Sunday, 24 July 2016

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

The Fast and Furious franchise has made stars of many cars, but perhaps none more so than a certain orange one driven in that first film, Toyota's top of the range 90's coupe, the Supra. Now of course if we get technical, a Supra badge has been glued to the boot of a Toyota since the late 70's, but back then it was merely a stretched Celica and although a bespoke Supra appeared in 1986 the curvy bewinged beast we all recognise didn't arrive until 1993.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

From Zero to Hero

Sudden movie stardom for the Supra was a double edged sword though. A car that for a long time was only tuned by skinny Japanese men in cramped Tokyo workshops, suddenly had a cult following, thanks to Paul Walker everyone wanted one. This brought about an issue as in Australia at least Toyota hadn't bothered to sell the Supra. Turns out in the 90's nobody outside of the Japan really wanted a twin turbo Japanese coupe. So in order to buy one importing became the thing to do and for a tuning obsessed generation Y the Supra and its Nissan sparring partner the Skyline became the turbo whooshing, neon light sporting version of a good old Ford vs Holden fight. But let's take a step back for minute and forget installing boost gauges and huge sub woofers and appreciate what is an increasingly rare Japanese sports car.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

Whats under the bonnet?

Ok, the headlines, 3 litres, straight 6, 2 turbo's, rear wheel drive. A claimed 206kw and up to 451Nm of torque however many reports suggest Toyota undersold themselves a bit with power actually nearer the 240kw mark. You also got a bewildering array of specs ranging from SZ to RZ over the cars 9 years in production, with some variants getting traction control, limited slip diff, pioneering active aero, trick dampers and later benefiting from variable valve timing or VVTI in Toyota speak. Your choice with a Supra really is endless, heck they even made a non turbo version without the big spoiler, but why you'd want one of them is beyond me.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

Just leave it alone

Other reasons why I want to celebrate the standard Supra are an appreciation for the exterior and interior. While its Skyline rival went for a macho boxy look, the smooth surfaces of the Supra are hard to resist. That swooping roof line and iconic tail lights made the Supra look good straight out of the box and are too often spoilt by body kits and massive adjustable wings. Then there is the interior, not usually a highlight of Japanese cars of this era, the Supra's is actually full of 90's charm, like a tape deck, crazy patterned seats and a stubby gear knob. Check out the centre console in the picture below it's angled towards the driver, like a fighter jets cockpit! There is nothing in there you need to change, it's suitably epic as is. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate tasteful modifications but I think sometimes we need to take a step back and see how nice cars can actually look when they are just left alone.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

Future classic 

Toyota's A80 Supra is one of those cars made famous by being modified but sometimes it can all get a little 2 fast 2 furious (sorry that was an awful pun), But seriously the Supra is rarely appreciated for actually just being a good looking, suitably fast 90's coupe with an interior to make you feel like a total top gun hero. Standard cars are increasingly hard to come by and quickly gaining value, a brief search throws up only a handful with prices well over $20k. It is a future classic for sure and with rumours of a new one coming I hope Toyota can regain their mojo while at the same time bring the name back for another generation to enjoy.  
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Supra

Monday, 20 June 2016

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

To start my journey into the world of 1990's coupes I am going to look at a car that had a rather good decade; the Toyota Celica. Of course the Celica nameplate goes much further back in time, to 1970 in fact but for this feature we're keeping it strictly Windows 95 and looking at the 6th generation Celica. Arguably the most affordable way into a reliable front wheel drive (mostly) sports car.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

Gone are the pop up's 

Visually the 6th gen car broke away from the very awesome but very 80's pop up headlights of the previous generation cars. Quad headlamps dominate the front combined with the sloping roof line we expect from a coupe. The result is a car that bares more than a passing resemblance to it's bigger more powerful siblings the Supra and Soarer. Personally I think the rounded design has aged well the pumped arches give it road presence and crucially make it look wider and lower than the 7th Gen car that succeeded it.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

Choices, but not many

Australia got to choose from three Celica variants SX, ZR and rare as unicorn poop GT-Four. The first two were both powered by a 2.2 litre 4 cylinder engine. It served up a not particularly sporting but adequate 100kw and 196Nm of torque, however that great marker of how quick a car is, the 0-100km/h time is best mentioned quietly, ahem, 10 seconds. Fast it is not, but teamed to the crisp shifting 5 speed manual (an auto was available) the Celica proved to be a fun car to hustle along, with direct steering and a competent chassis underneath. GT-Four's however where a different ball game, a homologation special that allowed Toyota to take the car rallying GT-Fours scored a turbo'd 2 litre, 4 wheel drive, massive wing, bonnet scoop and natty 3 spoke alloys. Only 77 of these 178kw, 306Nm monsters made it to Australia, so the chances of finding one are rare and expensive, but if you have one can I have a go?
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica
This is a UK delivered GT4, it didn't score the big wing, boo


Inside it's all very 90's, so expect hard plastics and optional extra's stretching to the dizzying heights of a CD player and front fog lights, oh and the ZR model also scored, wait for it... 15 inch alloy wheels, sweet! Reports say that the standard of fit and finish inside was good though so wear and rattles should be minimal some 20 years later.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

With reliability comes value 

The biggest selling point of this 90's coupe is that unbeatable Toyota reliability though. Most of the cars for sale today are pushing 200,000km's some are past 300,000. And you can't really get a better argument for longevity than people still trying to sell them with that many km's, whats more, the Celica will keep going, sure a new gasket, hose and the odd service won't go a miss but really that's all you'll need to keep your sleek coupe on the road. Those high km's combined with a distinct lack of popularity nowadays also means 6th gen cars can be bought for next to nothing. A fully functioning example with rego can be had for under $2000.
What ever happened to 90's coupes: Toyota Celica

The reliability of a Toyota wrapped up in a coupe body style, essentially it's a curvy 2 door Camry. Many people may find it dull, but this is a crying shame, a 6th generation Celica is an increasingly rare under appreciated modern Toyota with a sweet chassis and just, and I mean just enough power to put a smile on your face. Bring back the 90's coupe!

Image credit 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

What ever happened to 90's coupes?

Supra, Celica, FTO, MR2, 200SX, Calibra, Cougar, CRX, NX Coupe, Prelude, RX7, Probe, MX-6 and MX-3. Remember when car makers used to make cars you actually aspired too? Forget sports utility and lifestyle vehicles. In the 90's all the big brands made coupes, strictly 2 doors with a emphasise purely on sport rather than utility. It is about time we appreciate a decade when manufacturers didn't listen to consumer focus groups and just built what they damn well wanted.

Over the coming weeks I'm going to do a series on all those lovely cars mentioned above and why you need to buy one, dare I type the phrase #bringbackthe90scoupe?

To get started though lets ogle some oddly posed period press photo's and give you a snippet of information on why I have chosen the aforementioned machines. Also note how many of these press shots depict the car on either a beach or simply off road, an odd way to promote sports cars don't you think?  

1. Toyota Celica, Supra and MR2

Let me start this series with Toyota, a company whose model range once bulged with coupes. I've picked out 3, the legendary Supra, mid engined MR2 and affordable Celica.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Celica in a quarry, naturally 
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
MR2 on a pebble beach, obviously

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
I'm unclear why a chef is taking boxes to a Supra though?

2. Honda CRX and Prelude

Another company who once had a much more expansive and exciting model range, blame the financial crisis and lack of consumer interest for robbing car guys like you and me of the CRX and Prelude name badges.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
I'll just park my CRX on your patio thanks

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Sandy beach? Park the Prelude there 

3. Nissan 200SX(Silvia) and NX Coupe

Another Japanese brand now lacking in coupes, Nissan nowadays is all about the SUV. But here are a proper rear drive sports car and a quirky gull winged doored oddity that would never see production green lighted today.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
I'll just hide the 200SX in the heather dear.... 

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Beach huts, oh lets park the NX coupe there.

4. Mitsubishi FTO

You'd scarcely believe the company making hideous pink Mirage's, ageing Pajero's and family friendly Outlanders had it in them to build a little V6 engined coupe, but between 94 and 00 they did exactly that.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
FTO, much faster than a single prop aircraft

5. Mazda MX-3(or Eunos 30X), MX-6 and RX-7

If you want a sporting Mazda today your only choice is the wonderful MX-5, but what if you wanted a roof, a choice of wheelbases and drive layouts? Mazda in the 90's had the answer.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Hold on, Mazda parked the MX-3 on tarmac?

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
That's better, shove the MX-6 on the grass

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Wait, this is actually quite a sensible picture of an RX-7

6. Holden Calibra

Perhaps because all the Japanese brands were doing it Holden too marketed a European sourced coupe down under in the 90's. Based on the total pudding and quite frankly awful Vauxhall Cavalier sedan the Calibra is forgiven thanks to that angular swoopy coupe look it has going on.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
Ah nothing quite shouts sporting intentions like a Calibra in an office car park

7. Ford Probe and Cougar

Not to be mistaken for names of adult toys Australia's other big home brand Ford had a go at marketing coupes sourced from elsewhere in the 90's too. Firstly the unfortunately named Probe which was based on the Mazda MX-6 above. Then in 1999 the much better looking Mondeo based Cougar. Both flopped, massively, but like all the others I'm happy Ford tried.
What ever happened to 90's coupes?
A field, yup put the Probe over there

What ever happened to 90's coupes?
A blind bend, there are better places to stop your Cougar. 

Seven manufactures, fourteen coupes. Over the coming weeks I will explore what makes these cars so special and reminisce about a decade when car makers gave us sports cars to aspire too, not SUV's to grow into.                    

Monday, 6 June 2016

Sacre bleu! Paris banning all pre 1997 cars

If the title did not elude to it enough, this is going to be a rather niche piece, however let me give you some context. To combat an ever increasing smog problem Paris's governors are going to implement that from the 1st of July all cars built prior to 1997 will be excluded from the city centre on weekdays between 8am and 8pm. The rules are set to change further in a few years too, by 2020 all cars in the city centre will have to be no older than 2010 and those older will be banned 24 hours a day. This is of course a very sensible idea, the 2 and a bit million people who call the centre on Paris their home and the millions of tourists who visit it every year deserve to breath better air, but for me and probably 3 other deeply dull anoraks the news is very sad indeed.
Paris banning all pre 1997 cars

It's a nerd thing  

You see the joy for a nerd like me is seeing European streets crammed with an array of cars. Spotting increasingly rare and obscure 80's and 90's tin in Paris was as important to me as getting a blooming nice pain au chocolat and a coffee. In fact its one of the great joys of going to any European city, the diverse nature and varying condition of the vehicles adds to the atmosphere and brings character to already great cities. Old cars are the warriors, by merely surviving for such a long time in such harsh environments they should be celebrated, they wear their battle scars with pride. But with this legislation they are being forced out, imagine if you said "sorry no old people in the city, they smell and clog up the place", its shameful!
Paris banning all pre 1997 cars

Modern cars are wimps

New Citroen C4 CactusLeaving the city's motoring landscape to be populated by modern cars just doesn't seem right. They lack the character of their predecessors. A bloated Puegoet 207 for example has zero sex appeal whereas a Pininfarina penned 205 has more jua de vive than James Bond in a tux sipping a Martini. These cars need to be on the streets, generally cars post 97 and certainly 2000 are bigger, heavier, uglier and literally take up more space on crowded European streets. They are also a bit soft, take the new Citroen C4 Cactus pictured, yes it is quirky, cool and unmistakably French but it has air bumps all around it to shrug of city knocks, what a wimp! Its grandfather the Citreon ZX just had bumpers, for doing exactly that, bumping. And now the city officials want to force out hardened residents like the ZX?

Air bump, pah
Bumpers are for bumping
Bumpers are for bumping, obviously

It's sad both that I care and that it's actually happening, but alas it is for the greater good. However, I can not help but feel that some of the cities character might be lost. Here are some pictures of traffic I took in Paris a few years ago to celebrate the diversity, 10 points for every pre 1997 car you spot.
Paris banning all pre 1997 cars

Paris banning all pre 1997 cars

Paris banning all pre 1997 cars
Classic Range and Opel Manta

Paris banning all pre 1997 cars
yes, that is a BMW CS behind the bike

(Some of those Mini's pictured are indeed Cooper Sports so are in fact post 97, but they're cool so they stay)

photo creditphoto credit

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Oldest, Newest Cars

Land Rovers stopped making the Defender earlier this year, bringing an end to over 60 years of continuous production. I don't think the mantra of if it ain't broke don't fix it has never been more applicable in the car world. However, with the Defender now shuffling off to collect its pension here are some other not so new cars that manufacturers really should have replaced by now.

Nissan Patrol Y61

the newest oldest cars you can buy

Technically now out of production Nissan were still screwing them together just a couple of weeks ago, meaning there are still plenty in the dealerships. In production since 1998 the Y61 Patrol rules off road, but on road there are many newer, better choices.

Mitsubishi Pajero and Lancer

the newest oldest cars you can buy

Struggling Mitsubishi probably isn't in a financial place to go replacing cars right now, but to get competitive again they should probably try. Apart from some new headlights and an interior refresh the big Pajero hasn't changed since 1999. While in the ever changing small sedan/hatch market the 2007 Lancer really doesn't cut the mustard any more.
the newest oldest cars you can buy

Mercedes Benz G-Glass

the newest oldest cars you can buy
Stuttgart's answer to the Defender since 1979. It is unquestionably cool but also agricultural, old and wets itself whenever it sees a corner. Although Merc will still charge you over $150,000 for a new one, go figure.

Morgan Classic

the newest oldest cars you can buy

Classic by name classic by nature. If you think it looks like its straight out of 1950 you'd be right because it is. With a chassis made of Ash wood its amazing the Morgan still passes safety standards. Definitely one for the enthusiastic chap with a bulging bank account, prices start at $95,000.

Suzuki Jimny

the newest oldest cars you can buy

It's small, 4x4 and looks alarmingly unstable. It has been on the market since 1998 and as competent off road as it is surely Suzuki could bash out a funky looking newer one?  

Toyota LandCruiser 70

the newest oldest cars you can buy

Much like the G-Class this is Japan's closest thing to a Defender. With a ladder chassis and zero on road dynamics it is arguably the workhorse of rural Australia. On sale in its current form since 1984.

There you have it, a selection of brand new cars you can buy right now that are actually rather long in the tooth.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Top 5: Normal cars with not so normal engines

A sleeper, an otherwise ordinary looking car which has a not so ordinary engine under the bonnet. I love them, especially ones manufacturers actually make themselves, so here are my top 5.

Subaru Forester XT

The Subaru Impreza WRX is an iconic vehicle, love them or hate them you can not argue with their rally conquering heritage and bargain basement AWD performance. The wagon versions are also reasonably practical. But what if you want even more practicality and looks so bland you could lose your car in an empty car park? Not to fear; Subaru also created the Forester and you guessed it, in GT then XT spec you got the Impreza's thumping turbo charged motor. All the pace of an WRX with none of the hooning in yer face body styling, well except for the massive bonnet scoop.
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Specs; 2nd Generation Subaru Forester XT
Engine/drive chain: 2.5 litre turbo charged boxer engine, AWD
Kilowatts: 155
Torque: 320Nm
0-100km/h: 6.4secs
Price range: $6000-$20,000
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Mercedes Benz S600

Do you want an understated luxury sedan with enough power under your right foot to match that of a ballistic missile? If so can I suggest the Mercedes-Benz S600. A car with a 6 litre V12 up front, a V12 for goodness sake! That's the type of power plant usually reserved for super cars and here's Merc cramming one under the bonnet of a luxury sedan. Also expect much, much luxury.
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Specs; Mercedes-Benz W220 S600
Engine/drive chain; 5.8 litre naturally aspirated V12, RWD
Kilowatts: 270
Torque: 530Nm
0-100km/h: 4.6secs
Price range: $25,000-$65,000
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Volkswagen Touareg V10

Do you need a car capable of towing a Boeing 747? Or maybe you want your house moved slightly to the left and need something to give it a shove. Well Volkswagen have the answer, the unassuming almost bland Touareg was once available with a twin turbo V10 diesel, which produced a quite frankly silly 750Nm of torque. Emissions laws killed off the mighty diesel after 3 years, but thank the car guy gods it existed in what was an otherwise normal SUV.
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Specs: Volkswagen Touareg 7L V10 TDI
Engine/drive chain: 4.9 litre twin turbo V10 diesel, AWD
Kilowatts: 230
Torque: 750NM
0-100km/h: 7.4secs
Price range: $19,000-$45,000
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Volkswagen Passat W8

On the subject of bland, have you ever seen a Volkswagen Passat? Don't worry if you haven't, as despite their solid build quality and general good at everything'ness they just don't grab you visually. So really what better car for VW to shoehorn a W8 engine and 4 motion all wheel drive system into. For those unsure what a W8 even is think of it as a two 4 cylinder V-shaped engines welded together, making a W shape with 8 cylinders. Honestly it's a ludicrous idea for an engine and by putting it into the Passat the buying public clearly thought so too, with VW only selling 10,000 globally and a mere handful of those made it down under. As I write this I can't even find one for sale, but they're here somewhere in 2003 28 were registered!
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Specs: Volkswagen Passat B5.5 W8
Engine/drive chain: 4.0 litre W8, AWD
Kilowatts: 202
Torque: 370Nm
0-100km/h: 6.8secs
Price range: Educated guess, $8000-$15,000
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Volvo 850 R

Nothing quite says middle aged dentist's car like a Volvo 850. Volvo clearly thought the same so in 1996 they decided to ramp up the 850's cool factor by way of fitting a 5 cylinder 2.3 litre motor. Featuring a wonderful warble with added turbo whoosh, the R is an unsuspecting performance wagon.
Top 5 normal cars with not so normal engines

Specs: Volvo 850 R
Engine/drive chain: 2.3 litre 5 cylinder turbo charged, FWD
Kilowatts: 184
Torque: 350Nm
0-100km/h 6.9secs
Price range: $6000-$13000