Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Porsches

The Porsche 911 is an icon. There is no debate, it is the Mona Lisa of cars. Far from perfect, it has stood the test of time, much in the same way as Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather movies. But there is always some debate about it being the best sports car ever.

I would even argue it's not the best Porsche.

Thirty years before Porsche committed blasphemy by introducing the Cayenne, a V8 powered SUV, they introduced the world to the 928, a front engined, water cooled, V8 powered GT. Then they had the audacity to call it the replacement for the 911. The motor press and Porsche purists called it an abomination, saying it was Germany's answer to the Corvette.

If you look at cars developed in the 1970s you will realize the conventional wisdom of the time was to move away from pure sports cars towards GTs. Jaguar had already done this, replacing the E-Type with the XJ-S. The Chevrolet Corvette became longer and more cushy during this era and the Datsun Z even grew back seats. The venerable 911 was thirteen years old when the 928 was introduced and it seemed obvious that it was nearing the end of the road.

If you look at the 928 through this prism, you will see it makes perfect sense. Porsche didn't just create a vehicle to fill a need, they engineered a masterpiece. The 928 is a technical marvel, far ahead of its time. Name me another car from that era with supercar performance, all day comfort and practicality, and room for four average size people in a pinch.

To use the Coppola analogy, the 928 is the Apocalypse Now of cars. Comparing it to the 911 would be like comparing Apocalypse to the Godfather. It's just not possible. But if you compare the 928 against its contemporary rivals, you will see it was simply the best GT of its time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cheap Supercars - Ferrari Testarossa

Today I was browsing Ebay, looking at some of my favorite cars, when I stumbled across a handful of Ferrari Testarossas and saw this fact:


Fifty grand. For less than the price of a new Porsche Boxster or even a Corvette, you can buy the ultimate 1980s supercar. Sonny Crockett could afford to buy his undercover car on his cop's salary, providing he was still living rent free on his boat.

If I had $60 grand to spend on a car, and could chose between a new BMW M3, Jaguar XF, or Kia Rio, I'd take the Kia and use the leftover money for the Testarossa. I'd gladly drive the Kia every day for the rest of my driving life, if I had a Ferrari lurking in my garage for occasional weekend use.

My other favorite Ferrari, the 1968-74 365GTB Daytona, sells for six times the market price of a Testarossa. I don't get it. The Testarossa is twice the car. It's faster, handles better, and is equally iconic.

In college, I worked for Mario's Italian restaurant. One quiet Sunday, a customer showed up in a red Testarossa. To a non-car person, a Daytona or many of today's Ferrari's might have only received a second glance. The Testarossa was like a UFO that landed at a strip mall in suburban Kansas. And in an instant, it transformed a quiet, warm Sunday in June into a rare moment.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Toyota - Then Again Maybe Not

Looks like I spoke too soon on Toyota. It appears the fix to their problems may require more than a metal shim. There may be problems with the drive by wire and braking software, which is a lot more complicated than a piece of metal.

Still, I have to question the driving skill of people who experience the issue. Why can't they just put the car in neutral? Or as a very last resort, turn off the car and use the emergency brake? What other distractions are going on in the car when the issue occurs?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toyota Gets It

Yesterday, Toyota announced it had a fix for the sudden acceleration problem that affected most of the cars in its lineup. The fix, adding a shim to the pedal assembly, is simple but effective and was quickly approved and implemented.

Yet Toyota is still being blasted in the media for not responding quick enough to the problem. I disagree. The problems began occurring less than a year ago and it took a while to determine if they were related to driver error or an actual defect. When the defect was identified, Toyota was very forthcoming about it and moved quickly to implement changes. They did not try to cover the problem up, ala Ford with their exploding Pintos. Instead they announced they were shutting down their assembly lines, implementing changes and moving forward. Everything happened very quickly, considering the number of cars potentially effected.

Kudos to Toyota for getting it right.