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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Archive for July 2012

Scion FR-S - Score one for the car guys

Not many 200hp vehicles make auto journalists gush like it’s their first time behind the wheel of a sports car. The 2013 Scion FR-S is doing that to nearly everyone that can get their hands on it. One week with the coupe convinced me to drink the Kool-Aid too; I’m sold. I want one. 

The FR-S represents one of the most important wins for auto-enthusiasts in recent memory. Purest driver’s cars built from the ground up to deliver exactly what the driver is capable of drawing out of them are mostly a thing of the past. Affordable ones are nearly extinct all together. 

Starting at under $25,000 the FR-S is a wet dream come true for every car guy that’s been waiting for an automaker to start producing a true sports car at a reasonable price point. Toyota conceived the FR-S to fill this void as well as the one in their lineup for a fun, passionate car the average Joe could get his hands on. 

On paper the FR-S fits the mold: Rear wheel drive, lightweight and incredibly agile. 

In reality it’s completely in tune with the driver when driven properly, embarrassingly sloppy when not. In other words, once again, it’s a real driver’s car. 

The FR-S accomplishes its noble endeavor so well it almost doesn't matter its 0-60mph time is nearly identical to a V-6 Camry – power just isn’t the point. 

Before gushing anymore it should be made clear the development of the FR-S was spurred by the glorious idea of Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, but the bulk of the car was built by Subaru in an unprecedented joint effort by the two companies. 

In the United States FR-S and Subaru BRZ are brothers from different mothers. Their estranged sibling sold globally outside of the U.S. is the Toyota GT 86 – homage to the original car so many greasy shirted young men still lust after for drifting purposes. 

Instead of digging in to the subtle details of how the Scion differs from the Subaru and Toyota variants, one defining characteristic of the FR-S does a better job of representing its essence than anything else:

It runs Prius tires. The FR-S’s Michelin Primacy HP tires are exactly the same to those in the Prius’ optional Plus Performance package. They aren’t all that grippy and are skinny by sports car standards. 

The idea is to let the car drift at lower levels of g-force. That’s where real driving happens. Also it’s really, really fun. 

The FR-S cabin keeps with the ethos. There are very few buttons or any semblance of Scion’s usual barrage of youthful interior styling cues. Yet predominately displayed just below the gear-shift is a button that turns the traction and stability control completely off. 

Did I mention it runs on Prius tires?

If that weren’t fun enough, power, though clearly not the point as mentioned earlier, is still plenty adequate. 

Beneath the hood lies a Subaru 2.0-liter flat four boxer engine to which Toyota added its impressive eight-injector direct and port fuel injection. For the nerds out there, that makes the FR-S the world’s only direct-injection flat-four rear-drive sports car. 

At 7,000RPM power tops out at 200hp, at 6,600RPM torque hits its peak at 151 lb-feet. At 2,800lbs-2,900lbs the FR-S is good for 0-60mph times of about 6.6 seconds. 

Those aren’t impressive straight line numbers. In fact they’re an embarrassment waiting to happen in a street race. Where the FR-S separates itself the most from the likes of a Hyundai Genesis or Ford Mustang V6 isn’t on a drag strip, but in balance. 

I’m six feet tall. The top of the FR-S boxer engine sits at the middle of my kneecap, making for an incredibly low center of gravity. Weight distribution is also very impressive at 53% front, 47% rear. 

With the traction and stability control defeated (as it most always should be), the FR-S lets the back end step out in precise conjunction with how much throttle it’s given. Ease off and she’ll hop right back in line. 

This is a car that will do exactly what you want it to; it’s as good as you are, no more, no less. 

For as much of a purist’s car as the FR-S was designed to be, it wouldn’t be blasphemous to opt for the automatic transmission. Besides the obvious choice of the six-speed manual a six speed automatic with paddle shifters is available. It uses rev-matched downshifts and is an impressive accomplishment unto itself. 

The new automatic is based off the 8-speed auto in the Lexus IS-F. It doesn’t let the FR-S down in any of the ways an automatic easily could. When left alone it will downshift on its own before the car enters a corner. 

For all the wonderful ways the FR-S lives up to the hype that’s been lumped on to it as this generation’s triumph of the everyman’s driver’s car it definitely looks the part as well. 

One warm sunny evening I drove it down to a beachside 7-11 to return a movie. Two twenty-something girls wearing bikinis in a new Audi yelled across the parking lot:

“Is that your car?”

“…Yes”. 

“It’s beautiful!”

“Thanks!”

Several minutes later a pair of high school guys in a ’96 Mustang pulled up and prodded, 

“How fast is your car?”

“It’s really more about handling…” 

When they pulled out of their parking stall a middle-aged guy in a late nineties BMW pulled in and wanted to know what sort of car the Scion was. 

I told him it was a driver’s car. And that it runs on Prius tires.

SLIDESHOW: http://tinyurl.com/crxmpsf

Greenwood Car Show Best of Show

 

 
As usual this year’s Greenwood Car Show had a lil’ somthin’ for just about everyone. In an effort to fill your auto-loving eyes with visual candy I attended the event as an ace photographer to snap pictures of the choicest rides. Please don’t take these portraits lightly; each and every one required I stand bent over, camera in hand with a car in frame waiting painfully for the magic split second when the endlessly swarming crowd of looky-lous would part to make way for a decent shot. 

Unfortunately our slide show capabilities here are limited. Please take a look at the pictures on my Examiner page here: http://tinyurl.com/6r8cdgf

But wait! Juicy historic details and dazzling commentary that wouldn’t fit into the captions of the Examiner slide show are located below, exclusively for readers of this blog!!

Enjoy, and if you didn’t make it to the Greenwood Car Show this year you missed out. Just take a look, and a read:

1967 Lincoln Continental 

I love 1961-1971 Lincolns. They were powered by Ford 430ci and 460ci V8’s that would make up to 365hp. They also topped out at 5,700lb’s; even without the 18 people you could fit in them. 

1965 Edmonds Midget 

Midgets are cars too. This one was powered by a 122 cubic inch Cosworth 4-banger that winds all the way up to 8,200rpm and pushes out 225hp. Watch out for the Edmonds when it gets near a dirt oval. 

Oh Boy: Oberto vintage hydroplane

This aquatic beast is powered by a V-12 Alison Aircraft engine that makes 2,000 horsepower. She’ll do 185mph and is guaranteed to make even the most seasoned inner-tuber lose their shorts. If you look closely at the exhaust manifold you’ll notice the whole thing runs entirely on pepperoni. 

1961 Chrysler 300G

Nothing screamed MOPAR more at the show than this beauty. Powered by a 413ci V8, this was a car that helped define what Chrysler is still doing so well today: American muscle. 

1981 Audi 4000 5+5

Five + Five stands for a 1.9L inline 5-cylinder and a five-speed transmission. At first glance it would be easy to write this one off as just another Audi. Don’t do that. The 5+5 is extremely rare. Being splattered with rally mud only makes this one sexier. 

1985 Chevrolet El Camino SS

By 1985 the storied El Camino was entering the twilight of its existence in 1987. For those that demanded even more character from the old-school crossover, Choo-Choo customs Inc. of Chattanooga, Tennessee (seriously), would customize the rig with Chevrolet’s SS package. 

1973 Buick Centurion 

1973 was the last year for the Buick Centurion and the last convertible Buick would produce until the Riviera in 1982. A little Seattle drizzle didn’t scare this one into putting its top back up. 

1965 Ford Econoline Van

Modern day Econoline vans are less sexy and more thankless workhorses. This one is straight out of Scooby Doo. I’d solve a mystery in it and I bet you would too. 

1970 Dodge Charger 

This Charger is everything a good muscle car should be: Understated yet ballsy, mean and not too shiny. Late sixties green paint sweetens the deal. 

1968 Volvo Amazon

Back in ’68 Volvo was still a safety pioneer. The Amazon featured a padded dashboard, both front AND rear seat belts and a laminated windshield… My, my how far we’ve come. 

1960 Buick Electra 225

You’ll notice this angry-faced car sports a “Rosellini for Governor” license plate. One of Rosellini’s notable accomplishments as the 15th governor of Washington was advocating the construction of the 520 floating bridge which opened in 1963. Construction on the bridge started three years earlier – about the same time this Electra hit Northwest streets. 

1923 Buick Touring Car

Buick is one of the oldest American car makes still in production. The brand hangs its hat on appealing to buyers that want a luxury car but might not be able or want to pay for the likes of a Cadillac. This example from 1923 fits the role, and so far as I can tell still looks pretty alluring even by modern standards. 

1919 Cadillac Limousine 

Cadillac was less than twenty years old when it produced this limo. You’ll notice from the picture the six-foot tall man standing next to the unrestored Caddy looks like he’s five-foot five. They built ‘em big back then. 

1931 Chrysler Imperial

The Imperial lineup was Chrysler’s stab at competing with the likes of Cadillac. Both eight and twelve cylinder engines were becoming a necessity for the luxury crowd during these years. In the ’31 Imperial Chrysler offered four straight eights ranging from 240-385cid with peak power at 135hp. 

1993 Jaguar XJ 220

Not many people at the show knew this was a Jaguar when they saw it or that for a several years it was the fastest production car in the world with a top speed of 217mph. 

1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu wagon 

Station wagons are sexy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This one combines Chevelle badass-ness with a Corvette LT1 engine. How can you not love that?

1972 Chevrolet Blazer

The United States is very good at making trucks. First generation Blazers are works of American art, even when painted in yellow. 

1964 Fiat 600

Fiat is tentatively working its way back into the American consciousness with the 500. The 600 was the first rear-engine Fiat. It wouldn’t go much faster than 70mph, but it would about fit into the back of a full-size pickup truck. 

1965 Chevrolet Corvette

Corvette styling very well may have peaked with the second generation Stingray models. The body was originally inspired by a Mako Shark designer, Bill Mitchell caught while deep sea fishing. 

1976 Chevrolet Nova SS

Nova’s were working man’s cars that you could drop nearly any high-performance Chevy engine into for kicks and giggles. There’s just something about Nova design that’s endearing. They usually aren’t called beautiful, but they are very Detroit and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

1963 Buick Riviera 

The smallest engine available in the first generation Riviera was a 401ci v8. The only other was a 425ci V8; proof that real muscle cars could in fact have a luxury option or two. 

1971 Datsun 510 

For those that weren’t destined to own a BMW there was Datsun. In both 1971 and 1972 the little 510 won the 2000cc class of the Trans Am Series. Not bad for a “poor man’s” BMW.

1972 Datsun 521 Pickup

The 521 was the first compact half-ton pickup sold in the American market in 1968. Anyone who’s owned a Datsun from these glorious days knows they will run for just about ever. Most of their owners thought that was good thing. 

1966 Kaiser Jeepster Commando

Kaiser developed the Jeepster Commando to compete with the likes of the Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Bronco. In 1973 the Jeepster was replaced by the full-size Cherokee which undoubtedly was more in line with Jeep’s utilitarian heritage. The Jeepster is an odd duck, albeit a charming one. 

The Skate King Skate

Based on a 1972 Volkswagen bus the Skate was proudly displayed in the Bellevue Skate King for 25 years. Just looking at it reminds me of the vomit smell in the lobby… Somehow it’s a good memory. 

1946 Dodge Power Wagon 

There might not be another truck out there that better embodies what a real truck should be than the original Dodge Power Wagon. This one rocks an 8,000lb P.T.O. winch, aftermarket locking rear-differential and a bumper that looks like it could drive through your house. 

1959 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder Replica

Only 50 of these beauties were ever made which may have something to do with why the producers of the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” opted to build replicas such as this one to use in the movie. It’s hard to argue the fakes still don’t look fantastic. 

1974 Chevrolet Caprice

Your rims are smaller than these. 

1953 Volvo PV444

During World War II Volvo came to the conclusion that a smaller car with good fuel economy would carry the company out of dark times to a brighter future. The PV series was born and proved the Sweds right. 

1955 Ford C.O.E. (Rat Rod)

The owner of this terrifying machine is a member of the Rat Bastards car club. When the zombie apocalypse hits this truck will make much more sense. 

1955 Ford Thunderbird (Rat Rod)

I’m not sure what’s cooler about this machine: The headers dumping into open air or the fact that a rat-rodder had no problem cutting into a 1955 Ford Thunderbird . Well played, Sir. 

1960’s Chevrolet Impala (?) (Rat Rod)

Whatever this car started its life as it appears as though everything between the front doors and rear fenders of a station wagon were deemed unnecessary by its owner. Now it looks like something out of a family road trip from hell. 

1947 Ford Panel Truck

Without the Foster Farms chickens a Ford Panel Truck might not have made it into the show… 

1972 Ford Van

If the year, model and paint job don’t do it for you the shag carpet interior certainly will. That’s dirty ‘70’s charm at its best. 

1981 DeLorean DMC-12

Not everyone wants to own a DMC-12, but just about anyone will stop at gawk at it. For the past couple years there have always been one at the Greenwood Car Show.

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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