Sometimes a look back can offer the best way forward. Here are some of our favorite classic cars that deserve a second act.
A big part of car fandom is looking back at the great cars of yesteryear. In recent years, car companies have taken this fact to heart and begun recycling venerable nameplates like the Bronco, Integra, Hummer, and more to capitalize on the public’s nostalgia. And the Chevy Blazers of the world aside, it’s largely worked out well. Since reboots are the current de rigueur for automotive design, we thought we’d make a few suggestions of cars that deserve a second chance.
The GMC Typhoon and related GMC Syclone were low-key Ferrari beaters. If the name of the nostalgia game is to cash in on the memories of automotive days gone-by, a revamp of the Typhoon and/or Syclone could be perfect for car buying Millennials with disposable cash. And since speed is the goal here, why not lend the new Typhoon/Syclone the Hummer EV’s Ultium platform. The Hummer EV is pretty darn fast already, especially considering it weighs 9,000-lbs., so just imagine that kind of power on a mid-size truck intent on embarrassing supercars. Sounds almost as silly as the original 4.3L turbo V6 beating Ferraris.
Recently, the Toyota FJ Cruiser has seen its price on the aftermarket take a significant jump (the FJ Cruiser was discontinued in back 2014). Sure, you can modify a Tacoma or 4Runner into an overlanding all-star with relative ease, but the FJ Cruiser adds a heap of funky charm to serious off-road capabilities. It sounds like the FJ’s resurgent popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by Toyota. Among a slew of new EVs concepts was the Compact Cruiser EV, a small-ish crossover with looks clearly designed after the original FJ Cruiser. We’re hopeful Toyota sees fit to bring this concept to market, but also that they do so with FJ Cruiser’s legacy in mind. The Rivian R1T has shown that EVs can make for excellent off-road vehicles, and we’d like to see the new FJ Cruiser EV to aim squarely at that target. Imagine Toyota’s version of Ford’s Bronco revamp, but instead of the Bronco Raptor, we have an overpowered FJ Cruiser EV with a trophy truck suspension.
It’s hard not to wax poetic about the singular yet too often misunderstood genius that was the Dodge Magnum. Today, America has left the uber-wagon game to ze Germans, with everything from the Taycan Cross Turismo to Mercedes-Benz E63 perfectly marrying speed and family friendly cargo space. If, as Dodge has said, they’re giving the V8 one last hurrah before diving full steam (full voltage?) into electrification, why not give the Magnum one last shot at V8 greatness? Who needs another Hellcat Durango when we could have a Hellcat Magnum?
The return of the light pickup is upon us. The Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick show us the market is there for right-sized trucks and there’s a brand with not one but two classic names in light trucks due for revival. The Subaru Brat and Baja were as fun and funky as they were functional. With Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive and their new Wilderness Edition off-road upgrades, a new adventure-focused Baja seems like a surefire winner.
Proposing Honda bring back their small displacement two-seat sports cars is really asking for a mulligan on an already great car, the Honda S2000. That car has seen its price spike as fans and collectors have realized Miata isn’t always the answer because sometimes the answer is the S2000. And this proves the market is there for a dedicated roadster from Honda (or at least I can dream, right?). But why look all the way back to the Honda S-cars of 1960s? Because they look so darn cool. The S2000 design was the right update for its day, but here in 2022, when nostalgia faerie dust brings magic to even the lamest of projects, taking the cool, clean, efficient aesthetic of the S500-S800 would be far more innovative than all the Westworld/Avatar-esque concepts and half measure retro designs we’re seeing today.
Speaking of long-lost roadsters, the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice didn’t get much time in the sun before the shuttering of the Saturn and Pontiac brands. But that doesn’t mean GM couldn’t revive the Solstice as an elegant and affordable alternative to the Corvette and/or the Camaro. GM even has the perfect engine, the 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder from the Silverado 1500. This engine makes 310 horsepower, 348 lb ft of torque, and replaced the pickup’s V6. Just image the pull it could lend to a sporty runabout like the Solstice.
In today’s design parlance, plastic cladding equals ruggedness. Ergo, the Pontiac Aztek is as rugged as a Wrangler. Was the Aztek a design-by-committee disaster marketed to the “youths” who didn’t have the money to buy one? Yes. But the Aztek was also, perhaps, ahead of its time, and that time is now. The Aztek intended to be an adventure-oriented vehicle that could still service the 9-to-5 needs of grocery runs and daily commutes. While it failed initially, it did have a lot of neat innovations like a two-piece tailgate, a built-in air compressor, specialty racks for bikes, canoes, and other outdoor accoutrements. Plus, what marketing department wouldn’t love the chance at a new Pontiac Aztek ad featuring Brian Cranston going viral?
The Karmann Ghia was the pretty Volkswagen from a time when VWs were all about function over form. Come to think of it, not much has changed in that regard since the 1960s. Volkswagen’s current lineup shows a distinct deficit when it comes to visual excitement (that is, aside from the upcoming ID Buzz). Ideally, a new Karmann Ghia-like car would borrow the best of the GTI’s powertrain while leaning on the original’s sleek bodylines for a jolt of fun in an otherwise staid lineup.
I know I was already asking a lot of Stellantis with the Magnum request, but while we’re at it, why not bring back the Barracuda too for one last, limited edition V8 monster. We’ve had the Challenger around for years while the Barracuda name (inarguably the cooler name) has been sitting on the shelf. I say dust it off for one last run, or resurrect the Cuda, and the Plymouth brand itself while we’re at it, for fresh options in future EV muscle cars.
Unlike the above suggestions, the Duesenberg company is no longer in business (it’s been a whole 85 years since they folded). But then, DeLorean wasn’t really a company either anymore until someone bought the naming rights and decided to make a car to slap it on. In their day, Duesenberg made some of the world’s most luxurious cars, including the venerable Model J. The Model J also wasn’t just elegant and exorbitantly priced, it was also the fastest production car in the world in the late 1920s. In an automotive world overtaken by garish supercars, we could use a new statement-making version of the Duesenberg Model J. Exhibit A in my case, a 1932 Duesenberg J Figoni Sport Torpedo won Best in Show at the 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Why not revive some of that magic?