We had a chat with Mallort Gregor, the founder of Racetune, a car tuning shop. Mallort is a man who knows cars like the back of his hand. He was more than happy to discuss the latest car tuning trends and the challenges of managing a tuning shop. To conclude, we will play a game where we describe a particular person to him, and he will attempt to guess the type of car that person is driving.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do at Racetunes? What does a typical workday look like for you?
My name is Mallort, and I am one of the founders of Racetune. We started in December of last year. A typical day looks like this: we arrive at 9 AM, turn on the lights, open the computers, and then the customers come in. Every day is actually different, which makes it exciting. I am more involved in dealing with customers – invoices, quotations.
We have 5 main team members, including me. We have a workshop space of 300 square meters and two lifts. We mainly work on projects and don’t offer regular car repairs. We do diagnostics, chip tuning, and car tuning. Sports cars, race cars. We keep the team small, with our own skilled specialists. We avoid unnecessary mistakes that we don’t need. But that doesn’t mean we don’t train or share our knowledge. Interns always have the opportunity to prove themselves and become part of the team in the future.
How did you get to the point of starting your own tuning shop?
The company may be fresh, but the people behind it not so much. Personally, I have been in this field for almost 10 years. My business partner has been in it for nearly 30 years. Basically, everyone has been involved in this business, one way or another, for their whole life. We have also worked in different companies before. Now we have taken the best of the best and started our own thing, a niche business. It grew out of doing a bit of everything, car repairs, and maintenance, and then it evolved. In short, we are experienced guys.
Starting a company seemed like the right move. I personally got a bit tired of cars as they are. I was thinking of doing something else. But then I realized it’s not worth wasting these skills and experiences.
What car do you drive yourself? What is your dream car?
Currently, I’m actually on foot. Two weeks ago, I sold my Golf 7R. It’s the most powerful version of Golfs. It was a very good car. But I’ve been driving it for a couple of years, and I thought it’s time to try something else.
My dream car is the Porsche 992 Turbo S.
Originally, sports cars were intended for a narrow group of enthusiasts. But now, they are quite accessible to a wider audience. Why do you think this has happened?
One thing is that if there is demand, there is also supply. People are looking to add fun to their lives. Something fun and different to spice things up. If you want to stand out in traffic, a sports car is a great option. It gives you much more room for customization. You have special colors to make you stand out. With regular cars, when you buy one, it’s likely to be black, gray, or white. But with a sports car or a performance-oriented car, you get offered special colors and maybe some sporty exhausts right from the factory. People are also looking for better quality and driving pleasure. Even though the price range may be higher, the emotion you get from it might be worth it. I meet many clients who admit that it was just an emotional purchase. They might already have multiple cars. “I had the feeling that I wanted to buy it, and that’s why I did it.”
Can you give us some examples of significant projects you’ve done at Racetune, where a regular street car was turned into a high-performance car?
We started building this car a few years ago. It’s an old BMW station wagon. The customer brought it to us and said he wanted a fast street car, 1000 hp. So, we started building it from scratch for him, and then one day, he said he also wanted to go racing with it, do drag racing. Okay, so now it’s both a streetcar and a Sunday race car. Building a race car from an older BMW that was originally designed as a family car takes quite a lot of effort and work. The whole project became much longer and more expensive than intended. At that time, fortunately, it was not a problem. This car turned out to be street-legal (able to pass inspection, no big turbos, straight pipe exhausts, and such) and also capable of racing (roll cage installed). Today, the car is considered a special-purpose vehicle and no longer used on the street. The owner started to enjoy racing (he had not done it before), so the initial street purpose was set aside, and the car became primarily a race car. He then built another similar car to use only on the street. Building a car like this, which is fast on the track but also suitable for the street, is very challenging.
How do you test your cars?
We have two options: a dyno stand (used for tuning, where we can simulate various situations, apply load, try different speeds, accelerations) or, if it’s a drag racing car, we go to the drag strip and do the tuning and testing there.
Have you ever had a customer come in with a crazy idea that you had to say, “Sorry, we can’t do that”?
I receive calls and messages every day with different ideas, and often, I have to tell people that it’s not possible. The most common example is when someone has a diesel car and wants to have V8 engine sounds, with the exhaust popping and crackling. Unfortunately, you can’t achieve that with a diesel engine. So, we have to explain to the customer that if they want something like that, they need a different base vehicle. Such situations occur daily. But no one has asked us to turn a car into a submarine so far.
As the power and capabilities of street cars increase, do you see any risks or safety concerns? How do you address these issues?
The risk is not in the power but in the people driving them. It doesn’t matter how much power you have; accidents can happen with any car, and they can be very unfortunate. Generally, people who own very powerful cars, and who can afford to buy or build them, know how to handle them. They usually know where to drive them properly. They don’t go to a straight road on public streets and test the car’s abilities there. They mostly go to the racetrack and racing events. Even though their cars may have 1000-2000 horsepower and they could easily show off everywhere, they are generally reasonable and don’t do that.
It can be different if, for example, young people have access to their parents’ cars, which they shouldn’t be driving or don’t know how to handle.
What is the most powerful car you have driven?
I think it’s around 1000 hp. We have had more powerful cars in our workshop, but those are specialized race cars that we set up for customers to drive on the track. I don’t usually go for joyrides in customer cars.
The power of the car also affects insurance costs, right?
Insurance takes into account the power of the car stated in kW on your registration document. In Estonia, the Road Administration does not recognize any dyno stands that would allow you to update the power figures on your registration document at all. In Germany, for example, this is done differently. Let’s say you have a car with 100 kW, and you go to a certain company to increase the power to 150 kW, in Germany, you can have it updated on your registration document. They make a separate note, and the power is adjusted, which also results in a higher insurance premium. But in Estonia, the factory kilowatts stated in your registration document determine the insurance price. I hope this will change in the future so that people who wish to make these modifications can do it properly.
What do you think are the trends (new technologies, mindsets) that will most influence the car tuning and customization industry in the coming years?
We mainly deal with engines, ECUs (engine control units), and electrical systems. I’ll leave the aesthetics aside as we don’t focus much on that.
Regarding trends, recently, pops and bangs have been very popular. It’s when the exhaust makes popping noises and the car makes sounds during gear shifts. It’s definitely the number one request this summer; people have seen us doing it for someone in our YouTube videos. It has generated a lot of interest, and many have come to get it done. Of course, there are limitations, not everyone can have it done.
As for the future, it’s difficult to predict. Electric cars are gaining popularity. How everything will change, we’ll see over the years. There are always new interesting things coming out each year. ECUs have advanced significantly in recent times. New things keep coming out to make it easier and safer to drive and race with all kinds of race cars.
In our work, we always use the latest technologies. Billet parts and components are very popular in the racing world. They are cut from a single piece to make them stronger. Carbon fiber is also quite popular due to its appearance and lightweight properties (it has been around for years but is becoming more accessible). Many people are starting to work with carbon fiber more. In Estonia, there are already people who create custom solutions according to customers’ requests, special products, and so on. It seems that this part of the industry is developing quite rapidly.
For those who want to stay up to date with car tuning and customization, I would recommend following our own YouTube channel Racetunepro Car Tuners to gain knowledge. Also, check out Wampiiroja drift team; they also cover technical aspects of building and repairing cars.
As for electric cars, do you work on them?
Currently, there isn’t much to do with electric cars. We can’t directly tune them, at least not all of them. It’s more of a future prospect. If electric cars become more popular and more opportunities arise, we will definitely want to work on them. For now, there isn’t much to do, they don’t require much maintenance either. They have brake discs and pads that wear out, and not much else to do. You can’t really tinker with electronics, so that’s how it is for now.
I will describe a specific person to you, and based on that description, you can tell me what car he or she is driving.
Person 1: Karl is 18 years old and has just received his driver’s license. He is a high school student, and his great passion is WRC and F1. Karl has worked on cars with his father, but he wants to learn to do things himself. He wants a car on which he can tinker, which looks cool, and costs less than 5000 euros. The car should have some potential because Karl also wants to go drag racing with it.
Several cars crossed my mind at once. WRC and tuning somewhat diverged in options. I think he should consider the BMW E46, where he can do some adjustments and modifications. If he had been only a WRC fan, maybe a 1.6-liter petrol Citroen or Peugeot could work. But since he is young and interested in tuning, it’s probably a BMW. To stay under 5000 euros, the choices are in the range of 2000-2005 cars. There are quite a few options available at various prices.
Person 2: Katrin is 35 years old and has been driving for 15 years. She is married with two children and currently not working but taking care of the kids at home. For Katrin, safety and space for the whole family are the most important factors when choosing a car. At the same time, she wants to drive a beautiful car. She mainly uses the car for grocery shopping and trips to the countryside.
A Volvo XC90 would be a good fit. Volvo is known for safety, and it has enough space for the kids. At this stage in her life, I think safety and roominess in a car would be appreciated.
Person 3: Alfred is 57 years old and has been driving for decades. He is a successful divorced businessman who is looking for a new partner. For Alfred, the most important thing about a car is that it is fast, looks flashy, and impresses. He likes vintage-looking machines.
Ah, Alfred is my kind of guy. It must be a Porsche for him. I’m a bit unsure about the specific model because of the vintage aspect that came into play. Initially, I would have suggested the Turbo S right away. If he wants to be very flashy, then it could be the Porsche GT3 RS. But since the vintage look is a factor, I’d say Porsche 911 Classic. They incorporate vintage elements from old Porsches into new technology. I think that would be a perfect match for him.