Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1985 Mazda RX-7

Last week's RCW was an iconic Japanese sports car. This week, it's...well, another Japanese sports car. In the same parking spot, no less! Today we look at a wonderful first-gen RX-7, an iconic car of the 1980's.

1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE
Although the concept of the RX-7 doesn't differ greatly from last week's 280Z, the Mazda stood out on account of its unique method of propulsion: rotary power. The RX-7 debuted in 1978, and had sharp styling and solid performance. In 1983 it even made the Car and Driver Ten Best list, a serious accolade.

This particular car is the top-of-the-line GSL-SE model, released towards the end of the first-gen's lifespan. It featured the fuel-injected 1.3-liter "13B" rotary engine, which was good for 135 horsepower. The RX-7 only weighed 2,590 pounds, so it was anything but sluggish. The GSL-SE also got bigger brakes and a 5-speed manual gearbox. Zero to sixty came in just under eight seconds.

This RX-7 is a 1985, the last year for the first generation. It has the optional sunroof, and overall it's in stellar condition. Mazda recently announced that there are currently no plans to build another RX model at any point in the future, so original models like this one are liable to become more valuable in the next few years.

The RX-7 is an oddball of a car. A rotary-powered sports car from the 1980's? Come on, that's just plain cool.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: 1977 Datsun 280Z

Historically speaking, the Datsun 240Z was a very important automobile. Prior to its creation in 1969, there were no widely-respected Japanese sports cars. The Toyota Sports 800 and Datsun's own Fairlady roadster were great cars that have slowly become cult icons, but in 1969 most people in the market for a sporty car would have been looking at an MGB or maybe a Lotus Elan. Wealthier buyers could look at the Jaguar XKE or Porsche 911. Then in 1970, the Datsun 240Z arrived in America, and everything changed.

The winning formula of the 240Z was a combination of good performance, reasonable pricing, and fantastic looks. Success in the East African Safari Rally furthered the car's popularity, and to this day it's seen as an icon. Some even call it a halo car. Regardless, the 240Z eventually gave way to the increasingly-powerful 260Z and 280Z models in the later 1970s. Today's RCW is a 1977 280Z, the final iteration of the first-generation Z-cars.

Visually, the 280Z was only mildly updated from the stellar-looking 240Z. Tweaks to the turn signal markers, taillights, and emblems were trivial changes, but the massive 5-mph bumpers required by U.S. regulations did hamper the car's smooth lines, Many of these cars have since been modified with earlier chrome bumpers, or have had the bumpers removed altogether.

The car's name is a reference to the 2.8-liter inline six under the hood. The motor made 170 horsepower, as compared to the meager 151 horsepower of the original 240Z. Transmission options consisted of a three-speed automatic, along with both four-speed and five-speed manuals.

This particular car is practically spotless. All of the badges are intact, along with the bulky bumpers and the original hubcaps. Considering how often these cars get modified, this one's originality is nice to see. The light blue is sporty, and catches just the right amount of sunlight.

Today Japan is known for legendary sports cars like the Mazda Miata and RX-7, Honda's S2000 and NSX, and the Nissan 350Z and 370Z that trace their roots back to this car. The Datsun Z-cars paved the way for a multitude of great Japanese sports cars. Think about it like this: If the 240Z hadn't been built, the Nissan GT-R might have never existed, and that's a tragedy if ever there was one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: Porsche Carrera GT

Cars and Coffee is always good for a surprise or two, but every so often somebody shows up in something particularly incredible. This occurred at last weekend's event, and so I thought it would make a great RCW. An incredible piece of supercar history, it's the Porsche Carrera GT.

Porsche Carrera GT
Originally a mere concept, the Carrera GT was given the green light in part due to the hugely positive response the prototype received. Porsche wasn't unfamiliar with supercars, having already created the world-beating 959 and the homologation-special monster that was the 911 GT1, so there was little doubt in the manufacturer's ability to make another halo car.

The Carrera GT began production in 2004 and was built through 2005, with a final production total of 1,270 cars. This actually made it the first achievable Porsche supercar in the States, since only 25 911 GT1's were ever built, and none of the 300 or so 959's were street-legal in the U.S. As a result, nearly half of the Carrera GT production run was sold in America.

In terms of performance, the Carrera GT was a serious machine, The mid-mounted 5.7-liter V10 was originally created for a Porsche LMP car that never saw the light of day. In the Carrera GT, it put out 612 horsepower, allowing brave drivers to hit 60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds. Top speed was a claimed 205 mph. A six-speed manual transmission was the only option, and power was sent directly to the rear wheels.

This particular car was a show-stopper, and looked great in what I presume is Guards Red (the Carrera GT only had five official color options). The design is truly something special, incorporating Porsche's iconic visual cues into a low-slung supercar shape that is guaranteed to quicken your pulse. Looking at this car, it's easy to see elements of the Carrera GT in Porsche's latest supercar, the 918 Spyder. This was one of the ultimate supercars of its decade, and in person it's very clear why that reputation still stands.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Random Car Wednesday: Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge

A luxury car is usually characterized as opulent, well-upholstered, and graceful. Tire-shredding performance and blistering quarter-mile times don't often appear in the brochure. Despite this, most luxury marques offer at least one performance car. Mercedes and BMW have their AMG and M divisions respectively, and even Cadillac has the CTS-V and the upcoming ATS-V. Audi and Lexus have their halo cars, the R8 and the LF-A. The list goes on, with cars like the Jaguar XFR-S, Bentley Continental Supersports, and the Rolls-Royce Wraith blurring the line between luxury and performance. Then there's Infiniti. While the G35 and G37 were respectably sporty, they never seemed to be taken very seriously. You'd think that with Nissan as their parent company, Infiniti could raid the NISMO parts bin and put together something truly special, but it hasn't happened. Until now.

Today's RCW is a very unique car, the one-of-one Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge prototype. Supposedly intended for production in the near future, the Eau Rouge takes its name from the famous uphill corner at the Spa Francorchamps race course. So what are the specifications, you ask? Visually, the car takes the already-attractive Q50 and integrates some fancy aerodynamic witchcraft derived from contemporary F1 cars. That wild paint color may turn out to be exclusive to the prototype, but one can hope to see it on the production car, too. The reworked visage is aggressive and steroidal compared to the standard Q50, and there are so many details integrated into the design that you can walk around the car for hours on end, finding new things you'd missed the first time around.

Swanky bodywork aside, all those looks are meaningless unless you have the horsepower to back them up. This is not a problem for the Eau Rouge. Under the hood is the same twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 you'll find in the Nissan GT-R. That means there are 560 horses on tap, comparable to the Cadillac CTS-V. The GT-R also donates its brakes, a necessary feature when you combine that much power with this many doors. Also helping to manage that power are a very spiffy new suspension setup with adjustable coil-overs up front, as well as the AWD system from the Infiniti Q70. In short, should the Eau Rouge come up against the corner it takes its name from, it will be aptly prepared.

Overall, I love this car, and I hope to see it make production sometime very soon. This could pave the way for more Infiniti performance cars, and that idea is ripe with potential. Even if it remains a one-off, it shows the versatility of the Q50 platform and the sheer creativity of the design team at Infiniti. Now please, just build the thing.

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge prototype

That's Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, by the way...