I Did What All Fathers of Young Children Do - I Traded My Scion FR-S for Something Less Practical

Timothy Cain
by 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.

With 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.

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.

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.

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.

Timothy Cain
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  • Olddavid Olddavid on May 21, 2023

    Excellent piece. I see I am not the only one who lusts after the visceral effects of riding the rural avenues. Out here in Alberta the roads between the canola is light brown instead of red, but the feeling I would bet is the same. I have also found myself watching bizarre sales sites for an old two stroke Yamaha, ideally with a Git-Kit. Being up here, after a forty year absence has me learning - yet again - the difference between being Canadian and knowing who made a Meteor. I also have purchased my beater with a heater English car for daily driving and most of my peers were aggressively jealous that I can keep it going while also being able to ignore putting the top up at night. I seem to have found my level, and at my age, its about damn time. (apologies to Dennis Hopper) PEI has always seemed like the San Juans but east and cold. Good luck in your island chapters.

  • Wjtinfwb Wjtinfwb on May 21, 2023

    Great to see this article again. I'm an ardent car guy, but cut my teeth on bikes and still love climbing on one. Now that there's a few bucks in the bank and my Life Insurance is paid up, I may look for another one. But the point of my note is, as exciting as some cars can be, nothing compares to a pretty basic bike. The immediacy of the inputs, thrill of being totally exposed, sensation of speed and element of risk are all intoxicating. I've had some fun cars, WS6 TransAm's, GTI, 5.0 Mustangs, a 740i Sport and now a Bronco Sasquatch. All a lot of fun. But nothing like whipping an XL250R through some heavy traffic or carving the Dragon with sportbikes on a KLR650 with Michelin street rubber. If you're a car guy and starting to feel a bit... bored. Get on a bike again. If you've never been on one, there's a lot of Dirt Bike riding schools out there to swing a leg over some really tame little 4-stroke and have the time of your life! Buy a good helmet, dress appropriately and ride within your limits. You'll have a ball!

  • El scotto The days of "Be American, buy America" are long gone. Then there's the mental gymnastics of "is a Subaru made in Lafayette, IN more American than something from gm or Ford made in Mexico?" Lastly, it gets down to people's wallets; something cheap on Amazon or Temu will outsell its costlier American-made item. Price not Patriotism sells most items. One caveat: any US candidate should have all of his/her goods made in the USA.
  • FreedMike Well, here's my roster of car purchases since 1981: Three VWsTwo Mazdas (one being a Mercury Tracer, full disclosure)One AudiOne FordOne BuickOne HondaOne Volvo I think I hear Lee Greenwood in the background... In all seriousness, I'd have bought more American cars had they made more of the kinds of cars I like (smaller, performance-oriented).
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X I'll gladly support the least "woke" and the most Japanese auto company out there.
  • Jmo2 I just got an email from the dealership where I bought my car and it looks like everything has $5k on the hood.
  • Lou_BC I suspect that since the global pandemic, dealerships have preferred to stay with the "if you want it, we will order it" business model. They just need some demo models on hand and some shiny bits to catch the impulse buyer. Profits are higher and risks lower this way.