Automotive News

10 Retired Vehicles That Deserve a Second Chance

As the years march on, it’s the destiny of certain cars to be discontinued. Some have a small but avid following, but not enough were sold to make a profit for the manufacturers. Others couldn’t spark buyers’ interest or were too far ahead of its time. To be fair, more than a few were just outright mediocre.

But nostalgia can be a powerful thing. Drivers pine for cars that have been long gone—or maybe gone only for a few years. The Land Rover Defender, the Ford Bronco, and the Toyota Supra have all recently proved that a comeback is possible. Here are 10 great cars that we think also deserve a reboot.

1. Audi Quattro

Yes, the Four Rings does make Quattros these days but it’s grown progressively bigger and more highway-friendly over the years. Made from 1980 to 1991, the Ur-Quattro, as the Germans nicknamed it, was a nimble but fierce road and rally car that had a wheelbase of only 99 inches. Audi, could we have a smaller, rally-worthy Quattro again, please?

2. Willys Jeep Station Wagon

Manufactured by Willys and Kaiser Jeep from 1946 to 1964, the Willys Wagon was the first mass-produced all-steel station wagon design as a passenger vehicle.

The station wagon was available in 2WD and 4WD, and the latter is considered to be the first production SUV. Reminiscent of its predecessor, the World War II-era U.S. Army Jeep, the Willys Wagon set the bar for the Jeep Wagoneer that followed. Its styling has been emulated by the likes of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, but the fun of the Willys Wagon is inimitable and needs bringing back.

3. Toyota MR2

Back in the ’90s, the MR2 was an agile “mid-engine, run-about, 2-seater” with a sewing machine engine that made 145 hp. The Supra sprung back to life this year, as did the Celica in the form of the 86 with its Subaru BRZ twin.

Maybe, as Mike Duff writes in Car and Driver, Toyota will make good on its promise to offer an EV version of the MR2 that will be a bit more powerful in 2024?

4. Chevrolet El Camino

The El Camino was a fantastic pickup that drove like a car. Chevy first made the Elky in 1959, stopped production briefly in 1960, then resumed making it until 1987.

Back in the early ’70s, buyers could even get this pickup locked and loaded with a 454 V8 engine. Comeback rumors have been floating around ever since Chevy renewed the El Camino trademark in 2012, but nothing definite has been promised so far. 

5. Mazda RX7 FD

Blame the Fast and Furious franchise, but it’s time for Mazda to bring back this twitchy-fast RWD two-seater coupe with its lightweight, smooth Wankel rotary engine from the 1990s.

Mazda’s rotary engine is returning, according to Road and Track, but only as a range extender for an EV. But Mazda isn’t offering an updated RX7 at this time, sadly enough.

6. Volkswagen Type 2

The original hippie van from the Summer of Love is the VW Type 2 or Kombi as it was called outside of the U.S. Manufactured from 1950 to 1979, this generation of VW van had between 11 and 23 windows depending on the vehicle year and variant.

At 50 hp, it wasn’t too sprightly, but that wasn’t the point of this people-carrier/camper. It’s hard to believe that this fun microbus is a predecessor to the minivan, but it’s true. You’re welcome, Mom.

7. Honda Element

Boxy, sturdy and quirky, the Element was produced from 2002 to 2011. Considered to be a compact crossover SUV, the AWD Element was light on the “sports” part of SUV yet doubled down on the “utility” part.

Its back seats could be removed entirely, expanding cargo space from about 25 cubic feet to a whopping 76. The world still needs cars like this, but it seems as if Honda will continue to make CR-Vs instead.

8. Buick GNX

Who knew that a spinoff from the Buick Regal would become such a cult car? Produced by McLaren Performance, the GNX was a quicker, special-edition version of the high-performance Grand National.

This large, all-black stealth car went from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars of the 1980s. But will Buick ever be gutsy enough to bring back the Darth Vader car, though?

9. International CXT

If you were a celebrity in the 2000s who wanted a gargantuan pickup, Navistar International had just the thing for you: the CXT, or Commercial Extreme Truck.

This titan of trucks had a curb weight of 14,500 pounds and a towing capacity of 20 tons. It sported a 220 hp 7.6-liter inline-six turbodiesel engine and measured 9 feet high.

Navistar produced the CXT from 2004 to 2008, when the manufacturer realized that not many people wanted a $100,000 truck twice the weight of a Hummer at the onset of the Great Recession. It’s time for the F350s and RAM 3500s to stand aside, though, because we’re ready to see the CXT be reintroduced.

10. Lotus Esprit

As the most iconic of the Lotus lineup, the clean-lined 1976 Esprit is the product of acclaimed Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s “folded paper” designs.

With 160 hp under its hood, the Esprit had spirited handling and weighed a mere 2,200 pounds. Ultimately, the sports car went on to best a Ferrari 308 in a 0 to 60 heat. Double O Seven just called and said that he would like to see Lotus bring back the Esprit for the 2020s.