By on May 23, 2019

2013 Scion FRS front snow - Image: © Timothy Cain

A lot of life changes occurred in conjunction with the sale of my old website, GoodCarBadCar. We also sold the family home in Nova Scotia, moved to rural Prince Edward Island, and quickly began spending more time behind the wheel of a Husqvarna lawn tractor than behind the wheel of any car.

From an automotive standpoint, however, the major ensuing change involved the acquisition of an older Miata. A lifelong dream became a 14-month possession, costing scarcely a dollar while entirely living up to expectations. But with a second toy acquired, in the form of a Suzuki Kingquad, attempting to justify the use of a seasonal two-seater seemed laughable considering there are two young children at home.

Naturally, I sold the Miata and bought that famed minivan alternative, a 2013 Scion FR-S. (Our family vehicle is a 2018 Honda Odyssey.)

10 months later, with most of the time spent on winter tires, the FR-S is gone. It was just too practical. Too flexible. Too reasonable. Too functional. Too pragmatic.

2013 Scion FRS snow tractor rear - Image: © Timothy CainWith little inner capacity for nostalgia, the two weeks I’ve since spent without the FR-S haven’t been difficult. Even when a long weekend on the mainland revealed the FR-S to be nigh common, as opposed to the weeks that could go by without seeing another on the Island, I didn’t miss my Toyobaru, just as I don’t miss the Miata. I nevertheless have all kinds of regret for the fact that cars of their ilk – relatively quick and reasonably affordable sports cars that major on feel and interactivity – are growing ever more scarce.

It’s no wonder. An ardent manual-transmission evangelist, with an appetite for steering via the rear end and completing extra laps around roundabouts, can still acknowledge that conventional vehicles hold increasing appeal for the majority of driving situations. Not only are ordinary compact or midsize cars greater performers than at any point in the past, they also offer far greater refinement than ever before, plus more equipment and more space.

2013 Scion FRS Breadalbane - Image: © Timothy Cain

How many car buyers care that the swift and capable Honda Civic EX is missing a third pedal, steering feel, rapid turn-in, or a lively rear end? More likely, most car buyers will be unexpectedly wooed by the perception of performance in something like a turbocharged Civic while also swayed by the space and features.

And what does a sporting rear-wheel-drive coupe like the FR-S offer that a regular car doesn’t: style, exclusivity, and a communicative chassis? Pfft. That’s not an easy argument to make to the general public.

Nevertheless, despite the stiff highway ride and the sometimes obnoxious drone of road/wind/engine noise, the FR-S/86/BRZ is a car every car lover should try before they die.

2013 Scion FRS profile dirty - Image: © Timothy Cain

I had wondered, after previous experiences with the car, whether it was as raw an experience as I’d recalled. I needn’t have wondered.

After 10 months in the FR-S, it’s so focused I’m surprised it’s still being built. In fact, I’m surprised it got past a conservative automaker’s inherent internal hurdles during its development phase. Although the avid enthusiast exalts in the sharp steering, world-class shifter, and the sheer tossability of this lightweight coupe, most passengers were unpleasantly surprised to discover that it’s not just a style exercise; that it’s not a small two-door with the mannerisms of a Camry Solara. Then comes the intimidation factor – even on winter tires with all electronic nannies engaged, the FR-S’s rear end comes around in a hurry on the snowy roads that persist through much of a PEI winter. Drivers who grew up in FWD cars before making the move to AWD crossovers assume this behaviour is linked to calamitous outcomes.

The FR-S is truly far outside the mainstream. That explains the difficulty I had selling the car. The young car lovers who wanted the FR-S suffered from one of two issues: a lack of funds, or a burning desire for the car to have an automatic transmission.

One such shopper wanted me to double check that it wasn’t, in fact, an automatic. (As if I wouldn’t know?) Another messaged multiple times over the course of a week, convinced he’d pay $2K more than the CAD $15K asking price if only it was an automatic. That was a modification I was unwilling to undertake.

The process was a pain, with a bevy of inquirers who were worried about anything from valve springs and nonexistent rust to eventual clutch replacement cost and even proximity. No, I can’t deliver the car to Newfoundland.

None of this explains why I decided it was time to off-load the Scion in the first place, especially since I actually found the lack of winter traction only made the FR-S into a more fun-loving caricature of itself.

For starters, the nature of my work does not require me to drive my own car every day. Second, it truly is a miserable car at a steady 60mph cruise. Third, the kids fit in the rear seat when required to do so, but getting them out when they were sleeping requires prior contortionist training with Cirque du Soleil. Finally, I wasn’t in love with the perceived quality, a fact I was willing to overlook when purchasing but increasingly found worrisome.

2018 Suzuki DRZ400SM black Continental TKC80 - Image: © Timothy Cain

So I did what all fathers of young children do when faced with selling their once-beloved fun car. I traded it for a motorcycle.

Young and foolish I remain, but a 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400SM (on Continential TKC80 rubber rather than the stock Dunlop street tires) is wildly more fun, far less costly to buy and run, and capable of absolutely conquering an island that’s criss-crossed by red dirt roads.

The NVH is a bit iffy, though. I’ll give you that.

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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32 Comments on “I Did What All Fathers of Young Children Do – I Traded My Scion FR-S for Something Less Practical...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Motorcycles are good, nice decision.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    Be careful out there. As a father of young children, I gave up motorcycling due to the risks that didn’t bother me prior to having children. Where I live, it would appear that car drivers make a game out of running over cyclists and motorcyclists. And sometimes pedestrians. On the other hand, I rode for almost 40 years and over 150,000 miles on sport bikes, dirt bikes, and adventure bikes with only light road-rash to my body.

    Get some good protective gear ASAP. All of it.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      When I met my wife I had a motorcycle and a Formula Ford. About a year after we married I crashed the motorcycle into a truck that turned in my path. Three days after that we found out that daughter #1 was on the way, and I told my wife no more motorcycles until our children were grown. Our youngest is 17 now, so it will be a few more years before I get one.

      I did rent one last summer, they’re still fun.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I know a couple of guys who ride dual sports in the dead of winter. Do you plan to ride in conditions similar to those of your FR-S in the pics? And if no, why not?

    I also second ajla’s sentiment. Good choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      I have no on-road winter plans for the DRZ. I’m a fan of the brisk outdoors – I did Miata until the snow first flew and we’re avid winter ATVers – but there’s no need to be all geared up on the Island’s rough, windswept, snow-covered roads.

  • avatar
    scott25

    But just imagine a world where there exists a combination of those two vehicles, two seater (with a vestigial rear seat), small, relatively light, manual availability, rear wheel drive, just enough power to be fun, but also with useful ground clearance for blasting down unmaintained country and forest roads (not rock climbing), and small enough wheels and robust construction where you’re not afraid to run through a pothole or too or don’t have to slow down for every rut.

    A mid-point between a Miata and a Wrangler. Sadly, something like that will never exist (at least not road legal), but you can’t deny that there’d be a market.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      That would be fun. Something like a scaled down Hummer HX concept.

    • 0 avatar
      Easybeans

      Something like a Turbo Suzuki Jimny?

      https://boekiusa.com/inventory/suzuki-jimny-suv-truck-5/

      I adore the 2019 Jimny – But, sadly, it’s not for Americans.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Suzuki X-90?

    • 0 avatar
      enzl

      There is.

      Ariel Nomad. (Maybe not street legal in US, but its close to your wish)

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Going the other way, a Ural covers most of those points – it’s a three-seater, fairly multi-road friendly, and it’s still a motorcycle (just a slow, heavy one).

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Manx buggy? Ariel Nomad?

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      +1

      It would be a great car for lots of people. Kind of like an S version of Audi’s allroads, but with sportier suspension;. Or a Forrester STI or something…. A 4wd Supermoto!

      Both the Multimatic shocks from the Zr2 Colorado, and scaled down Raptor derived ones, would work well. (Ford’s suspensions across the board seem to have benefited from Raptor learnings…)

      It’s a kind of car you’d expect America to be a natural at. As opposed to in Germany and most of Europe, as well as Japan; when roads break down and show wear, their solution is to fix them. “While “ours” is, buying a bigger truck or SUV.

      Heck, I’d like to see a “Supermoto” type race series for cars. Dirt, with some berms and jumps, as well as a pavement section…… Would be a much more accurate transcription of the bootlegging roots of NASCAR, than what the current, over curated, show has become.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Nice bike

    ..I assume you included the M.T.option in your ad . As a Canadian my first two inquiries would be “does it have any rust” . Followed by,” has any sort of rust inhibitor been applied ”

    I drive my 15 EB Mustang (automatic) year round. To this point, Michelin ICE tires and a careful foot has worked . ..In fairness we don’t receive as much snow here in the GTA as you folks down in Spud Island. That being said, traffic here can make an M.T. a bit of a Bear.

    I’ve had the 05 GT rag top (M.T) on the road since April I. I’ve barely clocked 200 KLMs this year. The “sell” thought has crossed my mind several times.

    Wants, and needs change. Good luck with the bike, and hopefully we’ll see you back here more often.

    • 0 avatar
      bradfa

      Which is the correct answer to your second question, about the rust inhibitor being applied? And why is that the correct answer?

      I’ve never had any rust inhibitor applied to any car I’ve owned but am considering it for what ever I buy next.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Anything oil based applied with a bit of care is good brad. a Krown shop is the obvious one if you live near one, although the quality of technician still dictates efficacy to a good degree. If you’re not afraid of getting a bit messy, you can buy a pack of Fluid Film aerosol cans on amazon, put your car up on jackstands and go to town.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          Honda of America has a cold weather testing facility in Dartmouth NS. When I used to live there, I’ve met quite a few people from that place. I’ve spoken to a few over the 5 year period I resided there. None of them recommended I “rust proof” my Florida vehicles. They said whatever I do, don’t allow the Krown people to drill holes. Once that happens, the rust process accelerates. I’ve done nothing to them and my Pilot now just turned 200,000 miles as of two days ago and had no rust whatsoever after 5 years of salt.
          Also from the same people I found out that the Takata airbag I had replaced in 2013 on my Pilots and Ridgeline will need to be replaced again in 5-6 years if I still have the cars because they are the exact same Takata airbags as the original, just fresher.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Dual Sports/supermotos are a blast. I had a KLR650 that overall I think was the best bike I’ve owned. Not sexy looking, not fast, but on a tight paved road could keep ahead of friends on sportier bikes owing to the massive confidence/control you feel carving it up on one of these things. And the best thing was, the synthesis of my favorite passtimes (camping and riding motorcycles) became that much better once I had the KLR. I was no longer tip-toeing down two-tracks on a street bike to find a prime stealth-camping spot.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I have had one of one type or another since before I could get a license. The latest is a Yamaha XT600.

      The visibility has to be a big change from the Toyobaru!

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    I’m preparing to make the same decision. I’m taking my motorcycle beginners course here in NB in a couple of weeks.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’ve always kept an old sports car around during my family raising time. The kids loved it. They liked going for rides with Dad. They liked learning to drive them. Heck they would even come out to garage and help me work on them. Sure Mom’s family hauler or my commuter car/truck would be parked outside but that was really the only problem with them.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Practical – LOL. When my first kid came along, I bought a second Miata. A little over a year later the second kid came along and I bought a Vette. Only after the 3rd kid did I buy something I also desired, but just happened to be practical – a Suburban.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Great choice of bike…

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is why having multiple cars is great. GTI when I need space and peace and quiet, Fiata when I just want to have fun. I find I drive the Fiata more than the GTI, but I don’t have sprogs.

    Motorcycles just don’t seem that fun to me. By the time you have all the safety gear on, you aren’t exactly getting much wind in the hair. I’m more exposed yet safer in my Spitfire or Fiata in shorts and a t-shirt. Too many bobo’s on the road today.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Ah so you want to be a red crayon.

    I was into it until my motorcycle safety instructor was killed by an F150 driver turning left on a two-lane highway, and didn’t see the oncoming motorbike obeying all traffic laws. He wore a neon green helmet too.

    Might take it up again when the kids are over 18. Personal preference, but spending adulthood without a father is maybe ok, at least not as bad as childhood.


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