The incredible popularity of the C5 has given birth to an entire market devoted to performance and personalization of the latest iteration of America's Sports Car. Name it, and some individual or company, somewhere, has probably already done it or is producing it. Whether you want blinding speed, a vast expanse of chrome and polish under the hood, or carbon fiber trim and custom-embroidered carpets mats inside, it's available. Several of the other feature cars (and many of the display ads) in this issue are testimony to that fact.
In Europe, Germany in particular, firms commonly called "tuners" are esteemed as automotive artisans of the highest order. To aficionados of high-end German machinery, an Alpina or Schnitzer BMW, a RUF Porsche, or an AMG Mercedes is the ultimate example of the particular marque, and these tuners are held in equally high regard by the companies whose cars they modify, high enough that some of the tuners buy new cars directly from the manufacturer and sell their product through the brand's dealer network. The preeminent instance of this would be the purchase of AMG by Daimler Benz a few years ago, and the resultant offering of AMG models as an integral part of the Mercedes lineup.
The European tuner approach is generally one of expanding upon and going a step (or three or four...) beyond the factory offerings in styling, trim, and performance. German tuner cars can be anything from screaming-but-spartan autobahn rockets to ultra-lux sedans that are still capable of embarrassing many sports cars. Most Euro tuners offer their cars as packaged models, such as the Alpina C1 (a "gray market," privately imported BMW) the author used to own, and some build cars strictly to customer specifications.
There have been, and currently are, a small number of firms on the west side of the Atlantic that would meet the European definition of tuner. In ye olde days, there was, most notably, Carroll Shelby and his GT350 and GT500 Mustangs; the bad-to-the-bone Yenko Chevrolets (mostly Camaros); the famous Baldwin Motion Corvettes, Camaros, Chevelles, and Novas; and Mr. Norm's Dodges, among others. The Dodge boys now have John Hennesey and his killer Vipers and Steve "I'm not a tuner!" Saleen sells his modified Mustangs through a handful of Ford dealerships. SLP caters to the GM crowd with Firehawk Firebirds, and the Corvette faithful have tuners like Doug Rippie, Chuck Mallett, and John Lingenfelter, to mention a few.
Each tuner shop has its own approach, leaving its own signature on the cars it constructs. The vast majority of tuners place their emphasis on performance upgrades to enhance speed and handling, with the cosmetics generally limited to tires and wheels, badges, and maybe a custom hood and a wing or spoiler on the tail. The shop currently doing modified Mustangs takes the opposite approach-if one wing is good, two has to be better; and if the factory puts one gill or vent on the side of the car, three's an improvement and five or six makes it really great.