Wednesday, April 25, 2012 01:30
When American buyers finally get their hands on the new Scion FR-S in the next few months, there’s going to be a wave of aftermarket customization driven by passionate enthusiasts, and—if the recently-debuted FR-S Speedster is any indication—that’s going to be a very, very good thing.
This little slice of Japanese brilliance is a chop-top, white and red rolling racing homage that proves there will be plenty of ways to make your FR-S unique.
Where to start? Outfitted in classic Toyota Racing colors, and marked with the legendary No. 86 in reference to the AE86 generation Corolla that inspired the FR-S, the FR-S Speedster takes balance and agility to new heights. It sports KW Suspensions Clubsport Coilovers, drilled and slotted two-piece brake rotors from SRP and custom red calipers from Wilwood. The big wing keeping this RWD marvel glued to the track is a 61-inch carbon fiber wing from APR Performance. Basically, it’s the canyon carver of your dreams. More...
Monday, January 30, 2012 12:17
The trick to getting started in racing is to get the most amount of track time for the least amount of money. If you’re looking for a fun and cost-effective class to get your start in road racing, consider B-Spec racers, based on small and inexpensive models from Honda, Kia, Mazda, and Mini.
In 2012, B-Spec racers will hit the track at SCCA, World Challenge, and Grand-Am races all across the country. The most popular car appears to be the Mazda 2, the lightest and least powerful of the cars eligible for the class. A $2600 racing kit that includes suspension and brake updates, an oil cooler, and an air filter should go on sale soon enough to help bring the Mazda 2 forward in the pack. Honda Performance Development is offering a kit for the Honda Fit, and similar kits are available for the Mini.
Other eligible cars include the Fiat 500, the Ford Fiesta, the Toyota Yaris, and the Nissan Versa. All are cheap, even new, compared to a dedicated race car. And their relative lack of power compared to bigger cars means you’ll develop your drivers skills faster so that when you move up you’ll be ready.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 08:22
Former co-worker and now friend John Huffman recently wrote a spectacular story called “The 100 Worst Cars of All Time.” In response, I wrote the following note to him.
John, loved your article. Work like that is why the New York Times picked you and not me to be a contributor. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Tell NYT Senior Editor Greg Brock, and former co-worker at the Daily Mississippian I said “Hey.”
However, beating up on cars from dead brands (and non-advertisers)—Trabant, Geo, Eagle, Austin, Pontiac—is like having a top Southeastern Conference college football team play, well, any other school. (The only way an SEC team will lose a BCS Championship Game is when it plays another SEC school. Do California schools still play football?)
Allow me to add some big boys to John's list:
Ferrari 348: This was an evil-handling witch thanks to bumpsteer caused by poor suspension design. It was the only car I've driven that snapped sideways on a (ever so slightly bumpy) straightaway. That was disconcerting because I was going 140 mph. (I caught it, or else we wouldn’t be talking.)
Ferrari F355: This was a slightly less evil-handling evolution of the 348. Either Ferrari put so much anti-lift in the rear suspension that it picked the rear tires off the ground when cornering forces caused the car to slow slightly, or its Bridgestones’ belt package was so stiff that their tread wouldn’t conform to the pavement during hard cornering. Or both. In a right-hander on the Las Vegas road course, the F355 snapped from a near-perfect free (fronts sliding only slightly more than rears) condition to “Oh Fudge” loose. When I cranked in opposite lock to catch the sliding tail, the car slowed enough to allow the rears to regain traction. Since I had the wheel turned left to catch the slide, the Ferrari darted toward the concrete wall. No, I don’t know how I caught that one. More...
Monday, December 12, 2011 01:22
When I was a kid my father subscribed to Popular Science magazine. I was reading a lot of science fiction back then, so the PopSci articles on the future were my favorites. Flying cars! Underwater cities! Personal jetpacks! The future looked so good I couldn’t wait for it to get here.
But having seen Toyota’s version of the future, I’m pretty sure I don’t want anything to do with it.
This video was made to show off Toyota’s Fun-Vii concept car, which is pretty much an iPhone on wheels. The outside of the car is a display screen that you can program with to change colors, flash messages, and probably show your cholesterol level. Once inside, your only contact with the outside world is via “augmented reality” and a “navigation concierge”––imagine a holographic projection of Princess Leia beaming out of R2D2, only instead of asking Obi-Wan for help, she tells you where the nearest Starbuck’s is.
Some of these gadgets are clearly never going to make it to market, at least not in my lifetime, but what really creeps me out is the look on the faces of the people in the video. Whatever automotive advances the future holds, they’re nothing compared to the pharmacological ones that are surely responsible for the dopey, blissed-out smiles on the faces of the happy, carefree Citizens of Tomorrow. All through the video I kept waiting for the robot army to show and start herding them into the soylent green machine.
With any luck the Fun-Vii future will become a reality only in the fevered imagination of a car designer whose desk is too close to the fumes seeping out of the cleaning closet. Because if this is really the future of driving, I‘m taking the bus.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011 06:00
Most video games teach you how to blow away aliens, or bad guys, or monsters––useful skills, you’ll agree, for getting by in the real world. Well, while you were saving earth from the forces of virtual evil, a lot of other kids were learning about the things that’ll kill you when you’re behind the wheel. And they got paid for doing it.
Toyota and Discovery Education have announced the 10 high-school students who won the 2011 Toyota Teen Driver Sweepstakes, an interactive road challenge game called Heads Up!, which tested the students’ driving skills and their ability to handle distracting scenarios like testing, changing a radio station, or drinking a soda while behind the wheel. More...