12 Unique Cars That Should Be Resurrected
With the recent announcement that Volkswagen plans to bring back its famed and funky Microbus as an electric vehicle in 2022, we began to wonder what other quirky vehicles from the past are overdue for a revival. From sleek and futuristic sports cars to wild and wacky concepts, we looked to vehicles that featured forward-thinking designs and features that would work well today -- though maybe with some modern upgrades.
Founded by brothers James and William Packard in 1899, Packard was one of America's preeminent luxury car manufacturers for the early part of the 20th century. Rivaling overseas competitors like Roll Royce and Bentley, Packards were beloved for their elegantly large bodies, smooth engines and handling, high-quality craftsmanship, and a revolutionary "Twin Six" V12 engine. And while the popularity of Packard survived the Depression and both world wars, the final model rolled of the line in 1956 following dwindling sales. But a return of these stylish and powerful luxury cars is long overdue -- even if they might be out of most price ranges -- and would offer stiff competition to high-end overseas vehicles.
Most famously known as the time-traveling car of the "Back to the Future" movies, the DeLorean DMC-12 suffered a short, doomed life. Created by maverick GM exec John Z. DeLorean who ventured out on his own in 1973 to make a sports car that also happened to be safe and long-lasting. After a series of design challenges, the first DeLorean DMC was finally produced in January of 1981 -- built in Northern Ireland -- with its signature spaceship-like geometry and gull-wing doors. But despite grand ambitions -- they even plated four DeLoreans with 24-karat gold for an American Express promotion -- the company ultimately ran into financial trouble and the plant shuttered in October of 1982. And while there are plans to revive the storied car, it seems it will only be a limited production run with each vehicle going for around $100,000.
Modeled after the Kübelwagen, a West German military vehicle from the '60s, the hilariously named Volkswagen Thing is a clunky yet fun vehicle that deserves a revisit. A civilian version of the four-door convertible was released in the U.S. in 1973 for a couple short years and has since become an elusive legend. The boxy Thing was not particularly safe -- the doors were thin and the only support pillar was the windshield that folded down -- and was quite slow with a 46-horsepower engine in the trunk, but they're fun to drive and look cool. Plus with nearly a foot of ground clearance and handling designed for uneven terrain, they make great beach cars. There's even talk that Volkswagen might bring them back as an electric vehicle following the announcement of the new Microbus.
Fans of the DeLorean will likely appreciate the appeal of the Bricklin, another short-lived, gull-winged sports car designed with safety in mind. Built in Canada for sale in the U.S., The Bricklin SV-1 only lasted from 1974 to 1975 when less than 3,000 were made. The brainchild of Malcolm Bricklin, an American millionaire who famously founded Subaru of America, the car proved to be too costly to produce thanks to safety features like an integrated roll cage and shock absorbing bumpers. In addition to the identifying gull wings -- also designed for safety -- the Bricklin was famous for its bold color-impregnated acrylic paint job that allowed scratches to be easily buffed out. Flashy colors, futuristic design, and safety features -- what's not to love?
Unveiled in 1936, the Stout Scarab was way ahead of its time, thought to be an early proto-minivan. Developed by aviation engineer William Bushnell Stout -- considered an Elon Musk of the day who made major modern innovations in flight -- the Scarab featured the aerodynamic and bulbous shape of an airplane and resembled its beetle namesake, the scarab. Fenderless and sleek, the V8-powered Scarab featured a spacious interior with moveable seats and a fold-out table. More expensive than most luxury cars of its day, the Scarab failed to take off and less than 10 were custom built. But in the era of Uber and driverless cars, the Scarab would make for a slick way to travel in groups.
The super tiny BMW Isetta was regarded as one of the best microcars of its time when it debuted in the mid-1950s, and would be right at home with the popularity of space-saving and fuel-efficient Mini Coopers and Fiats of today. Egg-shaped with bubble-like windows, the Isetta was first developed by Italian company called Iso that made scooters and refrigerators -- which would help explain the fact that the Isetta ran on a motorcycle engine and that the single door opened the car's entire front end like a refrigerator. While Iso licensed the design to multiple manufacturers, BMW really ran with it and popularity soared thanks to German laws at the time that allowed people to drive these types of inexpensive cars with only a motorcycle license. Adorable-looking, fuel-efficient and city-friendly, it's no wonder there's been talk of bringing it back -- though hopefully with improved safety features and higher top speeds.
Likely to split audiences, the AMC Pacer received high praise by critics and the public when it debuted in 1975 as bold and futuristic, but has since been derided as one of the ugliest cars of all time. Nicknamed the "moon buggy," the small and squat Pacer was 2 feet wider than it was tall and featured a distinctive wraparound three-piece rear window that made it look like a spaceship. You'll recognize it as Garth's car in "Wayne's World." The design made the interior feel roomy yet with the handling of a small car, but the switch to a more fuel-efficient motor made the car heavy and slow. But rather than entirely ditch an innovative approach, the AMC Pacer could be revived with a light, powerful engine, making it a fun, retro-futuristic city car.
A radical custom-concept pickup truck, the futuristic-looking Dodge Deora dazzled car enthusiasts when it debuted in 1967. And while only one was ever made, we'd love to see it return. Created by legendary hot rodders Mike and Larry Alexander with the help of former GM designer Harry Bentley Bradley, the Deora used the foundation of a Dodge A100 and was retooled to feature a front hatch from the rear of a station wagon that would lift up. It also had a complicated horizontal strut in front that rotated to let the driver and passenger in and out. It also had a well-appointed, stylish interior, along with other unique design innovations, though it lacked space in the pickup bed as that's where the motor was placed. And while the lack of any front-end protection wouldn't pass today's safety standards, with a smaller electric engine placed in back, it would sure make for a fun cruise -- perhaps on the moon.
Fans of the exotic good looks of Italian cars like Ferrari and Maserati combined with the power of a Ford V-8 engine at about half the price, will likely want to see the return of the De Tomaso Pantera. Less than 8,000 of the (relatively) affordable high-performance supercars were built from 1971 to 1992, and as sleek and powerful as they were, they ultimately proved more troublesome and costly to continue production. Plus, one was famously shot by Elvis when the King couldn't get it to start after a fight with his girlfriend. And while it may be impractical for toting the family around, it would certainly be blast to cruise around in (while costing less than pricier overseas sports cars).
Another wildly unique concept car, the Norman Timbs Special turned heads when it first appeared in 1947. Designed by Indy 500 racing engineer Norman Timbs, the super sleek car features an elegantly curved front-end and a gracefully long, sloping tail that seems to go on forever. Timbs used a powerful Buick Straight 8 engine to power the sleek roadster with a two-seat, front-mounted cockpit that had no door or roof and a chopped windshield. The car proved to be too expensive to produce and while it would likely still be pretty impractical by most standards these days, who could resist driving around in such a stylish work of art? Remarkably, it was recently found rusting away in the desert and was beautifully restored.
Widely considered to be the vehicle that kicked off the era of the muscle car when it debuted in 1964, the Pontiac GTO is a brash and zippy classic that deserves a comeback. Dubbed "The Great One," the iconic Pontiac remained a hit through several incarnations until it ultimately fell out of favor and production ended in 1974. And while the car was briefly revived 2004 to 2006, the legend didn't quite hold the luster. We'd love to see a return to the stylish good looks and performance of the earlier years with modern upgrades on the inside.
Built by British manufacturer Jensen Motors (no relation to this author), the Jensen-Interceptor was a stylish and sporty car that would likely find new fans today. While Jensen produced a different version of the Interceptor in the 1950s -- which is classy in its own way -- the most popular Interceptor's reigned from 1966 to 1976. Featuring the luxurious leather interior of a British grand touring vehicle, the sleek fastback styling of an Italian sports car, and the powerful muscle of a Chrysler V8, the Interceptor was a favorite of many, yet it has largely been forgotten in the pantheon of classic cars. It was later revived by dedicated investors in the 1980s and early 1990s, and while enthusiasts and small manufacturers still offer rebuilds, it's time for a grand return of the icon.
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