Ten Cars We Want Back

Automobile Staff
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Jeep Comanche

GONE SINCE: 1993

WHY IT'S TIME: America needs a reasonably sized pickup truck again. We've watched the Toyota Tacoma morph from a smallish truck to something almost as big as a half-ton. Meanwhile, Ford, a brand synonymous with pickups, recently abandoned the segment completely. Jeep is the only brand that can get away with a back-to-basics pickup in its portfolio, and basing the pickup on the next-generation Wrangler makes a ton of sense. The Comanche was affordable, had very respectable payload ratings, and never succumbed to the size creep that essentially killed the small-pickup segment. For a modern interpretation, a turbo four-cylinder from Fiat would give the Comanche enough power to haul cargo without swilling too much gasoline. Keep the options list limited to functional upgrades, and make sure it's offered straight from the assembly line instead of through a complicated Mopar kit, a la JK-8.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The only way to curb America's appetite for oversize trucks is to offer a credible small truck that actually uses less fuel than a full-size.


Alfa Romeo Spider

GONE SINCE:

WHY IT'S TIME: If America is ever to take Alfa Romeo seriously again, it isn't going to be from some front-wheel-drive hatchbacks with pretty styling. It's not going to be from ultraexpensive exotics or from BMW-wannabe sport sedans. And crossovers? Get real. For Americans, the Spider is Alfa Romeo, and any attempt to bring back Alfa that does not feature a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive, rev-happy roadster is doomed to fail. Positioned just above the Mazda Miata but below pricey European roadsters like the BMW Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Spider would reestablish Alfa's credentials as a maker of characterful, fun-to-drive, sporting machines (or simply establish them, for the whole generation of car buyers who never experienced the original Spider). A proper Spider is the basis around which Alfa can expand into higher-volume categories. It's a car we want, but it's also one that Alfa needs.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Message for Sergio Marchionne regarding Alfa Romeo in the United States: It's the Spider, stupid.


Toyota Supra

GONE SINCE: 2003 (1999 in the U.S.)

WHY IT'S TIME: Akio Toyoda's vision to redeem his family name is fairly straightforward: build sports cars, reignite passion for the brand, wash away the banality. It all made sense to us -- until the company's four-year collaboration with Subaru to produce a minimalist, 200-hp, rear-wheel-drive coupe ended up as a Scion.With the low end covered by the FR-S, a slightly larger, more powerful, and pricier car -- a Supra -- is Toyota's ticket out from passenger-car monotony. A $35,000, six-cylinder Supra hits the sweet spot of the sports car market, rekindling the Z-Car rivalry with Nissan and competing against Hyundai's Genesis coupe and the Detroit pony car trio. The obligatory turbo model faces off with the V-8 competition and serves as fodder for the inevitable 1500-hp tuner specials. One important detail: a Camry engine won't cut it. If Toyota's commitment to the enthusiast is legitimate, it'll line up all six cylinders in a single row.

THE BOTTOM LINE: There's plenty of room between a $25,000 Scion and a $375,000 Lexus for a Toyota sports car.

Chevrolet El Camino

GONE SINCE: 1988

WHY IT'S TIME: Forget for a moment the mighty 1970 El Camino 454 SS. Forget its 450 hp, 11.25:1 compression ratio, and four-speed manual transmission. Remember instead the far more common six-cylinder, 155-hp El Camino. In an era before $4-a-gallon gas, global-warming worries, and CAFE regulations, this humble El Camino offered carlike efficiency in a cheap, hard-working truck. Now consider the Ute, marketed by GM subsidiary Holden in Australia. With its 3.0-liter V-6, it tows 3500 pounds and achieves the equivalent of about 24 mpg. Those figures would, we suspect, impress many individuals and small businesses. How can Chevrolet, as it tries to meet tougher fuel standards, afford not to sell such a vehicle? Of course, as long as we're saving the planet, we might as well have some fun. Again, our friends Down Under provide inspiration in the form of the 362-hp Ute SS. That's more power than a vehicle with barely any weight over its rear tires ever needs, but we'll assume Chevrolet would do better than that by installing the Camaro ZL1's 580-hp, 6.2-liter V-8.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Carlike fuel economy, trucklike utility, Camaro-like burnouts. What's not to like?


Buick Riviera

GONE SINCE: 1974

WHY it's time: Buick currently fields its most competent lineup in decades. Reclaiming its place as a luxury contender, though, will take more than front-wheel-drive sedans and crossovers. Buick needs style, glamour, and performance. In other words, it needs a Riviera. Not, mind you, the generic models of the late 1970s and '80s or the overwrought, front-wheel-drive concept the brand rolled out at the 2007 Shanghai auto show. We're talking about a dashing, understated coupe in the spirit of the 1963 original -- stylish and sophisticated enough to be parked next to European coupes and yet accessible to the upper-middle-class buyer. Buick could come close to the original's price -- roughly $35,000 in today's money -- by using the rear-wheel-drive architecture that underpins the Chevrolet Camaro. Those bones would guarantee a capable performer, but the "Riv" need not be a sports car. Wearing a modern interpretation of Bill Mitchell's clean styling, which, by the way, did without faux portholes or an oversize waterfall grille, the Riviera would offer buyers a comfortable, distinctly American alternative to the likes of the BMW 6-series and the Mercedes-Benz E-class coupe.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Never mind German sport sedans and premium small cars; Buick needs an all-American Riviera.

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RickJamesMemphis
YES!! Bring the Prelude back!!
WaterBuffaloBill
You hit the nail on the head with the Riviera Redux - but picked the wrong year. while Bill Mitchell's Sixties design was cool for its time, my 1995 Riv is much more contemporary and still looks good today. The 95-98 cars are a designing masterpiece in my eyes. It's also surprisingly good handling for such a large car (ask the guy in the 5 eries BMW on the exit ramp that was riding my tail until the turns came a few days ago). It still gets 29 MPG on the highway too! The only thing it lacks is a 6 speed manual and RWD to make it perfect. Stick with a 3/4 scale version with a supercharged V6 on the Camaro platform, and you'd have a real winner. I'd love to see an AMC AMX revival too by the way. Maybe give it to the JEEP division (hey, JEEP was part of AMC, right?).
USARMP
Well Chrysler needs to first release AMC so that we can get the last of the great muscle cars back...The AMC Javelin. Not to mention that it is a good time for the United States to have a brand which sells (nearly) all all-wheel drive cars such as the late Eagle SX4 and Spirit (With AMX models available of course). Another for GM to bring back would be the Fiero...A Mid engined car with a lot of potential, the old SE model could become a hybrid, great for young business people commuting, then the GT could come back for the more performance oriented.GM should also bring the Astra back to American shores, as GM needs a good hatchback to compete against the Ford Focus and VW GTI.Finally, all companies need to have manual transmissions available on all trim levels.I hope I'm not being too unrealistic in my desires.
JUSTWINGINGIT
I'd have to say that a close modern day reiteration of the 1987 Buick Grand National or GNX would be fantastic! Just saw one rolling down the road the other day and i have to say that considering it's age it's still easy on the eyes and how great would Buick's six cylinder be today both showroom version and of course the inevitable super tuner versions. I also have to agree with the earlier comments regarding the honda CRX,Honda really should have offered a hybrid only model and the peppier CRX model not the all in one combo they tried to pass off as the best of both worlds.
ssco00
The Probe GT may not be on this list, but a dark metallic red 1994 model is in my garage. It still goes around intersections like a slot car. That said, by far the best driving car I have ever owed was the 1986 Merkur XR4Ti. It is the only car I have ever had that actually communicated with you and let you know just what it was doing. It also had an endearing feature I have experienced only on a couple other German cars. At a higher speed, 85mph for the Merkur, it hunkered down to the road and became super stable, even in a gusting cross wind, going just where it was pointed.I am sure no American manufacturer will ever make such as product. The best we can hope for is for one to import a car as Ford did with the Merkur. The problem is that Americans do not appreciate such vehicles and don't buy them when available. Most of the cars people speak of so longingly were really terrible vehicles.
abutcher
Buick Riviera has been gone since 1999, not 1974. The 4th generation 1974 model was built until 1976.
slideman12
I really want my '64 Pontiac Tempest back. It was a special ordered four door, with bucket seats (unheard of in those days), a four speed hurst stick on the floor, and a 326 V8. Fantastic ride. Would love to have it back, new today.
racerpgt
There must be some mistake. The Ford Probe GT isn't on this list.
JohnAshman
I suggest two others aside from the Microbus for VW.1. A new Karmann Ghia. Call it a "G2" since Ford owns the name. 2. A new Thing or "T2". Jeep needs some competition and there's just something super cool about that design. Another car, more boring, would be the Dodge Colt/Mitsubish whatever it was. A tiny minivan well ahead of its time. And imagine a new Microbus as a hybrid with a small engine in back, just like the original and the whole bread box design, mainly as a city commuter or even taxi. Not as safe as having a big engine in front of you, but for city use, it's cool.
johnweythek
My prelude is STILL exhilerating at 20 years and 240k miles. ALL revs and old school, kick in the pants, VTEC! 200hp and a limited slip give you fun for miles at 25mpg even with its age and my aggressive driving. It's all fun then it's a little understeer to tell you to back off the fun pedal a bit. Beautifully balanced. When it was introduced it beat all other new production cars of that year in the slalom. It's city driving at its sportiest and most practical.I also agree with Daye about the CRX, i was SURE my next car would be a CRZ until they said it was a hybrid. so sad.
awoieweygpoiawupgiawuyg2349087t9ye8gaweg
Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo Charged Model.260 HP/ 260 lb-ft with an incredible suspension for only $25,0000 when equipped. When tested by Car and Driver, it out performed cars costing more than $10,000 more.
Daye
Honda needs to bring back the CRX even more than it needs to bring back the Prelude. Honda should never have killed it off. It was and still is an icon. An unmistakable, funky, and fun little car that could bring a smile to your face.
American_n_Proud
Lincoln really does need a real Continental and while they are at Lincoln could use a new (style aware) Mark VII.

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