At the end of last fall, I was lucky enough to get some seat time in one of those pokey little Toyotas everyone got so excited about when they arrived on the public stage twelve months ago.
Why didn’t I write it up then, like a real journalist? I think that question just answered itself.
At any rate being a real enthusiast at least, I was not short on excitement to have a go at the helm of an FR-S.
A Boston-based nightlife event operator named Ed had taken delivery of one of the few RWD Scions to be sold in New England, and was kind enough to show me around it one night outside his office.
I’m going to make the claim that this car looks much nicer in person than it does in photos. Long nose (relatively speaking), squat rear fenders, and a sly expression in the headlights makes for a pretty appealing appearance on your screen here. In reality, all those great features are there… and the whole package looks a lot less cartoon-like. In a sedate color like a dark silver or blue, I could imagine one of these sneaking through the city relatively undetected.
The rear quarters and taillight section (not pictured, obviously) remind me a bit of a new Z4 hardtop, while the long-nose (keep in mind, I say that “relatively” speaking) I’d like to think pays homage to the Toyota 2000GT.
On second thought, that comparison feels like a reach. What kind of family resemblance are you seeing here?
The inside of this car is tiny. After getting used to the stateroom spaciousness of my TL’s interior, climbing into a coupe of any kind can feel a bit claustrophobic. But wedging oneself behind the little wheel of an FR-S would make a Civic feel like a flagship.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s all part of the experience. Some people like little.
It’s hard to argue with the gauge setup. From a performance-standpoint, centermount tach is huge (literally). The focus on engine speed with the speedo tucked below like an afterthought lets you pretend you’re playing Gran Turismo as soon as you crank the ignition.
Or, as many of my internet-using automotive accomplices would eloquently put it:
The rest of the interior is typical Scion construction quality; you get what you pay for in this department.
And of course… The Drive
Now was the chance to figure out if all the drama insinuated by that full-moon tachometer was for real or if this was an xA in a Tiburon’s clothing.
Being on public roads, in somebody’s brand-new personal car, there was only so much “testing” I was able to accomplish. And I can’t contain the disappointment I experienced when I put my left foot down for a clutch, only to be met with a giant brake pedal.
Powering up and powering on the engine didn’t yield the kind of voracious roar I had been spoiled by spending a few summer days in a friend’s DB9, but it did remind me how fuel efficient this vehicle must be.
Nonetheless, I can report that the little machine can indeed go zero-to-the-speed-limit in fairly short order, and is delightfully willing to navigate between parking lot lampposts at significantly stronger clip than most cars over two meters in length.
Could this ATX four-banger catch my six-speed TL on an on-ramp merge? No. Could it beat me on a gymkhana course? Probably. Could it beat my full-size sedan in a race around the isles and obstacles of a Toys “R” Us store? For sure.
Then what’s the verdict on this little rascal? Clarkson loved it. The forum following is cult-like. I was almost able to get over my phobia of all-motors-modern enough to enjoy it. But like almost everything in the “affordable sport” market- I can’t really make the case for a new one of these over a well-used M3. And secondhand, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t been thrashed.
But for the lucky few who are able to pick one up from a careful owner in the next couple years, this will be a reasonable motor. Perhaps even collectable, if anyone can keep theirs clean enough.
There aren’t all that many American cars I get really excited about, especially after MY 1980. However, the first/second generation Dodge Viper is a sexy beast… no matter how primitive it’s pushrod-powered V10 may be.
I spotted this one outside the gym; and though I generally disapprove of aftermarket wheels on historic cars, this setup is actually pretty clean. I especially like how the car is sporting an EZPass transponder… insinuating that this maniacal machine just might see duty as a daily driver.
Center-exit exhaust and script on the front fenders denote this as a GTS model; the higher-performance variant with a few more horses under the hood and… well, a lot more noise.
Though the first and second generation Vipers share the same face, the “double bubble” hardtop and hood scoop on this one indicate it’s a younger model, built between 1996 and 2002. The first-gens had a targa roof, wacky three-spoke wheels, and side-exit exhaust.
The Viper was exposed to the world for the first time in 1989, at which point it would have looked extremely futuristic and awesome.
Although it was originally intended only as a “halo concept” to give Chrysler a much-needed hype boost, response to the design was so enthusiastic that they went ahead and built the thing.
As far as a halo car goes, Chrysler had ticked all the boxes- the car is basically a caricature. Mean name, mean face, hilariously huge eight-liter engine… and limited production. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a pre-2002 example.
When the second generation began in ’96, the entire car was improved from better computerized engine management, better brakes, stiffened chassis, and suspension that allowed the car to complement its bark with quite a bit more bite.
August 8th, 2010 was this years “Tutto Italiano” (Italian Car Day) at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum.
And after having our FIAT held hostage by our mechanic for two months, my father and I were pretty excited to clean it up and park it between some other showpieces.
Other highlights of the field included Alfa Romeo GTVs, a Ferrari 512BB, and some very cool vintage motorcycles.
Naturally we bumped into our mechanic Nino, who was decked-out in Ferrari regalia. He had ridden his Vespa to the show all the way from Gloucester… following his friend in a Ferrari Testarossa. Like, for real.
If you didn’t make it out to Brookline this year, get your s**t together, gas up your Vespa and get that out there for 2011.
As usual, there was a Ferrari on a lift… so we could see the glorious underbody. Smoother than a baby’s butt.
Even the visitor parking lot was stacked with exotics… museum staff had another impromptu car show on their hands.
The family’s beloved roadster, the 1979 FIAT Spider 2000 that raised me is finally getting the treatment it deserves- an almost full restoration back to its original glory with a working roof, heater, and an absence of rust.
Dad dropped it off at our mechanic’s, an animated Italian fellow named Nino DeMayo (for real) who happens to have worked on FIATs since the days when they were still sold new here in the U.S.
Spiders are his passion, and he’s progressing nicely on ours.
Bumpers have been removed (for now), and a lot of rust has been cut out already.
By the end of the month, we’re expecting a new roof, functional heater (did I already mention that?), working tail lights, a fresh coat of paint and who knows- maybe even an inspection sticker.
It doesn’t look… too bad… as is, but I’m pretty excited to see how it turns out. Stay posted.