We always want the things we can’t have, especially when they’re cool old cars. The automotive world is littered with misty memories of flashy flagship sedans, seductive supercars, or even quirky economy cars that somehow tugged at our heartstrings. You can’t rationalize love, especially when it’s rolling on four wheels.
This is why we’ve come up with a list of cars and trucks we believe deserve a second chance to give their brands a serious image boost. All the cars listed here were awfully nice back in their heyday, though more than a couple were pretty naughty, too.
You might disagree with some of the choices, or wonder if someone spiked our coffee while deciding which models we’d love to see back on dealership lots. That’s fine, because if cars were rational and they inspired the same emotions for everyone, well, we’d gladly toss our keys out the window and take up golfing.
1. Cadillac Eldorado
The name alone pretty much says it all – and in our opinion, a great name is what Cadillac could use most of all right now. The original Eldorado was a rolling sculpture, the American luxury brand’s top-of-the-line model when it arrived in 1952. Fun fact: The glovebox in the third-gen models hid a crystal decanter set, complete with magnetized glasses so you wouldn’t slosh your drink while driving. Wow! By the late 1960s, the Eldorado had turned into one of the sexiest and meanest-looking front-wheel-drive luxury coupes of all time. We love it. Cadillac needs it at the top of its range again (sorry, but CT6 and XT5 sound like Dell laptops to us).
2. Subaru SVX
Let’s stir up some controversy with this Italian-designed, Japanese-engineered sports coupe. Actually, we can probably substitute the S-word for the L-word here – we’re talking Sport versus Luxury, so get your minds out of the gutter. The SVX was penned by none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man behind everything from the first VW Golf and Fiat Panda to the original Lotus Esprit and BMW Nazca concept car. Powered by a 3.3-liter flat six-cylinder engine, and available only with a four-speed automatic, the SVX wasn’t exactly a road rocket. But man, it sure looked like a space machine during its run from 1991 to 1996.
3. Toyota Celica
Exactly how and why did Toyota ever let the Celica disappear from its U.S. lineup? We know, the market for coupes of any shape or size has dwindled dramatically over the years. But the Toyota Celica was known for being exceptionally nimble, reliable, economical, fun to drive, and darn easy on the eyes (with a few notable exceptions). Those are qualities that car buyers still want, so come on Toyota! The Celica could be everything from a friendly commuter car to a turbocharged and all-wheel-drive rally champion. Not everyone wants an SUV, or a car that drives on its own. Let’s bring the Celica back, once and for all.
4. Honda S2000
If you’ve ever heard someone moan about how the original Honda S2000 lacked torque at lower revs, you have our permission to smack them (lightly) upside the head. The S2000 absolutely lived to spike its rev needle to the stratosphere, that’s for certain. A redline of 9,000 RPM? You had better believe it! But this two-passenger roadster also happened to be unbelievably balanced in terms of its ride and handling. It also felt stiff as a bank vault – no easy task in a car lacking a roof. The second-gen model here in the U.S. received a slightly larger 2.2-liter four-cylinder, to help add some low-end grunt. Despite having disappeared from Honda lots for a decade now, the S2000’s lines have not aged a bit. If you want a future classic in your garage, buy one of these right now.
5. Mitsubishi Evo
Silly, stupid, and still one of our favorite cars of all time. During its lifetime here in the U.S., certain models had a radio delete option and unpainted door handles. Why? To save weight, of course. Exactly how much door-handle paint might weigh, we can’t be certain. But the proof of the Evo is in the driving, whether you’re on paved roads or flinging this all-wheel-drive monster sideways on dirt and gravel. Yes, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the vented hood doesn’t feel like it’s long for this world, thanks to its hyperactive and ready-to-burst driving feel. Except no one is buying an Evo because they think it’ll prove to have Camry levels of reliability. This is a car to drive fast, and it represents the soul of Mitsubishi. Without it, we worry the brand isn’t long for U.S. shores.
6. Volkswagen Corrado
We know, some of you are going to want the Microbus or Thing on this list. We’re big fans of them too, except we’re even bigger fans of the underdog. And when it comes to cool VeeDubs that lurk in the shadows, the Corrado is one of the best. The square-edged look of this sport coupe is still distinctive and unlike anything else on the road. The Corrado also helped usher in VW’s famous narrow-angle VR6 engine, which would eventually morph into the turbocharged monster motors found under the hoods of Bentley and Bugatti. Yes, this is a VW coupe with genetic ties to a Veyron.
7. Acura Legend
In its prime, Acura was the luxury brand that defined slick and smart Japanese engineering in the early to mid-1990s. Sure, the Lexus LS400 could balance champagne glasses on its hood, but the Legend sedan and coupe – particularly the second-gen models, built from 1991 to 1995 – were sportier to drive and had absolutely timeless good looks. Oh yes, and that name – Acura Legend. Isn’t it great? We still don’t understand how this beauty morphed into the flabby and lifeless RL model (itself a total LS400 rip-off, no less).
8. Jeep Comanche
Jeep, how are you not building this already? With the market for trucks going crazy, and Jeep selling bucket loads of anything with seven vertical slats on the snout, a return of the Cherokee-based Comanche pickup seems like a cash-cow waiting to happen. Rugged good looks, a choice of rear or all-wheel-drive, and actual all-terrain capability made the Comanche a perfect choice for many buyers. Jeep has recently toyed with the idea of a new Comanche, courtesy of a concept based on the current Renegade. It’s nice, if a little too cutesy. We say square off the edges, give it a minimum of frills, keep the price low, and Jeep will have a sales home run on its hands – that is, if they’re smart enough to listen to us.
9. Ford Probe
The car that tried to kill the Mustang! Yes, the Ford Probe not only has a name only your proctologist will love, it has the dubious distinction of being the sport coupe that almost marked the end of the Mustang. The tepid first-gen model is OK, but it’s the second version in GT format – built from 1993 to 1997 – that deserves a second shot. With its sharp handling, zippy 2.5-liter Mazda engine, and aggressive (but understated) good looks, the Probe was a front-wheel-drive sport machine that could take on the very best. Hey, a Probe GT was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year back in 1993. Granted, the same magazine gave the same honor to the barge-tastic Chevrolet Caprice in 1991 … yuck.
10. Mazda MX-3
It’s impossible to argue that Mazda isn’t all about fun to begin with, but have you ever heard of a 1.8-liter V6 engine? It existed, and it had a cozy home in the fun and funky little Mazda MX-3 hatchback. That 130-horsepower six-cylinder wasn’t dramatically more powerful than the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder, but it sure set the MX-3 apart from its rivals. True to Mazda form, this compact coupe was all about handling finesse and cornering ability. Imagine driving a Miata hardtop coupe, and this is about as close as you’re going to get without needing a blowtorch and lots of lead.