Not Sold Here: Honda Beat

In today’s edition of Not Sold Here, we are featuring the Honda Beat. The Beat is a special class of super small vehicles for which there is no equivalent in the United States. Smaller than a subcompact, these cars are often called “kei cars” in Japan. I featured another Japanese vehicle, the Subaru Microvan, a few years ago. The difference is that the Subaru was actually imported to the U.S. while the Honda Beat was not.

I ran across this Honda Beat at the monthly Cars and Coffee gathering in Scottsdale. It is unbelievably small in person. Although it’s hard to visualize, the Honda Beat is nearly 10 inches narrower and 400 lbs lighter than the original Mazda Miata. It really is like a street legal go-kart. The philosophy behind these kei cars is to have small, efficient transportation for the narrow streets and crowded cities of Japan. As such, they were not designed to be particularly sporty. The inline 3-cylinder engine displaces 656 cc (40.0 cubic inches) and puts out a whopping 63 horsepower. The Honda Beat was only available with a 5-speed manual transmission.

There is a law in the United States that allows vehicles 25 years or older to be imported and driven on the roads, even though the vehicles do not meet US Federal crash test standards. This “show and display” law is the reason why you might be seeing more R32 Skylines and other right-hand drive Japanese vehicles at your favorite car shows. It is very likely that this Honda was imported under that same law.

About 34,000 of these cars were built during the production run from 1991 to 1996. It is unknown how many of them have made it to the U.S., but I’m certain the number is quite small. The car drew a huge number of curious onlookers at the show – much more than some of the brand new exotics and supercars that cost many times what this vehicle is worth.

This is a very unique car and I’m glad to have run across it at the Saturday Motorsports Gathering put on by Scuderia Southwest.

1988 Dodge Caravan SRT-4 Engine Swap

Though it may be hard to imagine a time when minivans were ever considered cool, that was certainly the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the era before SUVs and Crossovers, minivans were the hottest thing on the market. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and his friend Hal Sperlich had imagined a vehicle that would hold seven passengers, have removable seats for extra cargo space, and get better gas mileage than a full-size van. Their dream became a reality in 1983, and the new Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Horizon minivans sold like hotcakes with sales topping 200,000 units in the first year alone. For the next 25 years, no one sold more minivans in America than Chrysler.

But somewhere along the way, minivans became uncool. The SUV boom of the 2000s and the Crossover Craze yielded vehicles that offered much of the same functionality without the “soccer mom” stigma of a sliding door.

At a recent car show in Scottsdale, I saw a first-generation Dodge Caravan that really caught my eye. For starters, this was a car show that featured primarily European exotic and high-end supercars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. A 1988 Caravan with peeling paint definitely didn’t fit in with this crowd.

But as you might have guessed, this is no ordinary Caravan. This one has seen the original 2.5L 4-cylinder engine swapped out with a much more modern 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder from a 2004 Dodge SRT-4. Whereas the original engine made 100 horsepower, the new one puts out 230 horsepower in stock trim – but this one’s not stock.

With an AGP Zeta dual ball-bearing turbocharger, an air-to-water intercooler, upgraded fuel injectors, a MegaSquirt fuel management system, and a 3.5″ exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, this beast is putting down 305 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque at the wheels! Wow!

A spec sheet on the vehicle says it has run 12.6 in the quarter mile @ 111 mph on E85, 25 lbs of boost, and slicks. With a fast reaction time, that puts it on par with a base model C6 Corvette – for a lot less dough. It’s also been converted to 4-wheel disc brakes, with the front brakes and suspension from a 1995 Grand Caravan and the rear disc brakes from a 1993 Dodge Daytona R/T.

Part of why I love this van is because it pulls off the “sleeper” look quite well. The peeling paint and OEM-style wheels do not give any indication that this vehicle is actually quite fast, and the “Turbo” and “SRT” badges may be dismissed as purely ironic – until the turbo spools up and it blows your doors off.

The other reason why I love this van is that a long time ago, our family had a blue 1994 Caravan which I remember fondly. This was the era before dual sliding doors, power liftgates, and fold-flat seating. These old vans are super primitive by today’s standards, but the boxy design reminds me of my childhood.

I didn’t get to talk to the owner, but if you are reading this Mr. Caravan Owner, congrats on the awesome build.

1958 Ford Fairlane with 5.0L V8 Swap

1958-ford-fairlane-profileWe continue our series of engine swapped cars with this 1958 Ford Fairlane. This is a real classic cruiser from the era of whitewall tires and acres of chrome trim. I don’t know what the story was on the original motor, if it was underpowered or just not worth the cost to rebuild.

In either case, this car has been swapped to a 5.0L Ford small block from a Fox-body Mustang! It makes me wonder if this car was restored sometime in the 1990s or early 2000s. Based on this engine, I would guess the car was done before 2005 when the S197 platform made its debut. I particularly like the black painted intake manifold. Continue reading

Ballin’ on a Budget: Bentley Continental GTC Replica

chrysler-bentley-profileThe name Bentley carries with it a certain prestige for luxury and craftsmanship. A Bentley owner is a person of power, wealth, and influence. But what if you cannot afford $212,500 for a car? Well, you can always do the next best thing: drive a replica.

I was quite intrigued with this car, which I spotted at Cars and Coffee. It looked like a 2006-present Bentley Continental GTC, but it was for sale for just $29,500. Even with a salvage title, a real Bentley would sell for more than that. What was the deal?

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1971-1975 Opel Manta

opel-manta-frontIn the United States, there are stereotypes associated with drivers of certain types of cars.

For example, if you drive an air-cooled Volkswagen, people may assume you are a hippie. If you drive a BMW, people will assume you are both affluent and inconsiderate – the type of driver who would change lanes without signaling. And finally, if you drive a Honda Civic or other “tuner” car, you might be associated with street racing punks.

I have recently learned that such car/driver stereotypes are not unique to the U.S. In fact, there’s a popular one in Germany about Opel Manta drivers: that they are dull, lower-class, macho guys who drive aggressively, love their cars, and have a blonde girlfriend who works as a hairdresser.

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1969 Opel GT 1.1L Coupe

1969-opel-gt-frontToday’s post is about an interesting little car from Opel, the German arm of General Motors. The Opel GT was a small, sporty car with an inline 4-cylinder engine that was produced from 1968 to 1973.

There were two engine choices available: a 1.1L engine and a larger 1.9L engine. The 1.1L engine made 67 horsepower and 62 lb-ft of torque and was coupled to a 4-speed manual. The 1.9L engine could be ordered with an optional 3-speed automatic transmission if desired. Buyers overwhelmingly chose the larger motor, causing Opel to discontinue the 1.1L engine after 1970.

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Burton Car: Citroen 2CV Kit Car

burton-car-rearKit cars are a particularly interesting niche of the automotive world, and we write about them often here on Generation High Output. At a local car show, I spotted a car that I’d never seen before – a Burton!

A quick Internet search revealed that Burton is an automobile manufacturer in the Netherlands. The company was founded in 1993 by Dimitri and Iwan Göbel – brothers with a shared passion for automobiles. Their main product is a two-seat, two-door roadster based on the Citroen 2CV. The 2CV is one of the most-produced cars of all time and is renowned and beloved for its utter simplicity and reliability.

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2014 Lamborghini Aventador LP 720-4 50 Anniversario

2014 is a very special year because it is the 50th Anniversary of Lamborghini. To celebrate the occasion, the company has produced a limited run of “50th Anniversary” Aventador models. Just 200 cars are to be produced – 100 coupes and 100 roadsters. This particular car is #47 of 100.

The Aventador LP 720-4 50 Anniversario edition has the same 6.5L V12 engine as the standard Aventador, though power has been bumped up from 690 to 710 HP thanks to a new engine calibration.

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