On 300 acres of land, Ramapo's small campus fits easily within its borders; the quiet roads and parking lots are rarely a topic of thought. Sometimes, however, there is something that stands out. Sometimes it is a striking engine howl, or just a car that is not quite familiar. Often, these are examples of modified car culture at Ramapo.
Car modifications are not a local phenomenon: They have been around since the automobile itself. Any car can be modified with some ingenuity and aftermarket parts, but the term generally applies to vehicles that never rolled out of the dealership with flashy accessories, like Mercedes, Maseratis, or Porsches. They are more often the "regular cars" like Volkswagen and Ford in the case of Ramapo's modded car enthusiasts.
Sam Shevelove, Brandon Baskett and Kevin Costantino are three resident modded car owners. Shevelove and Baskett drive Volkwagen GLIs. Shevelove’s is lowered with swapped wheels and a processor, which tunes the engine for higher performance. Baskett's GLI has swapped wheels and a processor upgrade as well. In addition, it sits on a pneumatic suspension which allows for adjustable ride height. Costantino's Ford Focus ST also sits on air suspension and new wheels with some additional custom components under the hood.
None of these vehicles appear to be "standard" when seen or heard, as each driver has made his distinct impression on the car.
When asked about modded car culture, Baskett replied, "In general, the culture is like a brotherhood. I've met a lot of good friends through my car and bettered myself through contacts I've made in the car world."
Costatino added, "It's about getting to know people who have the same love of cars."
For those that do not share the same love and knowledge of cars, suspension and engine control processors may be daunting; however, not all car modifications are engineered for performance and many drivers prefer automotive aesthetics.
In response to modded car culture, Katrina Biss, junior, said, "It's all about individual preference. If you like your car and you think that it expresses you, then, just like clothing, you should mod it." Transportation may be as much a symbol of the user as anything he or she says, wears, or eats. At a liberal arts college, perhaps one is more likely to question the homogeneous tastes of Honda, Toyota, or Nissan.
Joe Oliveri finds some middle ground between performance and style, suggesting, "If you were to park your car and not look back at least once, it's not worth having. Most cars are too similar. Some modifications, however simple, make things just a little fresher."
Nearly half of the 6,000 students are commuters driving scenic Routes 202 and 287 every week. Being dependent on nearby towns and bounteous Route 17, the remaining campus residents may find themselves driving to local stores and restaurants daily. In a community where automotive travel is integral to daily life, the question that is posed is: Why not drive a car that fits your individual specification?