From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.
In this installment, Street Talk heads down memory lane to appreciate the remarkably practical, but fun-to-drive Honda Accord EX.
Back in the 1990s, there were only a few midsize sedans that really appealed to driving enthusiasts, and the Honda Accord EX always stood apart. Man, I can remember going on a test-drive with my dad in a ’94 Accord EX sedan, five-speed manual of course, and I’d never known the old man to have an inner Earnhardt until he redlined that VTEC four-cylinder through first and second gear, cackling all the while.
Tell me something: What other volume-selling family car could bring a grown man that kind of joy?
Any mass-produced product that’s this good deserves its own retrospective, doesn’t it? Let’s hop in the time machine and give the various Accord EX models their due.
The Accord EX first appeared on our shores as a high-end version of the fourth-generation Accord, which is still a great-looking car, by the way. This was back when Honda was light-years ahead of just about everyone on the design and engineering fronts. You got a standard sunroof, upgraded interior trim and extra speakers for the stereo, which would become the basic formula for most EX Accords to follow. Oh, and you got a little extra under the hood, too, culminating with the 140-horsepower engine fitted in ’92 and ’93. It was a tantalizing taste of things to come, and even today, I wouldn’t mind picking up a well-cared-for EX from this generation. Goodness, Hondas were gems back in the day, were they not?
The Accord went all futuristic with its styling for the fifth-generation model, and the EX continued to lead the way. The ’94 and ’95 Accord EX shared a particularly attractive set of alloy wheels, and all EX Accords from this generation boasted the first application of dual-overhead-cam four-cylinder with variable valve timing technology, or DOHC VTEC for short. The sharp triangular taillights got a bit generic with the ’96 refresh, but the engine — same one that put that silly grin on my dad’s face — was still a highlight, and the EX’s six-speaker stereo was amplified by Alpine for crisp, clear sound. Let me tell you something, driving a fifth-gen Accord EX with the sunroof open, the stereo cranking and the VTEC on boil might be the best time you’ll ever have in a top-selling family car.
The Accord got bigger for ’98, but not too big, with the four-cylinder engine swelling to 2.3 liters but carrying over that DOHC VTEC technology. In fact, all four-cylinder Accords shared in the VTEC love this time around, but the EX continued to offer its exclusive sunroof, trim and stereo upgrades. If you ask me, this was the last time that the Accord’s dimensions were just right. It had plenty of room in the backseat, but it wasn’t that big on the outside, and it maintained Honda’s traditional low cowl for superior outward visibility. Throw in a five-speed manual that positively glided from gate to gate, and you had an all-around package that was still tough to beat.
This period includes three Accord generations, and I’m lumping them together because in my humble opinion, they’re all too big and boring to be considered in the same league as the EX Accords that came before. When the seventh-generation Accord appeared in ’03, it lacked that low cowl and tidy styling that had always set the Accord apart, and the eighth-gen model was just plain overgrown — the EPA even classified it as a large car! The current Accord (2013) is the best since ’03, no doubt, but it’s still a relatively tubby, ungainly thing that’s nothing like the sophisticated, visceral, light-on-their-feet EX Accords from 1990-’02.
Honda had something special going there for quite a while, and talking about it makes me nostalgic for those days. If I could turn back the clock and buy any of those first three Accord EX models brand-new, I’d do it in a heartbeat — wouldn’t even think twice about other family sedans on the market today.
Let’s Talk Accords
Have you ever owned a 1990-’02 Accord EX? Have a different take on how Honda’s been doing since then? I love talking about these cars. Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
Editor’s note: Got projects on the horizon? Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in selection and values. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Tributes typically come toward the end of a career, but the BMW M3’s still in its prime. After all, the brand-new 2015 M3 sedan (joined by its coupe/convertible siblings, now known as the M4) is out right now, code-named F80. It looks great, it’s got 425 horsepower, and the steering and suspension systems are purpose-built for people who love to drive. You could even argue that it’s a decent value at $62,950 including fees, especially when you consider that the M5 starts at $94,550.
So what’s this business about a “tribute”?
That’s simple. We’re here today to pay tribute to what the M3 used to be, what made it truly great. Because the new M3 is not a great car. It’s merely a great numbers car, the kind that’ll get armchair jockeys all excited about its 0-60 time, its cornering g-forces, that sort of thing. Look, at the end of the day, it’s got a turbocharged inline-6 under the hood, just like the lesser 335i/435i. If you test-drive one, it’s not going to feel like some wholly different beast; it’s just going to be a 335i/435i cranked to 11. Previous M3s, on the other hand, had race-inspired, naturally aspirated engines that were unlike anything else in BMW’s lineup, and that’s what made them so special.
They were undeniably a breed apart, and sadly, now they’re gone.
Let’s take a minute and give them their proper due.
The M3 that got it all started was powered by a four-cylinder engine making a humble 194 horsepower, give or take, and it remains the only four-cylinder M3 ever built. But in terms of character, it’s an M3 through and through, unlike the current 425-hp turbocharged model. You had to cane the little 2.3-liter four to get much action out of it, but once the tach needle swept past about 5,500 rpm, a whole new personality emerged. The E30 M3 rewarded drivers who were adept enough with three pedals (no automatic was offered) to keep the engine on boil through the turns. Driving one was a skill to be mastered, and that’s what whetted everyone’s appetite for the genuinely fast M3s to follow. Kids these days might laugh at the goofy rear wing and some other “period-correct” details, but the E30 got the M3 dynasty off on the right foot.
The E36 M3 was the first to get its power from an inline-6, which had long been BMW’s trademark engine type (the four-cylinder E30 was an outlier). For M duty, the engineers whipped up a doozy — a 3.0-liter mill that pumped out 282 hp. By the time the E36 M3 made it to American shores in 1995, however, BMW had elected to give us a tamer 3.0-liter straight six that dipped to 240 hp, but it still got the M3 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds, an impressive feat for the day. BMW rubbed a little salt in our wounds for ’96, when the displacement of both motors increased to 3.2 liters, yet the US-spec version held firm at 240 hp while the Euro version improved to a formidable 316. Nonetheless, even the defanged American E36 M3 was a sublime car, with a slightly feral roar at full throttle that would turn into a full-on yowl in the E46.
Ah, the E46 M3. Some say it’s the greatest all-around car ever built, and we wouldn’t disagree. It had luxury, style, space for four adults (though it wasn’t offered as a sedan) — and most importantly, it had the same engine around the globe, a 3.2-liter inline-6 cranking out 333 hp. That’s a number that enthusiasts will always remember, and for those lucky enough to have driven this M3, the distinctive velvet-chainsaw wail near its 8,000-rpm redline is equally unforgettable. It’s not that this engine lacked torque down low; on the contrary, it was a tiger at all operating speeds. But taking it to redline unlocked something extra, and once you experienced it, there was no turning back. You just had to keep doing it again and again.
The “X” signifies that the fourth-generation M3’s three available body styles (the sedan returned from its E46-era exile) had individual codes: E90 for the sedan, E92 for the coupe and E93 for the new folding-hardtop convertible. Another departure from tradition was the 4.0-liter, 414-hp V8 under the hood. There was actually some grumbling at the time that this M3 wasn’t a suitable heir to the throne. Too heavy, too insulated, too much technology — the naysayers were initially out in droves. But as with its predecessors, the engine made the difference, and it would not be denied. Running the V8 through the gears, shifting at its 8,400-rpm redline, you could be forgiven for thinking BMW must have borrowed the engine from Ferrari. The E9X was faster than its forebears, yes, but that wasn’t really the point. What mattered was that it had the spirit of those previous models, that insistent growl from under the hood constantly egging you on. Where would BMW go from here? Would we see a V10 M3? A return to a naturally aspirated inline-6? Whatever the answer, it seemed that the M division could be trusted to do the iconic M3 brand justice.
But then fuel-economy regulations got tighter, and automakers started realizing that they could achieve alluring economies of scale by tweaking existing engines for use in high-performance machines, and the F80 M3 happened. Turbocharging both dulls the new car’s throttle response and strangles its exhaust note, which is why BMW has seen fit to pipe fake engine noises through the speakers during acceleration. A turbo inline-6 plays perfectly well in the 335i with its civilized sportiness, but the M3 had always been about authentic performance-car spirit, an exercise in joy rather than jadedness. The joy, alas, is gone.
Ah, but what a car it used to be.
Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts to keep your ride running right and looking smooth all year long. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
Take a ride down memory lane as Street Talk explores the incredible early ’90s output of Japanese sports cars and tuner contenders.
Do you remember when the best sports cars in the world came from Japan?
It’s hard to imagine if you weren’t there, because these days, the Japanese sports-car market barely exists. Okay, Nissan still makes a couple — the world-beating GT-R and the rather uncouth Nissan 370Z — and Scion and Subaru offer the affordable FR-S/BRZ twins. There’s also a new 2016 Acura NSX right around the corner. But otherwise, it’s a barren landscape in the land of the rising sun. The rest of the world has left it behind.
In the 1990s, though, Japan was showing everyone else who was boss. Let’s take a moment to appreciate what’s arguably the most compelling collection of sports cars a single country has ever produced.
With all due respect to the new twin-turbocharged NSX and its three hybrid motors, it can’t touch the legend that is the original NSX. Thanks to exotic styling and a mid-mounted VTEC V6 that could scream all the way to 8,000 rpm, the NSX fully lived up to its “Japanese Ferrari” nickname. Well, mostly; there’s one way in which the NSX has proved to be decidedly un-Ferrari-like, and that’s cost of ownership. Properly maintained, an NSX shouldn’t run you much more than any Honda/Acura product of its vintage. It’s that combination of exclusivity and reliability that makes the NSX a sought-after sports car to this day.
Younger driving enthusiasts will be more familiar with the recently discontinued RX-8, but the “FD” series RX-7 of the ’90s is the true king of Mazda’s hill. Boasting a lightweight, perfectly balanced chassis and a twin-turbo 1.3-liter rotary engine that cranked out roughly 250 horsepower, this RX-7 was a scalpel that could carve up the most challenging circuits with ease. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful cars ever built, and its intimate, wraparound interior was the perfect sports-car cockpit. Unlike the NSX, it’s not renowned for being unbreakable, but when an FD RX-7 is running right, it’s one of the most engaging cars you’ll ever experience.
Known as the GTO in Japan — Pontiac wouldn’t have liked it if Mitsubishi tried that one in the U.S. — the 3000GT was the tech-crazed member of this group. When the high-end VR4 model first came out, it was loaded with all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, adaptive spoilers, electronically adjustable exhaust tuning and adaptive dampers with selectable drive modes. Not all of these items made it all the way through the production run, but the 300-plus-hp twin-turbo V6 sure did, and it enabled this aggressively styled Mitsu to run with the world’s finest.
The Z Car has a long and illustrious history, but if you’re looking for the Z that blended style, performance and refinement better than any other, the Z32 series from the ’90s is where it’s at. Even the base car had a creamy-smooth 3.0-liter V6 that got you to 60 in the mid-6-second range, but naturally the Twin Turbo model stole all the headlines with its 300-hp motor that reached 60 a full second sooner. The turbo Z also offered a four-wheel steering system dubbed “Super HICAS,” and both models displayed cutting-edge style, including a slippery exterior and a futuristic dashboard with a rakishly sloped center stack.
Many enthusiasts will tell you that the Supra was the pinnacle of Japanese sports-car performance. The Turbo model’s inline-6 engine made 320 horsepower right out of the box, but as legions of tuners have since discovered, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As it turns out, Toyota engineered this motor to such exacting standards that it can easily be cranked up to 600, 700, even 800 horses without flinching. Some say there’s even more room at the top without compromising reliability overmuch. Sure, the ’90s Supra was relatively long and heavy, but the turbo-six’s reputation is second to none among those who know.
The NSX may have been the true Japanese Ferrari, but the midengine MR2 was a closer match in terms of physical resemblance, drawing heavily on the contemporaneous Ferrari 348. The ultimate “Mister Two,” of course, was the Turbo model with its blown four-cylinder that pumped out 200 horsepower. The MR2 Turbo required a firm hand in tight corners, as its mid-mounted motor made the car susceptible to Porsche 911-style lift-throttle oversteer. But with its removable roof panels, snick-snick manual gearbox and head-turning looks, this Toyota definitely deserves a place in the pantheon.
What a Run
We’ve limited ourselves here to American production models; otherwise, the Nissan Skyline R33 and R34 would have been at the top of the list, and Mazda’s singular Eunos Cosmo would have made the cut as well. Are we forgetting any others? What are your favorite high-performance rides from Japan’s glory days?
Editor’s note: Got a Japanese sports car or any other performance vehicles in your garage? Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in auto parts, tools and more. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
In this installment, Street Talk goes in-depth on perhaps the first affordable performance sedan of the modern era: the Nissan Maxima.
Do you know about the original four-door sports car?
We’re talking about the Nissan Maxima, of course — but a lot of people would have guessed something else. If you want to talk about cars that don’t get enough credit for being cool, the Maxima’s right up there at the top. This car should be a legend in its own time, yet all it is to most folks today is an overgrown Altima with a price tag to match.
But we’re not talking about the current Maxima, see, or even the previous one; we’re talking about that sweet spot back in the 1990s, when the Maxima gave you performance you couldn’t get anywhere else for the price.
So we’re going to take a minute and set the record straight. We also want to talk about some cool mods that Maxima owners are still rocking on the street.
Wearing that simple acronym — 4 Door Sports Car — on a sticker affixed to its rear window, the 1989 Nissan Maxima started a revolution. Actually, some would argue it was the preceding Maxima (1984-’88) that commenced the true sportiness, what with its 3.0-liter V6 engine and available adaptive suspension, and you could even go back to the first two generations (1976-’84), which shared their powertrains with the iconic Z two-seater. But if you ask us, the official beginning of the Maxima’s dominance was when they slapped that “4DSC” sticker on the window. Nissan had brought together the strengths of the earlier models into a cohesive whole, and the result was the perfect antidote to the common Camry.
What made the 4DSC Maxima so great? Styling, for one thing. Even after almost three decades, this is one slick-looking sedan, with smooth lines that clearly distinguish it from its blocky, ’80s-tastic predecessor. But the real star was the SE model, which featured a 190-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that put it in the upper echelon of performance sedans. If you wanted a quicker midsize four-door in those days, you had to go European — and even then, the Maxima SE had a fighting chance. Consider this: with the five-speed manual transmission, the Maxima SE did zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Shoot, the Mercedes-Benz E420 with its 275-hp V8 would have had a hard time keeping up.
Naturally, this Maxima cost a fraction of what the Europeans were charging, and it also offered cool stuff like a legit sport-tuned suspension, a Bose audio system, a sunroof and attractive alloy wheels. The icing on the cake was its incredible reliability, with 200,000-mile-plus specimens becoming increasingly common as the years went on.
Check out this vintage commercial on the 1989 Nissan Maxima:
The Torsion Beam Fiasco and General Decline
To be fair, the subsequent Maxima (1995-’99) was a great car, too, even though it carried over the SE’s 190-hp V6 (now standard on all models) and didn’t really break new ground otherwise. That was still good enough to make it the enthusiast’s choice over the humdrum family sedans in its class. But some bemoaned its droopy rear-end styling, and even more shook their heads at its solid-axle torsion beam rear suspension, an explicit cost-cutting move that effectively conceded the handling crown to the previous car with its four-wheel independent setup. The “4DSC” sticker had disappeared from the rear window, and that wasn’t a coincidence.
To this Maxima’s credit, reliability remained a strong point, and many are still on the road today with insanely high miles. But it wasn’t as awesome as its predecessor, and unfortunately that was the start of a trend.
Since then, each subsequent Maxima has grown more powerful but less engaging, culminating with the current model, which comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and is indeed little more than an overgrown Altima.
But for a decade or so, the Maxima was the best affordable performance sedan that money could buy. When you look around today at high-powered midsizers like the Accord V6 and Camry V6, you gotta give a little nod to the four-door sports car, the granddaddy of them all.
Street Mods for your Maxima
If you want to put your finger on the pulse of the Maxima community, check out the forums. They break it down by generation, and if you look at the two we highlighted — 1989-’94 and 1995-’99 — they’ve got tens of thousands more threads than the rest.
No offense if you own a different Maxima, but we weren’t kidding that those are the ones to have.
Now, supposing you want to put your personal stamp on your Maxima, there’s no end to the possibilities. Slap a turbo kit on it for more power? No problem, the powertrain’s certainly robust enough for that. Crazy subwoofers in the trunk? Been there, done that, with extensive DIYs in the forums. You’ll see a lot of the ’89-’94 models slammed to within a millimeter of their lives, and some of them look damn good, too. Ground effects, sick rims — you name it, the Maxima can rock it.
The best part is, these cars are so old that you can buy one for a song, leaving you plenty in the bank to customize to your heart’s content.
Tell Us Your Maxima Story
The Maxima is a car that engenders serious loyalty. We know a number of “Maxima families,” and all of them got started with one of the early models that never let them down. Have you had that kind of Maxima experience? Tell us about it in the comments.
For this installment, Street Talk goes in-depth on an unsung hero of the affordable tuner scene: the Scion tC.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the tC was the prudish one in Scion’s sport-coupe family. That’s because the other Scion coupe is the flashy FR-S, a rear-wheel-drive, purpose-built performance car that gets all the press.
But tuners have been flipping the script on these two ever since the FR-S came out a few years back. Sure, the tC is front-wheel-drive, but so are all those legendary Hondas from the ’80s and ’90s that made the tuner scene what it is today. And yes, the tC is derived from the overseas Toyota Avensis sedan, whereas the FR-S is its own thing — but the tC is also about $5,500 cheaper brand-new if you compare base prices, with used tCs available at steep discounts. That leaves a lot of room for cool mods.
Then there’s the matter of what’s under the hood. The current tC’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, leaving it just 21 horses shy of the FR-S’s 2.0-liter four — and 21 torques ahead of the more expensive motor. The first-generation tC was no slouch, either, cranking out 161 hp and 162 lb-ft in stock form. There’s no doubt that when it comes to everyday drivability, the tC wins.
So, now you know why the tC has stayed relevant to tuners in the FR-S era. If you’re wondering about specifics, here are some examples of the tC-tuning possibilities.
TRD stands for “Toyota Racing Development,” which basically means we’re talking about serious hardware. Unfortunately, the TRD supercharger offered for the first-generation tC is no longer available, chiefly because of reliability concerns and questionable bang for the buck (for a few grand of your hard-earned dinero, you only got an extra 40 horsepower at the crank). But there are plenty of other enticing upgrades sold directly through Scion dealers, including 19-inch wheels, a high-performance brake kit, lowering springs, beefed-up front and rear sway bars, a performance exhaust and a short shifter. The best part is, it’s all covered by warranty, and your factory warranty won’t be affected in the least. You even get a loaner car while the Scion technicians are throwing on the new parts.
To take the tC to the next level, you’re gonna need the aftermarket, and rest assured, there’s plenty of support. We see a lot of modded tCs on the street with all sorts of carbon-fiber body panels and interior trim inlays — if you go on eBay, it looks like you can cover the entire car with CF trim. If you really want to slam your tC for that lowrider look, a variety of third-party suppliers offer lowering springs that are more aggressive than the TRDs. Does the tC’s standard herd of horses strike you as a bit tame? Turbo kits are available for the current-generation tC, and there are many more options (both turbochargers and superchargers) for the original tC. Furthermore, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for upgrades like ceramic brake pads and free-breathing air filters, or even a MagnaFlow exhaust that’s more cost-effective than the TRD system.
Tell Us Your tC Story
As time goes on, the tC looks more and more like one of the best values for tuners on a budget. What are some of your favorite tC mods that crank up the cool factor without breaking the bank? Let’s hash it out in the comments.
Editor’s note: Keeping your ride running right is easy at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
The 2014 SEMA Show was a big success…and Advance was there! See what our Street Talker has to say about the happenings.
It’s Friday at the 2014 SEMA Show, and that can only mean one thing: if we want more custom-built automotive craziness, we’ll have to wait till next year. Yes, SEMA 2014 (Nov. 4-7) has officially reached an end, and we were there for every bit of it, roaming the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center and doing endless double-takes at all of the fine modified metal on display.
We’d spend thousands of words telling you about every single car at the show, but something tells us you don’t have that kind of time. Here’s the next best thing, then — a list of our top three favorite cars from SEMA 2014. This is Street Talk, of course, so they’re gonna have a stance, and their engines are gonna make a whole lot of power. That still doesn’t narrow it down very much—which, by the way, is what makes SEMA so amazing—but here are the three rides that we just can’t get out of our heads.
What happens when you take a BMW M4 and slap the sickest widebody kit on it that you can imagine? That’s what Southern California tuning outfit Vorsteiner set out to discover, and the result is the Vorsteiner GTRS4, which caused one of the biggest stirs this year. The front fenders are four inches wider than stock, and the rears gain a ridiculous seven inches. Those bulbous rear haunches actually remind us a bit of a widebody Porsche 911. The GTRS4 rides on 20-inch wheels that wear 345-width tires in back (almost as wide as a Dodge Viper), and its height-adjustable suspension aims to improve the M4’s somewhat brittle ride without sacrificing any of BMW’s stock adaptive suspension features. Under the hood, the 425-horsepower M4 arguably didn’t need any improvement whatsoever, but Vorsteiner cranked the volume to 550 hp just for good measure.
There’s an argument to be made that the 707-hp 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat has stolen a bit of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang’s thunder. After all, the Mustang currently tops out at “only” 435 hp with the GT’s 5.0-liter V8. But Ford’s biggest dealership — Van Nuys, CA-based Galpin — has an Auto Sports tuner division of some repute, and their team whipped a black 2015 Mustang GT into a 725-hp monster for SEMA duty. The power comes courtesy of a Whipple supercharger, and the Galpin crew also threw in a window in the hood so you can admire it, along with gold wheels and gold interior trim. The best part is, Galpin Auto Sports has a history of offering such modifications to customers, and it looks like this package will be available in the near future.
This creation, on the other hand, will likely never be available for purchase, but it’s a tantalizing glimpse of what the luxurious K900 could be. Thanks to novel rear-mounted Garrett twin turbochargers that are visible through a viewport in the trunk, the High Performance K900 maintains the regular car’s 5.0-liter V8 configuration under the hood, but the turbos turn up the wick from 420 hp to an astonishing 650 hp. To tighten up the K900’s languid suspension, Kia paired Eibach lowering springs with 21-inch wheels, giving the car a pretty mean stance in the process. Ksport brakes with 15-inch rotors and eight-piston calipers top off this tasty package. Now, if only Kia would offer a high-performance K900 from the factory; then we’d be getting somewhere.
What caught your eye?
You read all the SEMA news this week, right? What are your Top 3 cars from the 2014 SEMA Show? Let us know in the comments.
Editor’s note: Whether you attended SEMA, or are just living vicariously through our blog post, Advance Auto Parts has the parts to keep your fantasy ride running right all year round.
From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.
For this installment, Street Talk gets the lowdown on a most unlikely star of the lowrider scene: the Buick LeSabre.
Did you know that the fifth-generation Buick LeSabre, a large car produced from 1977-’85, is still in high demand? We’ll forgive you if you missed the memo. After all, the LeSabre is slow, clumsy and thirsty by modern standards, with outdated squared-off styling to boot. It’s the car Grandma bought decades ago that’s still sitting in the garage, collecting dust.
And yet, there are plenty of lowrider fans who would love to turn that LeSabre into a lean mean street machine.
In fact, LeSabres of all vintages are desirable to the tuner crowd, but the fifth-generation car has some unique qualities that make it especially well-suited to this scene. First of all, it’s new enough to have modern amenities like power accessories, and chances are you’ll be able to find one that doesn’t require much restoration.
Second, it was the last rear-wheel-drive LeSabre ever, and if you know the lowrider scene, you know there’s a strong preference for rear-drive platforms. Third, used examples are incredibly cheap — you can find a low-mileage fifth-gen LeSabre for $3,000 or less if you wait for the right one.
It also doesn’t hurt that this LeSabre was powered by old-school American V8s that sound like beasts, including 5.0-liter and 5.7-liter workhorses along with a massive 6.6-liter (403-cubic-inch) variant that was briefly available in the late ’70s.
So what happens next? Well, at a minimum, the suspension’s going to come in for a thorough overhaul. The cornerstone of almost any lowrider project is a hydraulic suspension with adjustable ride height. Combined with tiny aftermarket rims and tires (whitewalls add an extra touch of class), the hydraulic suspension allows the car to hug the ground for that classic lowrider profile, rise up to monster-truck heights, or even bounce around like in a rap video.
Beyond the suspension mods, it’s really up to the individual lowrider, because personalization is the name of the game. You’ll see Lambo doors, custom graphics, TVs inside, crazy stereos — you name it, some lowrider has probably tried it. Of course, there’s always some kind of custom exhaust system, too. You’ve got to let that old V8 breathe.
But again, one of the keys is buying in cheap so you’ll have room left in your budget for the good stuff, and that’s what’s given this big Buick new life. Next time you see Grandma puttering around in that pristine old LeSabre, tell her that if she ever wants to sell it, there’s a nation full of lowriders who’ll gladly take it off her hands.
Have you ever seen a lowrider Buick LeSabre, or caught a ride in one? Tell us what you think in the comments, we’d love to hear about it.
Editor’s note: Whether you’re an elderly lady with a LeSabre in the garage, or a performance junkie with a few tricks up your sleeve, Advance Auto Parts is here for you. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
I gotta admit, I’m biased when it comes to DOHC VTEC Hondas, because I’ve owned two of the best. I got my first taste with a 1995 Acura Integra GS-R, and I still can’t get the sound of that little 1.8-liter motor with the 8,100-rpm redline out of my head. Then I moved on to the “luxury coupe,” a 2001 Honda Prelude, which redlined at a comparatively meek 7,400 rpm but had other stuff going for it that the Integra lacked. These were great, great cars — stylish, fun and relentlessly reliable.
And we’ll never see the likes of them again, because Honda has turned its back on that whole scene. The Prelude was quietly put out to pasture in 2001, having become too refined and expensive for its own good. The Integra kept kicking for a while as the Acura RSX (it was still called “Integra” in other markets), but 2006 marked the end of the line. For a few more years, the Honda Civic Si carried the torch with its sweet 2.0-liter motor, a high-revving marvel that reminded me very much of the Integra GS-R’s 1.8. But these days the Civic Si uses a warmed-over Accord engine. FAIL.
The Honda VTEC era is gone, and it’s not coming back.
But we can still remember the good times, right?
Ride along with me as I reflect on what made my DOHC VTEC cars so special.
1994 Acura Integra GS-R
First of all, as soon as the second-generation GS-R came out in ’94, I remember lusting after those shiny five-spoke wheels. Man, Honda knew how to do alloy wheels back in the day, didn’t they? Admittedly, the rest of the car’s looking a bit dated. It’s got that bubbly 1990s look going on from some angles. But I actually dig the four round headlights, even though a lot of owners swapped them out for the JDM lenses. And from the back, the GS-R still looks pretty purposeful with its standard spoiler and wide taillights.
Inside, my GS-R had flawless leather buckets, but let’s face it: this car wasn’t about creature comforts. The road noise at speed was literally deafening, at least temporarily — I’d be a little hard of hearing when I got out after a long trip. As for the ride quality, a friend of mine once called it “skateboard-like.” Really, the best thing about the interior was the hatchback trunk; you could fold those rear seatbacks down and fit your whole life in there if you had to.
Bottom line, the Integra GS-R was all about what was under the hood. The dual-overhead cam (“DOHC”) 1.8-liter inline-4 was rated at 170 horsepower, falling just short of the magical 100 hp/L threshold. Torque was a paltry 127 pound-feet, and that was always the knock against the DOHC VTEC motors, but let me tell you, it didn’t matter in this car. The power ramped up steadily all the way to 8,100 rpm, with the VTEC crossover at 4,400 rpm producing a growl that gave way to a motorcycle-like scream toward to the end. Known to fans by the internal code “B18C1,” the GS-R’s engine was only offered with an incredibly precise five-speed manual transmission, and they were a perfect pairing — the short gears helped keep the revs high, and the pedals were ideally placed for heel-toe downshifts.
Nowadays, turbocharged fours are all the rage because of their supposed fuel-economy benefits, but did I mention that I got 37 mpg on the highway in my GS-R?
Throw in legendary reliability and low maintenance costs, and you’ve got an all-time great. There’ll never be another car like it.
2001 Honda Prelude
The angular, understated Prelude was a different beast — a gentleman’s sport compact. With its long nose and short deck, the 2001 ‘Lude could almost pass for rear-wheel-drive, its extended front overhang being the only real giveaway. It was a classy car, especially with the beautiful alloy wheels shown here. With the Integra, you expected a kid to be driving it, and it was normal to see an enormous spoiler tacked on the back. But the ‘Lude appealed to everyone. I’ve seen a handful of white-haired old guys driving bone-stock models, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.
Inside, the fifth-gen Prelude served up an inviting mix of quality materials and subtle, ergonomic design. You had all the controls you needed, and no more. People used to say Honda was the Japanese BMW (hard to believe today, right?), and this dashboard is a case in point. Everything was right where it needed to be, and the simple layout aged really well — I never felt like I was driving an old car, even when it was an old car.
On the road, the Prelude was significantly quieter than the GS-R, though I wouldn’t exactly call it quiet per se. The general comfort level was a lot higher. Really good stereo, too — so much better than the Integra’s clock-radio-quality sound. But it still handled great, albeit with slightly slower reflexes. I wish I’d been able to find a suitable Type SH with its torque-transfer system, because my base car understeered a lot if I entered a corner too hot. But I always had a blast on twisty roads nonetheless.
The fifth-gen Prelude’s engine was a torque monster by DOHC VTEC standards, cranking out 156 lb-ft along with a healthy 200 hp. To be honest, I liked the GS-R’s engine better. The ‘Lude’s 2.2-liter four-cylinder, a.k.a. “H22A4,” had a Jekyll and Hyde character, coming on real strong all of a sudden at 5,200 rpm. I preferred the way the GS-R’s motor smoothed the VTEC transition out. But the H22 made a great snarl, and the five-speed shifter was lighter than the GS-R’s, gliding friction-free from gate to gate.
If you wanted genuine Honda performance without the boy-racer looks, the fifth-gen Prelude was the ultimate solution.
Honda VTECs used to rule the street, and for good reason. It’s sad to me that those days are never coming back. Did you ever have a DOHC VTEC car? I know we’d all love to hear your story in the comments.
Editor’s note: If you’ve got a street import in your driveway, hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best values and selection. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
If you’re like me, you probably went crazy a few years ago when you heard the Toyota 86 was about to drop. Known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in the States, the hachi-roku (that’s “8-6″ in Japanese, kids) promised a return to the good old days when you could get a cool rear-drive sport coupe for a reasonable price. Of course, hachiroku itself is a reference to the iconic RWD Corolla coupes from the ’80s. With bloodlines like these, Toyota and Subaru couldn’t miss.
But they did. Hard. Because the modern-day hachiroku just doesn’t have enough muscle. The 2.0-liter boxer four under the hood is rated at 200 horsepower (I’ve seen 165 hp at the wheels) and a measly 151 lb-ft of torque. It makes some sporty noises when you wind it out, but there’s no force behind it. The FR-S and BRZ are not fast cars — and the target demographic loves fast cars.
So what’s a power-hungry FR-S or BRZ owner to do? Slap a turbo on it, brah! Here are two great kits that’ll turn your 86 into a monster right quick.
Turbocharging the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ
If you’re one of those peeps who want mega aftermarket power, a turbo kit is obviously the way to go. The peak output you get with some of these kits is just explosive. Of course, you’re gonna use more oil, and in general you should be even more vigilant than usual about maintenance with a modified car. But a lot of folks have been running turbo setups on 86s for thousands of miles with no issues. It’s a robust foundation for your build. As a point of entry, check these two kits out.
FA20Club Stage 1 ($3,499)
FA20Club is one of the big names you see on the hachiroku boards, and for good reason: they pack a lot of value into their kits. This one here is their entry-level setup, which they say is “capable of up to 280whp without fuel mods.” That’s a cool 115-hp gain over stock power at the wheels, and if you think about the power-to-weight ratio that gives you, we’re talking Porsche Cayman territory. Not bad for a few grand.
Dynosty Turbo Build ($17,914)
Ready to roll up your sleeves? Let’s get serious and quintuple the price of the FA20Club kit with this well-regarded Dynosty setup. If you’re up for it, an easy 400+ whp can be yours, and that puts your hachiroku in rarefied territory indeed. See, these cars in stock form weigh in at about 2,800 pounds, maybe a little less. Now consider the new C7 Corvette, making 460 hp for 3,300 pounds. If you do the math, the 86 actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Vette. Maybe spending $45 grand or so on a Japanese sport coupe isn’t so silly after all.
Let’s Hit The Street
Are you sold on turbocharging as the answer? Anyone want to speak up for superchargers? Let me know in the comments you guys.
Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of performance parts and accessories. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.
While I’m a fan of modified imports, drifting, and car culture in general, I have to admit, that I didn’t know much about this thing called “Hellaflush” when I got my first tweet on it a while back. But I’ve been a quick study, and one of the best places to check it out is on the buzz-worthy site Fatlace.
Ask anyone what Hellaflush means and you’re bound to get different answers. What’s it mean to you? In general, it entails the tire and wheel being flush against the fender. Flush being something that’s even with or level with something else – sharing the same plane – or having direct contact with.
While one online description of Hellaflush says the tire has to be flush with the fender, another goes further and states that that the top part of the tire also has to be up inside the wheel well so that the tire sidewall actually contacts the fender when a bump is encountered, making for a very unique and noticeable car display, not to mention driving experience.
I’ve seen the term’s origination credited to both Fatlace, where it’s now one of their brands, and also to a San Francisco neighborhood where it was used as local slang to describe something that was “very” or “crazy,” in terms of an amount. Loosely translated, Hellaflush just means your tires are very flush with your fenders. For a great visual example, check out this BMW 328i with wheels that are a mere millimeter from the fenders!
Hellaflush is also a form of stance – how a vehicle sits – and this type of car display is achieved, generally, with rims that are wider than seven inches, stretched tires, and an aggressive amount of negative camber. It’s common to see Hellaflush associated and discussed along with JJDM Car Culture and VIP styled. JDM refers to Japan Domestic Market while VIP Style refers to the practice of taking large, usually Japanese, luxury vehicles and altering their stance through modifications.
But let’s be honest, even though Hellaflush is popular right now, it’s neither practical nor inexpensive to pull off…but since when does that matter? Being that low to the ground and having tires so close to the fender doesn’t make for easy driving—especially where potholes or inclined driveways are concerned. And it also holds the potential for a lot of wear and damage to the vehicle. But, it does look killer.
Taking Hellaflush to another level is the practice of making everything on the vehicle flush, not just the tires. In these instances, it’s as low as it can go, and anything that keeps the body from being completely flush, such as door handles, key holes, etc., are shaved down until they are flush with the rest of the body. That’s commitment. (And one that I personally don’t see making anytime soon.)
Do you know any Hellaflushers? Or, are you planning on going there yourself? If so, share some pics that show just how Hellaflush you are, and let us know how you got there, and more importantly, how it’s working out!
Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts and tools for any ride. Buy online, pick up in store.—in 30 minutes.
Graphics courtesy of Fatlace.