Housekeeping: Do You Want The "Director's Cut"?

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
housekeeping do you want the director s cut

At TTAC, I take it for granted that most of the B&B have more real-life experience and a better grasp on industry matters than I do. Sometimes, it can be detrimental.

When Road & Track asked me to do a guest post on the slow sales of the Scion FR-S and how it might impact the future course of upgrades for the car, I wrote a 700 word piece going in-depth and explaining many of the granular details behind the economics of the auto industry. My TTAC piece, though well received, was much shorter and skimmed over many of the broader topics.

What I want is for you, the readers, to let me know what course of action you prefer. Should I keep giving you a brief rundown of the topic at hand, assuming that you can fill in the blanks yourselves? Or would you prefer a more fleshed-out “director’s cut” version, even if it’s a topic that is already familiar to you?

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  • Wmba Wmba on Feb 23, 2014

    Amazing what a little knowledge will generate in ridiculous responses. Little knowledge in that people are far more interested in their own opinion, facts be damned, being thrust into the faces of others, just because. I have watched this squabble since I pointed out the deficiencies of the GT86 the other day, the majority of my time since spent in mourning with my family over the passing of my mother at the grand old age of 93. But it's back to the fray for a change of pace and mood for me. I said the other day I spent hundreds of hours drooling over this car on before it was ever released. I sat for over an hour in BRZ VIN 0001, while the President of Subaru Canada and a genyooine Sumo wrestler entertained the crowd at the opening of a huge new Subaru dealership in Halifax, NS in April 2012 before the cars were ever released. I drank the Kool Aid. Toyota wanted this car, and is Subaru's (FHI) main single shareholder at 16.7%. Subaru knocks together Camrys for Toyota in their Indiana plant until 2016, and started doing that about 2007. That plant utilization helped Subaru a lot at the time, as sales weren't great. The story has been published how Toyota made a twin-cylinder boxer-engined mini sports car decades ago, and wanted to have a new sports car that would be minimally costly to develop. To read the Toyota essay, as big a piece of fluff as marketers could conceive, a boxer-engined RWD sports car would hearken back to this early model. Plus, the AE86 sedan with the 1600cc engine made in the '80s was a rallying point for Toyota enthusiasts due to its drifting abilities when insanely overtuned. 86 Hachiroku. Toyota had a corporate friend, Subaru, who had boxer engines suitable for rear wheel drive, and car styling reminiscent of startled frogs. Thus Toyota and Subaru shook hands on cheaply developing a new sports car. Toyota handled the styling and handed Subaru the task of engineering the car. Toyota also wanted the D4S dual port/direct injection cylinder heads and no turbo for snappy response, and 100 hp per litre, so they opened up their engineering knowledge to Subaru on the subject. Yamaha may have been involved as a subcontractor, that's not clear at least to me. In any case Subaru dragged their heels a bit, and the first prototype was a chopped up Gen 4 Legacy to establish the main mechanical parameters. At the same time, they had just designed the 2 litre diesel engine, sold everywhere but North America to this day. This new engine was the first new 4 cylinder boxer block since the EJ gas motor that came out first in 1989. EJs have a big bore, short stroke architecture to minimize engine width to allow reasonable vehicle turning circles, while using great big cogged belt-driven pulley wheels to drive the camshafts, which adds width. Also, big bores make it difficult to get a high compression ratio with a short stroke, especially as twin cam heads with large cam belt pulleys don't easily allow narrow included valve angles for a compact combustion chamber and high compression ratios. Unless you add big lumps on top of the pistons which are not elegant. So the Subaru diesel went to a square bore/stroke, which for 2 litres and 4 cylinders is 86mm apiece. The split-angle connecting rods reminiscent of ancient BMC engines allowed them to assemble the engines more easily. The EJ requires the crank have (too much detail - skipped). Also, Subaru designed chain driven twin cams for the diesel, so that although the the stroke was longer, the smaller chain sprockets meant engine width did not increase. So, they knew how to make a new engine. Toyota, in its delirium over the number 86 and its relevance to Toyota heritage wanted an 86x86 mm engine come what may. Probably great feng shui or whatever. The Japanese seem to worship superstition. The recession put development of the car in hold. Subaru continued on with the designs of their new gas type FB engines featuring 90mm stroke in both 2.0 and 2.5 form That's what you get in everyday cooking Imprezas, Legacies, Foresters and Outbacks plus the mutant Crosstrek. Port fuel injected, chain driven twin cams and a pulse just slightly short of tepid. So, the FB was treated to a bit of a doll-up and stroke reduced to 86mm from 90, the compression ratio was flogged out to 12.5 to 1 for some reason, D4S was fitted and voila, you have the Subaru FA20. Long spidery intake tracts were forced by the flat boxer engine design, and the result was a noisy screamer of an engine with lumpy torque delivery, suitable for the GT86. GT86 encompasses FR-S, BRZ and GT86, its real name. Subaru came up with a brand new body for this car. It is not an Impreza makeover at all. Toyota's constant styling changes caused Subaru no end of grief in the design of the body, if you read Subaru's self-congratulatory monogram on the car, issued after Toyota's which basically claimed they did it all, of course. If you trawl through, you'll find links - this stuff is imprinted on my brain! The rocker panel/sill area was the difficulty, which is probably why the car is so heavy at 2750 lbs. The result is undeniable strength, its main virtue in the 3 cars I've driven. The body is solid even on the crappiest of broken pavement. Subaru is the master of cheap but durable parts engineering, though, and since they were to be responsible for building the thing, they dipped into the parts box. Lookee here! Take the Impreza front A arm, turn it upside down, swap car sides and you have the GT86. But darn! The hood is so low, they had to design and make new short MacPherson struts to fit that Toyota style. $$. Ouch! The rear subframe from a new model Impreza was slightly modified to accomodate a Torsen diff (Toyota owns Torsen, btw), the upper A arm was cast instead of stamped tin, probably for geometry reasons and strength and there you have it. The engine couldn't be put any further back towards the firewall, because the darn steering rack got in the way. So suddenly, Toyota marketing decided 53/47 front rear balance was "ideal". Toyota owns Aisin, so in went one of their 6MT transmissions, now regarded as of questionable quality, and optional 6 speed auto with characteristics like early lockup torque converter not unlike Mazda's new SkyActiv internals. I wonder how - Japanese companies use the same suppliers, of course and a lot of nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Well, the Toyota PR machine was at full chat. Subaru decided to stop making mini-trucks like the Sanbar and Rex descendants, and completely refitted their earliest Gunma factory to make the GT86. Early preorders for the car were so high in Japan, that on March 12, 2012 Subaru's President announced the plant was being expanded/refitted yet again to make 100,000 GT86s per year instead of the originally planned 60,000. This was before more than a few had actually been made. Production began in earnest in April. Nobody knows for sure, but $800 million has been suggested as the price tag for all this, if I remember a Reuters report from a couple of years ago correctly. With the highest hopes, not least from me. I detested the car as I pointed out, when I drove it on May 30, 2012. It was the classic case of overpromise and underdeliver - to me. I've driven two others since and my opinion has not changed. As you can tell, I had the car's development story memorized I was so into it, so the actual car's driving experience was like a slap in the face with a wet fish. I have NEVER been so disappointed in a new car in all my life. Then the quality problems began to surface. Condensation in taillamps, chirping high pressure fuel pump, rattling rear deck, crappy weatherstripping and on and on. Consumer Reports grades it below average - imagine that, a Toyota/ Subaru below normal. So sales are running less than 50,000 per year globally, the factory is geared to make 100,000. So, of course you're going to hear Toyota execs muttering under their breath loud enough for bystanders to hear. Who's to blame for the boondoggle? Both companies. Somebody wasn't in overall charge of the project, in my opinion, and both companies cannot believe what's happened - they're used to unqualified success. I'm certain the vehicle would do better if it had a nicer engine - that's the main problem. That and a bit of sound deadening/insulation and a change to the superior high pressure fuel pump Subaru uses in its turbo version of this engine, which works great at whisking turbo Foresters around with little effort. Build a great product and they will come. Build a meh one, and everyone forgets about it. The fanbois who overlook the GT86's faults already have theirs, but there's no greatness to continue the sales to the average consumer looking for something sporty. So the car will soon disappear since the principals have no appetite for investing in it to correct its faults. How's that for the director's cut? Now, if someone knows some material fact I have incorrect, let's hear about it. I'd like to know too. And for Big Al, I'm a recently retired licensed professional mechanical engineer with lifetime membership in the association.

    • See 17 previous
    • Derek Kreindler Derek Kreindler on Feb 24, 2014

      @racer-esq. Comparing VW and Nissan modular platforms to the Toyobaru is an apples to oranges comparison.

  • Ruggles Ruggles on Feb 23, 2014

    RE: "If I I was in the business of manufacturing and design cars, it's obvious which one of those that I would choose to do myself, and which one I would farm out. The returns on retail suck, and I probably won't that good at it, anyway. Even worse, I probably won't have fun doing it." Retail is a blast, but its not for everyone. While the reported returns on the average car dealership aren't so good on paper, add in the dealer's salary and the many fringe benefits and dealers will take their 2%. With a track record, one can get into the business for little unencumbered capital and let the business pay off the cap loans.

  • Wmba Wmba on Feb 24, 2014

    Thanks for the responses, especially the one complimenting me on an entertaining story! And then suggesting that a lot of what I've said isn't in the published stories. I'll say it one last time: if you're really interested go to There's bucketloads of translated Japanese copy, detailed articles on Toyota's D4S dual fuel injection system and on and on. I glanced through some of it again before writing what I did, but frankly you cannot condense dozens of pages into a few paragraphs, nor is it my job to feed you. If you want to disagree, then put in some time to learn the subject yourself! To get a high CR, Subaru lengthened the stroke in their diesel engine, narrowed the valve angle and left most of the combustion chamber in the piston. 86mm bore and stroke, i.e. square gives the least area per swept volume to lose heat through. The GM 2.0T engine in the ATS, etc., etc, is guess what? 86 by 86 mm. Coincidence? C'mon it will be for some conspiracy theorists out there. The Ford has an 87mm bore and teensy weensy shorter stroke. The BMW has the 84 by 90mm dimensions of the regular Impreza FB engine and is the outlier. All the newer engines are designed with similar software and CFD analysis, and none has the classic big bore short stroke configuration. The old EJ two litre is 92 by 75mm, the EJ25 is 99.5 by 79.5mm. These engines like to rev given a decent induction system, but are not particularly fuel efficient - remember all the moaning about Subaru fuel economy? Despite that, I prefer the EJ25 in the 2010 Forester to the noisier FB25 in the 2011. I am not a proponent of cheap single row chain cam drives over belts anyway. You add complexity, have no guarantee it'll last longer than the belt, it's noisier and it stretches more with age. But .. And it's a biggie, the belt replacement schedule is no longer in the owner's manual. So one more barrier to purchase removed. Now when the chain fails, the owner can just feel unlucky and alone. Mr. Baruth's new V6 Accord engine is belt drive to the cams and port fuel injection. At idle you can barely hear it, it's that harmonious and quiet. And where are the legions of J series engine owners with failed belt drives? The chassis. If someone can squint at a cutaway chassis picture of an Impreza or the new WRX same thing, a four door configuration, then at the GT86 cutaway with two doors and confidently pronounce them the same, you are a natural for a career in PR. It isn't even a cut and hack job. The GT86 lower chassis ends just forward of the strut, and it's only the fender liner that keeps road dust out. Go and look at a BRZ, and then at an Impreza. I have many times as I wait for service on my Legacy GT. They even have an Impreza hanging like art on the wall so you can see the guts. As I say, one is a four door, the other two. Even a cursory glance underneath shows the different arrangement of cross members, the greater distance between firewall and front suspension in the BRZ. What is going to satisfy the doubters? A personal signed affidavit from the Subaru Chief Structural Engineer? I already mentioned the problems they had because Toyota was continually fiddling with the style, necessitating recalcalculation of the unibody stressing. Enough. It does illustrate the biases of mostly Toyota enthusiasts about the car. And it also highlights the dichotomy between the Toyota PR fluff claiming the GT86 being all theirs, and that the chief stylist drew inspiration from the boxer design for all sorts of decoration including dash design. Subaru is hardly mentioned in Toyota PR. Subaru then put out a much more matter of fact brief, listing all the engineering personnel who led work on various aspects of the car design, and Toyota is hardly mentioned. Where is the joint article by Toyota AND Subaru personnel announcing the collaboration, shaking hands pictures and all that stuff? I've never seen such. If you read these articles, you'd think they were nattering on about different vehicles! Then you have the Toyota fanbois, all too happy to disregard any Subaru contribution. Even today, you get questions on the forum from people unable to read or concentrate for 5 minutes before popping the question: "Uh, are the FR-S and the BRZ the same car?" Duh. And even today, the appropriate twits come out with half-truth replies based on whether they favor one make or the other. The different headlights are enough to make them different cars for some people. I think Subaru got sold a bill of goods by Toyota, feeling an obligation because of the 100,000 Camrys per year they got to fill up their Lafayette IN factory. They were unsure about the GT86 volume, but got sold by Toyota PR to increase capacity to 100,000 from 60,000. As I said, it was on March 12, 2012 that Subaru announced the expansion. Now, with Subaru sales on the ascendant in the US and Canada, they needed the production capacity back from Toyota in Indiana. Subaru, (Fuji Heavy Industries) are a conservative company. Six months ago they were agonizing over whether to build a brand new factory to accomodate sales, or remain a niche outfit because another factory would cost huge sums, and they weren't confident that sales would remain high enough to justify the investment. All over the business news. So Toyota steps forward and says the contract for Subaru to build Camrys is going to end. Subaru announces the same. All very businesslike and quite curt. Just the bare minimum of flowery words. But now Subaru can make Foresters in the US without a new factory, just as they are gearing up to making extra Foresters and Crosstreks in the Gunma Plant No.1, and cutting back on the GT86. The Impreza and Forester are definitely the same basic platform, always have been. Pure speculation on my part, but Toyota and Subaru do not seem to be quite so friendly anymore based on those Camry production announcements. This GT86 boondoggle cost someone a lot of money and mutual trust. That's enough I think.

    • See 2 previous
    • U mad scientist U mad scientist on Feb 24, 2014

      > And then suggesting that a lot of what I've said isn't in the published stories Just because a story is published doesn't mean it's accurate. Retell it line-by-line and it still won't be accurate. It's your summary and your choice to pick the aspects you like, but it's also others' choice to discuss the aspects they like. Personally I liked the technical aspects in both posts. > The GM 2.0T engine in the ATS, etc., etc, is guess what? 86 by 86 mm. Coincidence? People who know how things work can see it's not really a coincidence (that was alluded even in your original post); yet the summary picks aspects of superstition. No doubt good for the narrative, less so for presenting the most accurate picture. I don't hold it against anyone to make that compromise, but still noteworthy least the less technical bits are retold as a definitive tale. > got sold by Toyota PR to increase capacity to 100,000 from 60,000. As I said, it was on March 12, 2012 that Subaru announced the expansion. I wonder how much of that actually got done, but regardless it would antagonize the relationship. Things sometimes get a little personal in japan, but in the end it's just business. Subaru couldn't have foreseen their success elsewhere, and it just makes more sense to focus on that.

  • Jbreuckm Jbreuckm on Feb 24, 2014

    Directors Cut, for all of the various and sundry reasons mentioned above.