The Truth About Cars » FT86 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:04:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » FT86 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com NSFW: Stark Naked Pictures Of Toyota 86, Subaru BRZ, Scion FRS, Hachi-Roku http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/nsfw-stark-naked-pictures-of-toyota-86-subaru-brz-scion-frs-hachi-roku/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/nsfw-stark-naked-pictures-of-toyota-86-subaru-brz-scion-frs-hachi-roku/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 11:56:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445690 It is a little bit like showing breasts at a plastic surgeon congress: At the annual meeting of the JSAE, the Japanese version of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Subaru totally disrobed its BRZ and shows it to a strictly professional audience. According to a quick image search on Google, this would be the first […]

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It is a little bit like showing breasts at a plastic surgeon congress: At the annual meeting of the JSAE, the Japanese version of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Subaru totally disrobed its BRZ and shows it to a strictly professional audience.

According to a quick image search on Google, this would be the first time that the drive train of the Hachi-Roku has been shown without disturbing sheet metal.

The professional audience was impressed. Back home at the office, the engineers work on electric motors, or hybrid drives, so seeing a boxer engine was a bit like vintage porn, professional meeting or not.

The 2012 JSAE Annual Congress began today at the Pacifico in Yokohama. It lasts through Friday, May 25. If you hop on a plane now, then you will be able to brag that you saw a naked  Hachi-Roku in the flesh.

(Want a screen saver with belts and pulleys? There are high resolution versions of the pictures in the gallery.)

Naked Hachi Roku JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku HIGHRES JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku HIGHRES JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku HIGHRES JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt Naked Hachi Roku HIGHRES JSAE Congress Yokohama. Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

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TTAC Publishes Exclusive Picture Of Supply-Constrained Subaru BRZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ttac-publishes-exclusive-picture-of-supply-constrained-subaru-brz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/ttac-publishes-exclusive-picture-of-supply-constrained-subaru-brz/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 13:53:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434937 Car & Driver horrified lovers of unadulterated driving fun with the news that “just 6000 Subaru BRZ sports cars will be allocated to the U.S. for the 2013 model year.” The source of that report is somehow suspect: “A Subaru dealer.” Car and Driver’s telephone budget must have been cut. The magazine consulted Subaru’s website […]

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Merriam-Webster Definition of CANARD: a false or unfounded report or story

Car & Driver horrified lovers of unadulterated driving fun with the news that “just 6000 Subaru BRZ sports cars will be allocated to the U.S. for the 2013 model year.” The source of that report is somehow suspect: “A Subaru dealer.” Car and Driver’s telephone budget must have been cut. The magazine consulted Subaru’s website that says that the BRZ will be built in “extremely limited quantities.” Car and Driver also checked with an old C&D article that said that “Subaru thinks that 5000 ­ to 7000 per year would be enough.” Thus having performed its journalistic duty, Car and Driver ran with the story of a BRZ that will be available in homeopathic quantities only. Which, I assume, should trigger a run at dealerships.

A similar canard had been published last November by the fansite ft86club.com. It comes as no surprise that this time also, FT86club.com immediately jumped on the Car and Driver story.

Time to make some calls.

Spokespeople at Subaru were very busy today, preparing for an event on Friday. Finally, Subaru spokesman Masato Saito was dragged out of a meeting and said that these rumors are not “based on official information by FHI (Fuji Heavy Industries).” He did not want to comment further.

Time to call Toyota. Toyota produces its “hachi-roku” (Toyota 86 in Japan, GT 86 in Europe and elsewhere, Scion FR-S in the U.S.) together with Subaru. The deal was that Subaru stops building minivehicles, which are now built by Toyota’s Daihatsu. As a make-good, Subaru builds the hachi-roku/BRZ in its Gunma plant in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo. According to Car and Driver, “only the front fascia, badges, and maybe wheels separate the BRZ from its Toyota—and Scion—sibling.” If the capacities are somehow constrained, then Toyota should know about it.

Toyota always maintained that it will sell as many hachi-roku as possible, with CEO Akio Toyoda personally leading the charge. A quick chat confirms that Toyota has not changed this stance.

Not surprisingly, Toyota’s spokesman Naoto Fuse says that “as for the Toyota 86, we plan to sell between 30,000 and 40,000 units annually overseas, mostly in North America and Europe.”

Why were Subaru spokespeople so busy? On Friday, there will be a line-off party at the Subaru plant. Subaru BRZ, Toyota 86, GT 86, Scion FR-S will be rolling off the line as quickly as they can build them, and as many as importers order will be shipped. Expect the first ones to arrive at U.S. shores in approximately a month from now. After a few weeks of thin supplies, common to any new model launch, you should be able to choose from plenty cars. Don’t buy the shortage story and pay above MSRP.

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Drifter-san http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/drifter-san/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/drifter-san/#comments Wed, 08 Feb 2012 04:50:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429899 As the man said: “Finally, we can exercise our capabilities in earnest.”

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As the man said: “Finally, we can exercise our capabilities in earnest.”

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Quote Of The Day: Toyoda Prepares For When Cars Retire From The World Of Mobility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/quote-of-the-day-toyoda-prepares-for-when-cars-retire-from-the-world-of-mobility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/quote-of-the-day-toyoda-prepares-for-when-cars-retire-from-the-world-of-mobility/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:54:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429191 “In 1909, people shifted from the horse carriage to the automobile, and horses retired from the world of mobility. What happened to the horses? We still have horse races. People love horses. People support horses and horse racing. As long as car enthusiasts exist, motor sports will continue.” Akio Toyoda, February 2, 2012, at the […]

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“In 1909, people shifted from the horse carriage to the automobile, and horses retired from the world of mobility. What happened to the horses? We still have horse races. People love horses. People support horses and horse racing. As long as car enthusiasts exist, motor sports will continue.”

Akio Toyoda, February 2, 2012, at the hachi-roku launch party

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Hachi-Roku Thursday: Toyota Could Work With Porsche On Next Engine, Chief Engineer Says http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-toyota-could-work-with-porsche-on-next-engine-chief-engineer-says/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-toyota-could-work-with-porsche-on-next-engine-chief-engineer-says/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 17:25:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429184 The 86 is not on sale yet, and people are already swapping engines. In a virtual way at least. In hachi-roku forums people are discussing the merits of more horsepower than the stock 200hp. They also wonder aloud how much additional power the hachi-roku can safely take. “Go for it,” says hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya […]

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The 86 is not on sale yet, and people are already swapping engines. In a virtual way at least. In hachi-roku forums people are discussing the merits of more horsepower than the stock 200hp. They also wonder aloud how much additional power the hachi-roku can safely take. “Go for it,” says hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada:

“Some Americans already put a 5 liter engine in a Mazda roadster. There are fanclubs who want to do the same with our car. There is no rule to limit that. As manufacturers, we can’t do that. We have to give guarantees. We need to build cars that last. Tuners can try. We welcome that.”

“As it is, only highly skilled drivers can make full use of the stock engine. Some people may like to have a higher speed in the straightaway, but there are lots of other cars they can choose.”

Nevertheless, Tada leaves the door open to more factory power, with interesting partners:

“For our current engine, we cooperated with Subaru. Maybe we cooperate with Porsche or someone else next time. You can partner with anybody in the world these days.”

BMW for instance?

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Hachi-Roku Thursday: Toyota 86 To Let Drivers Download Data, Interact With Gran Turismo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-kids-try-this-at-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-kids-try-this-at-home/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 16:37:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429169 Hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada credits his sons with giving him the impetus to develop this car. His sons are 24 and 27 now, they do not have a driver’s license and show no interest in cars. “They sit in front of the computer all day,” says Tada. “On Gran Turismo, they are better than […]

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Hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada credits his sons with giving him the impetus to develop this car. His sons are 24 and 27 now, they do not have a driver’s license and show no interest in cars. “They sit in front of the computer all day,” says Tada. “On Gran Turismo, they are better than their father. But they don`t want to drive.”

Tada tells how he took his boys to the racetracks since age 5 to awaken an interest in cars. It was a disaster, Tada admits:

“Manufacturers like to blame young people for having no interest in cars. Maybe we should blame ourselves. Manufacturers provided boring cars and focused on older people, because this is where the money is. We have abandoned young people.”

Creating new excitement for young people in an affordable car became the driving force behind the hachi-roku. Then, Tada had another idea. “I want to provide an interface between our car and their computer.” When Tada mentioned this to his sons, their eyes lit up.

Toyota, says Tada, developed an interface that makes CAN bus data available to a computer or game machine. Toyota has ditched all driving nannies on the hachi-roku, and pared down the electronics to what is legally mandated. But the car must have a CAN bus, and Tada wants to give the data to the driver. Not like a glorified data logger. Says Tada:

“People could load driving data into Gran Turismo and recreate the drive. We can combine the data with Google streetview. People could drive in the real world against a virtual F1 driver. They can have fun with the data.”

Hachi-roku owners can do whatever they or developers come up with, because Tada wants to publish the specs.

A patent for that interface has been applied for, and as mentioned before, the gizmo “should be ready to buy by August 6th.”

I requested an advance copy and will keep you posted. I better buy Gran Turismo.

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Hachi-Roku Thursday: When And Where http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-when-and-where/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-when-and-where/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 14:55:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429163 I already told you that today is not the official launch. Highly out of the ordinary at Toyota. Usually, when the members of the media are invited, the car goes on sale. Not in this case. In Japan, the car will be in dealers’ showrooms in April, I hear. Nonetheless, if I want one right […]

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I already told you that today is not the official launch. Highly out of the ordinary at Toyota. Usually, when the members of the media are invited, the car goes on sale. Not in this case. In Japan, the car will be in dealers’ showrooms in April, I hear. Nonetheless, if I want one right away, I better hustle down to my neighborhood Toyota dealer and place an order now.

The car is made at Subaru’s Gunma Manufacturing Division, 1,000 per month. Currently, there are more than 3,000 pre-orders, I better take a number. “But when will the car arrive in the U.S.?“ is what you and I want to know. “Not decided yet,” is the official answer.

Privately, I hear that the car should arrive in America, “sometime in summer.” It will be many hot months before Jack Baruth knows whether he is amongst the chosen 86.

Later, I question hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada, about the U.S. launch date. No answer. Then, a possible hint.

It soon becomes evident that Toyota is really in love with everything 86. The car will be exported to 86 countries, Tada says. Later, we discuss an electronic gizmo Tada dreamt up (to be covered in the next installment,) and I ask Tada whether the gizmo will be available before the car arrives in the U.S.

“Oh, I expect it will be ready by August 6,” says Tada.

I ask him whether that day has a special importance.

“It is an eight and a six,” says Tada with a sibyllinic smile.

Hmmm.

Later in the evening, I receive a phone call from Toyota, saying that I shouldn’t take the 86 countries at face value, it might be a different number. What about August 6, I ask. “Let’s not even go there,” is the answer. Oh, the incertitude!

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Hachi-Roku Thursday: Specs And Yen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-specs-and-yen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/hachi-roku-thursday-specs-and-yen/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 13:57:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429160 First of all, I thought I had already been to the launch party. Wrong. I thought I had driven the thing. Wrong. I learned today this was a pre-announcement-pre-party, and the cars I had seen were “production prototypes.” I see. Then, this splendiferous event with a rock band, canapés and apple juice must surely be […]

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First of all, I thought I had already been to the launch party. Wrong. I thought I had driven the thing. Wrong. I learned today this was a pre-announcement-pre-party, and the cars I had seen were “production prototypes.” I see. Then, this splendiferous event with a rock band, canapés and apple juice must surely be the launch festa, I thought. (The dear reader knows by now that the average Toyota launch event in Japan entails a card table, two speakers, PowerPoint and a bottle of water.) Wrong again. It’s kind of a pre-announcement. The car itself will come in — we’ll talk about that when we talk timing.

However, I was told that today, that now we have real specs and prices, and the cars (which looked deceptively like the production prototypes) are the ones that will be sold. In Japan. As for America –– we’ll get to that. Here are the vital stats of the hachi-roku JDM spec:

Trim levels: RC, G, GT, GT “Limited.”
Weight: From 1,180kg (2,601 lbs) for the RC version to 1,250kg (2,756 lbs)
Engine: DOHC horizontally opposed 4-cylinder direct injection
Output: 147kW (200hp) / 7,000 rpm
Torque: 205nm / 6,400 – 6,600 rpm
Wheelbase: 2,570mm

And to answer a burning and often asked question: Yes, a tape deck, even a CD radio with USB are available. As options.

Now, the prices. Prices range from 1,990,000 yen for the RC version to 3,050,000 yen for the “the works” GT Limited version. The RC version is a barest minimum stripped spec, meant for environmentally responsible racing: This way, you don’t have to toss stuff you don’t need on the track. But don`t fall in love with the specs unless you are in Japan.

“The U.S. model will be a Scion,” hachi-roku Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada tells me later in a tete-a-tete. “Scion’s concept is one trim level. That should be comparable to our GT trim.”

In Japan, the GT trim costs 2,790,000 yen for the stick shift, and 2,870,000 yen for the automatic. That would be a whopping $36,677 if converted by Google. For the stick.

Toyota spokesfolk and later Tada warned repeatedly against coquettish currency conversions, as they made the rounds on fan sites. The Japanese prices includes taxes, and in any case, prices in other countries will be what the market requires, not what Google says. The U.S. price remains a secret. I would guess it’s below $30K, but no way is it below $20K. And no, no stripper version stateside. You heard the man.

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It’s Hachi-Roku Thursday http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/its-hachi-roku-thursday/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/its-hachi-roku-thursday/#comments Thu, 02 Feb 2012 12:04:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429153 I spent all day at the launch party of the Toyota FT/GT86/86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ  “new compact rear-wheel-drive sports car” at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo. Could have been Chiba already. I came back with so much information about Toyota’s new “honest sportscar” (as Akio Toyoda likes to call it) that I declare today Hachi-Roku Thursday. Today, […]

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I spent all day at the launch party of the Toyota FT/GT86/86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ  “new compact rear-wheel-drive sports car” at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo. Could have been Chiba already. I came back with so much information about Toyota’s new “honest sportscar” (as Akio Toyoda likes to call it) that I declare today Hachi-Roku Thursday.

Today, I will write about nothing else than Hachi-Roku, while the rest of the gang will serve you TTAC’s unusual fare of opinionated news, new opinion, old cars, fast women and rare guitars.

I shall be back after I have transcribed my tapes and developed my film. You will hear specs, prices, launch dates. You will learn why the grown-up son of the hachi-roku Chief Engineer has no driver’s license, and how this gave birth to a new idea. You will also hear why Akio Toyoda thinks that cars may become as relevant as horses, and why that’s o.k.

Stay tuned.

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Scion FR-S: How To Say “Hachi-Roku” In American http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/scion-fr-s-how-to-say-hachi-roku-in-american/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/scion-fr-s-how-to-say-hachi-roku-in-american/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2011 18:13:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420958 TTAC has long been bearish on the Scion brand, and in a lot of ways, Toyota’s global tri-branding strategy with its new “86″ sportscar (Toyota, Subaru and Scion versions are being sold) highlights how Toyota has lost its branding focus. On the other hand, the FR-S, Scion’s version of the 86, is by far the […]

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TTAC has long been bearish on the Scion brand, and in a lot of ways, Toyota’s global tri-branding strategy with its new “86″ sportscar (Toyota, Subaru and Scion versions are being sold) highlights how Toyota has lost its branding focus. On the other hand, the FR-S, Scion’s version of the 86, is by far the most compelling product that brand has offered… well, possibly ever (OK, since the Mk1 xB). If I were king of Toyota, I’d probably still kill off Scion and sell the 86 as a Celica in the US… after all, how much sense does it make to have two sporty coupes at Scion and none for the Toyota brand? But if Scion follows the FR-S up with a new truly compact pickup co-developed with Daihatsu, as has been rumored, I’d be willing to concede that Scion has a place in the market. After all, truly unique, funky vehicles justified Scion’s existence in the first place, before a watered-down second generation of products killed that positioning (and Scion’s sales). With the FR-S, Scion seems to be heading back towards focused and freaky niche confections… let’s hope it continues to return to those roots.
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Hachiroku Madness: Only 1000 (FT)86, All Hand Made? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/hachiroku-madness-only-1000-ft86-all-hand-made/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/hachiroku-madness-only-1000-ft86-all-hand-made/#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2011 11:10:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420599 Tomorrow, the Tokyo Motor Show will open its doors at the Big Sight to the press. Pre-show madness is running in high gear. Every Japanese carmaker tries to outdo the other with pre-releases and hints. Sometimes, they go wrong. Especially, when there are gullible counterparts. On Sunday, the (FT)86 fans at the enthusiast site ft86club.com […]

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Tomorrow, the Tokyo Motor Show will open its doors at the Big Sight to the press. Pre-show madness is running in high gear. Every Japanese carmaker tries to outdo the other with pre-releases and hints. Sometimes, they go wrong. Especially, when there are gullible counterparts. On Sunday, the (FT)86 fans at the enthusiast site ft86club.com received shocking news from their special correspondent Leeky who was dispatched to the unveiling at the Fuji Speedway.

“The car will be limited to 1000 units per year only.
Each car I  can confirm will be hand made.”

This tidbit created outrage amongst the Hachiroku (86) fans. Many doubted the number and the production methods, but Leeky stuck to his guns:

“As I said, I am here as a guest of Toyota Japan with the head of advertising. These are the details that they have given me through all the questions I have been throwing at them. Hand made did indeed throw me for a second, so I asked again “Hand made!?”….”Yes, each one””

If Toyota Advertising really is so badly informed as Mr. Leeky alleges, no wonder that Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer of the (FT)86 a.k.a. Hachiroku had issues with his advertising department. In our sitdown interview on Sunday, Tada had remarked:

“When we first presented this idea to our advertising people, they were drastically opposed to this idea. They complained that the car doesn’t have a particularly fast time on the circuit, it does not use any new technology. They also could not think of a catchy headline for the catalogue.”

Also during the  Sunday sitdown, Tada steadfastly refused to set any production or sales targets. When asked, he admitted that he has no idea of how many will sell:

“We usually do thorough market research and produce them accordingly. This is not the approach we are taking here. But I do believe that this car will be doing well.”

Not a word about 1,000 units / year limit. Not a word about handmade. Production is outsourced to Subaru which in turn outsourced its complete kei-car production to Toyota’s Daihatsu. It would have been a raw deal for Subaru if only 1,000 Hachiroku are made by hand, while some 80,000 Subaru minivehicles are made by Daihatsu.

By now, there are 19 pages of comments at FT86club.com, all focused on the shocking 1,000 handmade Hachiroku per year “FACT.”

To put the fans at ease, I called Keisuke Kirimoto, official spokesman of Toyota Motor Corporation.  I asked him whether I had nodded off during the interview when those 1,000 handmade Hachiroku were announced. Kirimoto answered:

“What????”

I told him that there are people who are under the impression that only 1,000 will be made per year. Kirimoto’s answer:

“Gee, I hope we will be selling more than that.”

Handmade? Please. The car will be made on a fully automated line at Subaru. Sure, that line is more suited for a “niche car” than the high volume lines at Toyota, Tada said, but nothing about handmade. This is an “affordably priced” car, and for that, you need more than artisians at a coachbuilder.

Shifting into official spokesperson mode, Keisuke Kirimoto officially confirmed that there are no production limits, and that they will sell as many as possible. In any case:

“Production plans and pricing will be released at a later date.”

Kirimoto asked me and the Hachiroku fanbase to keep in mind that what we saw on Sunday and what will be on display at the Tokyo Motor Show is a “pre-production prototype”, and that the final car will be  shown at its official market launch some time next year, along with pricing and possibly production targets.

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Finally: TTAC Gets Its Hands On The FT86. And Its Chief Engineer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/finally-ttac-gets-its-hands-on-the-ft86-and-its-chief-engineer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/finally-ttac-gets-its-hands-on-the-ft86-and-its-chief-engineer/#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2011 18:17:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=420117 Today was the day Toyota’s FT86 was officially revealed. Actually, it will be officially revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, which will open its doors to the public on December 3. Today, the international media had a sneak preview of the car. Us, and maybe 20,000 people who lined the galleries of the Fuji Raceway […]

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Today was the day Toyota’s FT86 was officially revealed. Actually, it will be officially revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show, which will open its doors to the public on December 3. Today, the international media had a sneak preview of the car. Us, and maybe 20,000 people who lined the galleries of the Fuji Raceway where Toyota and Gazoo Racing held its TGRF (Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival).  The masses could witness from afar as Akio Toyoda climbed out of an orange sports car, removed his helmet and waved at the adoring crowds.

The press corps had a chance to drive the car. That opportunity that was immediately turned into hoonery by a rough and tumble contingent from Australia. One of them drove the car with so much enthusiasm that it spun out , did a few twirls and had a near-miss with an Australian cohort. We immediately had proof that the car provided only the barest necessities in computer control, and that one has to know how to drive, unless a rendition of Swan Lake is desired.

Before we get to that, the essentials. The name of the car had been the target of endless speculation. Until yesterday evening, Toyota steadfastly referred to the car as nothing else than a “compact real-wheel-drive sports car.”

Some at TTAC had recommended that the car should get a Japanese name. Toyota listens to its customers and complied.

The car will be called “Hachiroku.”

This is Japanese and means 86.

Yes, Toyota simply dropped the “FT”. It also wants to carry on the spirit of the AE86 of lore.

For me, the most interesting part of today was to sit in a quiet room with Tetsuya Tada, and a handpicked group of journalists. (The man on the right is Hans Greimel of Automotive News.) We could listen to Tada’s comments about the car. We had talked before, in August, but this time, the Chief Engineer of the 86 could be less circumspect and was able to talk openly. He sure did. For starters, I learn that Toyota’s test drivers had given him a very hard time:

“Mr. Toyoda almost continuously participated in the development of this car. Not as President, but as a test driver. Usually, when they say that the president of a company is test driving a prototype car, then it is mostly ceremonial. Mr. Toyoda’s participation was not simply ceremonial. He was a serious test driver and had some pretty tough comments. In some phases of the development. he said: “If that is the best you can do, why not quit now.” One by one, we overcame these problems.

In the grand scheme of things, Akio Toyoda had been polite. Stronger words came from Hiromu Naruse, Toyota’s chief test driver who found an untimely death by crashing his LFA into a BMW 3series on a rural highway close to the Nürburgring. Tada remembers:

“When Naruse-san was still alive, he participated in the tests many time and gave us some quite harsh comments, like: ‘This is a miserable car. You are doing very poorly.’

We tested this car at the Nürburgring. Naruse-san died very close to the Nürburgring, and each time we testdrove the car later, we made sure to pass by the memorial of Naruse-san. We tried to keep Naruse-san’s spirit  alive.”

One by one, the challenges thrown up by the test drivers were met. But there were other people, Tada had to contend with.

“We visited with car enthusiasts in Japan, America and Europe. The feedback we received was almost always the same. They said there are a lot of sports cars with high horsepower that are very fast, but these are not the sports cars that they want to have. They want small compact cars that are controllable, that they can tune themselves. However, that kind of sports car is not on the market. Therefore, these sports car enthusiasts are forced to continue to use older cars from a long time ago, because there is no new alterative on the market.”

Their requirements clashed with another group: Toyota’s board. The board wanted a car that goes faster than other cars. Tada’s colleagues at other car companies had to contend with the same problem:

“We also went to competitors and asked them: “Why do you focus on fast cars?” The response almost always was: ‘Actually, we really don’t want to develop these kinds of cars. But once we bring a plan to develop that car to our board, the first question the directors of the company would ask is: How much faster is that car compared to what the competition has? How many seconds faster around the Nürburgring? What about the acceleration? These questions always come up because numerical performance is the easiest to understand.

Now how did we get the permission from our board? The only reason was that among the directors, there was a person called Akio Toyoda, who is a car enthusiast himself.”

Tada not only had to convince a board that was fixated on numbers. He also had to do something highly risqué: Ditch the Toyota Way of developing cars:

“There is a Toyota standard for designing new cars. This standard was to a large extent ignored. Why did we do this? There are cars that are accepted by a lot of people. Practical cars that are easy to drive and that do not break easily. These are standard Toyota cars. The 86 is not a car like that. We had to change our design approach for this car. We may have to do this again for other cars.

It is impossible to develop a sports car that appeals to everybody. If you try to please everybody, the car would be half-baked for everybody, and not particularly good for anybody.  This car is not developed by a committee, or by consensus.”

And would you believe that even Toyota’s advertising department did not like the car?

“When we first presented this idea to our advertising people, they were drastically opposed to this idea. They complained that the car doesn’t have a particularly fast time on the circuit, it does not use any new technology. They also could not think of a catchy headline for the catalogue.”

Someone should have a chat with that advertising department.

The word of mouth enthusiasm for this car is so strong, maybe it doesn’t need any advertising.  Thousands of grassroots racers around the world are looking forward to a car they can tinker with.  Tada built it for them:

“To make the car customizable, we did away with computers to the highest extent possible. A lot of the cars on the market today are controlled by computers. People have the feeling that they are driven by the car instead of them driving the car. That makes for a boring experience. That is why we decided to go back to the basics of car making. With the low center of gravity, the driver now is in personal touch with the road again.”

How much will this car cost? This remains a state secret. All Toyota says is that it will be “affordably priced.” Asked what that means, Tada launches into a dangerous discourse, with his press handlers getting visibly nervous:

“30 to 40 years ago, there was an AE86, and the price of this car was 1.5 million yen. At the time, that was the starting salary was for a university graduate. We kept that in mind when we priced the car. In the meantime, there has been a rise in prices, and the starting salaries rose also.”

The starting salary of a university graduate in Japan is around 2.5 million yen. In today’s undervalued dollars, this would be around $32,000. We will have to wait until early 2012 when the car is officially released. There will be no pricing announcement at the Auto Show.

All the specs that are available can be downloaded here.

Ah, the test-drive.

I drove the same 86 the Aussie hoons pirouetted through a sharp turn. All I did was make the tires chirp. At a test drive, I like to return the car as I found it. It drove very nicely. It does not press you into the bucket seat with jet fighter g-forces. I am told it will do 230 km/h (143 mph) and will go 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 6 seconds.

Would I buy it?

Yes.

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