NEW DELHI: For thousands of Indian auto enthusiasts, this is the closest thing to petrol-head heaven. Car-modification experts are working overtime to cut costs. And by the look of things they have it all figured out. No, you still don’t get a gull-winged coupe for the price of a Maruti 800. But double that amount and you might be able to snap up a souped-up BMW or Mercedes. For Indian automobile buffs, modification has always been expensive. But not anymore. Now for anything between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 6 lakh, modification gurus are only too happy to build you a spanking new custom-made hot rod -- cost of car included. And less money doesn’t necessarily mean less of a car. A beaming Beamer or a snotty Merc -- that’s what you get. Earlier, it was almost impossible to get a customised Merc or Beamer at this price. But now due to the slowdown in business, car studios have found out a way to work around the problem. And customers are happy too. Who doesn’t want to be seen in a Merc or a Beamer? And if it comes at a fraction of the cost of a new vehicle, customers feel that they have hit the jackpot. "First, let us get new cars out of the way," says Arush Vohra owner of Autopsyche, a Delhi-based car studio. By new cars, he means favourites such as the Honda Accord, Skoda RS and the ever-popular Honda Civic. "New cars cost money. Instead, we spend around Rs 2.5 lakh and pick up old BMWs and Mercedes from the used-car market," he reveals. "These cars don’t require any major overhauling since their build quality is excellent, and mechanically they are well-suited to Indian conditions." According to Vohra, Autopsyche has modified a good number of BMWs and Mercs till now. The cars that are now being overhauled are typically BMW 3-Series, Mercedes E-Class and sometimes even an occasional Toyota Supra or a Mitsubishi GTO. All these cars come from the early nineties and show little or no defects other than bodywork issues such as rust and dents, according to car-studio owners. For instance, Autopysche is currently working on a 1996 BMW 3-Series. "We are completely restoring the car. The interiors are being refurbished, the suspension is being reworked and a new audio system is being put into place," says Vohra. And the car is also getting a new set of wheels, lights and fresh coats of paint. Vohra says that his client has spent Rs 3 lakh to purchase the car and is splurging another Rs 3 lakh to soup it up. "It’s a logical and smart thing to do," says Yatharth of Performance Zone, a Delhi-based car-customisation workshop. "I have done quite a number of Beamers and Mercs recently. I even have customers coming in with old Mitsubishi Lancers. They usually buy these cars for Rs 1.5 lakh and spend another Rs 2-3 lakh on them. Why buy a small compact when you can get a big set of wheels for the same amount?" According to experts, the trend of buying old cars and restoring them has caught on like wildfire with auto buffs. So much so that enthusiasts are also tracking down legendary imports such as GTOs and Supras, both of which are sports grand tourers. Says Kamlesh Patel, proprietor of Electra Performance, a Chennai-based modification studio, "BMWs and Mercs are the new favourites. But some people also look for GTOs and Supras because they are excellent cars to modify and you can get one for less than Rs 4 lakh today." Patel further goes on to say customers also haven’t forgotten the Mitsubishi Lancer. "Here in the South, people want performance and not looks," he quips. So, what you get is a car that bears a close resemblance to the Evo with around 250bhp on tap. But here is where the joyride ends. Performance costs money. And car studio owners admit that there isn’t a lot of it flying around these days. "Boosting the power of your car is the toughest and costliest part of customisation. And clients aren’t willing to spend that much nowadays," says Vohra of Autopsyche. For instance, increasing the power of a GTO to 400bhp can cost as much as Rs 15 lakh. Says Keshav Arora, a Bangalore-based auto tuner and car enthusiast: "Yes, performance modification is expensive. And here in Bangalore, we aren’t seeing a lot of it nowadays. People want their cars to look good. Going fast is just a dream for most of them." Ironically, Arora recently bought himself an old E-Class.