The Suzuki Kizashi was not a great car. That said, it certainly wasn’t a bad car – and I don’t think I’ll court controversy by saying that the car, launched nearly in tandem with news that Suzuki was withdrawing from the U.S. market, never really got a fair shake. It was a car that, for a reasonable-ish $27,000, could be had with a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive. That, along with a willing chassis and some “ drivers’ car” marketing, makes for a great story. “I coulda been a contender,” and all that.
There was another marketing pitch for the little Suzuki Kizashi that lives rent-free in my brain, though. It’s the one where Suzuki compares the Kizashi to its racy GSX-R sport bikes and all-conquering, big-bore hyperbike, the Hayabusa, and makes the case that the Kizashi might just be a four-wheeled Suzuki motorcycle that you can strap some child seats into.
Would a simple engine swap be enough to make the Kizashi a sports car for the ages? Let’s find out.
When it launched in 1994, the original Dodge Neon was a different kind of car – and not just because it looked fun and friendly while the outgoing Shadow it replaced was trying very hard to look sporty by the end.
It was different because of its ads, which were simple and non-threatening. The car was kept simple inside, too. A 2.0-liter engine was standard (available in 132 horsepower with a SOHC head or 150 hp with DOHC), and could be had with a 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. You could get power front windows, but rear windows were crank-only. What’s more, the cars were genuinely fun to drive in almost any trim level, leading our very own Matthew Guy to label it as one of the best, unheralded performance cars of its day.
Which, I mean, that’s great and all. But what if Chrysler had made a different call with the Neon powertrain? What if we could go back in time again, Sam Beckett-style, and fill the space under the Neon’s hood with the 175 hp turbocharged engine from the Dodge Omni GLH-S, would that car have ended up as an “unheralded” performance car, or one of the all-time classic sport compacts?
Let’s talk it through.
To many children of the 1970s and 80s, the Pontiac Fiero is something of a tragic figure. Its mid-engine chassis and clean, sporty lines made performance promises that its 2.5L OHV, 92 horsepower “Iron Duke” could never deliver on. Even later models, with their 140 HP, 2.8L V6 engines were disappointments – albeit lesser ones. Despite continuous improvements, the car was only in production for four years, and ultimately became more sought-after as the basis for a number of ill-conceived Faux-rrari kit cars than for what it was … but it didn’t have to be this way.
Across town, Pontiac’s GM stablemate Oldsmobile had something that could have changed the fate of Pontiac’s Fiero – and maybe the Chevrolet Corvette’s, too – and that’s the subject of this first engine swap fantasy file: the Quad 4.
Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer isn’t very trusting of his government’s plan to ban all internal combustion vehicles by 2040. The 55-year-old Brit had a few things to say about the UK’s intentions last year, none of them very kind to policy makers.
Since then, it seems he’s grown even more concerned about the legions of old Astons prowling the carriageways of his fair country. With this in mind, the automaker developed a way to “future-proof” emissions-spewing classics and keep them from becoming illicit Red Barchettas sought out by agents of a puritan superstate. You’ll have to hand over your inline-six or V8 first, but don’t worry — you can put it back.
Let’s face it — things get stale. Sliding into the same old heap every day, fiddling with the ignition, trying to get the motor running. Sometimes, just when you think you’ve got the spark… nothing happens. Then you’re left with your hood up, searching through your phone for the right contact.
Enterprise, perhaps, or maybe your local dealer.
That’s the reality for many old car owners. Sometimes, as is expected in our disposable society, a car’s time comes. We build obsolescence into our vehicles — parts dry up, metal gives way to rust, maintenance costs rise, and suddenly, keeping a classic (or “classic”) on the road just isn’t worth it anymore. But there’s always the option of bringing on a new partner to keep those combustion chamber fires burning.
With yourself as one of the points of the triangle, which automotive three-way do you have in mind?
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