Hot hatches

Who doesn’t want to rip around empty streets in a high power sports car? Maybe the streets are slightly wet, but everything else is mysteriously dry…just like the movies. Maybe you have a beautiful woman in distress sitting shotgun. Perhaps you are being chased by Johnny Law or a group of thugs…the sounds, the power, the burnouts, the chase music…WAKE UP!

That was a great daydream. Unfortunately, it is Saturday afternoon and you are stuck in the city running errands. The beautiful woman in distress is your better half and she is late for a hair appointment. The people chasing you are your kids needing to be picked up from soccer. No empty roads in sight, just curb-to-curb traffic. Suddenly, a high power sports car doesn’t make sense. You need compact size to swing in and out of parking spots and good fuel economy so that you’re not burning a hole through your pocket while sitting in inevitable traffic.

You need a fun compact car. The high horsepower, high cost, high paint polish are not needed. The beautiful women in distress….. That is your call. What you really need is a solid everyday car. Something compact, economical, cheap on insurance and driveable year ‘round. Just because you need all of those things does not mean you can’t have something FUN TO DRIVE as well! You are in luck: allow me to introduce you to some great candidates.

The Mini is a classic nameplate that BMW bought and did a fantastic job of reproducing; Compact, spritely, well-appointed and maneuverable. This is the British gentleman’s answer to your required pocket rocket. Available in 2-door, wagon, 4-door and convertible formats, the Mini has you covered. Your best bet is the 2-door coupe with manual transmission in “S” guise with either a turbo or supercharger (depending what model year you purchase). The John Cooper Works (pictured) is the factory race car, it is ready for track days or commutes out of the box.

The Fiat 500 follows the same principle as the Mini: fun, small and cute. It tugs at your heart strings, bringing back thoughts of the original Fiat 500. Available as a 2-door, 4-door or convertible, it comes in many unique trims, the best is the ABARTH. This is the performance division of Fiat and the car is especially fun. Great steering and decent performance, but the exhaust note is what will attract your attention! If you haven’t one of these cars sing, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and treat your ears. Best part of the Fiat? The manual shifter comes out of the dash, just like classic British/Italian sports cars!

Here’s another: the Ford Fiesta ST. Ford has really stepped their game up as of late. The new Fiesta ST is a perfect example. This 5-door hatchback comes with a manual transmission, 197-hp turbo 4-banger, and Recaro sports seats. If 197 horsepower doesn’t sound like much to you, consider that this car tips the scales at 2,700 pounds…now you get the picture.

Again, in the great automotive debate between “want” and “need”, It is easy to have a little bit of both. Yes you can have your economy, ability to zip in and out of traffic and daily driveability. But you can also have your power, your turbo/supercharger, aggressive handling and great exhaust sound.

All of these cars are small enough to be used in congested cities with ease, offer great fuel economy, yet they will rip around corners and put a smile on your face when instructed to do so. Maybe the damsel in distress will understand that you need something fun AND practical, maybe not. But does it really matter when you’re behind the wheel of your hot hatch?

Classic Nissan Love- sports car edition

Nissan’s roots in the auto industry can be traced back as far as 1914. The Nissan nameplate was first used during the early 1930’s. Over time this small Yokohama, Japan based company has blossomed into one of the largest automotive companies on the planet. They sell vehicles on every continent and can be found everywhere from the fastest racetracks to the deepest jungles. They can also be found at Woodbine Nissan, located across the street from Woodbine racetrack at hwy 27 and Vice Regent Blvd. Woodbine Nissan is part of the Auto|One Group.

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The history of this company is quite interesting (they built airplanes!). Nissan’s have had more name changes than The Artist Formerly Known As Prince: DAT, Datsun, kwaishinsha, Nippon Sango, the list goes on… They have had more business partners and trade allegiances than Justin Beiber has Twitter followers: Hitachi, Prince Motors, Ford, Austin, Yamaha, Mitsubishi, Renault and Daimler to name a few. Some of these trade alliances are still in effect to this day. This is not why you are reading this blog though. You are reading this blog because you love cars as much as we do. Let’s dive into Nissans rich and delicious sports car history. We will save Nissan’s bulletproof trucks for another blog as they deserve their own.

The Datsun Fairlady was Nissans answer to the MG’s and Triumphs. These adorable 2 seat convertibles were originally introduced in 1959 and a blast to drive. The first examples were  only 37 horsepower and the engine was less than 1 liter but the sporting abilities were undeniable. Incredibly light, spry, spunky and basic these cars grew into a 2 liter engine by 1967 pushing upwards of 150 horsepower in competition guise. This may not seem like much but consider this: curb weight of just over 2,000 pounds, 200 kilometer per hour ability, better fuel economy than your midsize sedan in the garage and a motor that revved to 7,000 RPM. This was in 1967. While most people were too busy getting there first muscle car at the time, those who did notice these beautiful imports were treated to one of the most organic driving experiences. These were the first sports cars that were imported from Nissan to North America, they are quite rare and should be worshiped by all for what they contributed to vehicle dynamics.

Nissan S30 is what replaced the Fairlady. You probably know them better as the “Z” cars. These were the first of the cult cars from Datsun/Nissan. The nameplate has been around for enthusiasts to lust over since 1969 with out losing there shirts. These cars were sports car bargains when sold new, part of Nissan’s strategy to gain a foothold in the North American market. Despite a brief hiatus from market these cars have still remained a viable option for many buyers. This is because of a simple formula that Nissan has followed. All cars are offered in manual transmission, rear wheel drive and offer a smooth high revving 6 cylinder engine in a 2+2 body. These cars have stood the test of time with their long sloping hood, sweeping cabin and flat short trunk. They look like and perform like what you would expect from a sports car.

The Datsun Z was the first Japanese car to truly capture the heart of North American buyers who were looking for a cheap, fun, reliable alternative to the gas guzzling, heavy American V8’s of the day that were not as “tossable” in corners.

From the original 240z, 260z and 280z/x-turbo the 300zx of the late 1980’s was born. Never as popular as it’s 1990’s replacement. Yes, they both had T-tops (so cool!) but only in the 1990’s did Nissan ditch the angular styling of the 80’s for something sleek and include wicked turbos! Nissan understands that turbos are like love birds, they blessed the 300zx with two turbos. This would lead to the 350Z of early 2000’s. these cars have always remained relevant and true to their core followers. No front wheel drive has been offered, no overbearing electronic nannies, just good clean fun form a reliable sports car. Today we have the 370z that still holds true to those original roots of the 240z from 1969

Up to now we have talked about sports cars but imagine creating a car that is so intense, powerful and intimidating that your home market jokingly calls it Godzilla. When Nissan unveiled the Skyline that is the nickname it earned through its reputation of destroying the completion and owning any racetrack it shows up to. All-wheel drive, manual transmission, and turbo’s the size of Jay Leno’s chin… these cars were a recipe for fun right from the factory. Technically the first skyline appeared in the mid 1950’s on the Prince nameplate which was eventually absorbed by Nissan. The ones that really changed the face of the Japanese sports car market however are the later R32, R33 and R34 bodied cars built from 1989-2002 era. This is when Nissan decided to put the power to all four corners of the car. Keep in mind that this recipe came out in the late 1980’s when most manufactures were still touting that disc brakes were standard. This is the template that other manufactures adopted for their sports cars.

They were never officially imported to the North American market, however they do show up on our shores as grey market imports and they are becoming increasingly popular to see at a show’n shine or import tuner car show. These cars are a favorite of aftermarket tuners because of their robust drivetrain and customizable suspension. It is not uncommon for GTR’s to make 800 reliable horsepower in the hands of someone skilled.

The Nissan Silvia was the little sibling with attitude to the Nissan Skyline. Originally marketed as an economy sports car, what set them apart from the Honda accord 2-door and Toyota Celica was that it was rear wheel drive. These cars have not been sold new in North America since 1998 however you can still see them all over the car scene. Coveted by drifters for their rear wheel dive setup, ease of use and cheap to modify. The 4 cylinder powertrains they came with can be swapped out for a 6 cylinder  or just ad massive turbos to the current 4 pot! They usually have bashed up corners, no bumpers and sometimes no hoods…. Not to worry though! It is a Nissan! Bulletproof in every other way that your crappy driving is not.

For more information on Nissan’s rich history, drop by Woodbine Nissan. They are always happy to assist in all manner of driving needs. Want to talk about classic Nissans  no problem- they are car people too, just like you!