I have a feeling this question could irk a few Opponauts, but I feel it needs to be asked:
Are we so stuck in a rut as a car community that we don’t recognize good cars until they’re 20 years out of date?
I mean, look at the Nissan 240SX. Great car, and most Oppos you ask would probably agree that it’s a “modern classic”. But up until a decade ago, it was just an old Nissan. Sure, it was popular with the drift crowd, but outside of that, they were mostly $1500 beaters and were shown a likewise unnoticed level of appreciation in car enthusiast circles. It wasn’t until the full reprocussions of the exodus of Japanese manufacturers from sports car production were finally felt in the early 2010s that the S13-15 started to really climb in price.
I began musing this the other day behind the wheel of a 2017 Toyota Corolla SE 50th Anniversary. You see, if you ask any self-respecting car enthusiast, they’ll tell you that a modern Corolla (I.e. any Corolla that’s not RWD) is an absolute purgatory of vanilla commuter culture. They’ll say there’s no fun to be had by a “real enthusiast” in a modern Corolla, and would probably steer you towards an ST or GTI.
The strange thing is, I was having a blast in this 4door, front-drive Corolla. The heavily bolstered seats cradled me like an F1 cockpit, the little 1.8 under hood was constantly begging me to rev it all the way up to 6500, and the flappy paddle sport mode didn’t force me to shift- it would let me hold revs as long as I wanted, and it would let the engine bark violently on downshift. Sure, that tranny wasn’t perfect, and the car felt a little heavy, but overall it was a great match for any sport compact I’ve ever been around. It’s not fast, but it feels fast- and that’s the real allure behind any enthusiast car, right? I mean, MGs and C10s and Bel Airs, none of them are fast by today’s standards, but they still have huge followings. So why does the Corolla get demonized?
Part of this issue comes down to exclusivity. Car enthusiasts want to drive machines that stand out from the crowd, to be noticed, and a Corolla won’t provide that experience without modification. Still, though, I think we’re missing out on some great machinery.
I wonder sometimes how many extra points we give the ST twins for coming in manual transmission guise only. I occasionally think that the GTI is only popular because it was “the original”, not because it offers a substantially better experience. Cars like the Corolla SE and Sentra NISMO are looking for their day in the limelight, and their potential for fun runabouts most likely won’t be realized until they are long out of production. Why do we do this, Oppo?