12 April 2012

What is old is new again at the New York International Auto Show

For sports car fans, two cars stood out in particular at this year’s New York International Auto Show. Both harkened back to some of our favorite classic sports cars. We would deserve to be hung upside down by our big toes if we didn’t first mention the new Dodge Viper now known as the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) Viper.

Back after a one-year hiatus, the new Viper bucks the current trend of electronically assisted two-pedal gearboxes by offering only an honest-to-goodness, traditional three-pedal manual transmission. But what we like the best about the Viper is the way it harkens back to some of our favorite classic sports cars without being slavishly retro — there’s a bit of Cobra Daytona coupe and lightweight Jaguar E-type in its drastically cab rearward shape. Prices haven’t been announced yet for Chrysler’s halo car, but even the most basic model is likely to push a hundred grand.

For the rest of us, the cars that I kept going back to were the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ. The twins that were a joint venture between Subaru and Toyota are likely to be the most significant new sports cars since the Mazda Miata. And if the Miata like the Viper had roots in one of our favorite old cars (the original Lotus Elan), then the Scion/Subie were the second coming of the Datsun 240Z. Subaru even had the cheek to crib the “Z” from Nissan/Datsun.

Lightweight, rear wheel drive and relatively simple and with more than adequate power coming from a two-liter boxer four, the cabin and the driving position especially reminded me of my old Datsun 240Z. The price for the base Scion model is expected to be around $24,000 or very close to what the Datsun 240Z’s base price of $3,500 in fall 1969 would be in today’s dollars. Let the dealer price gouging begin. The New York International Auto Show runs through April 15 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.


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