By on March 20, 2013

Times are tough if you’re into Japanese cars. The sportiest Honda is a hybrid with 15-inch wheels. The coolest Toyota is a Subaru with 150 pound-feet of torque, while the fastest Toyota is a horse race between a three-row SUV and the Camry. And, despite the efforts of the American car-buying public, Mitsubishi still exists.

Sure, there are some bright spots. The Impreza WRX, for example, is still cool, despite Subaru’s attempts to make it look like a hood-scooped version of every other compact car. And the Nissan GT-R is awesome, even though experts like automotive journalists and Porsche employees will tell you it lacks “soul.” But there was a time not so long ago when there were more than just a handful of cool Japanese cars.

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By on November 1, 2012

Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.

By on October 31, 2012

When Hurricane Irene hit New York last August, it caught the entire Northeast off its game. Natural disasters are anathema to the bustling lifestyle of a city, and an abeyance to the flowing blood and tears on which it runs. Public transportation grinds to a halt. Supermarkets are depleted of supplies just as quickly as they are flooded by frantic consumers. Cabin fever hits apartment-dwellers staggeringly hard, creating microcosms of Stockholm syndrome in between the floorboards. (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2012

Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. She likes cars, long boarding, and gangsta rap. Tonight, she’s traded her usual, Ralph Lauren-catalog attire (not-so-snug pants, a button up men’s dress shirt) for a dress that can only be described as one yard of Tensor Bandage that somehow made its way out of the factory with a muted floral print.

I’m hardly complaining, though it’s clear that she’s not used to wearing this kind of garment. I tell myself that it’s all because of my strong jawline, cleft chin and thick, flowing locks, but that’s a yarn of self-deception long enough to knit Jackie a twin to the sweater I’m glad she left at home.

It’s the car.

Jackie is comfortable looking at brake calipers and superchargers, but the dress is fighting her attempts to check out the machinery tonight. “Turn around,” she tells me, “I don’t want you to see me adjusting my underwear”.

“That dress is ridiculous.” I’m trying really hard to do the gentlemanly thing and focus on the car.

A pause. I’m facing away from her, but I can imagine her eyes running along the length of the racing stripes that trace the Shelby’s sillhouette. The car isn’t running, but I can hear the crackling and pinging of the cooling drivetrain against the humid, lifeless air of the August night.

“Not as ridiculous as the car,” she replies. “How fast did you say it is?”

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By on August 24, 2012

Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad.  An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back when I had my 1997 Miata, I ordered a set of coilovers from Shaikh, based on his reputation for creating suspension setups with a previously unheard of balance between ride and handling. The Fat Cat coilovers are one of the few products I’ve ever bought that were able to live up to the hype. Over the next few weeks, Shaikh will delve into the science of suspensions, and provide his own analysis of a number of production cars.

What’s your least memorable train ride? Simple question, right? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume all of them. Unless a screenwriter threw you into an adventure film without your consent, it’s what we’d expect. This brings to mind a popular driving metaphor – ‘handles like it’s on rails.’ That’s our ideal in suspension tuning, to be glued to the ground and also as comfortable as possible. Easy when you’ve controlled every degree of freedom as with a train track and groomed earth beneath.

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By on July 15, 2012

Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles.

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By on July 6, 2012

So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion FR-S did not sell poorly.

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By on July 2, 2012

Mazda will be refreshing the MX-5 for 2013, as they attempt to hold us over for the long-awaited “ND” Miata, due in a couple years, that will share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Spider.

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By on June 7, 2012

My biggest fear with the seemingly inevitable departure of Dany Bahar was having to read the contempt and gloating of the automotive media’s self-appointed product and management experts, whereby they claim vindication for shitting on Dany Bahar’s vision to do something about Lotus and their lack of profitability and his desecration of sacred “brand values”.

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By on June 4, 2012

I’m not afraid to admit I’m wrong (though I tend to be right nearly every single time without fail. So there.). When I saw that Mazda had asked Jalopnik readers for their thoughts on the next MX-5, I oscillated between sheer terror (at the prospect of reading a bunch of keyboard jockeys telling engineers how to do their jobs, i.e. every press launch) and total Schadenfreude.

The next MX-5 is more than likely “locked in” past the point of no return. Styling, engineering and powertrains are all but locked in, and not a damn thing can be done to change them, even though the next MX-5 will have to be tweaked a bit to become an Alfa Romeo. That’s a shame. Mazda might be wise to listen to some of the suggestions put up by Jalopnik’s readers.

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