Looking back at over a century of the American auto industry, hundreds of automakers have continuously flooded the market with thousands of models. But as history keeps reminding us, cars will always come and go, with only a few enjoying long production runs. For better or worse, automakers are bound to keep up with new technologies and designs, sometimes canceling specific makes and models to create room in the product catalog.
But as newer cars enter production, an opportunity sometimes arises to bring back famous badges from the automotive graveyard. Nonetheless, reviving marques that caused waves in their time does not guarantee success in the modern market. Some great badges have done well to regain success, almost as if they never left. On the opposite side of the spectrum, several others have disappointed and struggled to make an impact, making us wish that they had stayed dead.
10 Happy It Was Resurrected: Ford Ranger
The Ranger first appeared in 1967 as a large, luxury option for classic Ford F-100 and F-250 models. Since then, Ford transformed the Ranger with changes in size, design upgrades, engine options, and even a failed attempt at electrification between 1998 and 2002.
The Ranger was one of the best-selling light pickups in its time, but declining sales into the 2000s forced Ford to discontinue the Ranger in 2012. However, people missed the Ranger while it was gone, and the increased interest in midsize trucks like the Toyota Tacoma encouraged Ford to revive it. Since its rebirth in 2019, the Ford Ranger has succeeded in becoming a formidable competitor in the midsize truck category.
9 Should’ve Stayed Dead: Fiat 500
Famously designed by Dante Giacosa, the iconic ‘Cinquecento’ debuted in 1957 as a cheap, economical, and functional town car for post-war Italy. Over the years, the Fiat 500 enjoyed global success in various versions like the 500D, 500 Giardiniera, 500 F, Lusso, and Rinnovata.
With time, Fiat gained a bad reputation for poor quality, eventually canceling the Fiat 500 in favor of the Fiat 126. Fiat released a modern interpretation of the original 500 during the model’s 50th Anniversary in 2007, but anemic sales have hampered its return to glory. By 2021 Fiat had pulled the plug on most 500 models in the U.S., retaining only the four-door 500X.
8 Happy It Was Resurrected: Toyota Supra
As the Mazda RX-7 and Datsun 280Z dominated the ’70s and ’80s, Toyota finally found an answer to the competition with the Supra model. The durable construction, timeless design, and monster 2JZ-GTE engine made the Supra an icon on track and road, not forgetting its film and car culture successes.
However, Toyota opted to kill the Supra in 1998 as drivers gradually lost interest in pricey sports coupes. Two decades later, the automaker had a change of heart, collaborating with BMW to unveil the fifth-generation Supra in 2019. The joyful handling, firm brakes, and hefty steering make the modern Supra a proper sports car and arguably one of the best driver’s cars on the market.
7 Should’ve Stayed Dead: Chevy Nova
The best years of the Chevy Nova started in the late-60s after it gained V8 engine options, pushing it well into muscle car territory. For the majority, the Nova embodied American motoring in the ’60s and ’70s, with some classic collectibles arriving with the Yenko, L78, and L34 engine configurations.
New regulations imposed on vehicles in the 1970s made things complicated for muscle cars in general, and Chevy Nova sales began to drop off until production ended in 1979. However, it made a surprise return in 1985, this time as a disappointing rebadge of the Toyota Corolla. The new model was a far cry from the original, which explains why it received little love until its demise in 1988.
6 Happy It Was Resurrected: Dodge Charger
The Charger first arrived in showrooms in 1966, but the fan-favorite model showed up in 1968, designed for high-speed street racing with a distinctive fastback roof styling and full-width tail lamps. The Charger became an iconic model throughout the muscle car era, cementing its status in pop culture with features in classic films like Bullitt and Dukes of Hazzard.
Unfortunately, the fuel crisis shoved high-performance cars out of style. The Charger became less dominant with wide production gaps as Dodge attempted to make it relatable to enthusiasts. Although the Charger finally got killed off in 1987, it reappeared as a rear-wheel-drive, four-door sedan after a 20-year hiatus. Luckily, the new models nod to their muscle past, putting in incredible performances that get them ranked as one of the fastest cars available.
5 Should’ve Stayed Dead: Ford Taurus SHO
The legend of the Taurus began with the 1986 first-generation model, one of the revolutionary sleeper cars that set the standard for subtle yet fast sedans. The Taurus’ soap dish design was a home run straight from the start, and the model became even more popular with the introduction of the high-performance 1989 SHO models.
Unsurprisingly, the Taurus was the best-selling car in the U.S. from 1992 to 1996. But Ford neglected the model, and it gradually lost its style until the SHO variant got put to rest in 1999. A decade later, Ford revived the SHO as a trim option for the last Taurus generation. Unfortunately, capturing the original’s magic amid an SUV frenzy was difficult, and Ford axed the entire Taurus lineup in 2019.
4 Happy It Was Resurrected: Chevrolet Camaro
The debut of the Camaro in 1967 as a response to the popular Ford Mustang marked the birth of one of the most fierce rivalries in automotive history. The Camaro made a great impression through flavors such as the SS, Rally Sport, Z/28, Berlinetta, and IROC-Z, which were integral in turning it into an iconic muscle car.
By the early 2000s, the sports car market had shrunk significantly, and Camaro sales dropped by 53% from 1990. After pulling the plug on Camaro production in 2002, Chevrolet changed their minds and revived it again in 2010. Fortunately, the styling was reminiscent of the original, and the reignited pony car wars made the Camaro successful again.
3 Should’ve Stayed Dead: Dodge Dart
Chrysler introduced the Dodge Dart for the 1960 model year, marketing it as its low-price offering to replace the Plymouth. Through impressive redesigns and significant engines choices, the Dart grew into a household name in the ’60s and ’70s. 1976 spelled the demise of the Dart, with strict emission standards and detuned engines finally putting it to rest.
When Chrysler and Fiat merged into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Dart came back after 35 years, this time as a relatively upmarket compact four-door sedan for the 2013 model year. Save for the badge, the new sedan model shared nothing with the original Dart. Unsurprisingly, slow sales finally forced Fiat Chrysler to discontinue the model for good in 2016.
2 Happy It Was Resurrected: Ford Bronco
The original Bronco that debuted in 1966 became an icon synonymous with adventurous lifestyles and remarkable off-road capability. The Bronco earned its stripes as a versatile alternative to four-by-fours such as the International Harvester Scout and the Jeep CJ, morphing into a proper and respectable full-size SUV before going out of production in 1996.
After teasing enthusiasts for over 15 years, the beloved Ford Bronco finally made it back from the graveyard for a 2021 model year. The Bronco was an immediate success, with Ford making good on its promise to deliver a model with the spirit of a Mustang and toughness of an F-150.
1 Should’ve Stayed Dead: Ford Thunderbird
The original two-seater Thunderbird introduced in 1955 was a thing of beauty, becoming an instant smash hit and a masterpiece that attracted all ages of buyers from different walks of life. Despite undergoing transformations ranging from projectile styling to aero styling in its lifetime, the Thunderbird remained famous as the epitome of personal luxury before changing customer tastes put it to retirement in 1997.
Reviving the two-seater convertible may have seemed like a no-brainer at first, but what Ford delivered was a disappointingly dull Thunderbird from what people remembered. The softly sprung yet overweight roadster that arrived in 2002 looked good from far, but its agonizing interior confirmed that the reincarnated model was far from good. Considering it was also a dreary car to drive, the new bird deserved to get its wings clipped for good in 2005. Or was it? According to Ford Authority, the Ford Thunderbird could return in 2022 as a Vertical Take-Off and Land (VTOL) vehicle.
British sports cars are some of the most beautiful ever built, but not all of them are worth the investment.
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