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Morning car musings

Illustration for article titled Morning car musings

Driving the Sunchaser yesterday got me thinking. The GTI and the Sunchaser are a study in contrasts between driving a new car and driving an old car. Bear with me, and join me down the road of tortured analogy. We may not end up in the same place, but all the fun is in the twisties. The two cars are pretty close to the same size and weight, so comparison comes pretty natural.


The Celica is 38 years old. As my younger son said to me on the chairlift 2 days ago, “In a year, 1980 will be 40 years ago. You’re really old, Dad “ Thanks, kid. Like me, the car is slow to get started on cold mornings, and it is full of rattles and squeaks. Both of us have been damaged and repaired, and our body panels don’t quite fit like they used to. Up close you can really see the flaws on both of us, but we still do ok from a few feet away.

Also like me, it doesn’t move as fast as it seemed to in its youth, and it’s performance specs, while favorable for its day, are laughable when put up against the modern versions. But yet the old ‘chaser oozes charm, and you can’t help but smile and not care about how slowly you get there or how loud the targa top rattles. I hope to share some of those same qualities, but I can’t hope to trigger the same nostalgia.


Sadly like me, the Celica had a serious health scare this year, and while things are looking pretty good for us, the future remains uncertain. The car is running well now, but the digital clock is not working, suggesting my electrical woes are far from over.

The GTI is brand-spankin’ new. Toby is doing his damnedest to fart away the new car smell, but it gleams with newness. It is one of the most well-built cars I have ever owned, and everything fits together perfectly. It is a hoot to drive, athletic and responsive, quick, but not sports-car fast. Perfect fun car for an old guy with kids headed for college. But you have to be careful - it wants to make you put your foot down. If the Sunchaser is a grin, the GTI is a giggle. I love the adaptive headlights by the way, your next car should have them.


The Sunchaser has a long throw shifter, a 5-speed with reverse down and to the right. I removed the small, worn smooth stock ball with a wooden Celica dragon one my wife got me as a gift from Natural Grains.

Have you driven one of these one Toyotas? I am not kidding about how long the shifter is and how far you go when you throw it around. You really reach and row your gears in these cars. When my older son got his Subie after learning manual on the Celica, he remarked on how damn long the Celica shifter is. They don’t do that on modern cars.


Slow as it may be, it is fun as hell to work the gears to maximize what you get out of the torquey, low HP 22R. You are shifting all the time, and it is a super fun driving experience to learn master driving these cars. On road trips, you have to really drive the car to keep up with modern traffic, particularly when there are hills involved. But the 22R welcomes being worked hard, and when you get the hang of it you can drive the hell out of all (cough) 100 HP (cough-factory in 1981-cough). You have to be careful, though, it does not brake quickly, and the handling is far from nimble. But there is no car better for a road trip with my wife and my dog.

The VW is a short throw 6 speed with a cool leather golf ball shifter. Reverse is up and to the left (push down). The little shifter falls into your hand, and it falls right into place smoothly with a flick of the wrist. My RX-8 remains my all-time favorite shifter, but this one is damn nice. Having gotten used to the Celica, I find myself overshifting at times, and I really have to pay attention.


The little hatch scoots along and eats up miles. You don’t need your lower gears as much as the Celica, and holy crap feeling the boost from the turbo is a kick. The brakes are amazing, and the thing stops on a dime. The hatch is perfect for Toby, and the car makes a fun but practical alternative to the Sunchaser. The choice of what to drive each day has gotten harder.

Of course, after the apocalypse, I fully expect the cockroaches to be driving 22Rs, while we and the turbo 4s are all dead.


Have a good day Oppo. Thanks for reading this long post, my office moves tomorrow, and there are nothing but problems today. This was a nice way to take my mind off of it before I wade into the river of sewage that will be my day today. Ugh.

Have a good day, all.

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