Gone before their time or classics in need of resurrection, these are the cars we want brought back.
There are plenty of cars that seemed like great ideas in the boardroom that never caught on with the public. Think Pontiac Aztek or the Edsel. The swift demise of those cars was lamented by virtually no one. But other cars get the ax despite their devoted fan base thanks to the demand from bean-counting executives that said cars actually make money. And yet, slowly but surely, some of those beloved nameplates are being revived to much excitement and great profits. Nostalgia is all the rage right now. Just look at the new Ford Bronco, GMC Hummer, and Toyota Supra.
Since manufacturers are so hot to cash in on old nameplates, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions on other cars that need a second (or third) chance in the sun.
The midengined “Mr. Two” was one of a trio of classic ‘90s sports cars from Toyota along side the Celica and Supra. The MR2 saw three generations, all of which have their charms. With a mid-engine design, the light MR2 offered outstanding sports car handling for a fraction of the price of a Ferrari.
Yes, Toyota already brought back the Supra, but the buttoned-down BMW Z4 derivative is a far cry from the raucous 90s legend. To right this wrong, we humbly ask Toyota to take their mulligan and make a new MR2. There are, in fact, rumors swirling that Toyota may do just that by taking a page from Ford’s playbook with the Mustang Mach-E and reusing a beloved nameplate to launch a new electric vehicle. And really, what better way to replicate the balance and handling of the original MR2 than with the low center of gravity of an electric car?
When the Miata isn’t the answer, it’s probably the Honda S2000. Another legend of balance and handling, the S2000 has gained a reputation as a track razor alternative to the likes of the Porsche Boxter since its discontinuation in 2009. The S2000’s F20C engine is renowned for having the highest power to displacement of any naturally aspirated motor at 124 horsepower per liter. But what enthusiasts really gush over is the six-speed manual described as one of the finest transmissions ever built.
In an age of computerized nannies and automatics that shift faster and smarter than you can, we’d argue there’s no better time for Honda to bring back a machine that genuinely connects driver, car, and road. And if the purity of the drive isn’t enough and Honda is still skeptical whether there’s a market for a new S2000, they just need to look at what used S2000s are selling for today; that is, more than what they sold for originally twelve long years ago.
Nothing else sounds like a rotary engine. And that’s because a rotary engine lives at redline, right around 7,000 rpm in the case of the Mazda RX-7. Our favorite RX-7 was the third generation Series 6 with its sequential twin turbochargers and pop up headlights. Sadly, even if Mazda were to bring the RX-7 back, it’s unlikely the car would still be powered by a rotary engine. That’s because rotary engines aren’t terribly efficient or clean … or reliable. But that just makes the RX-7 a great candidate for a powertrain update. Like the MR2, a new RX-7 could be Mazda’s take on the electric sports car. I’d be satisfied replacing the rotary whine with the frantic buzz of multiple electric motors (recall the banshee wail that 1,400hp Mach-E prototype?).
Discontinued in 2015, the Nissan Xterra was an off-road oriented SUV in the same vein as the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Unfortunately, like the FJ, the Xterra just didn’t fit in with the rest of its company’s lineup and, along with diminished sales and the costs of keeping the Xterra up to date, led to its demise. The Xterra featured a rugged body-on-frame construction, a locking rear differential, and a capable 4.0L V6. All a far cry from the distinctly urban-oriented Rogue and Murano of today. We’d love it Nissan saw fit to re-enter the off-road market with a new version of the Xterra.
The Dodge Viper came and went, returned as an SRT rather than a Dodge before becoming a Dodge again and then was canceled once more. All the while, the Viper was inarguably one of the purest, craziest driving machines Dodge ever built, and that’s saying something. With the Hellcat nuttiness from Dodge and RAM, it’s especially sad they no longer have the Viper in their lineup.
The Viper had been designed to take weigh savings to an extreme, dropping things like A/C, power windows, and in the case of the first generation, a roof. And coupled with that lightweight, streamlined design came massive V10s like the 8.4L in the 2013 SRT Viper that made a full 645 horsepower.
Obviously, Dodge is already well into the third movement of its gas-powered swan song with the likes of the Durango Hellcat and RAM TRX, so a new V10 Viper is probably too much to ask for. But the Dodge name is all about unreasonable levels of power and what feels more recklessly unreasonable these days than 1,000 electric horsepower? When every other company is making their move to EVs with boring crossovers (looking at you Ford), perhaps the strongest statement Dodge could make in the EV space is a hyper-powerful electric Viper.
The S2000 isn’t the only Honda sports car we’d like to see make a comeback. The Acura Integra Type R has achieved legendary status as one of the greatest Japanese sports cars of the ‘90s. The Integra Type R was a homologation special and those racing roots can be found all over the car with chassis stiffening strut bars, double wishbone suspension front and back, and its 1.8L DOHC VTEC inline-4. The Integra Type R was, like most Japanese sports cars of its day, ripe for tuning which makes bone stock examples exceedingly expensive today.
Another reason the Integra Type R is a hot collector’s car is its rarity. The Integra Type R was only available in the US for four short years between 1997 and 2001 and around 3,800 were ever made. That Acura never made enough Integra Type Rs in the first place should be reason enough for this icon to make a comeback. But when Lexus is reinvigorating its lineup with F badges, Acura would be wise to expand their performance offering beyond the NSX.
We’ve already written about our love of utes and why we miss light trucks, so it’s only natural to ask Chevrolet to bring back the classic car/truck mash-up, the El Camino. Like the Ford Ranchero it emulated, the El Camino combined the front end of a car with the bed of a truck. It was the mullet in automotive form, serious and ridiculous in the same instant.
Small trucks are indeed making a comeback. Ford will be releasing theirs, the Maverick, sometime later this year, and the recently debuted Hyundai Santa Cruz is another example. So why shouldn’t Chevy resurrect the venerable nameplate of the El Camino?