In practice, the trope got a big boost after the 2001 release of The Fast and the Furious, as a sizable number of car owners sought to emulate the glorious image of the franchise cars at the expense of true performance.
There are a few practical reasons for this:
- True automobile tuning is expensive. Not just as the summed-up cost of parts and labor, but as an investment in spent time, documentation, experimenting, replacement of parts which ended up wrong, and shorter maintenance intervals. The vast majority of modern drivers are trained since they get their license to just drive the car until it breaks down, blows a tire, hits the 3,000-mile recommended oil change interval, or some damn "idiot light" on the dash calls for a service at the dealer. Modding your car means being prepared to know what it takes for maintenance and learn some mechanical and engineering tricks, even if you don't do it yourself and take your car to a workshop for that, just as aircraft pilots have to know how their plane runs.
- Having a car modified for performance calls for increased driving ability, even compared to a factory-spec sports car. Modern cars from the poorest econobox to the flashiest supercar are designed (by very knowledgeable people) to have a very safe road behavior if driven legally, even if this dulls the manoeuvrability. Adding some horsepower, hardening the suspension, changing sway bars, and fitting stickier tires may give an increased feeling of security and goad the driver into driving faster... until the car bites back and wraps him or her around a tree. Each mod has to be followed by training, which calls for fuel, tires, and time, which a young driver with little money may be short of.
- Some people may get away with speeding or road racing if they can avoid suspicion from the authorities, but this is exactly what a lot of youngsters with little money and even less sense can't do. If your appearance calls for suspicion, you get it — unfairly, yes. Huge insurance rates, harassment from the police, being regularly pulled over and ticketed, punishments from your boss, even inability to get a decent job after some time and some bits added to your record are all among the consequences of acting like a street racer.
Simple economics say it's much cheaper to be just a poseur with a flashy and kitschy bodykit on an underpowered crappy car than to emulate what true automobile enthusiasts do.