15 Misunderstood Cars Axed Before Reaching Their Prime
Were these cars discontinued too early?
Updated June 20, 2018
It’s not only the car industry. For every few successful products, there’s bound to be an unsuccessful one. Whether it’s simply bad, misunderstood or introduced at the wrong time, that’s bound to happen. Cars work in similar manner, but given their relatively high price, it’s easier to weed out the occasional failures. Sadly or luckily – depending on a perspective – these automotive failures usually end up soon forgotten. It’s a good thing considering there have been great many POS cars over the years. It’s unlucky because some fine specimens have shared the same fate although it wasn’t their fault.
Great many reasons can be behind one car’s ultimate success or failure. Even being revolutionary doesn’t always help as you’ll get to know from this list. To the contrary. However, most of the misunderstood cars that’ll appear here are exactly that – misunderstood cars. Whether they were too bold for their time, not economical enough, too expensive, etc. – they probably deserved a different fate. Or at least another chance as their production runs were often too short for them to catch on. In any case, here are 15 fine examples of automotive industry’s obvious strikeouts.
Porsche 914/6 is one of those texbook stories about the car whose greatness gets discovered decades after its discontinuation. In fact, it was only recently that its prices have started soaring. Most of 914’s produced were four cylinder powered roadsters, and they had their fanbase even during the car’s short production run. Flat-six powered 914/6, on the other hand, never was of such luck. Strongest flat-four was only 10 horses weaker and that was obviously enough for most. Moreover, 914/6 was much more expensive than the rest of the lineup. Well, at least it gets the recognition it deserves today.
Northern Ireland-built, French-powered car. DeLorean was misunderstood by its own makers, let alone by the general public. That’s not all. It also had the gullwing doors, fiberglass chassis and stainless steel body. Whether it was the unstable political situation in the Northern Ireland, early eighties American car market stagnation or the general misinterpretation of the car by the gen pop – DeLorean simply didn’t make it. Good news for “Back to the Future” and DeLorean fans, though. The New DMC is planning on building 300 additional retro DeLoreans in late 2016 and an all new batch of modern models as early as 2017. Will it succeed the second time around? Stay tuned to find out.
Aixam Mega Track
Not exactly your conventional crossover, but a crossover nonetheless. The late Aixam Mega Track was a combo between a supercar and an off-roader. It was quite a gamble on Aixam’s part since they have only built micro vehicles until that fateful 1993. A gamble that, sadly, didn’t pay off. Otherwise the car market would have looked much different today. Anyway, only 5 Mega Tracks have been commissioned. They had Mercedes-Benz’s 400-horsepower V12 in their engine bays. And they had up to 13 inches of ground clearance. Name one supercar with that kind of height.
Pontiac GTO (Fourth Generation)
2004-2006 Pontiac GTO wasn’t a bad car. Far from it, but it never could have fulfilled the great expectations imposed on it by classic model’s legacy. It simply never looked cool enough as its muscle car predecessor did. Although classic GTO had its own moment of disastrous fashion combination to be fair. In any case, people didn’t really like it, and it was axed after only couple of years. Although I agree with the buyers to some extent, Holden Monaro based GTO was still one hell of a car. Rear-wheel drive large coupe with 350-horsepower LS1 or 400-horsepower LS2 V8s. How can you not like this car?
Ferrari Dino is not really a nameplate but an entire line of cars. Still, neither of the three Dinos have managed to evade the fate of other misunderstood cars from this list and the line was scrapped after only eight years of production. It was a fine concept, though. Named after Enzo Ferrari’s son, Dino Ferraris were supposed to be slightly more affordable than the original black stallion lineup. Something like Boss Black and Boss Selection when it comes to fashion. Imagine the supercars market today had this almost 50-year old concept survived! I see every manufacturer with dual lines. Do you?
Honda Insight had two production stints with a three-year hiatus between them. That should tell you enough about its downright unlucky lifespan. Although the hybrid was the most efficient car with gasoline (or partly gasoline) powertrain, and the cheapest such vehicle – it still didn’t manage to reach its full potential. Maybe its design had something to do with that. First generation Insight looks like the curvy version of Citroen’s cars from the seventies and eighties and the second generation is basically a Prius clone. And people don’t like clones. Nor they do Citroen, for that matter.
AMC AMX is one of the saddest classic muscle car era stories ever told. It has earned its iconic status lately, but this recognition came more than a little bit too late. AMX was produced between 1968 and 1970, and only some 20,000 units were sold during that time. Way too few for the 2-seat GT muscle car with 340 horses (more than that, actually). AMX still finds itself on the fringes of the resto mod muscle car scene. It’s simply more expensive to restore than the Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers, etc., due to the rareness of parts and their expensiveness. It seems that some misunderstood cars remain misunderstood for life.
There’s another sad story behind the Vector W8. Not only that it was misunderstood, but it was forcefully axed after the company bacame the target of a hostile takeover. That basically killed off the W8 before it managed to catch fire (not literally like the Fiero). I’m talking about more of them being produced, and we all know supercars need more time for that given their exclusivity. In any case, W8 was one fine specimen which never managed to fulfill its potential in its entirety.
Although many people thought (and many people still think) that the Corvair was a POS, truth is sometimes more complicated. OK, it may have been dreadfully unsafe, but what car wasn’t back in the sixties. In fact, NHSTA tested the 1963 Corvair in 1972 upon their forming, and found out it wasn’t any more unsafe than its 10 year younger counterparts. By then, it was already too late for the axed Corvair. It was probably the lack of the anti-roll bar that had doomed it. Ralph Nader and his 1966 bestseller “Unsafe at Any Speed” emphasized on that shortcoming and singlehandedly ruined the car’s already shaky reputation. Corvair became the scapegoat for the entire American car industry which lacked any sense for safety. What if is the only thing that remains of Corvair today. That and the cult following on the rise with each passing day.
Unlike the GTO which failed to live up to its distant predecessor’s reputation, G8 became the victim of the GM bailout. Like the GTO, on the other hand, it too was the Holden-derived (built actually) V8. It was introduced at the worst possible moment, in early 2008. It’s no wonder it never managed to reach its full potential. And it had potential galore. 415 horsepower of potential to be more precise. Courtesy of Pontiac G8 GXP and its LS3 V8.
Back when the Maverick was introduced, Ford already reigned the muscle car segment thanks to the Mustang. Maverick was intended to compete with the imported compacts. That’s another thing you need to remember before judging it. Now, when we know that, we can better understand the injustice done to it. Maverick is simply the epitome of misunderstood cars. Who knows what would have happened had there not been the oil crisis of ’73 and new emission regulations. Maverick already offered the Grabber Pack with up to 210 horsepower by then. Respectable figures for non-muscle compact car. Instead of growing further, however, the compact shrunk into obscurity.
As far as sad stories go, this one probably takes the cake. Bugatti EB110 was one of the most fascinating machines of its time. So, why was it killed off after only 4 years and 139 models? Its creator Romano Artioli claims the company was sabotaged by its competitors. Official story states that Bugatti failed to pay $125 million debt and Italian government declared them bankrupt. In any case, poor EB110 certainly didn’t deserve such a cruel fate. It was a great ride mostly thanks to the 3.5L quad-turbo V12 pushing as much as 604 horsepower. That was back in 1992, mind you.
Tucker Car Corporation’s firstborn (and only child) never saw production higher than 51 models. It’s sad indeed as we could have maybe had the big four instead of the big three. Instead, Preston Tucker’s company went under with what would seem, more than a little help from the aforementioned trio. Media at the time created a negative publicity around the fresh automaker, and it would seem they were driven by the big three. Pity really, as Tucker 48 sedan featured the 166-horsepower and 372 lb-ft of torque horizontally oppozed six engine. That was back in 1948, mind you.
Saturn Sky Red Line
We won’t blame you if you don’t remember the Saturn Sky. Even though it was discontinued in 2009. It only had a three-year production run before felling victim to the GM bailout. Together with Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky was a fine alternative to the Japanese roadsters. Red Line versions were actually more powerful than most imports thanks to their 2.0L turbo four engines. They developed 260 horses in their base form and 290 ponies with the turbo upgrade kit. It’s still early to call them collectors items, but they certainly didn’t get the chance to show what they’re capable of.
My guess is as good as anyone’s. Sunbeam Tiger would have probably succeeded had Carrol Shelby had gotten the chance to produce it at his American facility. Instead, Rootes Group went Jensen’s way and made it in the UK while paying Shelby an undisclosed royalty fee. Roadster was still a fine car, don’t get me wrong. After all, it had 260ci Ford V8 engine during the Mark I run. Mark II models, of which only 633 were made, had even stronger 289ci Ford V8s. All I’m saying is that it probably would have caught much more attention under Shelby’s wing. This way, it remains a rare gem of a sports car which never managed to fulfill its potential. It’s now simply another one of the misunderstood cars.
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