Generation Why: California Dreaming – A Hot Hatch Comparison

If the first half of my automotive life was informed by Honda products, the second half was largely colored by “Sport Compact Car” magazine, which I still consider to be America’s finest automotive print magazine. From the age of 13 onward, I faithfully purchased SCC every month, enthralled by the idea of low-budget import car builds and sweeping California canyon roads. I liked that they took a different tack than most of the other tuner magazines; they weren’t as dogmatic as the other rags were with respect to the “Japan rules, America sux” dichotomy that seemed to pervade the lesser publications. There were no photo spreads of Asian women in flourescent bikinis. Unlike the editorials in Grassroots Motorsports, the budgets for their projects seemed realistic.

One shot that has stuck with me is this shot of an ancient 323 GTX sliding through the dirt; I can’t remember if it was an SCC project car or not, but it encapsulates what I always pictured Southern California to be; an automotive playground free of rust and full of roads that are appropriate for whatever driving conditions you could want. The 323 GTX’s near me are either terminally oxidized or going for absurd amounts of money ($6,000 for a barely running 26 year old Mazda that would amputate my legs in a crash? No thanks) but Mazda was kind enough to lend me a Mazdaspeed3 for my first trip to Los Angeles so I could live out my canyon run fantasies on the Angeles Crest Highway, albeit in front-drive form only. If that wasn’t enough, TTAC contributor Jeff Jablansky brought along his own Volkswagen GTI MKVI for comparison.

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  • Johnster "Vale" is the [s]cheap[/s] lower-priced performance version with black trim and stiff suspension."Mist" is the "DeLuxe" version with a bit more chrome and trim. (Sort of like the "Decor Package" option.)"Magentic" is the full-on Brougham treatment (in its current state) with more chrome trim than the "Mist" and all sorts of gimmicky electronic features inside. (Sadly, it will not include simulated landau irons or a vinyl covered roof, even as an option.)"Aurora" is the Oldsmobile of Cadillacs (sort of like the old Cadillac Calais). No, that's not right. It's the top-of-the-line model, sort of a "Grand Touring" version, with not as much chrome as the "Magentic" but all of the gimmicky electronic features and a stiffer suspension.
  • Drew8MR Why can't CARB leave hobbyists alone? Maybe lay off the low hanging fruit and go after the gross polluters. Bring back the rolling exemption.
  • ToolGuy According to Americans, the very lovely and quite powerful Ford Fairmont (1978-1983) was Way Better.Source: Sales figures.
  • Goatshadow Use case: trade it in the moment the warranty is up.
  • SCE to AUX Why can't the NHTSA find or keep its leaders?