Performance Toppings
Factories offer premium menu for discerning tastes

By Jeffrey Fazio
Special Sections Writer

Like plain pizza? How about a topping or two? Some have to have it all - the supreme. Like a pizza, a new automobile has an overwhelming amount of options available to cater to individual tastes.

Pizzerias offer a plain slice and dealerships offer a base model. Just like the pizza shop, dealers offer a variety of pepperoni- and mushroom-style upgrades like stereo packages, wheel options and sometimes even a choice of engines.

But some folks want even more than what a fully-loaded new car can offer. They desire the pizza supreme. Although there are endless opportunities for vehicle modifications from aftermarket suppliers, some find a sense of security sticking with original manufacturer's parts, and for them there is an answer.

The answer is either factory-backed performance companies or a division of the parent company that focuses on performance. Auto makers such as BMW, Toyota, Mazda, Ford and Mercedes have answered this call for factory-based performance cars and parts.

This year BMW offers an M-version (M stands for Motorsports) of their 3- and 5-series vehicles, called the M3 and M5 respectively. Keith Rentschler of Dick Horrigan BMW, Shillington, explains that the M-versions are actually produced at a plant separate from the regular line of BMWs.

"The Ms are limited-production cars that use technology borrowed from the BMW race teams," Rentschler said.

This can easily be seen on BMW's Web site, , when comparing the regular 3-series Bimmer to its M counterpart. The standard 325i sedan uses a 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. In comparison, the M3 is powered by a six-cylinder engine that is nearly 30 percent larger and accelerates the car to 60 mph in a blistering 4.8 seconds.

Renstschler explained that in addition to a more powerful motor, the M-versions also feature larger brakes, upgraded suspension, wheels and different body styling.

"If performance is your primary buying interest, than the M-version is what you want to look at," said Rentschler. "The M is all-out, unadulterated performance."

Rentschler said Horrigan BMW does not increase the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of the limited-production M5. But he said it is not unheard of for California dealerships to add a $10,000 to $15,000 markup because of the high demand.

Toyota also offers a line of performance cars and parts. Kent Moyer, sales manager for Savage Toyota, Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, explained that Toyota Racing Development (TRD) originally was responsible for making performance parts for the trucks that Toyota sponsored in off-road racing, including SCORE World Champion Ivan "Ironman" Stewart\'s truck. Some of these parts eventually became available to the public for their own Toyota trucks.

"Since these parts came right from race trucks, they were true performance parts, not just appearance items," explained Moyer. "Toyota has a long-standing commitment to racing."

TRD versions of the 2003 Tundra, Solara, Camry, Celica and MR2 can be special ordered from dealerships. The TRD packages include everything from body kits and wheels to suspension and brakes. TRD even produces a supercharger kit for some models.

Moyer explained that individual TRD parts can be added to regular Toyota models and will not adversely affect the new-car warranty as long as the parts are installed by a dealership technician.

In 1999, Mazda Motor Corp. fully acquired MAZDASPEED, a team of Mazda race enthusiasts that originally formed in 1967 under the name of Mazda Sports Corner.

Today, MAZDASPEED offers a variety of parts for Mazda vehicles.

Mazda's Web site,, lists their first MAZDASPEED vehicle, a Protege model available for 2003. The MAZDASPEED version of the Protege offers a 170 horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and upgraded 17-inch rims. The regular models of the Protege offer a normally-aspirated 130-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and either 15-inch or 16-inch rims.

In 1991, Ford joined the fray of automobile manufacturers offering extreme performance parts with their Special Vehicle Team (SVT). The SVT Web Site,, lists SVT versions of the Ford Mustang, Lightning and Focus for 2003.

The engine options on a regular Mustang range from a 190-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 to a 305-horsepower 4.6-liter V8. The SVT Mustang Cobra boasts a 390-horsepower supercharged 4.6-liter V8.

Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher started a business in Grodfaspach, Germany in 1967, according to, with the goal of designing, engineering and developing race engines. Their company was called AMG (each of their last initials and the initial of the town). Their first racing success came in 1971 in their AMG-Mercedes 300 SEL 6.9, which started a long relationship with Mercedes.

After backing AMG's efforts for several decades, Mercedes completely took over AMG's operation about five years ago, explained Rick Pawling, assistant sales manager for Tom Masano Mercedes, 855 Lancaster Ave.

The AMG cars are manufactured on the same production line as the regular cars, but are then shipped to the AMG plant for modification. According to Pawling, Mercedes offers an AMG version for almost all of its models.

"The AMG SL55 is the hottest car on the market," claims Pawling.

He explained that it features a 593-horsepower engine and F1-style paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Although the MSRP is $115,000 to $118,000, it is common for the car to sell for $145,000 to $150,000.

For those who know their choice is to have it all - the supreme - the only choice left is which pizzeria to order from. And don't expect it to be free if it is not delivered in 30 minutes or less.