The Exigent Duality
Weirdos and Cars - 12:11 CST, 4/14/23 (Sniper)
Imagine these scenarios:

  • Guy A walks up to Guy B, unprovoked, sucker punches him in the head. This happens in real-time, right in front of you and a second person. You say, "Holy Moses, Guy A needs to be go to jail, wow!" But not the person next to you: "Guy B had it coming. He was white, Guy A was black. Guy A has had a disadvantaged life, which is why he acts the way he does."

  • Person works hard, saves their money, buys a nice new car which they can use to get to work, drive their kids to visit friends, haul lumber to work on their house, and so forth. You say, "Congratulations, nice car!" But not the person next to you: "You realize you're destroying the environment right?"

  • Politician gets arrested on obviously bogus charges, which aren't even within jurisdiction or their statute of limitations, because the politician is leading in the polls. You say, "Wow, are we a third-world country now?" But not the person next to you: "Serves him right, he won't allow us to chemically castrate children or have anal sex books in Kindergarten school libraries."

  • It's raining out. You say, "Ahhh, our first rain of many, of the new spring!" But not the person next to you: "And you don't believe in climate change..."

It's almost impossible to have any kind of relationship with ideologues. They don't live in objective reality with the rest of us: instead, they judge absolutely everything, from the food you eat to the clothes you buy to the job you have to the church you attend or don't attend, through crazy goggles.

You and the ideologue can both witness, in real-time, in person, a piano falling on someone's head feet in front of you, and the ideologue will say that it was a table, not a piano. They will argue that grass is not green. They will argue that gravity repels things from Earth. It makes consistent communication and the formation of any authentic relationship almost impossible.

A Little Toyota History

Starting in 1978, Toyota made a car called the "Supra". It was a rear-drive sports coupe with a manual transmission gearbox and an inline six. The fourth generation of that car is very familiar to fellow 3DO fans, as it's one of the eight vehicles in "The Need for Speed". It was a grand touring car. Like all grand tourers, the Supra was known for its brisk acceleration especially in the turbocharged variant, comfortable interior, and relatively high curb weight at 3400 lbs.

Just like the discontinued-in-1996 Nissan Z car, the rise of SUVs, slow-paced sales, and changing currency valuations made it an easy decision for Toyota to end Supra production, in 2002. They then also killed off Celica in 2006, followed by the mid-engined MR2 in 2007. For the first time since 1965, with the Sports 800 and 1970 with the Celica, Toyota did not have a sports car to bring people into the showroom floor.

But behind closed doors, Toyota's engineers were hard at work on a new rear-drive platform. The physics model was all worked out, focusing on balance and light weight. The whole model depended on having the lowest possible center of gravity. Originally, they had a V6-hybrid system in place, but were in fact scouring the market for a smaller engine which would meet their requirements. During this research, they came across the perfect engine from, of all companies, Subaru: Since the 1960s Subaru had been mastering the art of boxer engines. Because boxer engines are compact and longitudinally mounted due to their design, one could be bolted onto the new platform's chassis very close to the road surface.

After some initial problems during negotiations, Subaru eventually not only entered into the licensing deal for the motor, but decided to offer their own variant of the car. This was unusual, because for decades Subaru was focused on all-wheel drive utility-oriented vehicles, not rear-wheel drive performance cars. Nonetheless, the car came to market in 2012 as the Subaru BRZ, while the Toyota version was marketed as the Scion FR-S in America, and the 86 or GT86 variously in other parts of the world.

The car was immediately compared favorably by pundits to the Mazda MX-5: both cars were focused less on straight-line acceleration, and more on spunky rear-drive handling dynamics owing to their light weight. Both were cars that had very predictable limits and could be driven in an enthusiastic way in every day scenarios-- versus more powerful vehicles which rapidly exceeded speed limits, and whose performance envelopes could only be realistically explored in a track setting. For almost a quarter of a century to that point, the MX-5 was widely applauded as the most fun car money could buy, even by owners of Ferraris and other exotic vehicles. For the new "Toyobaru" to hit that level of perception was a huge accomplishment.

A second generation was introduced for the 2022 model year. It had a re-designed body, a significantly stiffer chassis, more power, and other enhancements. Since Toyota had pulled the plug on the Scion brand, they named the new car the "Toyota GR86".

At the end of the 2010s, Toyota surprised the world again: in spite of having released the successful "86", they were adding a second sports car to their line-up, shockingly reviving the famous "Supra" nameplate! The Supra has always been synonymous with the inline six. But Toyota did not have such an engine in their stable-- and given today's absurd regulatory apparatus, engineering a new powerplant is prohibitively expensive. Once again, Toyota started scouring the other auto makers for an engine to suit the purpose. And they found one! Volkswagen Group.

Some time ago, Volkswagen Group had engineered a monstrous 450 horse power, twin-turbo inline six. They had been pairing this engine with a variety of BMW products. Since the last joint venture went so well for Toyota, they decided to enter into a second one, this time with the Germans. Toyota licensed the BMW Z4 schematics, engine and all, then set about designing brand new sheet metal, and performing custom-tailored platform and suspension adjustments. The final product was released for the 2018 model year as the "Toyota GR Supra".

The car was met with a mixture of emotions: on the one hand it could do zero-to-sixty in under four seconds, which was greater-than-supercar performance from just the early 2000s. It also had sharp handling, and could pull 1.02g's on the skidpad. On the other hand, its grand tourer curb weight of 3343 lbs meant it lacked agility, road feel, and personality. In addition, it was only available with an automatic, paddle-shifted transmission. Finally though, for the 2023 model year and after years of persistent rumors, a manual transmission version was offered, making the car much more desirable for driving purists.

Unicorn Cars

I've been on a waiting list since last August for one of these fabled manual transmission GR Supras. With a few mouse clicks, my sales manager buddy can see the entire Toyota dealer network: orders requested, deliveries made. Tens of thousands of people want this car, yet in the entire country, only twenty two are currently in the dealer "order-delivery" circulation pipeline. Not 22,000, not 2200, not even 220: 22. It's a similar situation with the GR86: there are so few of them making their way to dealers, that used examples of the $30k MSRP model are selling for $40k! In other words, if you did somehow manage to get one, you could flip it instantly for ten thousand dollars.

Two nights ago I got a phone call from my friend. "Still nothing on the Supra, but I have... a different proposal for you." He went on to explain that, absolutely out of nowhere, he was allocated a red, base model with extras, manual transmission GR86. He has no idea why it was allocated to him, or from where-- but there it was, arriving next week! The first thing he did when he saw this was to pick up the phone and call me: "Why don't you buy this from me, we'll keep your down-payment on the Supra, then when it comes you just trade me back the GR86? It'll give you a fun new car to drive over the summer, and other than sales tax won't cost you a penny."

The wife and I considered it a no-brainer: I would essentially get an extended free rental car, and wouldn't give up my waiting list spot for the Supra. What a deal!

This weekend I will be giving the venerable 350z a good wash and a vacuum, for my final time driving it-- to the dealership to trade it in. It's always been a good-but-not-great car: doesn't feel as quick as it should, has poor road feedback, feels heavy. Conversely, it's very balanced and looks like a million bucks. I won't really miss it in truth: I'm bored and long-past ready for a new ride.