Never Stop Driving #47: The hot hatch, part II

We’re all celebrating high-performance economy cars this spring. Three weeks ago, I sang the praises of the new Honda Civic Type R and the Toyota GR Corolla, the latest entrants in the so-called hot hatch segment—used versions of which are so often the gateway enthusiast cars for young car enthusiasts. This week, Jason Cammisa reinforced the message as only he and his incredibly talented camera and editing crew can with a stunning video that clearly illustrates why we love these cars.

Cammisa’s video highlights the personal passions of the people behind the cars we love, a theme I also like to explore when reviewing new cars. Cammisa points out that once-stodgy Toyota suddenly has a lineup full of interesting cars, from the GR Corolla to the Supra, and also the smartly styled new Prius. The driving force behind this evolution is Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder and a skilled racing driver. Toyoda’s a passionate car fan and since he became president of the automaker in 2009, he’s done more than anyone else to make Toyotas fun to drive, not just well-built and reliable. Although car companies are, of course, businesses that exist to make money for their owners, time and time again, many of the most successful automaker leaders, from Bob Lutz to Jim Farley to Mark Reuss, are people who believe that success also is defined by producing cars that enthusiasts love.

At Hagerty Media, we’re in the business of passion—an emotion often expressed on racetracks. The Goodwood Circuit in England announced that The Revival, its September vintage race meeting, will feature a race of early Porsche 911s that will all run on synthetic fuel. This brew comes from scrubbing carbon dioxide from the air and combining it with hydrogen to create methanol, which is then reformed through a proprietary ExxonMobil process to produce gasoline. Of course it’s more complicated than that and you can read more in our recent deep dive on the topic.

We see a completely different expression of the car world’s ingenuity and creativity in the Ridler Awards, given annually to custom cars produced for style with obsessive focus on the details, damn the costs. You’ll rarely see a screw head on one of these beauties. The 2019 Ridler winner, called CadMad, will be auctioned next month.

CadMad Mecum/Joshua Sweeney

This week Jaguar Land Rover announced it will change its corporate name to simply “JLR” and ditch the Land Rover part. The company will focus on four brands: Jaguar, Range Rover, Defender, and Discovery. The Land Rover/Range Rover branding never seemed clear to me, but that didn’t stop me from buying a used 1990 Range Rover some 20 years ago. I was attracted to its classic, crisply-styled aluminum body and its aluminum V-8 that began as a GM V-8. I bought a fixer upper. I remember leaving the hospital after my daughter was born and the brake pedal went to the floor. I got the thing stopped and peered under to see brake fluid dripping from a caliper. Then I realized that this new drip, combined with the other small leaks, meant that every one of the car’s fluids was simultaneously exiting the car. Knowing when I’ve been beaten, I soon sold it for a loss. Perhaps I should have saved up for one of these fully restored Defenders.

Before I go, I’d like to highlight this piece from our archives, a story about when Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette, almost left General Motors for Porsche. I hope you enjoy it.

Hear from Larry every Friday by subscribing to this newsletter.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it.

Read next Up next: Auto Anthro: How Gran Turismo created a generation of gearheads


    Your letter is always enjoyable and interesting to me. Always providing new topics to further investigate. Thanks very much for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

    The Toyota GR86 should not be overlooked! A rear-wheel-drive 2 door coupe with a manual? C’monnnn…

    Larry, I think Mr. Toyoda is doing a much better job of permitting his racing blood leak into the company’s products than say Mr. Farley. I’ve owned both Ford and Toyota products over the decades, and it’s sad to see Ford only offering one performance focused vehicle, while Toyota is offering at least four. Now I’m talking asphalt related products here, not off road as your story line references. It’s a continuing source of curiosity for me and I’m sure for others as to why there seems to be this huge separation in market philosophy between the two companies.

    Toyota is clearly a larger company from a sales perspective, and probably has a larger global market footprint, and maybe this is why they still cater to the car market instead of going all in on SUV’s. I just don’t understand Ford’s approach. Toyota is still producing cars? The Mustang is now it’s only car related product in the US, and is slowly choking off their remaining cars in other markets as well. The stand alone Mustang now has become a sub-brand…which Chevrolet has followed with the Corvette…which concerns me from the standpoint that the marketing value of the Mustang name is now to tag other products with the same fairy dust, in the hope that this will be enough added excitement to sell other products. I think the buying public, if they have a point of reference, isn’t dim enough to think that tagging an SUV with the Mustang or Corvette name will do anything other than diminish the vehicle that has carried the corporate performance message for so many decades.

    Perhaps Toyoda simply had more time, he took over in 2009, and we haven’t yet seen what relatively new Farley has in mind?

    There’s MUCH to be had from the Toyota brand with Toyoda at the helm. The Gen X-Z consumers are increasingly becoming enthusiasts with still a love for some sense of nostalgia. Toyota has rich history from the Radwood era and could really leverage that to push the envelope even further. Supra just scratches the surface. Today’s enthusiast is likely not quite the purist of yesteryear. Bring on the GT2000 new version, even if BMW makes one too!

    Regarding hot hatch, it feels like the nostalgia for early Mk GTI’s is getting hotter and hotter. This would only help Toyota’s case to dip into the Radwood era archives and bring back Celica GT’s.

    Just catching up on the newsletters – always enjoy them! Your sentence about “the most successful automaker leaders, from Bob Lutz to Jim Farley to Mark Reuss, are people who believe that success also is defined by producing cars that enthusiasts love” gave me pause, though.

    No pushback here on Bob Lutz’s place in the pantheon of automotive leaders – his star is secure.

    Farley seems to be a great guy, and a car guy’s car guy, but his tenures in the industry, particularly at Ford, are so far too short to put him in the “most successful” category yet. Ford had a great leader in Alan Mulally – although he probably isn’t as much of a ‘car guy’ as Farley. We managed to get him to speak at our local SAE section meeting about 7-8 years ago and it was the largest-attended event in our section’s history. I was honored to show him where the bathrooms were and carry his stuff to his car afterwards! A truly great man.

    And Reuss? The guy responsible for the Pontiac Aztek – and his Dad wasn’t particularly impressive at GM either. I’ll give him props for some good product development in the past decade but his greatest sin is his role in forcing the firing of a really good auto writer or two from an organization whose insurance I use for one of my beloved cars. Shameful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *