Spannerhead Dot ComSpannerhead.com

Enjoy Spannerhead? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook!

The New Toyota Supra: A Styling Analysis

January 20, 2019 by Matt

I have thoughts about this.

So many thoughts.

As a former Mark 3 (’86-’92) Supra owner, I feel like I have some purchase here, a little more skin in the game, so to speak, with respect to the new (A90) Supra’s design. So here goes:

1) The nose is aggressive and beautiful. The grille-less treatment reminds me of two cars: The facelift (’89-’92) “Klingon nose” Mark 3 Supra, and, weirdly, the first-generation Lexus SC—one of the loveliest cars to come out of Japan.

2) The headlights are distinctively-shaped (more on that later) and have the potential to become a Supra trademark should the lineage continue.

3) The large center grille opening is just begging for an intercooler to show behind the black mesh.

4) These cuts atop the fenders are a little fussy, but they take some visual weight out of the area and carry hints of the Ferrari F12’s “aero bridge” in the same region.

5) Overall the car looks much smaller than it is. Credit the relatively high fender line and tucked-in fastback shape for that.

6) The car’s signature styling element is the way the fastback is pulled in to expose the rear wheel arches. Brilliantly, the S-line from the base of the front wheels, through the cut on the door and up over the rear fenders is echoed in the shape of the DRLs and tops of the headlights. It’s a perfect way to make the car’s design more cohesive.

7) The greenhouse, with its double-bubble roof, blacked-out A-pillars and quarterlights that taper to a point, is pure Toyota 2000GT.

8) I’m surprised but glad Toyota decided against bringing back the Mark 4 Supra’s four “pool ball” taillight treatment. It wouldn’t jive with the A90’s themes and I’m happy they moved on with a more understated look.

9) The ducktail hints at the shape of the Mark 4’s hoop spoiler without being nearly so tacky. I’m sure special editions of the A90 and tuners will stack an additional spoiler on top.

10) Bonus points for wheels that aren’t totally black, even if the alternating black-silver spoke pattern is a little strange.

11) Really wish Toyota had put a some effort into distinguishing the engine cover from that of its corporate cousin, the BMW Z4. A little more homage to the 2JZ (the Mark 4’s legendary mill) would have gone a long way here…

12) In contrast to the exterior, the interior appears a rather dour and conservative place, like Toyota ran out of styling capital with the car’s inside incomplete, so they just tweaked and dressed up the Z4’s cabin (which is probably close to the truth). That said, the Mark 4’s interior always struck me as plasticky and haphazard, so at least the A90 improves on its predecessor a little.

13) The Toyota emblem looks lost in the middle of a giant round airbag cover, like a “shoebox airbag” from the ’90s.

14) This element is on the wrong side of the console; it actually separates the driver from the console’s controls in favor of the passenger. Very odd. Both the A70 and A80 Supra’s consoles swoop around the driver and create a “cockpit” environment—the opposite of what’s going on with the A90. One thing’s for sure: If Toyota ever decides to fit the new car with a manual (here’s hoping), that little buttress is going to get in the way when shifting. A statement of intent perhaps?

Overall, I love the A90’s design; it’s forward-looking while drawing on Toyota’s styling heritage. I still think the exterior styling is more resolved than the interior, but in any case, I can’t wait to see them out on the road.

Image credits: netcarshow.com

Comment

An Update on E46 Life

May 2, 2017 by Matt

BMW E46 330i 2002 Orient Blue

Well into my 16th month of BMW 330i ownership, and things are as rosy as ever.

Over the past year and a bit and 17K miles, the car’s thrown a bunch of issues at me, but nothing too difficult to diagnose or solve. And it drives as well as ever—better in fact, since a number of parts such as cracked intake boots were replaced, and they were likely in the process of failing when I purchased the car.

The two biggest game-changers when respect to diagnosis and repair are the OBD2 app I purchased for my iPod, along with a transmitter interface that connects to the car’s OBD2 port; and the smoke tester I used to locate the vacuum leaks that were the source of a number of issues a month ago. The E46’s M54 engine is very sensitive to vacuum leaks, and if one is present, it can throw a variety of lean and misfire codes that make no sense as the DME (ECU) tries to adjust various parameters to compensate for the unmetered air. Hence the first course of action once the “check engine” light illuminates is usually to hook up the smoke tester and try to suss out a leak. I bought the $90 model from this site and couldn’t be happier. The only alternatives are the cheap YouTube method using a cigar and a hand pump, or shelling out many hundreds of dollars for a shop-quality smoke tester. The Stinger unit is very easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do. Highly recommended for anyone who drives a car with a mass airflow sensor or air flow meter and depends on a leak-free intake.

There are still a number of outstanding issues to tackle in the coming months, as time and finances allow:

  • I put a nice little crease in the driver’s rocker panel when the car slipped off the jack cradle when I was replacing the shift bushings last year. So that’ll need to be replaced.
  • The cowl piece surrounding the base of windshield wipers is crumbling. No leaks; just an eyesore.
  • The whole car could use a good detail. Finding time to do it properly is probably my biggest challenge.
  • Another E46 owner very generously gifted me an adapter to connect an AUX input to the factory wiring for a CD changer. Need to install.
  • The AM (and FM) radio reception is marginal. Need to diagnose and fix.
  • The passenger-side front inner fender liner is still missing. It’s tough to find a replacement compatible with the rare-ish MTech1 bodykit.
  • Long-term, I’d like to replace the shift pin detents inside the transmission in order to cure a persistent notchy shifting issue, but that will require dropping the trans. Maybe when the clutch goes…
  • Would like to install an M3 steering wheel. This is a direct replacement, is more attractive than the Sport wheel, and it has molded-in hand grips, which I like.
  • There’s a small A/C leak somewhere. I recharged the system last summer, and when the weather turned warm again this spring, I discovered the A/C was warm again. A couple of cans of R134a later and it’s ice-cold, but it still means I have a leak somewhere.

I still love driving it, even if it’s my daily driver. It still turns my head when I’m walking away; the proportions are dead-nuts perfect. My automotive promiscuity still rears its ugly head from time to time, but a quick reminder of what I’m driving and the desire to acquire something else subsides. On that last point, one mental technique that works especially well is to remind myself of how much I miss various car’s I’ve owned and sold, and then to extrapolate that to imagine how much I would miss the E46 if I sold it. It’s a safe bet that the feeling of regret associated with unloading the 330i would trump that of any other car I’ve sold. She’s still a keeper.

Comment

Boring or Brilliant? Ferrari 456

November 20, 2016 by Matt

Ferrari 456

Is it an understated study in minimalism and proportion, or an overly-timid effort by a design house whose visual currency is Italian passion? The Ferrari 456, produced from 1992-1997, and from 1998 to 2003 in upgraded 456M guise, was the automaker’s top-of-the-line grand tourer, designed to convey two occupants (and their small children in the occasional rear seats) across continents in peerless style at breathtaking speed. Capable of cruising effortlessly for hours at triple-digit speeds, Ferrari equipped the 456 with its most powerful non-supercar mill, a 5.5l, 442-hp V12, and the car could be specified with either a 6-speed gated manual or a 4-speed automatic. The cabin is supremely comfortable and the chassis brilliantly capable, especially considering the car’s two-ton curb weight.

Ferrari 456

All that said, is it exciting enough to warrant a place alongside Ferrari’s greatest? There’s little dispute the car the 456 replaced in the automaker’s lineup, the unlamented yet underrated 412, is generally considered a sub-par effort, so the 456 arrived unburdened by the expectations inherent in following a truly outstanding Ferrari. Also, the market niche the 456 occupies is slightly different than that targeted by Ferrari’s bread-and-butter models like the contemporary F355, with a prospective buyer a bit more reserved, perhaps less interested in a hair-raising joyride than drivers of the smaller Ferraris.

Ferrari 456

Still, the idea of a Ferrari means something to enthusiast community, and given the strength of the brand, to the wider public as well: Speed, passion, excitement and a touch of flamboyance. Does the 456 live up to that preconception? I think it does, but it takes patience to extract those qualities from its shape and demeanor. The dramatic side cuts on the flanks of the car, for instance, and the way the character lines on its flanks change from concave to convex as they move back toward the rear—these elements admirably bridge the design gap between Ferrari’s outré ’80s and more restrained ’90s visual vocabulary. I love the way the 456’s proportions are allowed to come to the fore, accented with touches like the fender-top vents (sadly eliminated for the 456M) and the very obviously staggered 5-spoke wheels.

Ferrari 456

Above all, the 456 looks timeless and tailored, like an Armani suit, a shape with far more longevity than either the 412 that preceded it or its successor, the truly awful 612 Scaglietti. Would it look out of place in Ferrari’s current lineup? Perhaps—but the 456’s owners can rest easy knowing they have the pleasure of driving one of Ferrari’s truly classic shapes. And given my penchant for big GTs, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a bit jealous.

Image credits: classicandperformancecar.com, sportscarbible.com, autozine.com, autowpaper.com

1 Comment

Movie Stars: The McLaren P1

October 22, 2016 by Matt

Editor’s note: Content advisory (language) in the clip above.

McLaren’s P1 hypercar is featured in the music video for The Weeknd’s new single, but it’s not the only piece of high-dollar machinery name-dropped by the Canadian R&B artist.

Overlaying the insistent beat, the singer seems to simultaneously flaunt and lament his fortune and what it’s turned him into. The video mirrors this concept, showing The Weeknd at first reveling in the tokens of his fame before systematically trashing them after the first chorus. The cars escape the carnage, and it’s a good thing, too, since the singer shows excellent automotive taste. He mentions his Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, Bentley Mulsanne and of course, the aforementioned P1 in the song, and gives us a glimpse of the first two before a lovely nighttime montage of the McLaren driving down Mulholland Drive with The Weeknd at the wheel. The nighttime setting gives the P1 an opportunity to display its quasi-alien lines and driving light arrangement to good effect, and nicely compliments the surreal tone of the video. Billboard reports the British carmaker was unaware the singer would include the car in his video, but was pleasantly surprised at the free publicity. All-in-all, it’s a worthwhile fusion of visuals and music, with some very heavy-hitting automotive iron thrown in.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

Comment

I Hate Black Wheels on Cars

October 10, 2016 by Matt

ford-mustang-black-wheels

It’s over. Done. Played. The party’s over. The fad has reached its tipping point, its 15 minute of fame are up, etc etc.

Black wheels, I mean. Cannot stand them. I maintain that they were never attractive to begin with, but even allowing for the ebb and flow of popular taste, the trend is decidedly far past its expiration date.

Why the hate? Simple: When the wheels are painted black, the wheel design does not stand out and does not complement the car’s lines. Might as well be running steelies with no hubcaps. Especially complicated wheel shapes, which otherwise would harmonize with the styling of the vehicle to which they’re fitted simply disappear in a mass of black nothingness.

jag-f-pace-black-wheels

This epidemic is present everywhere, from expected places like wheel-and-tire ads in magazines to muscle cars even to factory fitment on $100K luxury SUVs like Jaguar’s new F-Pace (above). Visually, it does not work and has never worked. The design intent may be to make the car seem more badass and muscular, but the effect is to erase any visual gains by making the car seem like it has an egregious brake dust problem on all 4 wheels.

It’s time for a de-escalation of the wheel size arms race anyway, and a side effect of black wheels is to camouflage its true diameter. Perhaps if a car’s wheels flaunted a brighter finish, people would recoil in horror at their vehicle’s stonking rollers and demand a bit more tire sidewall. One can only hope…

Image credits: autocar.co.uk, bauercdn.com

4 Comments

Local Finds: 1974 Opel Manta Rallye

October 7, 2016 by Matt

1974 Opel Manta Rallye

It’s always nice to see an example that’s obviously received some care and feeding during its lifetime. Most Spannerhead readers know I have a real soft spot for the Opel Manta, so I was pleased when this ad popped up.

1974 Opel Manta Rallye

The seller is asking $4,200, an entirely reasonable price for a Manta in the condition shown, especially since—by the seller’s description—there’s very little rust, and none of it structural. The color doesn’t really appeal, but the paint appears to be in good nick. If I bought it, I would consider painting the hood to match; the black hood was part of the “Rallye” trim package and doesn’t really jive with the brown.

1974 Opel Manta Rallye

The above really represents the Manta’s best view. The mini-pony car proportions are shown to good effect and the simple, cohesive lines draw together nicely at the rear. I don’t even mind the federally-mandated crash bumpers. Are they big? Sure. Would I prefer the thin chrome bumpers fitted to the 1970-1972 cars? Yes I would. But they’re not a dealbreaker.

1974 Opel Manta Rallye

I believe the seats are aftermarket pieces, or at least not original to the Manta, although they look period and quite comfortable to boot. The aformentioned Rallye trim package includes a tachometer and additional auxiliary gauges.

1974 Opel Manta Rallye

The car is equipped with a 1.9l CIH 4-cylinder engine and a 3-speed automatic transmission. As much a fan as I am of rowing my own gears, I’d gladly make an exception for the Manta, since the whole point of ownership isn’t about performance so much as style and presence. When it was first released, the Manta boasted very competent handling, but nowadays an average modern family sedan could wipe the asphalt with it in the corners. Owning and driving one, then, would be about cruising and enjoying the elemental feel of a little gem of a car from the 1970s.

4 Comments

The Sweet Spot: ’04-’05 Audi A8

August 27, 2016 by Matt

Audi A8 D3

As with the ’95-’97 Lexus LS400, I really like this car—but only in a very specific flavor.

In contrast to BMW and Mercedes’ practice of rolling out their most avant-garde technology (and design) with their respective top-of-the-line 7-series and S-class ranges, Audi’s flagship has charted a rather more gradual, evolutionary path since the original D2 platform’s arrival here in 1997. In the best Audi tradition, its styling has always been understated, if perfectly tasteful and proportionally spot-on.

Audi A8 D3

Unfortunately, for the mid-cycle design refresh of the 2nd-generation D3 A8 featured here, Audi decided to add its newly-minted corporate “deep grille,” intended to circumscribe the front license plate of cars so equipped. And while I understand the desire to give that bit of necessary evil some context, styling-wise, the A8’s look suffered for it—as did, admittedly, the rest of Audi’s lineup. That said, the pre-facelift D3 A8 stands out in my mind as the absolute pinnacle of the Ingolstadt automaker’s non-deep-grille look. It looks breathtakingly elegant, and in the flesh has a presence matched by few other vehicles. Every line resolves perfectly and there’s a real cohesiveness to its styling that was undone with the refresh. The pre-facelift car looks all-of-a-piece, machined from a single aluminum ingot, and has very real shades of that loveliest of Audi concept cars, the Avus quattro.

Audi A8 D3

Mechanically the D3 A8 was an upgraded carryover from the D2 platform, with 4.2l V8 and 6.0l W12 engines offered here, developing 335 and 444 horsepower, respectively. Audi’s quattro AWD system was naturally fitted to all US-bound cars, and the aluminum-intensive unibody kept weight reasonably low at around two tons.

Audi A8 D3 Interior Inside

The interior is Audi’s typical symphony in leather, wood and metal accents, ergonomically flawless and beautiful to behold and interact with. Mirroring the A8’s outside, it’s businesslike, without the fussiness or gratuitous flourishes typical of many other luxury car interiors. And best of all, the central screen is retractable into the dash.

Most range-topping luxury cars I would feel ostentatious driving; out of place, like I was behind the wheel of something that didn’t accurately reflect my income bracket. The pre-facelift D3 A8, though, in a similar way to the Mercedes W123 coupe, overwhelmingly exudes such a sense of good taste that it transcends petty concerns of class envy when it comes to cars. It’s a timelessly beautiful car, and one I could visualize with little difficulty parked in my garage.

Image credits: netcarshow.com

Comment

Datsun 240Z Restoration:
Gutting the Interior

August 24, 2016 by Matt

rear2

I’ve been chipping away at it, 15 minutes here, an hour there… It’s amazing how much progress you can make after a few weeks of piecemealing it. Would I prefer a large chunk of time—say, an afternoon? Sure. But I’ll take what I can get, and at the moment, the car is very close to being ready to go to paint.

rear3

Starting at the rear, I removed the fuel tank and all the hatch trim. The taillights, finishing panel and rear bumper came off. The rub strips, which I loathe, were very difficult to pry off, and the body guy is going to have some restorative work to do to smooth out the holes and dimples their removal left behind.

rear1

The scary-looking rust in the spare wheel well isn’t structural, fortunately. All the red vinyl diamond-pattern upholstery came off too. I fished the rear wiring harness around the right rear wheel well and removed the quarterlights.

cowl1

The door panels came off with little drama (I love my set of blue plastic interior trim tools!). I removed the steering column to make way for the eventual dash extraction. I took out the windshield washer motor and linkage and gave everything a good once-over with my shop vac. There were a lot of pine needles in the cowl area, some (most?) of which had probably been there for 30-40 years, assuming they can last that long…

It’s been interesting to see what the painters chose to remove and what they left in during the 240Z’s blue repaint back in the 1970s. Some things I’d have thought would have been tough to pull were left in, and other bits were painstakingly removed. Regardless, the car’s all going back to its original 901 Silver.

Very encouraged by the progress. Next up is the dash itself, the final removal of the wiring harness, the heater core and then the rear-end mechanical bits like the diff and brake lines. Onward!

Update: Since drafting this post, I’ve removed the dash. More on that in the next installment.

Editor’s note: This post is Part 23 of an ongoing series chronicling my efforts toward the restoration of my 1972 Datsun 240Z, originally my father’s. Read the other installments here:

8 Comments

Existential Moments with the BMW

May 17, 2016 by Matt

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

Do you have to drive your car, or do you get to drive your car?

Relegated to daily-driver duty, even the most special car can seem mundane to drive. What used to thrill us about its engine note, interior design or chassis balance recedes into the background of our commute. Its ergonomics are familiar and we focus more on the car’s little annoyances (every car has some) than on its essentially good qualities. We have to drive it, and the enjoyment of the experience is muted.

I’ve lived the emotional trajectory of enthusiast car ownership many times over the course of my 20+ year driving “career.” Like any good relationship, it takes intentionality to overcome the fade of initial spark of attraction. My truck is currently up for sale, so my 2002 BMW 330i will assume daily-driver responsibilities soon, and I worry that living with it every day will sap some of its emotional pull.

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

From an automotive perspective, the cliche “absence makes the heart grow fonder” could be rewritten “lack of wheel time makes the heart grow fonder,” and it’s true that when the 330 has been down for repairs for a few days and I’ve had to drive the truck to work, I really itch to drive it again in a way I don’t when the BMW’s been my commuter all week. Also, I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that the daily wear and tear my “fun car” experiences is lessened, so I feel less guilty about exacerbating the car’s natural level of entropy by driving it.

I’ve had to make peace with the situation in a couple of ways; both of them, as mentioned above, require an intentional mental effort, but they’re worth it.

2002 BMW 330i Orient Blue E46 Sedan

The first is simply to remind myself, however long or short my tenure of ownership lasts, that I have the privilege of owning and driving a truly exceptional car. The 330i won every single comparison test that Car and Driver (and others) could throw at it during its model run. I remember leafing through those magazines, admiring the car’s abilities but considering it completely, utterly out of reach. And now one parks in my driveway at night. I get to drive it. The needles of its gauges swing through their arcs for my benefit. If it has an issue, it’s my responsibility to diagnose and fix it and hopefully improve the car in the process. I don’t write any of this in a bragging tone; but more simply a recognition and remind of what a great car BMW designed and screwed together, and how fortunate I am to be able to own one.

The second mental method I use to assuage my guilt over consigning the car to commuter duty is simply to accept that the car will deteriorate. It may sound obvious, but the reminder of that fact helps alleviate my low-level nervousness about small dings and scratches, or that some subsystem will suddenly go belly-up on the highway. It’s gonna happen, and when it does I will fix it. Parts can be replaced. Bodywork can be straightened and repainted, all in good time. The car is not old; there’s a huge supply of replacement parts out there, and whole industries with very talented people devoted to the cosmetic aspects of the car. Reminding myself of these givens helps me keep my priorities in line vis-a-vis life in general; it really is just a car, and I have a little while to enjoy it, so why ruin it with low-grade anxiety every time I’m behind the wheel? Doesn’t do anyone any good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few twisty roads to hunt down.

2 Comments