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Thread: Scion FR-S and Datsun 240Z - An Owner's Comparison

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    Registered User Hardway's Avatar
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    Default Scion FR-S and Datsun 240Z - An Owner's Comparison

    I posted this over on the FR-S/BRZ site I am a member of and thought you guys might like to see it too.

    As I shared a few months ago with my post about buying my 1971 240z a request was made to provide a comparison between it and my 2013 FR-S. Now, that might sound like Deja-vu since you probably know that several magazines and various media outlets did this same comparison around the launch time of the FR-S. So this will not be another rehash of how a 40+ year old Japanese sports car ranks against a modern Japanese sports car. What I am going to give you are my thoughts on owning and driving both of these machines that are great in their own right. The key word in the sentence above is “owning” as I believe there is something to be said for having months of time to drive both cars instead of a few hours or days.



    As with any comparison you need to know what you are comparing. Being a car enthusiast then you already know the specs on the FR-S. For those that don’t here are a few highlights, 200hp 2.0L boxer 4cyl engine, 6spd manual, power locks & windows, A/C, etc. Mine is not unique other than the fact I have owned it for over 6 months and still have less than 3000 miles on it. What most enthusiasts can agree on is that the concept is very good. The FR-S is everything you need and nothing you don’t. Granted, it could stand have a few more amenities like steering wheel controls for the radio or better yet a little more horsepower since my wife’s 2013 Ford Escape with the 2.0L Ecoboost could run away from it without breaking a sweat. In the end, it is what it is, an all-stock FR-S that still feels like a brand new car.

    In the other corner is my 1971 Datsun 240z Series-1. It has a 2.4L inline 6 cylinder engine rated at 150hp, 5spd transmission from a later ZX, stock R180 rear end with 3.36 gears, manual locks & windows, and no AC. The Series-1 part in the name is somewhat important as it indicates the car is one of the first 10,000 units to enter the US and has a small list of items that separate it from later cars. Of these differences the most important is the fact it is about 300 pounds lighter than later cars and has a quicker steering ratio. What makes it useful in a comparison against the FR-S is the fact it could be a daily driver as it sits with current tags and inspection. It has also been the recipient of some very good mechanical restoration work by the previous owner. This includes all the big items like an engine rebuilt to stock specs and fully detailed, refreshed 5spd, and fully rebuilt and detailed suspension with a mix of rubber and poly components. I have put around 200 miles on the Z so far since purchasing it. These miles include all types of driving from a 60 mile round trip to Cars and Coffee to sitting in traffic while driving it to work.

    First and foremost I believe both cars check all the boxes for what a sports car should be. A 2-door, rear wheel drive, manual transmission vehicle with sporty good looks and a very good power to weight ratio. From a money stand point, in September of 1970 when my 240z was purchased it stickered for around $3500 which comes to $21,084 in 2014 money. My FR-S with its few options stickered at $24,500 so the FR-S carries only a small premium over the 240z. Taking a step back and considering you are getting 40+ years of automotive technology and development, the additional $3,400 seems like a good deal. In reality, I paid around $9,500 for my 240z and currently have over $10,000 in it which includes a new radiator, new tires, state tax, title transfer, and a few other odds and ends. If you know your classic Z cars and or have watched classic Z values then you know that is a very fair number considering the work that has been done. Enough with the numbers, let’s get on to the fun stuff.

    Getting into each car is a standard affair requiring the same general effort for each. One thing that will be immediately noticed with the 240z is how lightweight the door is. In fact, it is scary light by today’s standards. Where the 240z door is very mechanical feeling and you can hear the mechanism inside the door work as you pull up on the handle, the FR-S is much quieter with only the window motor lowering the window as you pull the door open. Once in and the door closed the FR-S is a nice place to be with everything either at your fingertips or well within reach. The seats are firm and very supportive, the bolsters hugging the rear of your ribcage and shoulders. I have found that you really don’t fall in to the FR-S. Once in I kind of adjust myself a little before commencing with the ignition sequence. For their day the seats in the 240z were sporty too since just about everything else on the market regardless of what it was had 2x or even 3x more material and padding in the seats. The seats in my 240z had been recovered and re-strapped several years ago that have held up well and are reasonably comfortable to be in. From a seating and ergonomics stand point the FR-S wins hands down but the 240z feels like a more interesting place to be. A turn of the key reinforces this feeling. Speaking of keys, that is one thing these cars still have in common, the fact you must start them with a key. In a world of more “keyless/fob only” vehicles that now include the BRZ and other higher end FR-S models, my FR-S may already seem outdated to some but personally, I like keys. On the FR-S, the ignition and the lock cylinder under the trunk handle are the only opportunities to use the key. The 240z still retains its original 2 key configuration where one key starts the car and the other unlocks everything else including the glove box.



    As technology marches on I can envision a day in the near future when a kid will see a key and ask “what is that shiny thing for?” Much like how kids today have their minds blown when they learn what a cassette tape is and all the nuances that came along with using them.

    “Modern cars are turned on, vintage cars are awakened”

    Starting the FR-S is not so much starting it but turning it on. Yes the engine turns over and fires up as the gas gauge instantly registers and you are visually greeted with no less than a dozen red and yellow lights. This short lived light show takes place as the ECU performs a 3 second pre-flight check of all of the car’s systems before going out as an indicator that everything is okay.



    The idle quickly settles and you are left with the red BRAKE light telling you your parking brake is still on. Foot on the brake, parking brake down, BRAKE light out, clutch down, shift, clutch up/throttle down, and you’re off. The FR-S in the manual 6spd configuration is easy to drive with a light clutch and short pedal travel. The shifts are crisp and precise as you move down the road but feels a bit notchy when the transmission is still cold. With the transmission warmed up the shifts feel a little softer and are quieter through the gear box. Around town the FR-S cruises along with minimal effort. Moving along or sitting in traffic the ergonomics of the car start to become even more apparent. Changing the radio station is easy with the base radio system, the parking brake handle serves as a rest for your right arm, the thickness and diameter of the steering wheel is almost perfect, and the HVAC is easy to use with just 3 standard controls for fan speed, vent output, and temp. Being a new car the AC is ice cold and you will find your wrists and arms getting cold in a hurry since the vents are so close to the driver. Entering freeways or just flat out accelerating is easy in the FR-S as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gear will get you to speed quick, 5th gear will take you further, and once at the speed you want to be 6th will let you stay there for as long as you like. Speaking of gearing, even around town I find myself in 5th and 6th gear a lot to help save fuel. Only when I am getting on the freeway do I let it the engine wind out good or the occasional quick jaunt from light to light. Even though the 6-speed is good it could almost benefit from another true highway gear that would bring the revs down from 3500 to around 2000. Also, when doing acceleration runs the 200 horses from the 2.0L 4 cylinder do a good job of propelling the car but also fall short in providing that seat planting G-force we all know and love. Where the FR-S really shines is in the steering and handling department. In my opinion the steering is perfect and the overall handling is excellent. The FR-S rides firm enough to inspire loads of confidence, provide plenty of feedback, and entice you to take a turn just a little quicker but at the same time being compliant enough to be a nice daily driver. Being a Scion you do get a fair amount of road noise but that comes with the territory and the affordable price tag. The brakes are very good and well suited to the car. However, I feel that if any power adders were installed or the car was tracked a better set of pads would certainly be in order. All in all the FR-S may not be the car that it was hyped up to be when it was released but it definitely is a great car given everything it can do. For those of us fortunate to have one, and there are a lot of us, the FR-S is a fun car that serves as a great platform for whatever direction you wish to take one. For owners like me I will continue to accelerate, shift, and accelerate some more, all the while with a smile on my face.

    As mentioned before, I believe the 240z offers a much more interesting place to be than the FR-S. You have more gauges to look at and the view is made even more quasi-exotic in the fact they are located in the upper middle of the dash.





    The view behind the steering wheel is uncluttered and straight to the point giving the driver a large speedometer on the left and a large tachometer on the right.



    Looking back on history this layout is both characteristic and legendary of almost all sports cars, from Jaguars, Ferraris to Lamborghinis, Corvettes, and the like. Even if the Z can’t do 200mph you feel like you have the proper instrumentation befitting of a true sports car. As you take stock of your surroundings you see black textured vinyl and plastic covering just about everything in sight with 70’s styled diamond molded vinyl covering the sides of the transmission tunnel and various portions of the cargo area. You certainly noticed the 16” walnut-like steering as you climbed in since your knees probably hit it upon entry. However, not until you are seated and comfortable do you really “notice” it. Your hands take a quick feel of the wheel and discover the finger grooves on the back as well as just how thin and nice the wheel is to the touch. A fine Italian Nardi wheel it is not but for a factory steering wheel it certainly beats its plastic and rubber counterparts found in other cars of the era. You reach down to pick up the seat belt, pull it over your shoulder and around your waist and take hold of the heavy metal buckle on the right. As you fasten it together one can’t help but think it as more of a surplus aircraft component than a standard automotive safety belt. It gets the job done as it is a 3-point unit, it is comfortable enough, and non-intrusive to the driver. The belts are also non-retractable units which require only a few small pulls to get adjusted, much like those on any commercial airliner. These seat belts are unique to the Series-1 Z’s as later cars received two and three point retractable belts. I personally find the seat belts to be another interesting part of the car.



    With the choke lever on the console pulled back a little, clutch down… all the way down, you turn the key hearing the relays under the dash click as the single red BRAKE light comes on with a soft glow, much like the car slowly opening one eye as you are about to ask it to wake up.



    Turning the key to Start turns the engine over several revolutions as you finesse the accelerator pedal and the engine fires up. As it comes to life the fuel and oil pressure gauge needles begin the journey to the right, slowly reaching their destination of indication. Still being in a state of slumber you work the accelerator and adjust the choke as the engine runs a bit rough before smoothing out around 2000 rpms, warming up while being fed by the dual SU style carbs on the inline 6. After almost 2 minutes you push the choke lever back to its original position, finesse the accelerator some more and the revs come down to a respectable 800 rpms. Clutch down again… all the way down. The 40 years that separate the Z and the FR-S instantly becomes apparent in case the light aroma of fuel surrounding the car didn’t do it for you. The clutch pedal travel in the Z is at least 2 times longer than that of FR-S. The take up point is not too high but it feels as if it is beyond the halfway point of travel. My Z has an older aftermarket walnut shift knob. At first I did not like it since it is obviously is not original to the car but after driving the car for a while I can see why it has stayed since it has a good feel in the hand.



    The shift in to first is met with a reaffirming click as you perform the usual dual foot action on the clutch pedal and accelerator, once in sync and you are off. Moving at slow speed and making the first turn reveals how accustom we have become to power steering since the Z does require some arm and shoulder effort at this low velocity. The 14” wheels and modest tires make the steering more of a task than hard work. Once your speed reaches 10mph the steering becomes light but still sharp, providing plenty of feedback to the driver. Making a sharp turn at any speed illustrates that even with the early Z’s quick ratio steering, the FR-S steering is much quicker by at least 2 fold. The ride is firm yet vintage and it is anything but cush but it is not harsh by any means. The Z gives you audible feedback in the form of a few creaks from the suspension and the rear hatch that could use a fresh seal to eliminate some occasional squeaks. Cruising in town with regular traffic is a simple and enjoyable experience. You will no doubt get plenty of stares and thumbs up from other drivers and pedestrians. One can easily leave the car in 4th for just about any speed in town. As with driving any vintage car you never let your guard down as the time and effort needed to bring it to an abrupt stop or dart out of the way of a driver not pay attention is much more than a modern car. This is not to say the Z cannot hold its own in modern traffic but the steering requires more input than the FR-S and the brakes certainly take more foot pressure to bring the Z to a stop in a panic situation. These are points kept in the back of your mind as you do a quick glance over the gauges to confirm everything is looking good. Enough putting around, lets jump on the highway. With the throttle down and letting the engine wind through 3rd and 4th the Z is propelled to 70 very quickly. Once at 75mph you gently slide it in to 5th making sure its locked, let go, drive, and enjoy. Even in 5th the engine makes plenty of power to bring you up to 80 and beyond in a casual manner. Passing someone in short order requires a downshift to 3rd or 4th before returning to 5th to cruise some more. At highway speed the ride is nice and could easily be taken on a long trip. At 75mph the steering gives you everything you need in the form of feedback and response but can feel a bit twitchy at times. The Z is always driven with the windows down so there is plenty of wind and road noise to take in. After a while the appreciation for a radio is made which is something my Z is missing as of this writing. Currently occupying the space where a functioning radio should be is a Pioneer 8-track stereo deck that only turns on but produces no sound.

    With both cars parked side by side it makes for an interesting styling comparison. The FR-S is of course modern and has no problem making the claim of being a Japanese sports car with its sharp headlights, open grill, and semi-aggressive side profile. The problem it does have is telling the world which Japanese sports car it is. More often than not when someone asks about the FR-S they think it is a 300zx or an Infiniti. When they hear it is a Scion they suddenly remember hearing about them and the conversation usually turns to what makes it different than the Subaru BRZ. It does score points in the fact the FR-S has a clean look that is not disrupted by a bunch of emblems, vents, or unnecessary styling creases. The fender arches, rear spoiler, and wide stance give it sort of a muscular and planted look without being ridiculous. For as good looking as the FR-S is it is by no means exotic and is only unique amongst enthusiasts that have followed it or are well aware of it. From a practicality stand point the FR-S gets a gold star since it is one of the few sports cars that have a real trunk. I can personally testify that it can haul a good number of groceries, pick up materials at the hardware store, and keep my laptop bag safe. When I show people the trunk they are almost amazed it even has one. A quick glance inside surprises them even more and usually gets them thinking about the idea of buying an FR-S for themselves. I should be on commission.

    Letting our eyes wander over to the Z one can’t help but immediately notice the sugar scoop headlight pockets, long hood, and short hatch back rear. Even for observers that know nothing about cars I believe anyone can recognize these design elements from other vintage sports car like Jaguars and Ferrari’s. If you know the Z story this was of course done on purpose. In the present the Z does not have to tell anyone who or what it is, they know it is a classic Z. Back in the early 70’s the story was exactly the same. Based on the many published reviews from the era and conversations with original owners, the 240z was the hot ticket when it was released. Enough history, let’s get back to those sexy sugar scoop headlights. The sugar scoops are probably my favorite part of the 240z design. They are a simple answer to the need of integrating the headlights in to the car while making a statement all on their own. Since it is the same answer that has been used on countless European sports cars and looks so good on those it makes one appreciate them even more on the Z. Taking a few steps back you see the Z is pretty narrow car by today’s standards and the FR-S is easily 10-15% wider.



    Another item now glistening in the sun are the thin wrap around chrome bumpers. Back in the day these bumpers would have served as mere trim pieces on most American cars. On the Z, the bumpers provide a great accent of style even if it feels like staring at them too hard will dent them. Walking around to the side it is easy to see the inspiration that 60’s Jaguars and Ferrari’s had on the overall shape. The long hood, flat roof, and swooping rear deck are nothing new but are well executed with the Z. From a design standpoint everything on the car is simple yet seems to be spot on how it left the factory, I would not change a thing. Yeah, the corner marker lights do look like a crude bolt-on item but you have to remember that even on the 1971 Jag XKE they were the same way and the Z was “affordable” back in its day. Making your way to the back and popping open the hatch reveals plenty of room for a few medium sized bags for a weekend trip. This had to be one of the biggest selling points of the Z in addition to everything else. For the early 70’s, it was very usable sports car.

    In conclusion, the FR-S and the 240z have kindred spirit in one another, even if they come from different manufacturers. Both cars work to attain the same goal in their own respective time, to provide owners with a fun, affordable, daily driver capable sports car. I truly believe both cars do this and more. No one knows what the next 40 years looks like or how history will remember the FR-S. The original classic Z lasted for an impressive 8 model years. We know the FR-S will probably look completely different in 5 years or less, if it exists at all. For now, I am grateful to have the opportunity to own both cars and enjoy their common characteristics while appreciating what makes each one unique.
    08/1970 240z Series-1 #8011 - Silver, black int., 2.4L I-6, 5spd, 90% restored.
    06/1973 VW Karmann Ghia - Black convertible, 4spd, 1600cc air-cooled engine.
    11/2013 Scion FR-S - Silver, 6spd, a car with the soul of a Z for the modern times.
    Restoration thread of my old '72 240z -> http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/o...1972-240z.html

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    Registered User madkaw's Avatar
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    You forgot to mention that you can't drift a Z while reading a book.
    Steve
    71 240z,bw-5sp 2.4-40 over,balanced,e-88,big valves,ported&polished, stage2,header, triple Mikuni's 40's
    3.90 Subaru STI LSD

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    Registered User Dr. 240Z's Avatar
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    "As technology marches on I can envision a day in the near future when a kid will see a key and ask “what is that shiny thing for?” Much like how kids today have their minds blown when they learn what a cassette tape is and all the nuances that came along with using them."

    A few months ago, while showing my Series 1 at a local event, I heard a six or seven year old child ask his mother what the window crank on the driver's door was for.

    My son-in-law has a BRZ and he's as proud of it as I am of my Z, now 43 years later.

    Enjoyed your subjective comparisons....thanks for sharing

    George
    Original Registration and Warranty Card

    Original owner of: HLS3018859 (Jan./71) ZCOOR Member # 178

    'Storms Never Last'

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    "Cassette Tape".... what about what a 78 or 45 was.
    10/69 Fairlady ZL 5-speed
    '72 240Z
    '09 Nissan Altima Coupe

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    Registered User Bonzi Lon's Avatar
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    In 1977 my 73 Z had a 'Lear' (as in jet) 8-track installed. Still have the tapes, and still looking for the player, must be a 'Lear', the inventor of the 8-track.

    Bonzi Lon
    1973 HLS30-168500
    1968 SPL311-18100
    1969 HLS30-000110 SOLD Shipped to Dubai UAE
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    Torch Wielding Villager gogriz91's Avatar
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    My Dad is picking up a new BRZ this weekend, not sure how I'm going to do it but I want to take the Z out to see him and tear up some mountain roads together. I keep wondering if they'll up the displacement to 2.5, seems to be most folks biggest complaint.
    '73 HLS30 129806 ; L-28, street cam, SUs, 5-speed, Koni's, Suspension techniques springs, swaybars, 3.90 R200 LSD

    Heavily medicated for your protection

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    Registered User S30Driver's Avatar
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    Really well done!
    Like reading Road & Track in the 70's ...
    1977 280z 06/77

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    Registered User Hardway's Avatar
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    Thank you for all the compliments guys! This is my first real jump in to journalistic writing and your feedback is inspiring & motivating.

    Gogriz91, based on your signature your Z will give the BRZ a run for its money. The BRZ can steer quicker and stop faster but in flat out acceleration you might have it beat. I look forward to your posting and pictures of you and your dad driving your cars and comparing them!
    Blue likes this.
    08/1970 240z Series-1 #8011 - Silver, black int., 2.4L I-6, 5spd, 90% restored.
    06/1973 VW Karmann Ghia - Black convertible, 4spd, 1600cc air-cooled engine.
    11/2013 Scion FR-S - Silver, 6spd, a car with the soul of a Z for the modern times.
    Restoration thread of my old '72 240z -> http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/o...1972-240z.html

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    Registered User LeonV's Avatar
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    Shameless plug: if you're looking for more power, keep an eye out on our soon-to-be released turbo-kit!

    WORKS Automotive Performance and Engineering POWER | PRECISION | PASSION

    I've driven the car on track in stock configuration as well as with the turbo kit. It definitely no longer feels underpowered and will keep WRXs and the like off your back on straightaways. Here's a video from Laguna where we were doing track testing of a prototype turbo kit. First lap was used to bring the new front tires up to temp and then the fun begins. It's a very fun and rewarding car to drive, especially with bald rear tires :P:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hwclNPK9Jc
    2/74 260Z

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    Do you have some comparison numbers at this point on turbo vs stock, or is it mostly "seat of the pants" evaluation. I imagine a turbo makes it scream.
    Dennis
    1971 240Z - Original Owner
    2010 Infiniti G37 Convertible

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    Jim Arnett jfa.series1's Avatar
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    Excellent writing - a very nice flow. It made me feel as if I was in the cars with you. Tasteful selection of photos, very well done. A really nice job for your initial outing!

    Jim Arnett
    HLS30-15320 12/1970, original owner
    L24-020208 (original)
    IZCC Original Owner Registry #53

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    Supporting Member Zedyone_kenobi's Avatar
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    well done I certainly appreciate the effort this article took. The pics were well staged and fit the mood of the writing. I plan on doing a 'so you think you want a Z video soon' Working out the details now.

    A note on the tech gap.

    I was helping a friend of mine look at a TR6. He brought his 13 year old son. When his son asked what the 3rd pedal was for, I looked at him and told him he had failed as a father...

    I sent that story to the Save the Manuals campaign....and they printed it!!!
    1971 240Z HLS30-38691
    93.9% done and getting better every day
    Now with 100% more DATSUN SPIRIT L28 Power
    1968 Datsun 2000 SRL311-03416

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    Registered User LeonV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by psdenno View Post
    Do you have some comparison numbers at this point on turbo vs stock, or is it mostly "seat of the pants" evaluation. I imagine a turbo makes it scream.
    Dennis
    The car baselined at 145hp at the rear wheels and after a bit of tuning and high-octane gas, I had it at 220 with some headroom left. Low octane would probably be more in the 210whp range. That's a 65-75whp gain so you definitely feel it!

    I have to say though, bone stock (brake pads, Prius tires, and all) the car was a blast to drive on the track, as long as it wasn't as brake-heavy as Laguna. We bled the brakes and changed pads at Laguna because of how demanding it was on brakes.
    2/74 260Z

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    Registered User Hardway's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zedyone_kenobi View Post
    I was helping a friend of mine look at a TR6. He brought his 13 year old son. When his son asked what the 3rd pedal was for, I looked at him and told him he had failed as a father...

    I sent that story to the Save the Manuals campaign....and they printed it!!!
    Thank you for the compliment and heads up on the video you are making, I look forward to see it. The above statement is classic! I love it! Congrats on getting it printed.
    08/1970 240z Series-1 #8011 - Silver, black int., 2.4L I-6, 5spd, 90% restored.
    06/1973 VW Karmann Ghia - Black convertible, 4spd, 1600cc air-cooled engine.
    11/2013 Scion FR-S - Silver, 6spd, a car with the soul of a Z for the modern times.
    Restoration thread of my old '72 240z -> http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/o...1972-240z.html

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    A great article!

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    Torch Wielding Villager gogriz91's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hardway View Post
    Gogriz91, based on your signature your Z will give the BRZ a run for its money. The BRZ can steer quicker and stop faster but in flat out acceleration you might have it beat. I look forward to your posting and pictures of you and your dad driving your cars and comparing them!
    I'm having an F54/P90 built with a cam and triples. It should be closer to 200hp and I've got a 4 pot toyota setup so i'm really looking forward to seeing what it will do. The BRZ looks pretty nice.
    '73 HLS30 129806 ; L-28, street cam, SUs, 5-speed, Koni's, Suspension techniques springs, swaybars, 3.90 R200 LSD

    Heavily medicated for your protection

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    human go z racer, go's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean240Z View Post
    A great article!
    I recall reading this very article just prior to purchasing my FRS (which I have rebadged as "Toyota GT86").

    Hell the reason I bought my GT86 was to have a fun daily driver but now... I've fallen head-over heels for this street legal go-kart.

    That said, there are far more things I love about the Z. The biggest difference between the two (for me anyway) is that I can rebuild and repair my Z - can't even come to saying that about the GT86. Don't get wrong, it's easy enough to mod (which I have and do). It's just a pain in the you-know-what.

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