Gas prices are steadily going up, and the government is not only making stricter emission standards but also making the manufacturers meet tougher average mpg figures for their lineup of cars to meet. What does all this mean? The hybrids are invading! This decade is all about skinnier, less grippy, fuel saving tires, electric engines, and alternative fuel.
The leaps in performance are saved for the ultra rich, while one by one the high performance affordable sports cars fall by the wayside.
Well what if you’re just an evil hoonigan? What if you’d rather not have a car that silently wafts by like a spring breeze? What if you are such a mad man…that you’re unconcerned with the baby deer and family of rabbits who are apparently inhaling straight from your exhaust pipes and prefer something a little more…exciting? Maybe you prefer the snarling turbo straight pipe street beasts of yesteryear; the type of ride that would make a Nissan Leaf wilt and blow a hole in the ozone with every up shift. Let’s have a look back at the best tuners! They may not meet the emission standards, and they may hurt the manufactures mpg average, but we love them anyway. Tree huggers may disdain you for driving them and go-green hipsters deem them unnecessary…but the loud, sideways-sliding hoonigans get the warm fuzzies from driving these Top 5 Tuners:
#6. Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
The Eclipse GSX disappeared after 1999, and there hasn’t been an AWD turbo eclipse since. While this may not have been a king of the streets, it was still a quick car and put it’s minimal ponies down off the line well. The 2.0L DOHC turbo engine was a great base for the car tuners as well. Stock, it had an acceptable 210 hp out of the inline 4 engine and a limited slip diff. It was almost an Evo “preview” for the states with the same 2.0L Inline 4 single turbo setup, 5-speed manual transmission, and similar AWD drive-train, however the Evo VIII had 271 hp stock. Despite the slight under-steer issue, this is a great little tuner!
You can kind of think of the GSX as the Evo’s kid brother. The world might not have room for a new turbo AWD Mitsubishi but I would like to see what kind of sports coupe they could come up with to revive the GSX name.
#5. Subaru STi Coupe
Yes, it’s another AWD turbo coupe from Japan. The coupe body style Impreza vanished after the turn of the century and sadly has never returned. By the time the STi made it across the pond it was only available in a 4dr body style, however Subaru did give us a little taste of their street rally car ways with the Impreza 2.5 RS. There was one thing that was terrible about this car however. It drew quite a bit of attention to itself as it strongly resembled the turbo model, but only eeked out 165 hp compared to the real deal which was boosted to 276 hp…making the 2.5 seem rather horseless.
The 22B body also looked better than the newer Imprezas, something about the compact 2 door look channeled an R34 GTR. This car didn’t suffer from the excessive understeer that plagued the next Impreza either. I think it would be great to see them revive the coupe, and bring back a shorter wheelbase STi. The flat 4 turbo combined with a more nimble chassis would make something worthy of home made Gymkhana videos…I’m talking to you Subaru! We want to hoon, so give us the backroad boxer that destroys the Evo.
Honda has completely shunned their sporting ways and gone all soft on us. What’s up with that? The S2K was an absolute street legend! The Civic Si just isn’t going to cut the mustard…I’m just telling you there is NOTHING exciting or good or fun about FWD, and that’s a fact. You won’t impress your friends by understeering into a curb, or torque steering into the neighbor’s tree. Also everyone who does reverse donuts need to be punched in the face, honestly.
For some reason when Honda decides to do an affordable RWD sports car, good things occur. Just look at the NSX or as you can see above these words, the quite agile, quite fast S2000. They got 237 hp out of a 2.2L non-turbo I4 DOHC.
So naturally every ricer bolted a turbo onto it to. The car was also extremely savvy when it came to corners, so for a very affordable price you already had a great stock platform for tuners to build on. With the resurrection of the NSX upon us, it would be great to see a 2014 S2k although it’s doubtful. Maybe offer a hardtop this time around so people don’t have to go out and buy one for themselves. The point, however, is that when Honda actually tries, their donuts make me go nuts.
#3. Mazda RX-7
Okay let’s not sugar coat this…the RX-7 and RX-8 were a pain in the ass to run on a frequent basis. Everyone knows they weren’t a daily car, and the rotary engine is about a fussy as they come. But the hard core RX-7 was a labor of love.
The standard twin turbo system boosted it up to 255 hp…not bad for the early 90′s! The 50/50 weight distribution made it a bit of a handful under braking, but if we can learn anything from the Viper that means it is easy to kick the arse out, which equals loads of tire squealing fun.
I think it’s also one of the best looking cars ever made, and it sits very low to the ground. Then Mazda killed the RX name by coming out with the RX-8, which was soft, under-powered, and terrible with fuel consumption. I can verify that as a previous owner. The rotary was known for these problems and that’s why it became popular for engine swaps. If you put a LS1 V8 you would actually improve the fuel economy and have the insane grip and lightness! 2JZ engine swaps became very popular as well (for those of you that don’t know, a 2JZ is a Supra engine). Mazda needs to bring the RX back with the same simple beautiful looks, only this time with a range of inline 6 cyl engines…from non-turbo to twin turbo.
#2. Nissan 240SX
When you think of drifting, and then type it into youtube because you’re bored at work, almost every video features a Nissan 240SX. This car goes has gone through about three phases, S13, S14, the Kouki, and finally the S15 which we didn’t get to the States. That’s the beauty pictured above. The 240SX came into life entering the 90′s with a 5-speed manual and I4 140 hp engine. It was eventually given 155 hp in ’91. In ’95, the S14 made its debut with improved styling (ditching the pop-up head lamps) but remained at only 155 hp. However the wheelbase was 2″ longer, it had a wider stance, and lost 80 lbs. In 1997 the exterior changed but the chassis was still the same. The headlamps looked a little meaner along with the grill and side skirts. The body style from 97′ to 98′ was referred to as the “Kouki”. When the S15 slid onto the scene it had an I4 with a turbo that boosted it up to 250hp! Sadly this car never came to the States, and by 2002 it went out of production.
These cars had ample room in the engine bay to install mods and do engine swaps, and with the RWD platform the possibilities were almost endless! 2JZ, and GT-R engine swaps were very popular. Also upgrading the 4 cylinder block with a turbo was very common. While Nissan has the Z series coupes, and the GT-R on the market right now there isn’t much room for another performance line. What they should do is bring the Silvia back under the Skyline name and have a series of trim levels leading up to Godzilla. For instance start with the Skyline. Just a RWD non-turbo inline 4 with a 5-speed and say…250 hp. Have the same car with a turbo 6-speed for the next step up and give it 300 hp and that would be the Skyline R. The last trim level before the GT-R would be the Skyline GT, and this would be AWD! Also put a 3.7 but without turbos. Tune it to put out the Nismo Z 350 hp and call it a day. There you go Nissan! I have it all laid out here, now just go and do it!
#1. Toyota Mark IV Supra
The Mark IV Supra is the king of tuners that has fallen by the wayside. After the Celica Supra (1982-1986) and the Mark III (1986-1992) the 93′ Supra made a rather choice return sporting a new sexy look. It was curvaceous and had quite a nice ass. Like having a hot girl with you out on the town, you just want to be seen with this car! Especially when it’s done right with some aftermarket magic (the car, not the girl.)
The MKIV made its silver screen debut in The Fast and the Furious (2001) which solidified it as street racer royalty. The base had a 3.0L I6 that had an exciting 220 hp transferred to the rear wheels. However there was a twin turbo model…which whirred 320 hp from the 2JZ inline 6 to the rear tires, and not only did this make the car a legendary drifter, but the engine itself became one of the most popular engines for swapping into other tuners. You would frequently find these in Silvias, or RX-7s and RX-8s. Sadly they quit production for the exports in 1998 and finally ceased all Japanese production in 2002 due to emission standards. When you see a Mark IV drive by…you look…because they are somewhat rare, hard to find, and special. The Supra has an epic presence like a Skyline GT-R! It’s one of the big boys.
Screw emission standards, bring it back and make it better than ever! Make an affordable R35 challenger, for a price tag closer to 50K and you have another legend on your hands, Toyota.
Filed Under: Car History • Car Opinions • Comparison • Dinan • Editorials • Enjuku Racing • HKS • List • Mazda • Mitsubishi • Modified cars • Nismo • Nissan • RX-7 • Subaru • Toyota • Underground Racing