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TheRX7Project Reader
1/26/18 8:39 a.m.

The year is 2002. At the time I owned a '53 Studebaker, an '01 Focus, and had recently sold my '69 Bradley GT kit car. I had never really given imports time of day. I grew up around muscle cars, and MoPars in particular- my dad had a '68 Coronet since shortly after I was born (which my brother now has), my first time driving was in a '67 Dart, and thinking back, I can't remember a time when we didn't have some sort of Chrysler product. My mom had a '38 Chevy pickup street rod for a while too. Our weekends were spent either working on the Coronet or going to the drag strip (or the street races).

Most of my friends were into imports. As such, I did a few light mods to the Focus to make it more fun. Nothing wild- just an intake, exhaust, short shifter, the usual. One of my friends had an S12 200SX, and another one had a 280ZX, a Cressida, and an AE86.

My friend only had so much parking at his parents' house, and needed to move his cars side to side every night (city ordinance). He was getting ready to move the Corolla, and asked me if I wanted to drive it. Sure, why not. I hopped in the driver's seat, fired it up, and with him riding shotgun we took it for a little ride. He directed me to a small industrial area near his house. Little did I know, my life was about to be forever changed.

He told me to go ahead and give the car some gas. Next thing I know, we're drifting around this empty street and I've got a grin bigger than any I've ever had before. Suddenly, I understood.

Eventually, some 6 years and several cars later, that led to the purchase of my RX7. I've had the car for 10 years this coming June, and although I've threatened it a few times, I know it's here to stay. I still have a love for muscle cars- that's engrained in my soul. And although I am less into drifting and more into grip, I'll never forget the feeling of driving that little Corolla.

dropstep SuperDork
1/26/18 8:45 a.m.

I grew up in a GM household, my dad had everything from stock GTO's to a big block vega that ran 8.90s. About 2 months after i graduated i was looking for a project to replace my senior project cutlass i had sold. A shady little car lot had a car i wanted too look at. Turned out to be a 79 capri rs with a crate motor/trans. They purchased from an estate sale. 

800 dollars later i was driving it home after my dad took ten minutes to find the problem. Ive owned nothing but fox chassis cars since for projects. I ended up just over 2k into that capri and ran a best of 12.96@108mph As a 19 year old i thought that was fantastic. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/26/18 8:51 a.m.

I was at the Car and Driver Superfour Challenge in 2002. That was a shootout of four cylinder tooner cars at the height of the F&F days. Yellow tinted windows, graphics, all the good stuff. We all did our runs through a course that involved a quarter mile run into a little road course and then on to the oval for a run up to 120 and down to a dead stop. Total elapsed time won. Pretty good competition design, actually.

After all the turbo Subarus and Evos and MINIs and Hondas and a certain Miata* had run, Larry Webster rolled up to the line in a stock Z06 and totally demolished the field in one run.

Changed my opinion of Corvettes right there.



* I'm going to point out that our Miata was sick at the time and we didn't know it. Aluminum oxide poisoning, so it was waaay down on power. Still, it wouldn't have been enough to take on the Z06 at full health. Even if we had the power, we didn't have the chassis that year.

alfadriver MegaDork
1/26/18 9:05 a.m.

In 1996, I worked with a company developing an exotic car.  One that could do just over 180mph, very comfortably.

Up until then, I thought exotics and hyper exotics were cool.

Then I started to live with one, and realized that they were largely pointless ego machines to show you were of higher status.  It's incredibly ironic that where these cars really "shine" is when they are mostly not moving.

Some of you know what car I'm talking about, since you were around this board when the car went into production back in 1999.  I was and am very proud of the car, and how it impacted that company, but the work made me realize how pointless those kind of cars really are.

nderwater UltimaDork
1/26/18 9:07 a.m.

I was a freshman in college when my best friend bought a cheap E30 325is at a police auction.  Neither of us had ever had a RWD car before, and hooning that thing for all it was worth opened my eyes to a whole universe of driving experiences that I had no idea existed. I got my own E30, joined the BMW Club, was introduced to autocrosses and track days, and have been a driving junkie ever since.

AngryCorvair UltimaDork
1/26/18 9:23 a.m.

1989-ish, a college buddy had an '85 accord hatch.  He taught me two valuable lessons with that car:  

  1. its great fun to drive a slow car fast
  2. it doesn't matter what you drive, as long as you drive it on the edge.
RossD MegaDork
1/26/18 9:26 a.m.

The miata might not have changed my mind, but it certainly cemented the worth of small, light cars don't need a ton of power to be fun. The "big heavy and well powered for the day" A6 BiTurbo I had before that was a nice contrast. Power is intoxicating, though.

Fitzauto Dork
1/26/18 9:26 a.m.

My bugeye wagon. Always thought subarus were over-hyped by thr flatbill crowd but this one changed my mind. Tons of fun to drive everyday.

Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
1/26/18 9:28 a.m.

1981, get a job at a Volvo dealer that had grown from an independent import shop owned by a German immigrant who had run rallys for Nissan as a factory driver.  My first spin in a 510 with a two liter, a pair of Webers, a big cam and two and a half inch exhaust completely transformed my idea of what an import car was all about.

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito PowerDork
1/26/18 9:45 a.m.

Ok, I'll play. 

It's the year 2000, and I just graduated high school. I was car obsessed, and owned a high mileage 1987 Mercury Cougar XR7 and a rusty, broken 1964 Buick Skylark. If it wasn't American made and rear wheel drive, it wasn't for me! And front wheel drive, no matter who made it, was wrong wheel drive and THE DEVIL. 

I was off to college in a few months, and I'd be commuting there every day from my parents' house about 15 miles away. While I had planned on spending a good portion of my graduation money rehabbing a freshly harvested 5.0 H.O. to be plucked from a local junkyard, my parents intervened and told me that they didn't want me daily driving my 250k+ mile Cougar to school every day, and that I needed to sell the car. Their plan had an ulterior motive: they already found a new car for me with the help of my older sister. 

I was heartbroken. I felt betrayed. And worse yet, they wouldn't tell me what it was until I went and saw it.

My sister was working at the time at a Nissan dealership. She had taken a car in on trade that she assured my parents would be perfect for me. After all, she helped me get my beloved Cougar XR7 (actually, two of them, but that's another story). So, we roll up to the dealer on a Saturday in late June, and I'm thinking, "maybe it's an 80's 300ZX! Yeah, I could live with that!" or "What if it's a newer MN12 Cougar or even a Mustang GT! That would be awesome!"

My sister takes us out onto the dusty dirt-and-gravel back lot where the trade-ins and cars headed to auction live. I'm looking all around for my next car, and I see a powder blue 80's 300ZX with terrible purple tint on the windows. Could it be? Nope, that was sold to one of the mechanics already. So I ask, "Which one is it?", and she walks over to one of these:

It was a white-on-black 1989 Nissan Maxima SE. It had a Bose stereo, a moon roof, automatic seat belts, and an automatic transmission. It had the VG30 V6 and made right around 160hp. 

I was ANGRY. They made me sell my Cougar FOR THIS THING??? Worse yet, it had 199,000 miles on it! What a piece of junk! 

Or so I thought.

My sister tossed me the keys and said, "Drive it and tell me you hate it afterwards and we'll find you something else". So, my dad and I took it out. 5 minutes driving that car was enough to change my mind about EVERYTHING. It completely up-ended my universe. This car had tight steering, could take corners without the rear end trying to get away from me, it was comfortable and quiet, and it even felt faster than my V8-powered Cougar. I got out afterwards and looked at the car, and realized that it looked cool. The grille looked similar to the R32 Skyline GT-R that I liked using in Gran Turismo, the smoked tail panel looked sporty, and it even had a spoiler! The wheels looked exactly like the sawblade wheels on lots of 80's machines that I loved, and wait... what's this little sticker on the driver's side rear window? 

Wait... 4-door SPORTS CAR? They built this thing to PERFORM? WHAT? My brain was broken.

My sister then told me the story behind the car. It was a one-owner vehicle, and the guy meticulously maintained it. In fact, it had just received a new transmission and transmission computer less than 6 months before. The guy was a wine salesman and drove all over the place, which explained the high mileage, but my sister said he cried when he traded it in on a white 2000 Maxima SE because he was going to miss it.

$800 later, I was the new owner of a 1989 Nissan Maxima SE. It treated me very well for over 2 years. I put 27,000 loving miles on it, and when it died by getting sandwiched in between a Nissan Sentra and (get this) a Mercury Cougar in an accident on the way to school, I was the one crying. It was one of the best cars I have owned. It opened my eyes to seeing that there were tons of other cool cars out there than the American RWD V8 powered coupes that dominated my previous thoughts. Without that car, I wouldn't be the car guy I am proud to be today. 

Side note: My current daily driver, a 2012 Mazda 3, was ordered specifically to be a tribute to that car. Since Nissan sucks and only offers the current Maxima with the terrible CVT, this was the closest thing on paper to my old car. It's also white-on-black, has a moon roof, a Bose stereo, cool directional wheels, and even makes right around 160hp. This time, I was able to get a manual transmission, which was the only thing I would have changed on that car. It currently has 155,000 miles, and I'm hoping it's every bit as good as that Maxima was when it gets to 199,000. laugh

oldopelguy UltraDork
1/26/18 9:47 a.m.

My roommate had left his bike at his girlfriend's house, two hours away, and after the two hour ride on it wasn't in any particular hurry to go get it. I was flying back and forth from the Greenville, SC area to Minneapolis to visit my girlfriend at the time and was frequently checking flights into or out of Charlotte, Asheville, Greenville, and Atlanta based on time of day and cost and it worked out that I could fly out of Greenville and back into Charlotte and get a weekend trip in for peanuts.

So I got to ride a brand new under 1000 mile 2008-9 ish Hyabussa home after a quick taxi ride from the airport.

It was awful. It would break every speed limit in second gear, then you would start ratcheting up gears to slow down the engine. It was bright red, with attention drawing graphics and loud aftermarket mufflers, so any LEO within three miles keyed in on it. That meant that even though minivans were passing me I didn't dare open it up. Thoroughly disappointed.

Appleseed MegaDork
1/26/18 9:56 a.m.

When I was just getting my license, I discovered that the 240SX was rear wheel drive. Up until that point, I thought all 4 cylinder imports were FWD. Every 4 banger I'd seen before was, domestic, import, or otherwise. It opened a world of possibilities. On a long enough time line, it's the reason I own an FR-S. 

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett MegaDork
1/26/18 9:58 a.m.

Growing up in a rather isolated tiny Midwestern town in the 70's-80's with no one in my family or circle of friends who were car-guys, if it wasn't a 2-door V8 RWD American car(with the possible exception of some European exotics), it wasn't E36 M3 and obviously slow.

A friend's dad bought an '80 Saab 900 turbo. It was the first FWD, manual, and turbo car I'd ever driven. I still remember nailing the gas and thinking "This thing is slow as a...." at which point the boost kicked in and we were rocketed down the road. It still took another 6 years before I owned anything FWD, but I definitely learned that more cylinders did not always equal faster.


Trackmouse UltraDork
1/26/18 10:21 a.m.

1985 ford ranger. Took it for a drive, did a back roads burnout. It threw a rod. Had to walk home several miles through corn country late at night. 

1989 Ford Taurus. Took it for a drive, attempted an inner city burnout. Threw a valve. Had to walk home several miles through the ghetto at night. 

1993 ford van. Took for a drive. Didn’t do any burnout. Shutoff for good. Stranded me in a nice suburban neighborhood. Had to wait for the tow truck for several hours. 

I don’t like old fords. 

Driven5 SuperDork
1/26/18 10:27 a.m.

It seems like every car I drive gives me a piphany of some sort.  From a Miata changing my mind about faster meaning better, to VW DSG/Porsche PDK  changing my mind about automated transmissions sucking, to Ford "Powershift" (LOL) changing my mind about dual clutch transmissions being awesome.

JtspellS SuperDork
1/26/18 10:37 a.m.

07ish was going with a friend and his wife to Myrtle beach for bike week in her DD which was an SRT-4 neon, was never really introduced to turbo FWD vehicles until then and whist on the way down we encountered plenty of muscle car bros who tried their best to keep up and failed, keep in mind there was 3 of us in the car and stuff for a 4 day weekend.  

Would have to say that weekend was probably what had influenced me to buy my old MS3 and have a deep founded respect for a properly done hot hatch/sedan.

Rodan Reader
1/26/18 10:40 a.m.

Miata, of course...  trading a motorcycle for an NA Miata on a lark in 2011 changed a lot of things for us!

However, the big one for me was a Kia Soul...  It was 2010 and it was time for a new daily for my wife.  She loved the hamster commercials, so we went to the local Kia dealer to check them out.  My last experience with Korean cars had been a friend's mom's Hyundai in the 80's, so I wasn't very hopeful.  The dealer had one manual trans Soul left on the lot, and it was the ! model ("Exclaim"), and it was Alien Green... the color my wife wanted.  It was also New Year's Eve, so they were dealing hard... I figured I was doomed, but, it drove well, seemed nicely put together, and had a 10yr/100k warranty.  And it was ~$20k out the door.

That Soul! turned out to be a genuinely good car.  We only kept it for three years, but we never had a single problem with it.  It was certainly not very interesting to drive, but it was a perfectly competent appliance.  Comfortable and roomy, though not enough cargo space with four on board.  It worked great in snow.  It got decent fuel mileage, considering it was a box on wheels.

What really impressed me, though, was the interior.  Compared to my mom's Honda Accord (also a 2010), it looked fantastic... better design, and nicer materials.  

Kia/Hyundai have really stepped up their game lately, and if they get the handling/driving dynamics thing figured out, they're going to kick a lot of German and Japanese butt.  If the wife's NC Miata gets retired from DD duty, I'm seriously considering the new Veloster N, or maybe a Stinger as a replacement.

TheRX7Project Reader
1/26/18 10:47 a.m.

In reply to Rodan :

Oddly enough, about the exact same timeframe I was also looking at Souls to replace my daily, and was extremely impressed with them. I pretty much had one purchased, but my youth's credit history meant an interest rate and payment I just couldn't make happen. I had one out for a 2-day test drive, and even named it "Bert" because that's what the horn sounded like when I locked it. I ended up with a used tC that I abhorred due to the horrible drive-by-wire lag.

8valve New Reader
1/26/18 10:48 a.m.
TheRX7Project said:I had never really given imports time of day.

 I was the opposite.  From the time I got my permit at 15 until I was 30 something only imports.  Not one single domestic ever. Eventually I needed a three row for all the kids.  I got an old Chrysler because twas the only manual option. Loved it.  Today I have more domestic badged cars than import. 

racerdave600 UltraDork
1/26/18 10:48 a.m.

Mine was in 1996.  I had a friend that was a professional racer and he asked me to help him do some car prep.  The car was a Twin Turbo Supra and NA Supra.  We were getting them ready for Daytona.  Until then I mostly had Italian, German or British cars, and in the case of Alfas and Fiats, they use a lot of sheet metal screws and haphazardly threw things together.  In the case of the Germans, impossible engineering to the point of absurdity in some cases was the norm. 

By comparison, taking the Supra apart was a revelation, a true joy in some respects.  Everything had a place, was easy to disassemble, and easy to put back together.  Even simple things like speaker installation looked like it was engineered to be taken apart weekly for service.  In endurance races, we could change the brake pads on all four corners in under 3 minutes, and that was not swapping calipers like others did.  We always spent far less time in the pits than all of our competitors.  And it never broke.  It never had a single failure that was the fault of something giving up on the car.  Only tire problems, wrecks or human error caused it issues.  

I had grown up around Z's, but this was another level in engineering and execution entirely.  And it was fast of course too.  It totally changed my perception of Japanese cars and led to my obsession with MR2s, and respect for Toyota.

fasted58 MegaDork
1/26/18 10:54 a.m.

87 AMC Eagle wagon, it didn't do anything great but did everything well. I was a V8 and pony car guy too, that Iggle was a real gem.

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
1/26/18 11:12 a.m.

I can't really say I've had something change my mind. Only had biases and pre conceived notions confirmed. I still haven't driven a Japanese car that was appealing. I still prefer European cars. 1970s GM cars are still my absolute favorite. Fords still are unreliable and expensive to keep running. And motorcycles are better than cars. These are universal truths that I've known since I was a kid and all these years later experience has proven them to be true.

DaveEstey PowerDork
1/26/18 11:14 a.m.

I thought boosted Subarus were the bees knees until I owned a Legacy GT.

I'll never buy another Subaru at all thanks to that lemon. It has been 6 years and I still talk about that stupid car.

DrBoost MegaDork
1/26/18 11:22 a.m.

My current Japanese car, Honda Odyssey. I never really cared for Honda cars. Seemed boring. 

Now that we have a few years od Honda ownership under our belts, I won't waste my money again. 

No more reliable than the Chrysler van it replaced, or the one before that. More niggling problems than either Chrysler car, and with less miles on the clock. 

I have seen the light. The bulb wasn't as bright as I thought it would be. 

Tom_Spangler UberDork
1/26/18 11:25 a.m.

E36 M3.  I drove one in around 2003 or so for a PPI for an out-of-state forum member.  After that, I finally "got" BMWs and why they were so lauded.  I went on to own three of them and will probably have another at some point in the future.

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