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20 - Split Decision

So, you're a gearhead. You love cars, and you got your first modern car- not a 60's muscle car, not a 50's classic, you got your first post-90's car that could be lowered, tuned to sound like a blender, and you're ready to add a body kit to this puppy. Not because you're prepping your car to do 200mph on a straightaway on a distant racecourse, but so it looks sweet parked in a parking lot, or so it looks faster than it really is as it rolls down your local main street at 5mph.

Customized 2016 Tesla Model S with new new front splitter.

Ingredients for a Sweet Body Kit

  • Side skirts that accentuate the lines of the car and make it look lower than it really is. And they aren't low enough if you're not in danger of high centering.

  • The tallest and widest decklid wing humanly possible. Preferably tall enough to sit on the decklid and eat ramen on.

  • A rear diffuser with fins so deep you constantly shave inches off every time you drag them up a driveway.

  • Exhaust piping and outlets so complicated only the Blue Man group could figure out where it's all going.

  • A wicked hood scoop to divert massive quantities of air into a cold air exhaust system that adds a mean 0.25hp and makes your car sound like a jet-powered vacuum.

  • Canards-canards-canards everywhere.

  • And, of course, the pies-de-resistance, the front lip/spoiler so wide, low, and complicated that navigating every single driveway and speed bump feels more complicated and risky than an appendectomy on a row boat during a hurricane.

Dangling Splitter-ciples

I'd already checked off several of those boxes. It was time to shop for something to hang off the front end. If you're not tuned into the body kit vernacular, pieces of fiberglass or plastic you hang off the front bumper of your car can be called a variety of things; splitter, front splitter, front lip splitter, lip spoiler, front lip spoiler, front lip, bumper lip, front air dam, air dam, bumper splitter, chin spoiler, front aero splitter, front diffuser, front fin, bumper thingy, etc. There are probably a dozen more names and combinations of names than I just listed here. No one or single combination is necessarily correct. It depends on who you hang with, where you come from, and what kind of cars you typically drive.


It's also tough to classify these. What's the difference between a lip and a splitter? What's the difference between a chin spoiler and a front diffuser? What's the difference between a splitter and a spoiler? There are technical differences between many of them, but you may still find people who use terms interchangeably. In the world of automotive aerodynamics, the technical differences start to actually mean something in terms of drag, downforce, etc., but in the layman's world, they're generally used interchangeably.


All for 3 and None for Me

It was hard to find a splitter I liked for my lithium sled. There are an insane number of options out there for the Model 3. You can get just about any size, shape, color, or composition, and they are relatively inexpensive. You can get a nice one for a couple hundred bucks. The Model S, however, is an entirely different story. There are many more post-facelift splitters out there, but like the pre-facelift ones, they tend to be quite pricey. The Model S splitters are much more expensive because people think they can charge more. After all, it's a Model S. Also, to be fair, it's a really wide car, and the front end's arc is quite significant. So, no matter what you make it out of, it's a complicated and expensive thing to engineer and manufacture. I could have done a facelift on it, but I just wasn't willing to invest the time and money in an expensive conversion process.


I preferred a urethane piece because it would be flexible and very forgiving if/when it made contact with a stationary object. I definitely didn't want fiberglass or FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic). Both are just too prone to warping and don't take abuse well. I didn't want carbon fiber because it's far too expensive and too fragile, like hanging a piece of glass off the front end of your car. Carbon fiber is also crazy expensive to repair. It can easily cost more to repair a piece than the piece itself. Aluminum would be great but impractical without many modifications to the front end. ABS or PP (Polypropylene) would also be excellent in the right design, composition, and density. But, ABS can be too rigid and brittle if not done right. PP can be saggy if there is too much surface area. I was open to just about anything except fiberglass, so the search began!


Car Parts Materials Recap

Below is the table I used in to help refresh your memory on some of the different types of materials for car parts.

 

Material: Carbon Fiber

Common Name: Carbon Fiber

General Quality: Very High

Durability: Very Low

Cost: Very High

Notes: Comes in wet or dry, gloss or matte finishes. Real carbon fiber is hard to find. Most listings you’ll find for carbon fiber are lies. Usually, it will be called carbon fiber, but it’s really a layer of carbon fiber over FRP, which is really just FRP.

 

Material: Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic/Polymer

Common Name: FRP/Duraflex

General Quality: Very Low

Durability: Very Low

Cost: Low

Notes: Don’t be fooled, this isn’t as good as it sounds. For most automotive applications on the internet, this will be straight fiberglass. Most parts won’t be high quality FRP, they will be fiberglass which is cheap, and it breaks quite easily.

 

Material: Polypropylene

Common Name: PP

General Quality: Medium-Low

Durability: Very High

Cost: Low

Notes: It’s hard to find parts made from PP. Depending upon the application, it can be great or terrible. Most PP in automotive applications will be soft, which makes it very durable. But, it will look terrible if it forms a straight line or angle.

 

Material: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

Common Name: ABS

General Quality: High

Durability: Medium

Cost: Medium-Low

Notes: ABS is pretty good material in general for automotive applications. It’s hard enough to form rigid and clean lines, but soft enough to be a little flexible if impacted. For a lot of applications, it can be too rigid, which is why you’ll see it for small accent pieces, but not splitters or other large pieces. ABS is uncommon for a lot of parts.

 

Material: Urethane/Polyurethane

Common Name: Urethane

General Quality: Very High

Durability: Very High

Cost: High

Notes: This is what most OEM body panels on modern cars are made of. It is very durable and flexible. This is probably one of the best materials for body parts or accessories. Generally speaking, only name brand and higher end companies use urethane.

 

Material: Aluminum

Common Name: Aluminum

General Quality: Very High

Durability: Very High

Cost: Medium-Low

Notes: Aluminum can be great for body parts and accent pieces as long as it’s thick enough to be rigid. Depending upon the exact composition, it can be heavier than the preceding counterparts, but not by a lot. You’ll find some custom pieces in aluminum, but not too many mass-produced parts. This can be a really good option in the right application.

 

Browsing Through the Splitter Aisle at Costco

Here's a complete rundown of the varied shapes and sizes of splitters, lips, diffusers, plastic whatchamahoozits, that I found in my travels.


Unplugged Performance

The first place I looked was Unplugged Performance. Their website is very professional and has high-quality products, which was a big attraction for me. However, what I liked most about their splitter was it’s the only urethane one I found…anywhere on the internet for a pre-facelift Model S. I loved the idea of a urethane splitter. It would be durable, easy to repair, easy to paint, etc., just an excellent material to hang off the front end of your car. My only problem was that the design wasn’t quite as aggressive as I wanted. I preferred something with a little more bite to it and wanted it to tie closer to my skirts and wing.


The urethane splitter was about $1,400 but a smidge less than $2K after installation and taxes. The carbon fiber one was an eye-watering $3k! A wee bit out of my budget, especially for a very fragile material that’d be hanging off the most likely impact zone on my car. One slight tap of a parking block, and I’d be coughing up $1k to get that carbon fiber repaired. No thanks, too much for me. The design of the splitter is great, but color was another issue for me. I felt it needed to contrast with the rest of the car, so painting it red or even gloss black wasn’t in the cards. I considered flat black, but it didn’t seem like it would fit either. Finally, I had an epiphany and thought, what if I just tossed it on there in the natural urethane finish? So I called UP and asked them what color the natural urethane was. They said it was a blended grey color, not black like the other under-body urethane panels on the car. So, that idea got shot down as well. It’s ok, I wasn’t too keen on the design anyway, so it was time to keep searching.



Saleen

Next on the list was something a buddy pointed out to me. He scoped one live in Southern California and sent me a pic. He was like, this thing is wild; see if you can use any of these mods on your car. I was excited because Saleen is a huge brand name, so I expected quality parts that were probably made from urethane or real carbon fiber.


 
 

As you can see from the links above, it’s quite the kit. It’s probably exceptionally well done and fits like a glove. The back end is super clean, and so is the front. The lines in the hood are clean, and some lines on the nose are great. It looks a bit stubby at the front of the hood, but overall, it’s a very clean-looking kit. It’s not as aggressive as I was looking for, but I thought it could be a solid contender. It was worth investigating further, so I started rooting around Saleen’s website to see if I could find pricing details. And boy, did I find them…


 

You probably had the same reaction I did! $20 G’s for the front and $9 G’s for the back kit! $30 G’s for a full kit. That was a bit out of my price range. On to the next hair-brained idea.


Brabus

Thankfully, this seemed like a much more practical and cost-effective option than a Saleen kit would…of course not; that’s ridiculous, and this would probably break the bank too, but I had to include a link because it’s an excellent idea if you’ve got an extra hundred G’s to toss into your 5-year-old $50k car. The cool splitter and other parts look good. The splitter is a little subtle for my taste, and I’d like to see the fins on the side blend in a bit more. These parts are probably mythical, too; who knows how many calls you’d have to make to get a hold of one. The Brabus was a bust, next.


 
 
 

Mansory

No matter how many times I spell it out…I still read “Masonry” like a dufus. This is a kit I stumbled upon quite unexpectedly and also falls into the mythical/unattainable category. It looks like many big upfitters hopped on the EV bandwagon…then quietly tucked and rolled off when no one was looking. I really like the front splitter on this one. The wings feel more complete than the ones on the Brabus splitter. I wish it was a little more aggressive in the front, but overall it looks good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even worth asking how much this one cost. I’m quite certain I couldn’t afford it. The old adage, if you have to ask...



Vicrez

The Vicrez style is definitely more in my price range. It’s basically a piece of ABS wrapped in the vinyl of your choice. At $400, it’s a pretty decent deal and probably durable. I really like the idea, but I’m not sure how well that would fit a pre-facelift Model S because the plastic skid plate is 2-3 inches deep at the very front of the front bumper and quite contoured. So, unless that splitter is molded to fit those contours or molded to replace the skid plate, it would require heavy modifications. The post-facelift Model S might not have the same issues, it looks flatter, but I don’t know. You’d probably only know for sure until you bought one and tried to install it.


I like the design, it’s clean and straightforward, but I don’t think it matches the style I aspire to. It looks great, though, especially the pictures of that blue Tesla. If that’s not photoshopped, that’s a pretty cool-looking car. The rear diffuser is a bit much for me, but it’s cool. I like the price point on the VicRez, and I like that it’s made in the USA, but I had to move on to the next one.



Tsportline

I tossed this one in here because they are one of the few companies that make a quality polyurethane product. Unfortunately, they don’t sell a splitter for the 2012-2016 Tesla Model S. Still, they sell a very clean facelift refresh kit. I seriously considered just going this route and adding one of the front splitters that are compatible with newer Model S’s, but I’m odd; I like the nose cone. It’s a little cumbersome, but I like that it gives my car a specific character, and you can tell mine is an older Tesla. Sounds dumb, but I like that my car isn’t trying to be something else. It’s an older Tesla, and I like that. I plan on having it for at least 8 years. So, it will be sweet to know that in 2024, or 2025, there will still be a clean, customized, early-generation Model S rolling around. And, at a glance, the nose cone is the only way for most people to quickly ID an older Model S. With all that said, if it’s your thing, totally go for it. Aesthetically, the new fascias definitely look better. The lines are better, it’s clean, and you can probably get a splitter for a lot less money.



RevoZport

This is one of those companies…I can't make hide nor hair of. Their website seems legit, and they make parts for many cars. But, if you search for reviews, you get a lot of forum posts that aren't positive at all. They look legit, and their parts' prices are high enough to make me think you're getting real carbon fiber…but many of the parts are still shy of actual carbon fiber prices. The front splitter they offer sure looks real, probably one of the most legit-looking ones out there, but at $1,800 for carbon fiber, it's probably not real. Based on what we've seen in all my posts, real carbon fiber should probably cost closer to $3,000. I guess this is just another white-label company, or at the very least, they sell some legit products they make. Still, they also sell a bunch of white-label products like the ones you'd find scattered all over the internet. Regardless, I like the style of their splitter, it's cool and clean with nice lines, but I wanted something more aggressive.


 

RevoZport Discussions

 
 
 

Artisan Spirits

I’m not even sure where to start with this company, either. Weirdly, many of these companies would spend the time and effort to design, test, and produce these products- but they are impossible to find except on super shady websites you’ve never heard of. This company looks legit, and they look like real products, but they’re impossible to find anywhere. I actually like this splitter quite a bit. The black plus carbon fiber accent looks nice. It has a little more heft than the RevoZport style, which has too many lines for me. I wanted a little more character, but this is a nice, classy-looking splitter. However, it’s super weird that you can’t order from them, and only shady websites sell their products. I wouldn’t risk $1,400 plus taxes and shipping on an FRP part with carbon accents.


 

APR Performance

I don’t know if this is the original designer and producer, either. APR could be another white-label distributor like some of these others probably are. But, I like the design, it’s simple and clean. One of its more practical elements is the relatively high center. Unlike the RevoZport, this will probably clear driveways a lot better because no material in the center pushes it closer to the ground. But, for $1,200, is this really carbon fiber? Probably not. It’s perhaps just another fiberglass one with a carbon fiber vacuum layer or carbon fiber wrap. It looks really cool, though. I like the style. Almost aggressive enough!


 
 


Ikon Motorsports

You’ve probably seen their products all over eBay and Amazon. This looks like a legit company that perhaps does some of everything. They probably design and manufacture parts, but they also import white-label parts. In general, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from them. Is this real carbon fiber for $400? Probably not. It’s perhaps more fiberglass with a vacuum-formed layer of single carbon fiber on the outside. Who knows if ARP or Ikon came up with this design? Or maybe some other hidden company on the internet? Either way, it looks pretty cool. For $400, it might be worth the gamble if you like the design. I also like that a few of these types of companies have headquarters and/or distribution centers in the US, so you have some small degree of assurance that you won’t be completely hosed if the part doesn’t fit or arrives in pieces.


 

All the Rest

I set out to find a quality product from a name brand for my splitter but struck out pretty hard. Most of what I found was excellent but far too expensive for me or didn’t quite fit the style I was going for that would match the carbon fiber theme of my current side skirts and rear wing. So, it was off to the bargain bin to root around and see what I could find.



Do a Google search for pre-facelift Model S Teslas, and you'll get a jillion results. You'll get a jillion more if you search Amazon and eBay. The internet is cluttered with Chinese white-label products and all sorts of knock-offs. As I've discussed before, be cautious. Many product listings look like some of the name brands I went through but are made from cheap fiberglass posing as carbon fiber. Fiberglass is a mess to hang off the front of your car. Something will inevitably hit it and make a giant mess of that piece you invested hundreds or thousands in. Don't be fooled. It's usually a trap!



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