From clothes, electronics, and car parts to whatever else you can think of, it's common knowledge that China is responsible for manufacturing most of the goods we use every day. And for decades, many of our preconceived ideas about the quality of "Made in China" have been negative—cheap, disposable, and fake are common views. This was especially true with car parts, but the reality has started to change in recent years, especially with companies like A Spec, which we visited earlier this year.
A Spec isn't a complete stranger to the automotive aftermarket community. It was founded in '02, and every enthusiast who ever modified a Japanese import knew the name. It was a leading distributor for premier Japanese car parts for many years. But there came a time when owner Lawrence Yip decided to roll the dice and pursue his long-term vision for the company. Instead of being known strictly as an importer and parts dealer, he decided to move to China and make his mark building high-quality exhausts and complete packages. When most people heard this, they thought he was crazy, but Lawrence proved us wrong as soon as we arrived in China for the first time.
We were there to experience A Spec's latest products but had no idea what to expect from our visit to the country more than 1.3 billion people call home.
On our first day, we soon realized major cites like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are a hotbed for growth and technology. One of the biggest surprises was the roads. China has exceeded the miles of paved roadways of the U.S. This was to support the amount of car ownership—cars are everywhere, and it's not only Chinese domestic models or Japanese imports. European cars are becoming more popular for the more affluent owner. In fact, Lawrence told us it's as expensive to buy a Honda Accord as a BMW. With this in mind, it was an easy decision for him to shift the company's focus from Japanese to European imports. People wanted the status, comfort, and quality of a European car, and they wanted quality aftermarket products to match, which is where A Spec comes into play.
With 90 percent of Chinese not owning a garage, there aren't many guys attempting DIY work or even shops to get work done. They also don't go all out with the upgrades, preferring simple, functional, high-quality bolt-on parts.
This approach can be expensive when importing parts from Japan, USA, or Europe, so A Spec started by offering high-quality exhausts. We were fortunate to get a tour of the factory and were baffled by how many quality checks are made and how little was outsourced.
A Spec's bread and butter is the IDEAS exhaust (Intelligent Dynamic Exhaust Acoustic System). Seeing and hearing them firsthand, they appear to rival some of the top exhausts on the market, but the IDEAS system goes further by using a valve system in conjunction with an exhaust pressure sensor to give drivers the ability to have either a quiet or aggressive exhaust sound. It's selected with a touch of a button and is even customizable via a module that can be set to three different modes, including sport—which opens the flap at full throttle when it senses the exhaust pressure is high, yet keeps it closed at cruising speeds. Very advanced stuff!
But what we're most excited about was the introduction of A Spec's Lamborghini and Porsche conversions. Designed for the Gallardo LP560, the package was dubbed PPL600 for "Performance Project Lamborghini 600"—the number representing its horsepower.
The Gallardo was lowered, fitted with 20-inch three-pieced forged A Spec wheels, the interior was upholstered in alcantara, and the car was fitted with the company's IDEAS exhaust. More importantly, the exterior was fitted with its new 27-piece aero body kit made from carbon fiber (A Spec will also offer the entire kit in carbon Kevlar).
The design updates the Lamborghini with elements reminiscent of the Aventador, Hurcan, and Sesto Elemento. The front end, for example, is a trendsetter with a menacing bumper and vented hood. Even the emblem was moved from its original location on the hood to the bumper—a nice touch.
The side skirts feature wide air vents with carbon sills. You'll notice large air outlets on the kit—all are functional. The rear follows suit with an aggressive diffuser, while the centerpiece takes cues from the Sesto Elemento and Veneno, with its triangular openings. Finally, the rear wing gives the Lambo a new personality, yet the centersection retains the factory adjustability.
The second car introduced in China was the A Spec Type-991 Porsche 911 Carrera S, nicknamed PPP430. It's an older A Spec project car that already sported the company's wheels, brakes, and exhaust. But now it's been outfitted with an A Spec carbon/Kevlar body kit. Overall, it's tamer than the Lamborghini and only includes a front lip, side skirts, rear diffuser, and decklid. Yet each piece, while simple, transforms the 991 into a more striking road car. And with this example, A Spec opted to leave elements of the Kevlar weave visible for extra impact.
Both cars are just the beginning for A Spec. The Gallardo and 991 add to a solid foundation of cars, which also include the BMW 3 Series (featured in EC 5/14) and Audi A4/S4.
Lawrence's goal is to continue expanding the exhaust line that is proving popular in Asia, but also offer more turnkey modified cars for the growing European aftermarket community in China.
After seeing its facility, project cars, and attention to detail, the company seems to be changing the game in China, and we're happy to announce U.S. customers can also take advantage of many of these new performance products.