School reports can be a lot of work but they can also be fun and interesting. Recently, a young student interviewed me for a report he was preparing for class. I found his questions interesting and thought you would too. Here are my answers. How would you answer them?
Q. Why do you like cars or what do you like about them?
A. I have always liked things mechanical and perhaps that is why I was initially attracted to automobiles. As I learned more and began to modify, repair and restore them, I began to appreciate them for the impact they have on our lives and the memories we associate with them.
Q. What would you say first got you interested in cars?
A. I took my first engine apart when I was about 9 years old. It never did get back together but I found it fun. Soon after, I went to a sports car race on the old airstrip and I was fascinated by the performance of the cars.
Q. What kinds of details do you look for in a sports car? Do you want speed, acceleration, handling, design, interior, etc?
A. All the criteria you mention are important in a sports car, but most of all it has to be fun to drive. You don’t need power to have fun. The Mazda Miata may not be the quickest but it is fun to drive. The latest Mazdaspeed Miata has power too. Handling and precise steering play an important part in the fun aspect, as do well placed controls. Brakes are more important that maximum speed, as all cars will go faster than any speed limit in the country. Cars like the Honda S2000 are great on the racetrack but the firm ride and limited torque band can make it a handful to drive in stop and go traffic. Honda broadened the torque band to improve this in later years. Some cars such as the Dodge 2.0 SRT are extremely quick but may not have the other features you are looking for. Other cars work great on the road but will never be competitive on the race track. Tire selection makes such a huge difference on handling that just changing them can change your whole attitude towards a vehicle.
Q. I am trying to keep the price range relatively low, not much more than $60,000 and I am also trying to stick with newer models, 2004 to 2005. What company or companies has the best sports car for your money and why? A specific model would also be great.
A. I wouldn’t pick a company. I would look for specific models. The Corvette is still the best buy for the performance dollar but it is above your range. Ditto for the Porsche Boxster. The Honda S2000 is good (it has the best transmission shifter I have ever driven). The Mazda RX-8 would be also a great choice. So is the Mazdaspeed Miata. The new Mustang is fun but perhaps a little too big for some. The Nissan Sentra SE-R and the Acura RSX Type-S handle well. So does the Honda Civic Si coupe. Looking at older cars, I would pick up a second-hand Porsche Boxster or an Integra Type R. The Boxster has a great ride and handling that makes it comfortable all day long. The Type-R rides very firm but handles like a go-cart!
Q. What would you say the best sports car under 70,000 dollars is and why?
A. The Corvette – handling, power, braking, styling, comfort and all-weather capability.
Q. What are most important things to look for when buying a car and why?
A. Buy a car that fits you needs and your budget. If you have a family, a two-seater isn’t any good. There are many sports sedans that will work. Don’t overlook trucks. They can carry loads but they can also be bought with performance in mind. The Ford Lightning or the Dodge Ram SRT are good examples. Sometimes it is better to have two vehicles – one for every day driving and one for performance – a go-cart offers Formula 1 performance and can provide fun you could never have on the street. There are many go-cart clubs and tracks across the country. Many race car drivers start with go-carts and it is a lot cheaper than any performance car you could build or buy for street use.
Q. What car company would you say makes the most reliable, most affordable, nicest looking and best car performance wise? You don’t have to pick just one company for example, one company may be the most affordable and another the most reliable.
A. This is tough. Honda and Toyota make cars with excellent dependability but there are many others that are close or even equal. Mazda has some of the best styling around but styling is always so subjective – otherwise, we would all be driving the same car!
Q. There have been several attempts to infuse old and new models of a car, would you say Ford succeeded in the new 2005 Mustang?
A. Ford definitely has succeeded with the ’05 Mustang. It has retro qualities that don’t compromise modern fit, finish, handling and braking.
Q. You seem like a fan of the older muscle cars. Am I right? What traits of these earlier sports cars would you like to see in newer cars? For example the design, gauges, shift knob, etc?
A. I am a fan of older muscle cars but let’s not think they are better than what we have now. Overall, modern sports cars are much faster, handle many times better, will stop when you want, and are reliable. The cars of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s had poor brakes, usually couldn’t turn corners at any speed, had mushy steering and needed constant maintenance to keep them performing. We wouldn’t put up with that today. As for one quality I would like to see retained from the older cars into the new ones – the deep throated rumble of the exhaust. Some like the Mustang and Porsche 911 have it but many, especially with aftermarket exhausts, don’t.
Q. What is your favourite sports car of all time and why?
A. A difficult choice. I would have to say a 1963 Corvette split window coupe with fuel injection. It has modern style suspension, good handling, fair brakes and great styling. If I was looking at a current model car, I would probably choose the Porsche Boxster S. It has power, handling, a great ride and can be driven all day long comfortably. Then there is the 1956 Mercedes Gullwing coupe, or the ………..