It wasn’t long after I started selling cars that I had come to learn the difference between American, Asian and European craftsmanship. Long before I got my first car I was stunned by the looks of the ’79 Camaro and almost every mustang ever produced (the Mustang II included). Awestruck by the build quality and expense of my dad’s old Mercedes-Benz and ultimately impressed with the balance of those qualities found in Hondas and Toyotas of the mid 80s. Even to this day the current products from most of the auto makers that spawned those very vehicles and eventually nurtured my enthusiasm for the automobile still stoke the fires of my imagination today.
So powerful was this need to have cars in my life that I decided I would sell them. Eventually I became a new car salesperson for a Mitsubishi dealership where I watched the Mitsubishi Employee propaganda video. I use that term jokingly because as I found out, Mitsubishi has been in the automotive manufacturing business since 1917 starting with the release of its very own Model A. It became Japans first series production automobile. The most interesting fact though of this video was the target market for the ’00-’05 Eclipse. Initially I could not understand why they were targeting Mustang owners.
Could there be two more different vehicles to compare, a 150 bhp Single-Overhead-Cam 2.4L 4 Cylinder and a 205 bhp Dual-Overhead-Cam 3.0L 6 Cylinder. Yes, a Front-Engine Front-Wheel-Drive coupe built on a Chrysler ST-22 Platform had firmly crushed any desire I had once had to own any ford product, let alone a Mustang.
To completely understand why I get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see a Ford product I first have to go back to where it all began. In December of 1979 I decided that it was time to great the word at Alexian Brothers Hospital in my native San Jose, California. Some 2,063 Miles away the first brand spanking new Fox Body Mustang rolled off the assembly line at Fords plant in Dearborn Michigan. It continued to roll off the assembly line until 2004. Yes while the rest of the world was moving along, Ford decided that all it would change was the body style it laid over that structure.
Now at this point I’m obligated to bring up a very important point about one of the greatest cars of all time in my opinion, the Nissan 240SX. What’s really important about that vehicle is this. The First Generation S13, produced from 1989 to 1994, as well as the Second Generation S14 produced from 1995 to 1998, were both built on the Nissan S platform. Why do I love 240SX and develop Turrets on sight when it comes to the Mustang?
The 240SX completely outclasses the Mustang for one reason. The S platform the 240SX was built on was purposefully designed to roll out a sporty vehicle to the masses. The platform selected for the Fox Body was not. It first saw service in 1978 as the underpinnings for both the Ford Fairmont and Mercury’s Zephyr and Ford decided, like most American manufacturers of the day, that it would be cheaper to simply slap another body on and fit a really nice small block under the hood. So even as a new vehicle in 1979, the Fox Body Mustang was somewhat of a hand-me-down. Like the Star Wars T-Shirt that for whatever reason is still in your dresser drawer even though it’s still a size of two too small.
Pontiac is currently doing a similar thing with the Solstice. Many savvy auto buyers know that the Kappa platform that holds the Solstice body is the same for the Saturn Sky. What many might not know is that the sky is simply a rebadged Opel GT. Pontiac has taken it a step further. Anyone who is a fan of the GTO should take a look at the Holden Monaro. Like the Pontiac G8? It’s based on the Holden Commodore.
In recent years this has been more of a stroke of genius than affliction of sub-par decision making. As auto makers bottom lines become more and more financially troubled it has become important for car makers to think this way. However where Ford uses a singular platform to build multiple cars, many are now realizing that one platform on one model can be used globally and actually sell. You can thank the Subaru WRX for that. A car on the market for years in Japan and Europe that was finally allowed to come to US shores. When it did, sales were massive, which encouraged Mitsubishi to do the same with its Lancer Evolution line.
Thanks to the brilliant minds responsible, we now have vehicles like the Nissan 370Z, Toyota’s Yaris, Hondas Fit and the ultimate in affordable supercars the GT-R. It seems that some manufacturers word-wide have finally heard the voice of their customers and responded with exactly what they want. If only American manufacturers could have gotten the message a little sooner.