The Fast and the Furious and its sequel showed that kids these days prefer a rebuilt Honda Civic to a handmade Ferrari. The import-car "tuner" craze--a cultural blend of hip-hop, Tokyo pop and Old West outlaw--is expanding its influence into the toy industry, with the arrival of the new XMODS radio-controlled cars at Radio Shack. The $49.95 racers, replicas of cars popular on the real-life scene, can be customized with authentically reproduced big-league gear, including Bomex body kits and Eibach suspension springs. Under the hood, there's more tweaking: you can swap engines, add lights, and even give your car all-wheel drive. The appeal of XMODS lies somewhere between Lego blocks and car-racing fantasy camp. Not only is some assembly required, but to have real fun, lots of disassembly and reassembly is a must. And while it may be as easy to ram into a wall as any other radio-controlled toy, the vibe is a whole lot cooler. So are the drivers: racing at the XMODS launch were rappers Mos Def and DMX, as well as Kill Bill babe Vivica A. Fox. Next stop: a 10-to 15-city racing tour sponsored by Radio Shack that kicks off in April.
--By Wilson Rothman