A beautiful early-fall evening, and the Ninkasi Brewery’s outdoor patio beckons. We walk there, but others drive their sports cars, like this somewhat disparate duo. We’ve had a big MG fest here recently, but the contrast of its low and horizontal lines makes quite the contrast to the Z’s tall and chunky body. How’s that working for you?
CC Outtake: The Changing Profiles Of Roadsters
– Posted on October 4, 2012
…Not so well.
I have no special love for Ye Olde British Roadster–no more so than any other classic car–but the Nissan just looks awkward. The new Z-car looks okay as a coupe, from certain angles at least, but the convertible…no so much.
I’m not a fan of 21st century car design, and this picture illustrates my point quite well. The newer car just has a bloated look to it. Of course, in real life we have to take the good with the bad; the Z car would have it all over the MG by any rational measurement, except perhaps gas mileage. Most importantly, no Lucas Electrics bugaboos in the Z. But that MG just has that classic profile!
As someone else pointed out in another comment thread here, nobody makes a small car anymore; they just make large cars that are shaped to look like small cars.
And even the large cars aren’t that large anymore–everything is gradually converging around one midsized, amorphous blob of a car design and a slightly different amorphous CUV.
I cant rememeber what auto writer stated in a column bank in like 1990, by 2002 automakers will come up with a car that will be to small for large car buyers, and to large for small car buyers, it will ride to hard for comfort seeking buyers, but be to soft for sport aimed buyers…
Its true though, back in the era of that MG for example the size range from a small car to large car was enormus, think about a Fiat or a Honda 600 coupe vis a vis against an Electra 225 or Fleetwood Brougham?
The first POS actually makes the MG actually look inviting. This new Z blob is the ugliest vehicle I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It replaced the new Maxima….which replaced the new Altima…but I’m sure Nissan will probably create something even nastier…..I don’t know how they do it…
What’s the point in a convertible top on that blob anyway? You’d get more air in an older T-top or targa top vehicle. Gag.
Z’s replace Z’s. Those other cars aren’t part of this evolutionary chain
He wasn’t referring to replacing it in the model line up, but replacing it as the ugliest vehicle he’s seen.
Nothing tops the Juke. It looks like they let Karl Childers take over the design studio
The Juke mostly gets a pass while people still grill the Aztek, I know the Aztek is terrible, but I mean common, Element, Juke, Crosstour, and your late model abomination here, lets call a spade a spade.
The 370Z is a slight improvement, but if it’s the 350Z that you’re referring to, then I agree 100% on its awfulness. It’s just an ugly, bulbous blob and at least style-wise, not a worthy successor to the Z legacy.
Nissan/Datsun went from copies of English cars to their own designs and it worked for a while but the ugly stick gets waved too often now and that putrid Z is just one awful example.
Good thing the Miata/MX-5 is still carrying the classic roadster flame.
I recently noticed a Miata parked next to a late-model Taurus. Now that would have been a good CC Caption picture to take.
A comparison between the ‘B and a current Miata would have been more apt – but if you consider that the current Z is supposedly the descendant of the Datsun Roadster of the ’60s, this picture makes sense…
How about that, we parked right there last week, when we had dinner at Izakaya Meiji on our way back to Portland from Cal. We sat outside right next to a retractable-hardtop Miata. I started making snarky remarks to Lily about its hunchback rear end and she shut me up. “They might hear you!”
This 370Z Roadster looks like a retractable, and I was about to go off on hunchbacks again, but I see it’s a soft-top. Didja know it weighs 3500 pounds? Anyway, I don’t like that fat-assed look either. And hunchbacked retractables are a curse.
Didja know it weighs 3500 pounds?
Sadly it looks like it weighs 4500.
Izakaya Mejii: One of our favorite eating spots. That and a new little sushi spot nearby that is amazing; but it has no sign anywhere; you have to know about it.
Yes, we liked it quite a bit. We just found it on Yelp when we realized we wouldn’t get home in time for dinner. Wish we’d had more time to visit – 13 hours door to door that day.
Neither the 350Z nor the new 370Z look good as convertibles however I find the coupe versions of both to be attractive, especially the 370Z. They are original and distinctive designs, a blast to drive and for the price you can’t beat them.
When you think about it it’s amazing the new 370 is really just an Infiniti G35 sedan underneath. You can see some of the sedan lineage in the rear structure of the 350 pictured above. That platform sharing is what allows Nissan to price the Z as low as it has.
The MG benefits from dedicated convertible architecture and of course does not have to meet any of the modern safety regs. A comparison between the Porsche Boxster and 914 would show similar bloat.
Closed cars have been evolving towards tall rear ends for aerodynamic efficiency, aka gas mileage (or electric range). An unfortunate situation for the sedan-derived roadster. Makes a purpose-built roadster all the more attractive.
I was going to say that there would be pressure for trunk space, even with the top folded.
Yeah, a number of modern convertibles really look like afterthoughts. Of course, that’s also true of some period convertibles and cabriolets (with vintage roadsters, it’s the hardtop version that looks like an afterthought — the MGA coupe being a prime example), but not as frequently.
This week’s vid on http://www.jaylenosgarage.com is about the Z car and its evolution… Jay basically says they got it right once and…well, he sits with a designer trying to make a change to the design for the ‘revival’ of the 240 next year… I fear it will be another amorphous blob, though good on Jay for trying…
On the one hand, I’ve always found traditional British roadsters and their imitators to be comically (and, on the highway, terrifyingly) small. Just today, I saw I saw a 1st generation Miata (with the bolt-on hardtop!) on the my highway slog to work. It looks tiny compared to everything surrounding it. But this Nissan, at least in coupe form, actually seems rationally-sized to me. I believe it’s actually slightly smaller than the previous 350Z.
Conversely, this Z looks absolutely hideous as a roadster. So did every Z before it. Fastback sports cars do not lend themselves well to top-ectomies. The high-beltline trend in modern automobile styling only exacerbates this; you simply look stupid driving a convertible when all onlookers can see your head.
But then, give the demographic that usually buys cars like this and the Corvette, and their propensity for waistlines so high that they can tuck their neckties into their pants, maybe the styling of these cars makes sense.
+1 on trying to make a roadster off of a hatch structure, they never look right.
The 350Z was smaller than the 90-96 300ZX (a great car) and the 370Z is smaller than the 350Z.
On the freeway in my 1st-gen Miata this morning, I passed a Nash Metropolitan! (CC here) That looked tiny to me, and dangerous too, he wasn’t quite keeping up with traffic.
Old MGs are wonderful, but I’d sure hate to get in a serious accident in one. Not a daily driver in any case. My ’93 Miata is modern enough that it has good crash protection: computer-engineered crush zones, an air bag, etc. It feels perfectly safe to me. (Lily too, who’d divorce me if I ever showed up on a motorcycle.)
A web forum commenter with access to IIHS data said 2001-2004 Miatas scored 66 driver deaths per million vehicle years, vs. overall fleet average of 79.
I agree with you, the days of chopping the top off a coupe and getting a sleek convertible or roadster are long gone.
“Old MGs are wonderful, but I’d sure hate to get in a serious accident in one. Not a daily driver in any case. My ’93 Miata is modern enough that it has good crash protection: computer-engineered crush zones, an air bag, etc.”
I was lucky enough to walk away from a pretty serious accident in an MGB similar to the one pictured back in the ’80s. The unibody on these things was pretty strong, and provided a surprising amount of protection in an accident. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the MGB was one of the first cars with crumple zones as well. An NA Miata would probably be a bit safer with an airbag and some newer technology, but neither would be particularly crashworthy compared to a modern car – there’s some upside to all that bloat.
A Miata would be a better daily driver though – all cars got a lot easier to live with once carburetors and distributors went away…
I’m glad to hear that, especially that you were OK!
I’ve got a bucket list item to do the Blue Ridge Parkway with my Father in a TR3 or MGB or Sunbeam Alpine.
I don’t think it’s on Dad’s bucket list though. Maybe have to enlist my son DerekD..
I drove a first gen version of this Z, not a roadster, a manual base coupe, its a pleasant driving car, not attractive, interesting for sure, there are some neat styling touches, you can almost get a slight wiff of…Frenchness, the clean gauge pods sticking out the dash with the hidden radio, clean and slick, but there was an underlying cheapness in the materials and hollow sounds of the pastics.
Size is relative. My first car was a Bug Eye Sprite. The second was a new 1962 MGA. You think a Miata is small, try mixing in with the behemouths of the fifties and early sixties in one of those. I learned early to drive those cars like I was riding a motorcycle. Everyone else on the road is actively trying to kill you. Head on a swivel, check six contantly, and watch driveways and side streets like a hawk. Stay out of 18 wheelers blind spots. Matter of fact I drive that way no matter what I am driving. An SUV is small compared to an 18 wheeler too. So, get in your small car and enjoy it. Just pay attention to what is going on around you and it’s all good.
Excellent handle! Tan leather, the best.
I really have never understood the “pay extra-special attention while driving small cars” thing. I have no interest in being involved in a traffic collision in any context, so I’m equally careful and attentive no matter what I’m drivng. Or riding.
Lucas Electrics or not I’d rather have the MG. I won’t buy any vehicle that I can’t stand looking at.
People buy what gets built. “Corporate” builds what sells. We are so close to perpetual motion.
“Lucas Electrics or not I’d rather have the MG”
As a long term MG owner, I don’t think the actual Lucas components are that bad – they’re probably not materially worse than Delco, Bosch, or Nippon Denso components of the same era.
The wiring harnesses that tie everything together are another matter: No fuses to protect important circuits, weird grounding schemes, no relays for switching high current devices like headlamps, etc. Plus the newest MGs are now over 30 years old, so all those “lucar” connectors have had plenty of time to corrode, and there’s a good chance the original wiring harness might have been cut by someone trying to install an 8-Track player back in 1978.
The good news is the electrical systems on these cars is simple enough that electrical faults are easy to troubleshoot, replacement parts are readily available, and fuses and relays can be added where appropriate to improve the reliability of the electrical system.
“…I won’t buy any vehicle that I can’t stand looking at… People buy what gets built. “Corporate” builds what sells. We are so close to perpetual motion.”
I think older cars used to reflect the personalities of the people that created them, and the values of the cultures of the countries they came from.
These days the costs of introducing a new car are so high that the companies can’t afford to take many chances with a new design. Since there are so many regulations, and everyone now has access to the same technology and parts supply chain, everyone ends up at more or less the same place.
The result is today’s anodyne appliances that are better than ever by any objective measure, but lack individual character. This is especially true for mainstream cars – is there any material difference between a new Malibu, Camry, or Passat? At least some niche vehicles still have a distinctive character, like the Miata, Wrangler, Corvette, etc.
tl;dr: I dislike convertibles, so I don’t like either car here; but I like where modern car design is going, and classic late 60s-90s design sucks (with a few notable exceptions).
In defense of 21st Century Car Design: The car is not heavy or large because of imaginary `bloat’. It is a solid hunk of steel and composite that surrounds you behind a metal wall of safety. The waistline is so high to protect you from side-impact collisions, and the engine very powerful to get you quickly out of tight spots, the brakes so advanced to help you reign in the power of the engine. Trust Nissan, if there was any bloat they would have removed it as it saved cost. There is probably not a screw on that car that is unnecessary. You may not like the shape of the car, but that is a personal preference, not shared by many others
My personal preference: I don’t like convertibles at all. If I had to face the blistering sun, pouring rain, eat the dust, smoke of the road and deafen myself with road noise, I’d run a motorcycle. At least that is *fun*. I’ve done all of the above in 50s vintage cars still being sold in India upto the nineties, and a nice isolation capsule of a modern car is a (very) welcome change. Not to mention the complete lack of rollover protection in the convertible. Hence I dislike both the cars. Give me hardtops any time.
Aerodynamics: As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m a big fan of automotive aerodynamics and highly efficient drivetrains. Hence I’m a big fan of the first aero-wave of the thirties, streamline moderne, and art deco. The ideal car shape in my mind is: tall for good headroom and a commanding view, small glass area to keep out the pesky sun, and short front and (especially) rear overhangs, and wide enough for two passengers to sit very comfortably while able to accommodate three. This results in a large drag area (think Gen1 Xb), and calls for drastic aero-measures to cut down the drag coefficient, resulting in a car like Tjaarda’s Lincoln Zephyr prototype. Pure gold. Modern cars are again approaching that ideal-dimensioned car with good aerodynamics, and I applaud designers for it.
“I don’t like convertibles at all. If I had to face the blistering sun, pouring rain, eat the dust, smoke of the road and deafen myself with road noise, I’d run a motorcycle. At least that is *fun*. I’ve done all of the above in 50s vintage cars still being sold in India upto the nineties, and a nice isolation capsule of a modern car is a (very) welcome change.”
Interesting perspective! Most of the cars I rode in while growing up could be considered “Isolation Capsules”, and I find small convertibles a welcome change.
That said, isolation capsules have their place – especially for long highway drives. Convertibles make the most sense as a second or third vehicle for running around town on a nice day, or leisurely tours of back roads.
Convertible joy on a beautiful day in the woods or an interesting downtown is like nothing else. Much safer than a motorcycle (my uncle was killed on his bike by a drunk in a blind corner). In places like Oregon where the weather is less than perfect most of the time, a bright sunny day in the fresh Pacific air is always appreciated best with the top down.
We took the Miata to the coast recently, about two hours each way through Oregon’s coast range. Marvelous. Though I must say after two hours my ears were ringing and I felt generally overstimulated. And we couldn’t bring the dogs.
We drove to Cal. and back weekend before last, 13 hours each way, the scenic route through the redwoods. Let’s take the Miata? No way. Our 2010 Prius “isolation chamber” is ideal for the long road trip, quiet, comfortable, fast and 47mpg. (Miata only gets high 20s mpg – classic convertible shapes have bad aerodynamics, in spite of their low frontal area and light weight.)
> Our 2010 Prius “isolation chamber” is ideal for the long road trip, quiet, comfortable, fast and 47mpg.
Hmm, why does everyone think there isn’t a market for A-segment cars in US? A Chevrolet/Daewoo Spark will handily give better mileage while being almost as safe (even though smaller) and much cheaper to buy and run? A Spark diesel will easily win the mileage sweepstakes without resorting to the econobox crap stuff. I’m talking > 16kmpl city (petrol) to > 25 kmpl hwy (diesel). And non hybrid too.
I can assure (as a driver of a gen1 Xb) that most A-Segment (and B-Segment) cars are hardly “isolation chambers” on the freeways. My Xb is way too noisy; never mind the harsh ride. The Prius is in a whole different league that way. I’m beginning to dread longer trips in my tea canister.
Oh, but I thought people were longing for smaller, harsher cars like the older Civics and Turdcels. 🙂 The newer A-segmenters are head-and-shoulders above the old penalty boxes, and not just in ride height. But you’re right about the current larger cars being very much better in road isolation than smaller cars. In this country with dense population and crazy traffic, it is common to use a large car solely for highway trips, while keeping a micro for less stressful city driving.
I second that. I love my Honda Fit (Jazz elsewhere) but have pretty much stopped taking it on trips of over, say, 1 hour. The seat is hard, the ride is hard, and it is noisy. A higher 6th gear might help, but who knows. Since getting our Kia Sedona a year ago, it has become the out-of-town driver of choice, as it is so much more relaxing over a long stretch.