It happens, when cars that are too cool get a bad rep for being “inefficient” or “loud” or “bad-smelling”. These cars have been thrown to the wayside because of their association with hooliganism, and it’s really a shame because these cars aren’t just obnoxious beasts, they are works of art. One of these cars has been tossed around a couple times only to finally land on its feet, and that is the Camaro.
In 1967 GM’s Pontiac division sent the Camaro out onto the streets to make a name for itself in competition against the Mustang. The Camaro came with far too many engine choices, however, did have several trim options including the Super Sport (SS), Rally Sport (RS), and the Z28. The Camaro continued for the next twenty or so years, churning out pitiful horsepower numbers out of massive V8s, in cars that were cheaply made and falling apart.
That’s not exactly fair to say. Some Camaros were really great, including the 1LE which looked ace, the ZL1 which was a properly fast car that used an aluminum 7.0-liter V8 built for racing, and the look of the 1970s Camaro made for one of the most iconic symbols of American muscle.
Then in 1998 arrived a game changer. For those twenty years GM was using their LT engine lineup, and in 1998 Camaro’s got the premier engine of GM’s new series, the LS1. The LS1 was a 5.7-liter pushrod aluminum V8 that made almost 330 horsepower out of the factory, effectively blowing the 1998 Mustang GT’s 220 out of the water. Then in 2002, it all came crashing down. The Camaro’s sales were dwindling, and GM decided to halt production.
Eight years later in 2010, the Camaro returned in what we see today. The Camaro was able to rise from the ashes of obscurity, and unfortunately, other discontinued cars will never know the feeling of triumphant return and victory over the junkyard.
Are there other awesome cars we wished would make a return? You bet:
Let’s face it this was pretty much the Camaro but with a different body. The Trans Am was certainly iconic, and it also got an LS1 near the end of its life. With the new Camaro out though, it’s unlikely the Firebird will see a resurgence.
What We Miss: Smokey And The Bandit, Turbocharged 1981 Model
What happened: Same as the Camaro - declining sales, and in too much of a competitive market.
We love our Vipers, as they are a prime example of what happens when all you focus on is power. Some downforce and slick tires might make this car track worthy, and in fact, it was in the newest generation thanks to a gigantic wing bolted to the trunk.
What We Miss: V10, burnouts, unwieldy
What happened: It’s a shame that after years of not being able to make any traction, Dodge was finally able to give the Viper some grip in its ACR trim.
It was discontinued the first time because of Chrysler filing for bankruptcy, and now it’s been discontinued again because a regulation airbag won’t fit in the car.
RX-7s have a close following. It’s certainly an underdog as it uses an unconventional powertrain in the form of no cylinders or pistons. It was anything but a robust engine, but if you paid half as much attention to the rotary as you did to the “Dry Clean Only” label on the back of your wool coat, it would take care of you.
What We Miss: Answering the “how many cylinders?” question.
What happened: Low sales. This affected not only the RX-7 but lots of Japanese sports cars in the 1990s, including the Nissan Z32 and Toyota Supra.
The Mazdaspeed3 is certainly a great car, but really the Mazdaspeed6 is just cool. Sedans, especially the Mazda6 have such a stigma of being family oriented, safe, commuter vehicles. Then Mazda stuck it with a turbocharged engine, AWD, and a manual transmission. It might not have performed as well as its competitors, but it was still a cool car.
What We Miss: AWD, turbocharged 2.3-liter 270 horsepower inline-four sleeper sedan.
What happened: Apparently performance versions of family sedans aren’t well-received. In the US it just wasn’t popular enough.
If ever there was a car that could terrify you in a straight line, and not have it be from out and out power, it was the MR2 Spyder. Driving along, the rear end seems to have a mind of its own and doesn’t care one lick about its driver. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as it promotes the idea of wrestling a car into submission, which is what makes you a better driver.
What we miss: The MR2 Spyder behaved like a rabid squirrel.
What happened: According to Don Esmond, senior V.C. and general manager of the Toyota Division, keeping the MR2 in competition with other cars in its class became too difficult. Basically, the MR2 got too old.
No one in their right mind would take a Starion over an RX-7, Toyota Supra or even a 300zx, however, that’s also what made the Starion so cool. You had to be out of your mind to own one and deal with the problems that came about. The ultimate enthusiast’s car.
What we miss: Exterior stylings, a bold car, always turbocharged. It was among the first Japanese turbocharged and fuel injected sports cars.
What happened: Replaced by the 3000GT.
The Galant VR-4 was a sleeper sedan much like the Mazdaspeed6. The Galant made its name in the world of racing before it was replaced by the Lancer Evolution which proved to be also a successful racing platform. You can still find a Galant VR-4 though they are extremely rare.
What we miss: The idea of a small, light turbocharged performance sedan.
What happened: Replaced by the Lancer Evolution.
These just scratch the surface of discontinued cars. Some were replaced by newer versions, so we can’t get too mad at that. In fact, now that we think about it, perhaps it’s best these cars stay discontinued. With all the safety features that exist now, along with all this fuel efficiency going around, these cars could never return in the same way they left.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.