temperature in order to survive. These mods go beyond useless and get to the point of just being unsafe.

Things That Weigh Too Much

The matter of safety brings us to the show’s biggest overall problem. None of the modifications made to the contestant’s cars at all addressed the way the cars ran. The entire premise was that contestants were getting their junked-out old cars overhauled so that they would be able to keep driving them without shelling out for a new one, right? But not once do we see the team of so-called mechanics working on the drivetrain or powertrain. These mods were never more than cosmetic, and contestants would routinely report their cars eventually breaking down after the show aired.

One reason for this might have been that all of these cosmetic changes significantly added to the car’s weight. On one occasion we see them adding a coffin which for some reason also contains a grill, and on another they add a small hot tub which, when filled, would conservatively weigh in at 3,000 pounds or so. If you’re unaware of the difference between curb weight (how much your car weighs without passengers and cargo) and gross vehicle weight rating (how much weight it is designed to operate carrying, including the curb weight), then here’s a crash course: a lot of vehicles can only take 800-1,000 or so pounds of extra weight beyond what they come out of the factory with. Adding huge, excessively heavy objects like these is a terrible idea, and at least one contestant mentioned that he had to drive extra slow to avoid damaging his suspension after his car had been modified—and his wasn’t even the one that had a hot tub added!

DeLorean Doors

The same contestant who had issues with his suspension after the show also shared  another dirty secret from the show: a lot of the modifications were just for the cameras. Seth Martino, who had his 1989 Nissan Maxima made over by the show, also said that the DeLorean-style gull doors that were installed on the back of his car had to be taken off once filming was over. The pistons that raised the doors prevented the backseat seat belts from functioning, meaning his car was not street legal (to say nothing of safety for passengers) with the doors in place.

It turns out, the show was guilty of adding these kinds of modifications routinely and had to remove many of its eye-catching installs for safety or legality issues. One contestant had a champagne chiller which was removed because of the obvious implications of drinking and driving, and another had AV equipment taken out to keep the car street legal. This would also have been the case with any cars that had exterior lighting added, such as the time the show’s mechanics added a “hip-hop siren” to the car of a contestant who worked as a nurse.

As much as most of these modifications were pointless, dangerous, wastes of money, and did nothing to actually improve the driveability of the cars, we can’t forget that the program did provide us with a good sense of what not to do to our own cars—although let’s face it, a center console champagne chiller is a pretty good idea.