Spannerhead Dot

The Flaws in My Cars

July 9, 2012 by Matt

I’ve owned each of these at one point or another. I’ve loved them all, and miss them to varying degrees. But as much as I pine for one or more on any given day, they all have an Achilles heel. There isn’t a car, no matter how beloved, on which I wouldn’t change a thing.

Mazda RX-7 FB First 1st Gen Generation 1985 85 Red

First-generation Mazda RX-7: Recirculating-ball steering. Yes, I could go after the archaic live axle rear suspension, but somehow that becomes as much a part of the car’s charm as the notoriously vague steering and huge dead spot on center are disappointing. C’mon Mazda, really? It’s not even like the obsolescent British roadsters whose market you helped upend were still fitted with recirculating ball boxes. Not only that, but the 2nd and 3rd generation RX-7s’ steering remains among the sharpest and best in the world. Tell me they couldn’t have rolled that out a bit earlier and given us 1st gen enthusiasts a few model years of rack-and-pinion-y goodness. Unfortunate.

Audi 4000 quattro 4kq 4000CS Type 85 Silver Zermatt

Audi 4000 quattro: Weight distribution. There’s so much right with this car that I just hate the fact that the engine hangs way out in front of the axle line. You certainly feel it when driving. Four wheel disc brakes, AWD, a close-ratio 5-speed, a raspy 5-cylinder engine, responsive rack-and-pinion steering, a commendably low weight of 2,800 lbs…let down by incurable understeer. The factory engine’s 110 hp may feel anemic, but a whole host of stronger Audi 5-bangers drop right in, more or less. It’s just a shame 65% of the weight over the front axle can’t be “modded away” as easily as the power deficit.

Datsun Nissan 240Z 260Z 280Z Z-Car Tires Wheels Slotted Mag BF Goodrich Radial Comp T/A

Datsun 240Z: Rear drum brakes. Yes, perhaps expecting a non-premium car made in the early ’70s to sport discs on all four wheels is a bit much. Still, Jaguar at least had been doing it for 10 years by that point, so is it really an unreasonable demand? The Z’s drums, while competent, are a massive pain to service, increase unsprung weight over discs and just look ugly. Mine are coming off as soon as I can afford the (expensive) disc conversion bits.

Mark Mk 3 MkIII Mk3 Toyota Supra Turbo JZA70 MA70 MA71 White 1JZ 1JZ-GTE 1JZGTE

Mark 3 Toyota Supra (’86-’92): Weight. This car would be perfect…if it went on a 400+ lb diet. 4-wheel discs, smooth and powerful 6-pot engine, double wishbones all around, 5-speed, RWD, rack-and-pinion steering, great looks, and a few hundred pounds of unnecessary pork. I could really do without the power adjustable side bolsters. And the targa roof. And the gimicky electronic dampers. And a whole load of additional stuffing. If Toyota had put as much effort into weight control as they had the rest of the car, they’d have had a true world-beater.

Filed under: Car Stories, Miscellaneous, Our Cars


  1. you’ve owned some great cars. kudos. that audi looks absolutely fantastic with the BBS wheels.

    • Matt says:

      Thank you! The wheels were 15×7 ACT LS (BBS knockoffs, I believe). Ronal makes an equivalent too.

      Unfortunately a couple of them were banana’d into oblivion when I bought the car, so I had to replace them with some stock Coupe quattro wheels. Kinda wish I’d repaired the ACTs instead. Ah well.

  2. John D says:

    So, basically, if your Supra was really a 3rd gen RX-7 than it would be perfect? That is what you seem to be saying…in two different paragraphs, no less. If so, we are in complete and utter agreement, my friend. ;)

    • Matt says:

      Actually, with the possible exception of the Acura NSX, the FD is probably as close to a perfect car as it gets. If you count objective criteria, that is (i.e. not pedigree, character and all those other intangibles).

  3. John D says:

    (I grew to love that Audi of yours. Something about the aesthetics of it…just a very handsome vehicle. Replace the anemic engine, get rid of the understeer, and I would love to own one.)

    • John D says:

      Although I would be interested to see how it compared with the ’93 Volvo 850 GLT I drove in high school…or the 850 turbo wagon I had about 5 yrs ago. I loved that car and hate that I sold it (even if it was the right thing to do at the time). For me that Audi and the Volvo 850 series seem like they should be related…dunno why.

    • Matt says:

      I miss it too, weirdly enough. I kind of hated it near the end, but I think that’s because I was really poor and couldn’t afford the total front end bushing overhaul the car needed.

      Some guys actually disconnect the front driveshafts and turn it into a purely RWD car. Oversteer on command. It works well enough, but they’re still not fixing the weight distribution problem, and furthermore they’re sending all the power through a part of the drivetrain only designed to handle half of it, so durability is an issue.

      The obvious solution is a BMW E30, but for some reason (can’t quite put my finger on it), that car just bores me out of my mind. Maybe it’s “too mainstream” or something? Am I just being snobbish?

      Re:Volvo + Audi, maybe it’s because they were both optioned with 5-cylinder engines?

Leave a Reply