Sunday, June 26, 2011

Throwback Cars

Times change, tastes change, popular attributes and features in personal vehicles change. Once-indefatigable SUVs fall out of favor, as smaller more fuel economic cars come back with a vengeance. But no matter what the current trends dictate, it seems that there’s always room for a stylish sports car. So yes, once-popular cars do get retired, but sometimes come back.

Inspired by the introduction of the new (no longer known as the "New Beetle") Beetle, we consulted Marty Padgett, Editorial Director for, for a list of comeback cars. See some of the biggest revivals below.

Chevrolet Camaro
Whether it’s a pony car or a muscle car, the Camaro has always been one cool ride. Well—almost always. “GM didn't even sell a Camaro from 2003 to 2009, but it stuck with plans to bring back the storied nameplate even through its difficult bankruptcy,” says Padgett.

The new resurrected Camaro comes in coupe, convertible, and hot SS versions. And as Padgett points out, this comeback kid is outselling the Ford Mustang this year.

Debuted: 1967
Returned: 2010
Current MSRP: $23,000 - $32,000
Fiat 500
The feisty Italian import Fiat 500 is returning to America with a 2012 model after a 27-year absence. “Not many drivers have fond memories of the Fiat brand, which evacuated America in the late 1970s, leaving behind bad memories of X1/9 sportscars that burned, and 124 roadsters that failed to light any fire,” observes Padgett

“While it's in charge at Chrysler these days, [the brand is] also bringing back its sprightly 500 minicar to the mix, with great fuel economy at just the right time in our automotive history.”

Debuted: 1957
Returned: 2012
Current MSRP: $16,000

Ford Explorer
The Explorer spent most of the past decade ducking scandal, after its Firestone tire recall debacle nearly killed the name in 2001. Padgett says the Explorer “limped along through a rather successful redesign in 2002, just in time for SUVs to fall out of favor.”

But now it's enjoying another revival in the Ford lineup, featuring some car components under its SUV-ish body. “It's never been better,” Padgett says, citing improved fuel economy, a new turbo four-cylinder for better gas mileage. The panel at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show agreed: they named it Truck of the Year.

Debuted: 1990
Returned: 2011
Current MSRP: $28,360

Buick Regal
“The Regal might bring back memories of the 1980s, of mullets and of turbo GNX versions,” says Padgett. Not so anymore!  The new Regal is one of the first products of post-bankruptcy GM.

“The Regal was supposed to be the next Saturn Aura,” Padgett explains. “Instead, it's a great redirect for the future of the Buick brand, with European handling and styling, and a new turbocharged, manual-transmission version to woo enthusiasts in need of four doors.”

Debuted: 1973
Returned: 2011
Current MSRP: $27,000

Ford Taurus
“It was the car that saved Ford in the mid-1980s, but by the late 1990s, the Taurus badge had lost its meaning, thanks to an overly ovoid redesign that gave up interior room and traditional good looks,” said Padgett. The Taurus was discontinued as of the 2007 model year.

The famous Taurus name returned when Ford debuted its large family sedan for the 2010 model year, as well as the SHO performance edition, which Padgett calls “a revival twofer that's brought domestic car shoppers back into the fold after all.”

Debuted: 1986
Returned: 2010
Current MSRP: $26,000 - $38,500

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
This luxury vehicle with its unmistakable gullwing is new to the States this year, but is the spiritual successor to a previous gullwinged Mercedes, the 300SL, which debuted in 1954.

“Mercedes-Benz wants you to know its latest supercar owes every inspiration to the racing gem that gave it timeless street cred in the 1950s,” said Padgett. “The new gullwing does indeed have doors that rise to the sky—along with some underpinnings that would have been the next Dodge Viper, if Chrysler and Daimler had made their marriage work.”

Debuted: 1954 (as the 300 SL)
Returned: 2011
Current MSRP: $183,000

Mini Cooper Countryman
This lesser-known Mini model, the Countryman, was called an estate car in the 1960s and sometimes featured exterior wood paneling. Fast forward a few decades and it’s now called a crossover SUV.

The new Countryman has some car-derived parts, means the Mini Cooper' range of four-cylinder and turbo-four engines. “Real off-road capability doesn't mean this is for trails only,” Padgett says. “The Countryman's handling does an uncanny job at mimicking that of the smaller Coopers.”

Debuted: 1961
Returned: 2011
Current MSRP: $21,650 - $26,950

Volkswagen Beetle
The classic Volkswagen Type 1 is still one of the most recognized cars in the world, although its heyday fell in the 1960s. New Beetles launched in 1998, and Volkswagen is introducing a new Beetle set to debut this fall, this one a bit more sleek in design with a navigation system and ambient interior lighting.

“In the 1990s, Volkswagen saw the way to fix its waning reputation: by bringing back some of its most famous badges in the U.S., where sales were hurting,” Padgett explains. “The Rabbit returned, only to once again become the Golf; the Microbus flirted with reality a couple of times, and still remains in limbo. But the Beetle returned, and for 2012 it's being completely revamped with an eye to capturing more male buyers by way of better performance and a tougher-looking exoskeleton.”

Debuted: 1938
Returned: 1998
Current MSRP: $19,500


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