6 Cars Resurrected That Should Have Been Left in the Grave
The right car name can be the ticket to sales success. But these companies stole great old names, stuck them on mediocre cars and just hoped for the best. Here are six examples worth noting.
2006 – 2007 Chevrolet Malibu SS
When Chevy launched its forgettable, front-wheel drive sedan 1997, it somehow thought that tacking the Malibu name on the crate would make them fly out of the showrooms. Negatory. The reality was that no one besides fleet buyers and car rental operators really bought the base Malibu.
To make matters worse, Chevrolet’s brief attempt at pumping some life into Malibu sales by pulling from the past the high-regarded Malibu SS name in 2006. It was hardly a performance car, putting out a measly 240 horsepower from its 3.9 L V6 (when a 3.3 L Camry V6 with no performance inclinations was pumping out 210 hp). The SS model last just two years. 2006-2007 Malibu SS, you have brought shame to your once proud family.
1999 – 2002 Mercury Cougar
The original Mercury Cougar, introduced 1967, was based on an extended Mustang platform and was intended to provide the mercury Division a more upscale, European-type car versus the All-American Mustang.In fact a Cougar were quite competitive in the 1967 SCCA Trans-Am series. But as the Mustang grew larger, so did the Cougar, and the planners couldn’t resist loading it with more and more luxury features. The original run of the Cougar ended in 1973, Cougars from 1974 on were considered “personal luxury cars”.
After years of hanging the Cougar name on one miserable, outsized, overweight vehicle after another, Mercury decided for the 1999 model year to slap the name on a vehicle that couldn’t be more the opposite than what the Cougar had come to represent: a small coupe based on the Ford Contour. While first year sales were about 88,000, they dropped off quickly. In fact, the first year accounted for half of all sales, the remaining three years combined for the other half.
1995 – 2011 MG TF
The 1953–1955 MGTF and its predecessors the MGTD, were the cars that started the sports car craze in the US of the 1950s. Soldiers returning to the States after a tour of duty in England after WWII brought the peppy, fun-to-drove roadsters back by the boatload, opening the door for the British sports car invasion (MGA, MGB, Midget, Healys, Jaguar, Triumphs, etc.) to follow well into the 1970s.
Sold primarily in the UK, the revived MG TF was a mid-engine, rear wheel drive Mazda Miata competitor. They were produced by MG from 1995 until 2005 and by MG Motor from 2007 until 2011. The MG F was the first all-new car to bear the MG marque since the MGB was last produced in 1980, the TF was a further development of that F. Production of the MG TF paused in 2005, when MG Rover went through bankruptcy, and resumed from 2007 to 2011 under the company’s new owners Nanjing of China. Compared to the Miata and BMW Z3, the MG TF didn’t meet the same standards of build quality, reliability and dealer support, and ultimately failed in the market, most likely taking the MG name with it forever.
2004 – 2006 Pontiac GTO
It was an incredibly daring move by John DeLorean to swipe the name off a legend-in-its-own time Ferrari race car and slap it onto a high-performance package for his Pontiac Tempest. Clearly, he knew what he was doing as not only did he create his own legend-in-its-own-time vehicle, he created the entire genre of Muscle Cars. While it first appeared in 1964 as an options package on the Pontiac Tempest, the GTO became its own model in 1966.
For 2004 Pontiac decided it wanted to import a V8-powered rear-wheel drive coupe from GM’s Australian division, Holden, to put more excitement in their (yawn) product line. In an age of brand extensions and recycled product names employed as cheaper and easier alternatives than developing new brands, the Pontiac folks slapped GTO badges on the Holden and figured the cars would sell themselves. They didn’t. What was forgotten was the Tempest was an inexpensive car and the GTO options didn’t add much either. Now Pontiac was trying to sell an expensive, overweight replacement that didn’t seem to excite anyone.
2008 – 2015 Ford Taurus
When the first generation Ford Taurus debuted for the 1986 model year, it caught everyone off guard. The car looked like what we’d imagine would look like 10 years in the future. And although it was FWD, steering was fairly precise with good feedback for the time. It was most likely the most complete, thorough development of a new vehicle at Ford since the Model A. Customers loved the Taurus and Ford sold two million of the first generation between ’86 and ’89.
After dropping the Taurus model in 2009, it was revived to help right a sinking ship. Ford had developed a new sedan using a name from the early ’60s (500) but spelling it out “Five Hundred”. It was a flop so Ford hastily rechristened it the Taurus by order of new CEO Alan Mulally. It helped, a bit. To date, sales of the “new” Ford have run right around 60,000 units a year or about 10% of the running rate for the first version.
2002 – 2005 Ford Thunderbird
In response to the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford introduced the Thunderbird in 1955. The T-Bird was and would continue to be more refined and luxurious. By 1958, a second row of seats was added, which both widened its appeal and further distanced the T-Bird from the Corvette. Right up until the early 1970s, Thunderbirds were distinctive cars with unique features that really told a story about the driver (John F. Kennedy owned and was often photographed in one).
Anyone who has read our commentary about the 11th generation Thunderbird knows where this is going: this car was so terrible that it’s probably killed any chance for Ford to bring a new Thunderbird back to the market, no matter how fabulous that car may be. T-Bird 11 was a quick hack job on a Lincoln LS platform. Almost the entire interior was lifted straight out of the Lincoln. And since there was no roof, lots and lots of reinforcements needed to be added. And after that even more reinforcements. So not only was the car heavy (3,800 lbs.), it was under-powered (252 hp), there was no manual transmission option, limited color options, and got terrible gas mileage (17/23). It offered no real utility and buyers stayed away in droves.
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