That’s a tough decision and not one to be made lightly. As we know from
car history, the landscape is littered with failed brands that just didn’t have what it took to cut it in the dog-eat-dog world of vehicle design, engineering and marketing. So many to choose from! Because I am not a car historian, I’ll leave it to a real expert to present a complete list of history’s automotive misses from which you can choose, if you’re a stickler about that sort of thing. And since I’m most familiar with post-World War II cars and brands, that’s what I’m going to stick to (although Maxwell, Cord and some others could make strong arguments). So, with the parameters established, let’s get started, shall we?
Hudson: I admit, I really don’t know a lot about Hudson, except that stock car drivers apparently did pretty well with them back in the day, and Paul Newman played one in the first
Cars movie. But really, isn’t that enough to warrant consideration? Frankly, I think the Paul Newman connection is reason enough. What other actor who drove race cars was cooler? James Dean? Steve McQueen? James Garner?
Paul Walker? But, I digress. That’s a story for another day.
Plymouth: As the
scion of a Dodge family (my grandfather had a Dodge truck, and my mom had not one, but two
Dodge Darts – the rear-wheel-drive ones with slant sixes in them, not the other one they don’t make any more), I tend to think of Plymouth as the «poor man’s Dodge.» But then you have to consider the many Hemi-powered muscle cars sold under the Plymouth brand, such as the Road Runner, the GTX, the Barracuda, and so on. Was there a more affordable muscle car than Plymouth? When you place it in the context of «affordable muscle,» Plymouth makes a pretty strong argument for reanimation.
Oldsmobile: When I was a teenager, all the cool kids had
Oldsmobile Cutlasses, the downsized ones that came out in 1978. At one point, the Olds
Cutlass was the hottest
selling car in the land, if you can believe that. Then everybody started buying
Honda Civics and
Toyota Corollas and Camrys, and you know the rest. But going back farther, there’s the 442 – perhaps Olds’ finest hour when it came to muscle cars. And who can forget the Rocket 88! I know, some of you haven’t forgotten it because you’ve never heard of it, but I think naming a car after a rocket was a pretty smart marketing call. Then again, I can remember man riding rockets to walk on the moon, so I may be biased.
Saab: I always liked Saabs, mainly for their quirkiness and oddball design. Who else puts an ignition switch in between the seats? Nobody, that’s who. Look up «quirk» in
The History of Automotive Failures, and you’ll almost certainly see a Saab. I almost bought a used one once, but then I called my mechanic and asked his opinion and he just started laughing. Later he steered me into a Volvo
740, a respectable, steady and solid Swede with absolutely zero quirkiness, but very comfortable seats. Alas,
GM ended up buying Saab in a fit of jealousy after Ford bought Volvo, and GM apparently assigned to Saab the old Olds marketing team, and the cars became much less quirky, in that smooth, sanitized, unremarkable GM way. Favorite Saab? The 900 Turbo, of course. Nobody else had a windshield like that, and born from jets! Almost as cool as the Rocket 88.
Pontiac: Finally, we come to the car brand I think most deserves another chance: the wide-track Pontiac. I know, Pontiac slowly and sadly slid into insignificance, dissolving into a pool of molten plastic cladding that was once ribbed for your pleasure. Forget about that. You want Pontiac Excitement? How about the
GTO! And of course, the 1977 Trans Am made famous in that classic cinematic masterpiece,
Smokey and the Bandit. It featured Burt Reynolds at the height of his powers, although the movie itself may not have aged well, like Burt. I imagine Burt may have once prayed, «O Golden Screaming Chicken, we beseech thee, lift up thy Trans Am and fly it across yonder stream, the one that hath not a complete bridge, and set it gently as possible on the other side, lest we break an axle or something!» I’d still like to have one of those cars. And one of those mustaches.
How could Pontiac continue as a viable brand? Easy. Sell plenty of SUVs. Maybe a Trans Am shooting brake, too. I would expect Pontiac to bring a measure of sportiness to all of its SUV line, and it would be a good way to differentiate itself from the rest of the
crossover herd. GM has been working some magic lately with its chassis and suspension engineering. Just apply those skills to crossovers, and give them the proper degree of sportiness. And do not, under any circumstances, mention the word »