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Auto blogWed, 20 Nov 2013 16:39:00 EST
When last we checked in on our topless would-be hero, the Toyota FT-86 convertible had been reportedly placed on "indefinite hold." That was back in early October, not long after Toyota had trotted out the rear-wheel-drive canvasback to Scion dealers as a possible future product carrot if they decided not to turn in their franchises. And yet, we're here at the Tokyo Motor Show, where Toyota has taken the time to at least repaint the FT-86 Open Concept in "Flash Red," if not build a whole other car (the original Geneva showcar was white). It's enough to make our heads spin like a teenager on the verge of a breakup. Will they? Won't they?
At this point, we still don't know any more than you do - the last word we heard out of Toyota was not encouraging, although the story was that the program could still be fast-tracked if management had a change of heart. As the car has never been seen before in Japan, perhaps Toyota is merely extending its domestic audience a courtesy view before it lines this showcar in mothballs, or maybe they're still trying to make a decision on its fate and gauging public reaction on the homefront.
Interestingly, in a new story published today, Automotive News quotes Subaru brand boss Yasuyuki Yoshinaga downplaying the likelihood of a production model, saying flatly "We make the car, so if we don't make it, it can't happen." The executive went on to note, "Our engineering department told me that losing the entire roof requires a complete redesign of the structure. It would need a big change." Given that such a car would probably trade in rather small volumes, that sounds like a significant hurtle.
The Subaru Brat is the automotive equivalent of a teenager with a mullet: weird, a little reckless but brimming with enough self-confidence to make it cool.
The Brat came from Subaru's desire to compete in the burgeoning light pickup market of the late-1970s. To get around the so-called Chicken Tax that added a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks, Subaru threw two seats in the bed, which technically allowed it to be classified it as a passenger car. The result was a great, weird combination of a complete lack of safety, with a low price and lots of driving fun.
In the video below, Motor Trend's Johnny Lieberman takes a 1978 Brat through the desert and shows just how much fun a little pickup can be.
It happens all the time. We get excited about a really attractive Subaru concept, and then the production car comes out and, well, "disappointed" isn't a strong enough word. (Compare that hot Impreza concept to the final production car.) So while we're hopeful that this new Legacy concept previews something sleek for Subaru, allow us to be fully on record as not getting our hopes up.
Anyway, let's talk about how good this car looks. From the front, comparisons to the Buick Regal GS are warranted, but from all other angles, it has a very four-door coupe-like shape. The concept rides on 21-inch wheels with bulging wheel arches that Subaru says hints at the car's all-wheel-drive system (standard Subaru fare, BRZ aside).
As for what exactly this concept previews, the safe guess is, of course, the next-generation Legacy midsize sedan. And while we'll keep our fingers crossed for a sweet-looking production sedan to come out of Fuji Heavy in the near future, it's safe to say we're still skeptical.