A lot of your chances to build a sponsor worthy car is determined by the vehicle you started with. If you have a Honda Civic or a Honda in general you have a much tougher road ahead of you then just about everyone else. The Honda class is by far the hardest and largest out there. To build a vehicle that stands out in the Honda arena you need to do something really over the top and unique. Ideally you want to try and select a car that is unusual and not often seen at shows. I am sure that a lot of my success is due to the fact that you just didn't see people showing modified BMW M Roadsters when I started. A couple of my sponsors approached me and told me that it was the fact they never see the car out there and it caught them off guard.
Be careful because you can take this idea way too far and select a really crappy car that none cares about. It's all about finding a unique car that has a broad market. Don’t go and decide to modify a Subaru SVX, it’s a car that there is no aftermarket for and therefore there is no benefit for a sponsor to be associated with one.
Sponsors need the cars they choose to be able to generate business for them. If none else is doing anything with a particular car then there is no one to follow the sponsored car. Most cars have their own cult like following with forums and even clubs dedicated to them, the bigger the following the better the response for a company sponsoring a car.
This means that Hondas reach one of the largest markets so they are very attractive to sponsors; it also means it’s harder to stand out in the crowd. What you are really looking for is an untapped market, although finding one is sometimes easier said than done.
Lastly make sure you do your research and check if there is aftermarket support for your selected car. The more unusual cars are harder to find parts for. Know that you will have a tougher time finding things and probably pay a premium for parts.
I got quite lucky with my Mroadster. When I bought it prices for the car were still quite high causing most of the cars to end up in an older crowds hands. They were definitely passionate about their cars but only seemed interested in minor modifications. I got a “stock is best” mentality from a lot of the owners on the boards but as soon as a year later they began to open up to minor mods like suspension and rims. As the years progressed and the prices for the car dropped and it ended up in younger peoples hands and modding it became more accepted.
Another benefit of the Mroadster was it's link to the Z3 and the fact that a lot of the parts fit other BMWs. It made the car a great platform for sponsorship and I wish I could say I picked it because I knew all this but it was really just a happy accident.
Recp: Things that you can look for in a sponsor worthy platform
A car with a loyal cult following or the new hot car.
A car that’s prices have recently become more affordable to the youth.
Parts that are compatible with other cars in the lines.
I love it when a plan comes together: Have a plan follow it.
When sitting down and deciding to either build up your current car or starting an entirely new project you need a plan. The first thing you need to determine is how far you want to go with the car. If you are looking to have a “clean” street vehicle or something not too crazy then sponsorship is probably not for you. I know a lot of people, including myself, who would prefer not to have any stickers on our cars.
When I worked with Valvoline I actually approached a guy at a show and offered him sponsorship for his Scion XB. We talked and he was very nice and had a bad ass scion. I noticed that he had no stickers on his car at all and he politely said he would love the stuff but didn’t want any stickers on his car. He had everything needed to attract sponsors but had made a decision that he did not want to deal with the riggers of sponsorship. Unfortunately stickers, logos and decals are a requirement for sponsorship.
I am not saying that you can’t get sponsors and still have a “clean” vehicle but stickers are one thing you can't avoid.
Every time I go out and look for a new project I start off checking the net to see what has been done to them and what is available for the car from the aftermarket. I have done this for dozens of cars since I tend to want to build a lot more cars than I actually have the money for.
After I know what's out there I decide how I would do it. What parts would I need? What order would I get them in. After I have collected all this information I make a plan.
Since I am not loaded I usually do things in stages. Stage 1 starts with the basic must haves like rims and drop. I then move to try and get as much done on the exterior as possible with the smallest investment. I also try to not waste money on something that will be replaced in a future step. Now there are exceptions to that like the springs. I knew I wanted an Air Suspension but I also knew it would be a long time for me to save enough to get it. Since I can't ride like a monster truck I needed to get the springs even though they will be replaced later.
With my plan in place I now know what I am in for as far as the build goes. One of the things a lot of people get caught up with is putting in small parts since its easy to save a hundred here and there as opposed to $3000 for rims. The problem is that you end up never making it to the big parts, trust me.
I was stuck for years with the BMW only having 1 real mod left, a supercharger. The problem was it was $5,000 minimum and the companies that made them were not looking to sponsor (I tired, a lot). So I labored on switching shift knobs, exhausts radios etc and never got that supercharger. Sometimes you just have to resist the urge to buy small things and put that money aside for your big mods.
Now check out Part 3 of the How to Get Your Car Sponsored series which focuses on "style".