Since their invention, cars have always been subject to aftermarket modification. Both moderate and radical modification have been commemorated in the popular songs Hot Rod Race and Hot Rod Lincoln. The names of Abarth and Cooper appear on models styled after the cars they modified. With support from Ford, renowned engine manufacturer Cosworth went from modifying English Flathead engines for Lotus Sevens to dominating Formula One racing.
In the 1970s and 1980s, many Japanese performance cars were never exported outside the Japanese domestic market. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, grey import vehicles of Japanese performance cars, such as the Nissan Skyline, began to be privately imported into Western Europe and North America. In the United States, this was in direct contrast to domestic car production around the same time, where there was a very small performance aftermarket for domestic compact and economy cars; the focus was instead on sports cars or muscle cars such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette.
Because of their light weight and the increasing availability of inexpensive tuning equipment, tuned economy and compact cars exhibit high performance at a low cost in comparison to dedicated sports cars. As professional sporting and racing with such vehicles increased, so did recreational use of these vehicles. Drivers with little or no automotive, mechanical, or racing experience would modify their vehicles to emulate the more impressive versions of racing vehicles, with mixed results.