Call it a hobby, a lifestyle, or a disease, but I am one of those people who are compelled to modify everything. My cars, my house, my clothing; everything has a personalized touch.
My 2008 Volvo C30 is no exception. After eight years of ownership, it has become the most extensively modified object that I own.
There are modifications that improve performance and handling.
There are modifications that enhance the cosmetic appearance, in my eyes.
There are modifications which have improved the efficiency and reliability.
Some of these mods were for fun, some were out of necessity, and some were such a headache that I deeply regret doing them.
Trailing from these experiences, and having owned seven P1 Volvos to date, I uploaded a video discussing the top ten modifications that P1 Volvo owners should do first. While I still stand by this list as being the top ten modifications for the platform, that does not necessarily make them my top ten favorite modifications.
My top ten favorite mods, no matter how pointless, money-wasting, or silly, are what brought me the most enjoyment out of P1 Volvo ownership.
10. Cone Filter Intake
It has been proven time and time again that the factory airbox is more than sufficient for any builds which retain the stock K04 turbo. Of course the intake pipe should be upgraded to minimize restriction and you will also want a high flow panel filter, but the stock air box is a well engineered hunk of plastic. Contrary to aftermarket statements, the stock airbox is a true cold air intake, remaining fully sealed off from the engine bay.
But this data-backed reasoning does not stop us enthusiasts from slapping in a cone filter.
Despite the proof that it is less efficient, the cone filter intake still ranks within my top ten favorite modifications. The greatest benefit is the ease of access that it provides to the oil filter and clutch bleeder valve. It also cleans up the appearance of the engine bay. But the real reason I love it is for the loud spooling induction noises that I can now hear every time I step on the gas pedal.
9. Race Mode Switch
Volvos are known for their overbearing driving assist nannies which cannot be fully turned off… At least not without a little modification.
Installing a switch to temporarily cut power to the yaw sensor completely disables all traction control while still retaining a functioning antilock braking system.
You never truly realize just how intrusive the traction control system is, even when it is turned “off,” until you have driven with it completely disabled.
This little race mode switch may be the cheapest modification on this list, costing me a whopping $3, but it allowed for my lap times to be seconds faster. Without the computer constantly butting in, the general feel and predictability of car control is improved, easily making this one of my favorite modifications.
8. Boost Gauge
I am a sucker for a bunch of functional gauges that provide live readouts. Installing a boost gauge in my car quickly became one of my favorite modifications, purely for the in-car entertainment that it provides. With every adjustment of the throttle, the boost gauge needle sweeps between vacuum and boost.
It’s fun to watch, it’s important for monitoring the health of my vacuum system, and my inner child enjoys seeing a dial that says “BOOST” on it.
7. Upper Rear Chassis Brace
While just a straight piece of metal spanning between the rear shoulders of the car may not seem like much on paper, it stiffens the cylindrical body to minimize flex and improve the handling through turns.
The reason this chassis brace made my top ten favorites list, and the ever-praised upgraded rear sway bar from my top ten suggestions list did not, is because I feel that both bars make an equal improvement to the handling of the car. However, I can compensate my driving style to make due with the factory rear sway bar. The upper rear chassis brace provided me with a sense of confidence in my C30 that I was missing from my S40, which structurally did not need such a brace.
Also, the exposed tubing in the interior provides a visual clue that this is more than just a standard road car. It may only be a single bar, but it still looks like the start to some roll cage bracing, which to me is cool.
6. The Wing
This is probably one of the internet’s most hated modifications on my car, but it is one of my favorites.
I love a nice wing. Not a plastic ebay special that flexes and flaps in the wind, but a true piece of engineered aero for enhancing the downforce at speed.
Even on a front wheel drive car, adding downforce to the rear improves stability through high speed corners.
This carbon fiber Porsche GT4 wing on my C30 is one of my favorite modifications. It gets looks, it’s a conversation starter, and it satisfies all of my boy racer dreams. It’s also functional.
The Sparco racing seats are easily in my top five favorite modifications to my car. They are comfortable and supportive for someone my size. They give my interior that racecar look. But most importantly, they hold me in place, allowing me to feel how the car reacts to the road and focus on my driver inputs without the need to brace myself through the corners.
I’m a firm believer that while seats will not save seconds off lap times, they will improve you as a driver and help you stay focused and in control of your car.
I have come full circle in my journey of modifying exhaust systems on cars. On my first car, a simple resonator delete was sufficient for adding a nice little grumble that would catch the ear of true car enthusiasts without annoying the neighbors.
Then I wanted everything to be loud and straight piped. Terrible idle sound, horrible drone, loss of low end torque. This was a mistake.
In the last few years, I have finally matured to the point where I strongly dislike the sound of a loud exhaust. I like the sound of performance, which is understandably louder than stock but should not be mind numbingly loud.
The full 3” stainless steel exhaust that I built for my C30 has a sound that I love, providing a symphony of turbo five cylinder goodness. It’s definitely not a quiet car, but it’s not obnoxiously loud either. It’s enough to make me smile from ear to ear every time I hear it and the improved performance is an added benefit.
Some cars look perfectly reasonable at stock ride height. The fender gap on a stock C30 looks like its up on stilts, which is absolutely ridiculous and ruins the otherwise sporty hatchback stance.
While I cannot recommend the H&R coilovers that I am currently using, they were one of the only options at the time of purchase and I have been satisfied with their performance. The ride quality is reasonable, the ride height is much improved, and the adjustability has allowed me to explore over the years with something that was stock ride height, something that was slammed less than two inches from the ground, and now something that has lowered my center of gravity as far as possible without sacrificing proper suspension travel and reasonable ground clearance.
The improvement in both handling and looks is why this has ranked so highly on my top ten list for the C30.
2.Wheels and Tires
Wheels alone can transform the appearance of a car. I’m known for going a bit crazy with cosmetics and vinyl wrap, but a nice set of wheels are always my starting point for something that looks good and improves handling.
The tires wrapped around those wheels are arguably the best modification that you can do to any car. Sticky tires will improve lap times more than anything else, which is why they rank number two on my list of modifications.
1. Performance Optimization Software Tuning
The number one modification that I have performed to my C30 has been a custom “Stage 3” tune.
Tuning is the best bang for your buck on these Volvos. Paired with a few bolt ons, you can easily add 100 wheel horsepower and 100 additional foot pounds of torque.
But tuning goes beyond just adding power. More boost and better throttle response completely change the power delivery. It enhances the car and enhances the driving experience.
Of all the modifications I have ever installed, a software tune was the only upgrade that genuinely surprised me with how big of an improvement that it made. I will never forget that first drive in a tuned P1… Getting forced back into my seat unlike ever before… Chirping the tires with every gear change… If I could only do one modification to my C30, it would be a tune.
The all wheel drive swap has been another one of my favorite modifications, see it here!!! Being a full drivetrain swap, which realistically requires a full donor car, makes it a bit more involved than just a simple modification. The Haldex all wheel drive system was also a stock option for the S40s and V50s, which is why I have elected to leave it off of my main top ten list. But owning the 7th all wheel drive converted C30 in the world is something that I am very proud of.