By on October 30, 2010

TTAC has long interpreted the industry’s trend towards global product lines and component-sharing as requiring a few strong, focused brands rather than the scattershot approach defined over several decades by General Motors’ mess of poorly-defined brands. But the industry wasn’t always marching to the beat of the fewer, better brands drummer. Once upon a time, the American car market teemed with foreign and domestic brands of all sizes and persuasions, offering consumers a nearly unfathomable level of choice. And though we know we’ll never return to the days that saw Borgwards and Crosleys sold alongside MGs and Matras, we do sometimes long for a return to those Wild West days when there were more brands than anyone knew what to do with. And since we’re approaching the corpse-exhuming-est holiday of the year, we’ll go ahead and ask: if you could resurrect a dead brand through a dark and unholy ritual, which would it be and why?

Would you rather have giant, coffin-nosed Cords rolling around, or would you like to see Chrysler reboot its small-car program by dusting off the old Rambler name? Or perhaps you’re hoping BMW uses the Isetta nameplate for its forthcoming city car, or that Fiat adds to its burgeoning brand portfolio by draping a Hemi-powered Challenger in sexy Italian metal and calling it the Iso Grifo. Whatever your unholy brand resurrection dream might be, this is the time to share it. Because you just can’t keep a good zombie down…

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67 Comments on “The Night Of The Living Dead Brands...”

  • avatar

    Rover, I would bring back Rover from the depths of ineptitude, and infuse it with build quality. The engineers at British Leyland (and all those other owners) were never really short of vision, it was the execution that was the problem.
    Ambitious, but rubbish.

    • 0 avatar
      The Guvna

      I’m with you, Mike. For all of the stick that Rover has taken over the years (most of it well-earned), I always had a real fondness for their V8-engined saloons: the P5B Coupe being my favourite by some distance (more stylish than the contemporary Rolls Silver Shadow, only marginally less opulent but with bags more character), but also the SD1 and its later variants, and yes, even the punchline 75. Say what you will about the Rover 75, but it actually was quite a wonderful place to pass the time, providing you didn’t opt for the diesel or 1.8 litre petrol engines. Quiet, comfortable, and with a genuine charm that Lexus, among others, could only dream of. As James May once noted, “It rides better than a Rolls-Royce Corniche, and it’s trimmed like a first-class cabin on the Titanic…before it sank”. These days, the second-hand market is full of nice examples for about the same price as a ham sandwich. That suits me quite nicely, thanks.
      And the rear-drive V8 model, the softer sibling of the equally charismatic MG ZT260, was one of those quintessentially Rover-ish evolutionary dead-ends that would arise from time to time—it didn’t make a damned bit of sense from a business perspective, but boy you’re glad they did it anyway. Other marques worth bringing back from the beyond, I think, include:

      1. Triumph. Leyland’s idiocy, combined with the little-loved TR7, brought an ignoble end to a long run of truly wonderful open-topped sports cars. As pleased I was that Lotus went back to the future with the first generation Elise, there was a little part of me that wished it had been Triumph’s moment in the sun instead. Resurrection of the TR5/TR6 for a new generation? Yes, please.

      2. Lancia. I know, I know. They’re not *technically* dead. But like most once-great-but-long-faded stars, they’re in the realm of “alive, career dead”. If Alfa Romeo can temporary summon the ghosts of greatness passed with the 8C, Lancia deserves a new Stratos or 037, too. Speaking of which…

      2B. Alfa Romeo is not dead, technically or otherwise, but if I had my druthers, they would never, ever make another FWD car again. The real Alfa is largely MIA. The 8C is a good start. Now give us something approximating the Tipo 33, and I’ll never bitch about their awkward-looking 1.2 litre FWD hatches again. Bonus points if they can produce an engine note even one tenth as awesome as that of the 8Cs of the 1930s again.

      3. International Harvester. They last made a passenger car about thirty years ago, so in my mind, they count. I don’t even really know *why* I think the world needs more American trucks and SUVs. I really don’t. In fact, I pretty much hate the ones they do make, and most other American cars besides. I just know that when I see an old Scout Traveller, I come over all funny. And there is something so…American about them. But in kind of a wholesome, America’s-heartland kind of way, rather than in an “America…f*** yeah!”, vulgar sort of way. I know that early heroes of the space race drove Corvettes. But in my mind, they drove International Scouts. The one nameplate I would love to see resurrected among all others is Duesenberg, but sadly I don’t think that even a clean-sheet, all-American $2 million Bugatti-fighter would be enough to overcome the overwhelming distain that most Americans seem to have for anything quite so conspicuously extravagant these days. In the 1920s and 30s, they were aspirational icons. Were a similarly outrageous car brought to market today, it would likely get gobbed on the first time the owner left it parked in public. “It’s a Duesey!” has become “Look at that rich douchebag with more money than taste. Douche”. Can’t drive, small wang, probably stole it, etc., etc. The sort of people who would buy a Duesenberg likely wouldn’t give a rat’s arse about what the bitter, grasping lower orders think of them or their car, but I can’t think of a single other reason that the ultra-wealthy American isn’t being catered to at home. It’s a damned shame, really. Arguably the best cars ever built, and they’re American. They’re something to be proud of. And they will probably never be duplicated on your shores again.

    • 0 avatar

      Of the recently dead I think Rover might make my list.
      But my Heart says Packard starting before the first World War My Grt grandfather put his coach horses out to pasture and sent his Coachman to the Packard plant to be trained. while he was away he converted the coach house (the coachman had rooms above) to a garage with gasoline and oil tanks/pumps and a full size inspection pit. his new Packard was driven back to Northeaster Conn by the now retitled chauffeur, John.
      Every 2 or 3 years John would be sent back to Packard to be trained on what was new and would return with the new model. this went on until WW 2. My Grandfather drove himself but he traded in his Stutz when he got married in 1918 and then he too drove Packards with large engines until WW 2. he kept his last prewar big8 Packard until 1948 when he switched to large Cads his last a 1952 served my Grandmother until 1961 when My Dad bought her a 61 Lincoln Continental 4 door convertible (what ever happened to 4 door convertibles?) which saw her out.
      So the Heart for Packard.
      But though the Hudson with the Teraplane Mt Dad had as his car in the Army in the late 30s early 40sgets a long thoughtful consideration.
      My head goes for Checker. the Fleet car that should not have been left to die. there should be a place for a car that in solidly built and that could be maintained for almost forever a car with no planned obsolescence

    • 0 avatar

      The 70’s Rover P6 with a Buick 3.5 liter V8 was the high point.  It launched years before the hook up with BL as a Rover 2000 and had to make do with a 2 liter straight four.

    • 0 avatar

      ” I know that early heroes of the space race drove Corvettes. But in my mind, they drove International Scouts.”
      Almost true, but the truth is even stranger than that. As Tom Wolfe documents in “The Right Stuff,” six of the Mercury were given Corvettes, and they cruised the Florida strips and raced on beaches in the sporty style Tod and Buzz of “Route 66.” Then there was John Glenn. The future senator from Ohio held himself apart from the rest, more sober and serious and, well, just different. His car of choice was “a boxy NSU Prinz.” This tidbit stood out to me, since I was one of a few dozen other US owners of these lightweight, squarish sedans, which cornered and growled like Porsches.

  • avatar

    I’d resurrect Lotus.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’m torn.  I’d love to see the people who own the rights to the various dead brands start putting them on the open market and see what happens.  Oh the fireworks as enthusiasts argue about whether its a real “insert name of dead brand here.”  I’ll quote my little read “Weekend Head Scratcher: Fantasy Car Maker” here:
    Oldsmobile: Modern interpretation of a Vista Cruiser anyone?  Turbo AWD mid-size 442?  98 Oldsmobile that’s everything that Cadillac’s flagship SHOULD have been?  Yes please.  No cloth interiors or crank windows in my Oldsmobiles.  Picture Audi fused with the presence and cachet of 1960s Cadillac’s. 

    So that’s my Oldsmobile resurrection.  Only cause I see what Oldsmobile could have been, it was heading down an almost Audi road when killed.  As Ralphie said in “A Christmas Story “Some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father was an Oldsmobile man!”
    I also dream of a Packard rebirth that rivals Rolls Royce or at least the Lexus LS400.  And with better styling than this:  THE HORROR THE HORROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      If we want to resurrect a U.S. nameplate that rivals the best of the best, why not Duesenberg?
      Packard had its heyday, but in my opinion it fell victim to the allure of the mass market (as Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler eventually did). As a result, we got the Clipper and some other de-contented versions of this once-proud marque. I’m not sure the same could be said for Duesenberg.

    • 0 avatar

      In the 30s ,Packard rivaled everything. My grandparents had one that came with matched luggage, “the Packard  bags.”
      The plaque is still on the building in Warren, Ohio.
      I once helped rebuild a Packard straight eight; easy.
      My father drove them until they went away, and then switched to Oldsmobiles, but he was never the same, even with a J2.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you Dan, Oldsmobile. Refer to my screen name above for explanation.
      Bur seriously though, I would love to see Olds again, but not the poor excuses for badge-engineering that we have seen on more than one occasion, but rather the stylish and innovative cars that the marque once stood for.
      I’ve shared this before here but it bares repeating. When I was a kid back in the eighties, Oldsmobiles were what people drove when they found themselves having “just arrived” in society. They commanded respect. In fact, amongst the spoiled, self-absorbed kids in my middle school, once it was found out that someone’s family had an Oldsmobile (or Mercury believe it or not) your status on the social totem pole was raised just a bit higher. I know because I was “the geek” in school, and whenever I would be dropped off at the front door in dad’s black-with-claret-leather ’86 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupe, even the worst of the bullies, and the biggest of snobs would nod their heads at me in approval.
      So yeah, my vote goes to Oldsmobile…

  • avatar

    I guess I really miss them all.  Especially Studebaker and AMC. I’ve owned four AMC cars (65 Ambassador, 73 Javelin, 87 Eagle, 76 Pacer)  and they were all crappy and unreliable–but I loved ’em for their quirkiness.

  • avatar

    I’d love to see Ford bring back Lincoln. I really miss the 60’s Continental, the Mark II/III…
    Oh, wait…Lincoln’s still around?  My bad.

  • avatar

    etc., etc.

  • avatar

    In all seriousness, Packard.
    Probably one of the most respected brands in history, Packard died a messy death.

  • avatar

    A subject that has held my interest since Studebaker ceased production in’66.

    I would resurrect Hudson, Nash, Packard and Studebaker – George Mason, before his premature death, was desperately attempting to pursuade the four companies to merge into one entity. A merger amongst the four largest independents may have staved off the inevitable, and possibly created the “Big 4”.

    It is easy to look back (hindsight being 20/20 and all), but by the sheer force of Mason’s will, the newly formed AMC could have been a force to reckon with.

    Nash – entry level compacts and mid-size

    Studebaker – mid-level mid-size and large cars, and trucks

    Hudson – up-level sports sedans (the Hornet, writ large)

    Packard – top of the line, low volume luxury

    Sharing many platforms and assembly lines, and forcing the UAW hand, Mason quite possibly would have had a healthy and profitable conglomerate to face down the Big 3. Unfortunately, his death in ’54, and the emnity between James Nance and George Romney ended any hope of a merger.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing …

      The Packard plant was at the end of the Detroit East-side street that my dad grew-up on.

      Hudson, except for the Great Depression and after its demise (he was offered a transfer to Kenosha but opted to move to Chrysler), provided a weekly paycheque for my grandfather and summer-employment for my dad as he went thru college on the GI Bill (dad polished the front right fender of many a Hudson.)

      Just to answer the question:  What would have happened if great cars were not felled by bad management.

      On the truck side I would bring back R.E.O. just so there would be a proper brand to hang the name “Speed Wagon” on …  (and, in the interest of full-disclosure, while I was by no means a die-hard fan, I did kinda like the hits from the band of the same, but “differently” spelled name.)

    • 0 avatar

      Robert.Walker – Wheels Are Turnin’ could have been sung by the BoG of any one of the Detroit 3.

      I would love to hear more about your father’s and grandfather’s time at Hudson. Did you ever visit the Packard plant?

      I grew up (my most formative years, anyway) in Windsor Ontario, and visited many plants accompanying my dad on sales or service visits when my mother was out of town on business. Sometimes we’d even go on Saturdays and I’d get to listen to him BS with the guys who would be effecting repairs and such.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, I am a early 60’s model myself, so Packard was dead and cold before I came on the scene.

      I can well remember, however, the view from the rear seat as my folks drove us from Dearborn over to Lambert Street in Detroit.  Lambert dead-ends into the plant and I would guess that their house was 2-3 blocks east of the plant. Odd thing is that I don’t remember the plant from those visits (even then, it would have been empty nearly a decade.  I do remember crossing-over one of the rail-spurs in the area of the plant, the crossing signal was my sign that we were almost there!) 

      My grandparents sold their house and moved to the west-side of Michigan in 1965, with gramps dying a year later.  Even then, pre-riots, the area was already undergoing a major socio-economic decline. 

      Being a Detroit west-sider, I didn’t pass-by the area for near to 20 years after that.  Then we were in the area so we made a little detour over to see the condition of my grandparents former home … it was still there and in amazingly good shape, even had been re-sided, but most of the homes on the block had disappeared, and there were just empty lots filled with weeds, trash and junk. 

      It was impossible not to cruise around and look at the The Packard Plant as well. It was still intact, and more or less secure, but many of the windows had been replaced with cinder blocks and it was showing signs of wear, yet the big water tower with the Packard logo was still standing proud (oddly, the tower had two different colors of paint on it, and part of the word Packard, maybe the “P” was gone).  The immense size of the plant was astounding, it blocked the evening sunset much like the mountains do where I live now (Switzerland). 

      My father pointed-out a smallish building at the end of the Packard property near the I-94 highway … this was the Dyno Building … I asked if this is where they tested the Packard Merlin engines from the P-51 Mustang fighter plane during WWII.  Dad said that PMC put up that building later on, maybe the early 50’s (this would have been about the time John Delorean worked there.) 

      Flash forward, I passed-thru the area again maybe 5-7 years ago.  Grandparents house replaced by a weed-filled lot, Packard plant totally decrepit, couldn’t find the Dyno Building anymore (but wasn’t sure I was looking in the right place.) 

      Since then I’ve seen reports of the plant catching fire, and of contractors sending in crews to reclaim all the expensive mahagony panels (not thin panneling, but T&G boards) from the office suites.  There are countless videos on YouTube of urban explorerers going thru the trash strewn and graffiti bedeckt facility.

      I keep hearing that the plant will be raised, but don’t believe that has yet come to pass.  But when it does, I wouldn’t be surprised if within a couple years following that, all that will be left to mark the spot will be the junk, tire carcases and more weeds. IIRC, there was a Michigan Historical Marker sign near the entrance to the office building, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that has been stolen, sold and melted-down somewhere by now.

      Sadly, I don’t really have any stories about any of their time in the industry.  Since my gramps died when I was not quite 4 years old, there was no opportunity to have a substantive adult conversation; at the time, it was all about going up to the attic with him and playing with his early 60’s Lionel set (which I have today.) 

      I do have a pic of gramps, from his Chrysler time (after Hudson, he was a Millright Mound Road Engine Plant) taken by the Plant Safety Office and used in a safety toe shoe campaign … he is there in all his pre-cancer robustness in cover-alls, dark welders glasses (not goggles) one foot up on an engine rack, the opposite hand resting on the handle of a sledge-hammer … the photo is the epitome of industrial cool!

      During the Depression, there was like 30% unemployment in Detroit.  Gramps was laid-off from HMC, and they survived by him working as a self-employed auto mechanic, she buying fruit from Eastern Market and baking penny pies and selling them to a bakery… One year, they had so little money, they could not afford a proper Christmas tree, so they hung Christmas lights on an upended evergreen branch … my father’s Christmas gift that year was an Ives/Lionel train set which my grandfather had found in the trash and repaired plus an orange (my grandmother cried when she thought of despite their desire to give proper presents, they couldn’t, and yet saw my dad – maybe 4 or 5 at the time – filled with joy nonetheless.)

      Dad saw enough of the plants to know that that was not where he wanted to earn his living … it lit a fire under him, and he graduated 13th in his class from Wayne State Business School in 3 1/2 years and made a career at AAA (Auto Club of Michigan Insurance Co.) He, from his time in the plant, learned to hate the UAW.

      I do remember my grandmother teling me of their journey in the 40’s out west to visit a cousin who owned a Dodge dealership somewhere … in their Hudson Terraplane, and other stories of how well the heater in that car worked in cold Michigan winters (perhaps I err here, but it may have been an aux. heater, but in any case she said she called it the Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo heater after the story from the Bible.)   

      EDIT: I forgot to add two recollections of my dad’s from his time at HMC. For two summers, he had to hold that buffing machine all shift and polish the rt. front fender of every car that came down the line … he said that after his shift, his fingers were stiffly curled up like a person with arthritis and he had to soak them under warm water to relax and straighten them (oddly, enough, as he got very old, like 50 years later, as the tendons in his hands shrunk, he had the same curling problem and some mornings had to soak them under warm water to get his fingers straight again.)

      Then there was the time that a car came down the line with a fender (or front clip maybe IDK) that was a different color from the rest of the car.

      I also have a couple of triangular tool check tags with the HMC logo on them, and a Snap-On 1/2-inch drive ratcheting socket wrench handle with HMC surrounded by a triangle etched into the chrome (as he was known to be an honest man, I don’t believe he swiped this, rather that he was able to take it with him when HMC folded-up.)

  • avatar

    Alfa Romeo.

  • avatar

    How about bringing back Delorean? If only to see how many people stick a flux capacitor on the back of it

    • 0 avatar

      Sajeev Mehta can probably answer this better than I can, but I believe there is an outfit in Houston that builds “new” DeLoreans from all the leftover parts.

  • avatar

    Pontiac – of course – for what it was and for what it could be.  Just when they were starting to focus the brand, they seemingly reluctantly phased it out.  I’m hoping they are secretly working on new Pontiacs at this moment.  Pontiac has too much potential not to be resurrected.
    By the way, I’m still waiting for Paul Niedermeyer’s “An Illustrated History of Pontiac: Part II.”  Here’s to his future piece on “…Pontiac: Part III.”
    Long live Pontiac; Firebird, Formula and Trans Am; Catalina; Bonneville; GTO; Grand Prix; Le Mans; Grand Am; Tempest; Solstice; Fiero!!!

  • avatar

    Where to start? The British brands? Lancia, perhaps?
    No, it’s nonsense. Those brands died for a good reason. Let them be dead. That’s why I wouldn’t want to have Marilyn Monroe, or Mae West resurrected, either.
    It was a joy to have seen them when they were alive.

  • avatar

    I’d love to see a new Triumph Spitfire hit the streets…

  • avatar

    Packard. If ever there was a marque that didn’t deserve to die, this was it.

    TVR. To me, the height of British car manufacture.

    Triumph. The best mass market sports car in the world. And the sedans were no slouches. Any chance John Bloor could get the rights to the car name, too?

    Duesenberg. You haven’t lived until you’ve driven one. And I got lucky – once.

    Cord. Only the most beautiful car ever made. Caveat: If you ever saw the pictures of the clays for the ’38 and ’39 models, they would have ruined the previous statement.

    American Motors as it should have been (Nash, Hudson, Packard – if Studebaker had come along that would have been nice, if not, no big loss).

  • avatar

    Couple comments.  First, I think there may have been the ability to have more brands back when because car companies usually had only a few cars.  One car.  Maybe one truck.  That’s it.  Think ’37 Chevy.  Or ’49 Ford.  So now we have lots of cars under one brand instead.
    I was surprised, but excited to see Hudson pop up.  Never knew much about these cars as a youngster, but spending some time in Detroit, ran into a few fanatics of this brand, guys who worked at the plant, and I have to say they were pretty neat cars, certainly seemed to be well engineered, powerful, etc.  I don’t really know the details of the downfall, but musta had something wrong with them.
    And of course Packard.  Even today these cars have an aura about them.  Prestige. Truly fabulous.  Its been what, 55 years or so since their demise, but my image is of just a stunning, beautiful machine for the very successful.  Sorta like an American Bentley or something.
    Of course, memories always tend to focus on the good and forget the bad.  Old girlfriends.  Michael Jackson.  Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll give you the quick rundown on why Hudson (and Nash, for that matter) failed:

      1. In 1953 Ford got determined to outsell Chevrolet. So they upped production and jammed the cars down their dealer’s throats. GM did likewise to their Chevrolet dealers. Prices fell as dealers struggled to move the metal. And the independents couldn’t keep up with the market. Everybody (Packard, Nash, Hudson, Studebaker) not in the Big 3 got killed.

      2. The 48 Hudson was a magnificent car. And incredibly overdesigned. And (here’s the killer) the body was impossible to do a yearly upgrade on, other than the usual grille and taillights. Back then, thanks primarily to GM, manufacturers were expected by the public to come out with what appeared to be a new car every three years. A 52 Hudson was still essentially a slightly facelifted 48, while the GM cars were in their third design cycle.

      3. Economy of scale. George Mason knew that Nash and the other independents were living on borrowed time. So he really pushed the idea of American Motors combining all the remaining independents (other than Kaiser). Unfortunately only Hudson came in. And within a couple of years their offerings were: Hudson (facelifted 47’s), Nash (facelifted 50’s) and the little Nash Rambler (which actually took off better than the two parent marques). Money was tight enough that the ’54 (or maybe ’55) Hudson was nothing more than a facelifted Nash – and neither were selling as well as the Rambler.

      4. Finally: The car that truly killed Hudson. The Hudson Jet. Hudson got the idea of bringing out a compact, like the Rambler or Henry J. Much smaller than the Hornet, unfortunately sorta looked like a ’53 Ford (at the insistence of the biggest Hudson dealer in the country) at a size where the lines didn’t work. It was almost as expensive to make as the Hornet. It bombed. And the money that should have been spent on a complete modernization and rebody of the Hornet was gone. See Ate Up With Motor for a wonderful history of that ‘effing car.

  • avatar

    Maybe some of the more learned Best and the Brightest can help me with this one.  I seem to recall 20-30 years ago there was a brand, I think they were German and had 3 initials in its name.  They built RWD sport sedans that were the very best driving machines, and were reasonably priced, given the quality.
    I think they were replaced by a luxury brand that makes crossovers for suburban moms.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Maybe you could help me out?
      About 40 years ago there was an American brand that was the “standard of the world” and built cars that rivaled Rolls Royce (but flashier) and this brand wasn’t even mentioned in the same sentence as Mercedes-Benz, cause the Benzs were far inferior.  I believe they used the family crest of a long dead French duke and there may have been some ducks somewhere on said crest. I think they were absorbed by a company that makes bling-ed out SUVs the size of church buses that lame ass posers and rap stars drive.

    • 0 avatar

      NSU? :D

    • 0 avatar

      Dan – the 50’s car that come to my mind as the most advanced for its time was the Citroen DS – which launched in 1955.  The DS offered refined luxury without being garish.  It was a comfortable car, but not the size of an aircraft carrier, i.e. Cadillac and Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe they used the family crest of a long dead French duke and there may have been some ducks somewhere on said crest.
      Merlettes. They’re not ducks; they’re merlettes. Ducks only entered the picture when Cadillac shamed the brand with the “Caddy that zigs” campaign.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan
    How bout that for a scary car, Edward?  Plus it is a car from a dead brand also.

  • avatar

    NSU is a good one. Should remain dead, as well, although they certainly deserve an own chapter in motoring history. Yeah, those motorcycles, like NSU Max, the early cars like NSU Prinz, the racers like NSU  TT, the early Wankels like the NSU Ro 80….But dead is dead.

    • 0 avatar

      There are ghosts still among us, however. Just look for the slivery, ghostly glint of the “TT” badge on the back of Audi’s small coupe. The blocky typestyle with subtle speed foreslanting is exactly the same as the tail badging of my old 1970 NSU TT.
      I still feel fortunate to have had a chance to won such a rare car, with fewer of all models sold in the US. Most didn’t last long, thanks to rust and scarce parts. The company notched its niche in car history by pioneering the rotary engine. More influential, by farm, was the Ro(tary) 80’s aero profiling, an early sign of the devolution of car shapes over the Twentieth Century. Early autos were truly horseless carriages, adapted from horse-drawn livery, with proportions to match. Until the 1960s, most drivers’ seats still sat high enough to see past a horse’s hindquarters. Today’s cars, shaped by fluid forces from aerodynamics to peak oil, look like a school of tropical fish. The NSU Ro80 represents the first time the species automobilis put all four tires back in the water…
      But I remember NSU as the builder of the Better Beetle. Just another rear-engine, air-cooled sedan, right? But it benefited from 30 years of technology. From tip to tail, the Prinz 1000 included a full-double-wishbone suspension; rack-and-pinion steering (with quick action, perfect feel strong self-centering), the three essential gauges in white on black, by VDO; a push-button windshield washer: a heater that worked, sorts; a back seat with decent headroom; just behind that, a an all-alloy, inline OHC engine so light that I balanced the car to 50-50 when I sat down; more wishbones, supporting double-jointed swing axles; and an Abarth four-pipe device that I regarded as my sound system.
      With road tools like that, I never wanted more… except air conditioning and spare parts and trained mechanics, but that’s another story. Since we’re all waxing nostalgic with this topic, I thought I’d try to buff out this forgotten brand. It’s ironic that today I drove a New Beetle TDI.
      One more comparison to the Beetle. Once I chanced to give Ralph Nader a ride across town in my NSU. It was comical to see him fold his scarecrow-sized frame into my car, which resembled a 3/4 scale BMW 2002. That scarecrow image persists, come to think of it, when you consider Nader’s career. On the ride over, I told him how I’d consulted his first auto book, “Small on Safety,” and concluded that my NSU didn’t seem to share the eight-odd fatal flaws he found in the Beetle.  Such as seats that launched yo through the back window in a rear-end collision (once I Once I actually witnessed this.) Nader had nothing to counter that, nor any apparent interest at all, after I told him there were so few NSUs around.

    • 0 avatar

      “The NSU Ro80 represents the first time the species automobilis put all four tires back in the water…”

      Wouldn’t that have been also accomplished earlier by the Scarab, Tatra, or the Dynamaxion forms?  (They all look like polywogs…)

  • avatar

    I don’t see the automobile market on an inevitable path toward consolidation and reduction of choices.  Packard, Nash, Hudson, Studebaker, Pierce-Arrow, etc, are gone but Kia, Hyundai, Suzuki, Mazda, Nissan etc, are here instead.  It’s all an ebb and flow operating almost exactly like the evolutionary process in the biological world.
    But that wasn’t the question . . . OK, so if I could have a dead brand come back I would go for Studebaker since it had some very innovative concepts in the works toward the end.  Alternatively, I would go for AMC if it could come back as it was in the ’63/’64 time frame when it was producing some of its best stuff.

  • avatar

    Checker. A manufacturer that makes indestructible cars for fleet work, that regular people can also buy.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    Oldsmobile and Pontiac… ’86 GMC and Buick.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan


    Make the first all hyrdogen powered mass market car and see if you can go 0 for 2.

  • avatar

    Rover P5B? I thought it was resurrected [somewhat] as the Chrysler 300..
    For long-faded opulence how about Daimler DS420 or Austin Princess VP?

    But if this is supposed to be a horror show lets drift to some other long gone Brit brands like the Rootes Group Hillman Hunter or the Chrysler Hillman Avenger – suffered briefly in NA as the Plymouth Cricket.

    How about the British Leyland Austin Allegro with quadrics steering wheel? Or the Vanden Plas edition which had to be the UK’s very own Cimarron.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I’m surprised to see continued interest in George Mason’s grand vision of a Big Four combine of brands using GM-style platform sharing.  That was essentially Chrysler’s MO for many years and look how well that worked — they didn’t have the economies of scale to keep up.  Add a few mistakes and you’ve got an exceptionally unstable — and arguably unsustainable — automaker.  Mason’s envisioned company would have had much weaker economies of scale than even Chrysler, and thus would have been all the more unstable.
    George Romney, who replaced Mason as head of AMC, had other ideas.  Instead of playing follow the leader he went in the opposite direction.  Ditch multiple brands.  Ditch the big-car platform in favor of compacts.  Ditch form over function.  Ditch the horsepower race.  For a while he even ditched two-door hardtops and convertibles.
    Conventional wisdom said that Romney would fail miserably.  Instead, AMC under his leadership became the most successful independent of the post-war period.
    My wish isn’t for the revival of dead brands so much as it is for the emergence of a new generation of automotive executive who is willing to challenge the prevailing norms of the industry.  Like Romney.  Or Honda.  They knew the dirty little secret about the American auto industry:  that conventional wisdom is usually wrong.

  • avatar

    I was also thinking Packard.  Of the “three P’s” (Packard, Peerless, Pierce Arrow) that once defined American luxury cars, they were the last man standing.  I thought their styling was beautiful too, until they became badge-engineered Studebakers.
    I also considered answering “Plymouth”, so perhaps the Fury and ‘Cuda could be resurrected.  But then I figured that “New” Chrysler would mess them up like they have with the Charger, Daytona and various other memorable Plymouth names.  Better to leave Plymouth safely buried then.
    Then there’s always Imperial, and I don’t mean “Chrysler Imperial”.  Imperial was once a separate brand under Chrysler with it’s own unique chassis.  (Make mine a ’61 Imperial LeBaron Southampton 4-door hardtop.)  Of course, luxury buyers would probably be as likely to eschew Lexus for Imperial now as they were to choose Imperial over Cadillac in the 50’s and 60’s.

  • avatar

    I’ve always dreamt of a Locomobile woody, that could I drive around on Sunday mornings, muttering to myself in Long Island lockjaw.

    • 0 avatar

      As in “Locust Valley” lockjaw?  Somewhere off of Chicken Valley Road?
      I vote for Pontiac.  While I missed the era of the musclecar, Pontiacs are what kindled my interest in cars.  I remember hunting for GTOs and the like when I went to college.  They were all 12 or more years old by then.  Gotta say car bodywork lasts much longer now – but I met the owner of one of them, and after we became friends, I begged to drive his baby.  He agreed, but first I had to win a bet of his making.  He decided that in order to drive the car, we would go to the local bar/dance club and I would have to dance with the girl of his choosing.  If she said no, then no deal.  So that Saturday night he pointed out three hot women and told me which one I had to ask.  They were standing by the edge of the dance floor so I walked up to the target to ask.  Her friend flashed a smile, but I ignored her and asked the “target” who promptly shot me down.  Her friend said I would have danced with you; too bad you ignored me.  I explained the “deal” and she laughed about it but I danced with her and the “target” and got my time behind the wheel of the Goat.  I dated her friend for awhile, too but she was pretty low on brainpower so that didn’t last.  So, yeah, I have to vote for Pontiac.
      To that list I agree with others and second IH and Checker.  Both of those brands were unique and decidedly American.  And, yes, Guvna’s comment about being American without being a brash dickhead is spot on.

  • avatar

    2nd vote for CHECKER …… nothing like it .

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Glad to see a lot of folks here think of Packard as a nameplate worthy of resurrecting.  I also think that, if GM really got its act together, they could resurrect Pontiac with the right products.   Heck, if what was once one of the most horrid products out there, Range Rover, could make a comeback, I don’t think recreating Pontiac would be a bigger challenge,

  • avatar

    I’m not going to vote for Pontiac or Oldsmobile because I’m sure that GM would just screw it all up again.
    So I’m going to cheat, not pick a technical “brand”, and say resurrect the 3800 V6.  No major reason beyond that I just personally like the motor, and would have liked to see the W and H bodies with the Series III under their respective hoods when they end production.
    Oh and because the 3500 sucks.

  • avatar

    Datsun !

  • avatar

    Rover, P5B!, We never got them on this side of the Atlantic.  I had a P5 for a short while.  I do miss rover.
    As to ISO, maybe a a new direction for Viper?  Chrysler hemi’s in sleek Italian coachwork.
    Abarth, not dead but it would be nice to see a selection of Abarths here rather than just a 500.

  • avatar

    Hmm, Fiat 500 srt-10….
    On a more Serious note, maybe we could have more brands, instead of the abundant selection of every car model. Even BMW who once upon a time did show some restraint now offers, well, let’s see
    1-series, coupe, cab, 3 and 5 door hatchback and X1
    3-series, coupe cabrio, 4door sedan, estate/wagon and X3
    5-series, sedan 5 door hatchback ,estate/wagon and X5
    6-series, coupe, cabrio and X6
    Mini, 3 door hatchback, Clubman, and now there’s a mini-Suv-version of than too
    And then the M-versions and an abundant selection of engines for every model.
    Do we need that many models for each manufacturer? I’d rather have more ‘Brands’ and different front ends.

    Edit, I actually forgot the 7-series, and offcourse you can have that stretched too. (and you can have a Stretched 5-series too, if I’m not wrong)
    And offcourse, they make a bunch of Rolls Royce’s too….

  • avatar

    Technically speaking, Lancia isn’t dead, just not here in the US, neither is Alfa Romeo, but it will be coming here along with Fiat, just that we’ll see the first model(s) from Alfa in about a year, following Fiat’s entry with the 500, which WILL come in as a sedan/convertible and in an Abarth variant as well, the convertible later this year with Alfa and Abarth in 2012 if memory serves.
    That said, Lancia is still exported to various other countries but not in UK nor the US due to the major fiasco that spelled the end of their time here in the late 70’s and early 80’s with the Beta having such severe rusting problems. What happened was that the front sub frame assemblies would come loose as their mounts would rust out, the problem was so severe that it caused Lancia to pull out of the UK in about 1980, the US in 1982 when Fiat withdrew, taking Lancia with them but Alfa Romeo still remained here before finally pulling out in 1995.
    It has been rumored that the US will see Lancia as either being re-badged as Chrysler Co products, such as the current Delta, perhaps as a replacement for the PT Cruiser but in any event, many Chrysler models will be based on in part or in whole, Lancia models as the Chrysler brand gets revamped to re-establish it as an upscale brand after it got muddled when Plymouth was discontinued (long live Plymouth). This according to Wikipedia. Also according to Wiki, Chrysler showed a Lancia Delta at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, so the speculation of it as a possible replacement for the PT Cruiser. I also think that we may actually see Lancia in name here as well at some point, but perhaps not, time will tell one way or the other.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    Have to add my vote for Packard, perhaps with a different take.  I grew up around Detroit, 50’s to the 70’s.  As a kid I thought I knew cars.  My first cars of familiarity were a 53 Chevy Bel-Air and a 55 Ford Custom.  In my high school senior year I got a job in a Dearborn machine shop.  One day I noticed a beautiful car in the parking lot and had no idea what it was.  Found out that it was a 56 Packard Patrician.  I knew Packards from a time well before my own and some about their legacy.  I had no idea they had still made cars up to the 50’s.  I went to find the owner who worked in the shipping department.  He befriended me, we went for a ride as he told me about the car.  I was enthralled with the self-leveling torsion bar suspension and the beautiful dash.  Found out he owned many Packards and helped me aquire my first and only Packard, a 56 Clipper Super, which later that year carried me and my record collection from Detroit to San Jose.  Earlier that year he and I went to a Packard meet at the Utica proving grounds.  Watched a lot of Packards go very fast at that track and learned a whole lot more since.  While one couldn’t say without the Studebaker merger they’d still be with us, I am sure that Nance’s direction with the company was the right one.  Had it had a better chance, they well might still be here.

  • avatar

    I’ve driven a couple of Packards and owned one, owned and driven several Studebakers, even jury-rigged one, swapping the engine and transmission from a 51 Land Cruiser into a 53 Commander hardtop that I’d bought engineless. I’ve owned a Rover 2000, one of the most frustrating cars ever in that its excellent acceleration and roadholding and its advanced styling were completely compromised by its abysmal build quality.
    So, what I’m saying on this subject is that all the dead brands are dead, for whatever reason, and we should look for new brands, new car lines, new ideas. I’m not saying we should forget the old ones. I love to see a DuPont or Pierce Arrow or Durant; to talk to someone who’s restoring a Packard like the 1955 400 hardtop I had or one of the many Chrysler products I’ve had; but: they have had their day.

  • avatar

    Without doubt Triumph. Not only did i love the TR6, TR5, Stag and Spitfire but the name itself is fantastic. BMW should stop fiddling around with it’s 1 millionth iteration of a MINI and the sill Issetta brand. It should get busy and build me a car I would want to buy from them. Namely a new Triumph.
    And if SAIC is listening how about a new Austin Healey 3000.. Pretty please.

  • avatar

    Checker for sure. When I drove a Yellow Cab 40 years ago they had just one drivable model left on the lot. And I would grab it whenever I could. Plenty of room for all my passengers and their bags.
    And sturdy, too. I wanted to buy it to use in a demolition derby buy couldn’t afford it!

  • avatar

    Since non-gasoline, hybrids, EVs are all the rage; bring back the Stanley Steamer…
    Help heat the water with solar panels on the roof (or even batteries).

  • avatar

    Rover definitely makes the cut. The P5/P5B deserve recognition, and even the oft-maligned SD1 was kind of cool in its own way. Beyond that, the choices are pretty near limitless. I know it’s not dead by any means, but it’d be nice to have Citroen here again. I don’t just mean cars like the C3 and C5. I’d want proper, oddball Citroens, the last of which was the CX. The C6 is heading in the right direction, but isn’t quite weird enough. Tatra would be nice to see as well, especially if we could buy them Stateside. The T613 went out of production in 1996; nobody’s had the audacity (?) to make a car quite like it since.
    I think Jensen would be nice to see too. The Interceptor was a brilliant fusion of British luxury and design and American technology. Drop a 6.4 Hemi under the hood, set it up with a good AWD system (the Interceptor FF was, of course, a leader in AWD) and you’d be all set.
    And it’d be nice to have Oldsmobile back too. Proper Oldsmobile, that is, with proprietary “Rocket” engines and trim styling. None of this Alero business, thanks.
    Packard could be a modern, American luxury brand. The name still means a lot to a lot of people, and might even have better connotations that Caddy/Lincoln these days. And oh, Checker ought to be revived and allowed to start building the Crown Vic under license.

  • avatar

    I’d say:
    Packard, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Isuzu.
    Alfa Romeo. I’d like to see it shine again.

  • avatar

    Edsel.  The perfect car when a Mercury is too plain and a Lincoln is just too flashy.  A real untapped market.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sorry, I can’t tell.  Is this sarcasm?
      Mercury is getting the axe for being too close to Ford to bother with, WHY would another half-step mis-step between Ford and Lincoln be useful?

  • avatar
    M 1

    I’d rather see the Federal government get out of the car business. Less government would equal more choices. Get that cleared up first, then we can pine for specific marques.

  • avatar

    Mercury. Although just recently deceased, if Ford were smart, they would keep Fords inexpensive, Lincolns REALLY expensive (and worth it) and just a few models of very nicely appointed Mercurys between the two. Personally, I’d love to see a revived Mercury Cougar with “heritage” styling similar to the current Mustang.
    In a perfect world, Pontiac AND Oldsmobile, too. Pontiac came real close to working out, with the Solstice, G6 and G8 as a nice progressive model line up. But I’m sure with CAFE regs, they had to offer the G3 and G5 to keep the mileage numbers up. Similar to the Ford-Mercury arrangement mentioned above, this time Pontiac would only be hi-po cars, no Chevy SS models. Oldsmobile, I would like to think of as the Mercury counterpart, at least in domestic terms. Again, no luxury Chevys or Pontiacs for that matter, but still a cut below Buick and Cadillac. Of course, all dealers would become “GM” dealers, too, so that a customer would be able to see all of the models all at once. Try and get that to work with state franchise laws!
    However, it seems to me the reality is that the current car market could not sustain all of these cars coming back, the way we remember them and with autonomy necessary to create truly outstanding vehicles. Additionally, other (foreign) makes have taken over the territory these domestic US brands used to occupy. Like someone else posted, every car line is now a full line, there is no reason to have all of the different divisions. So, farewell Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Mercury, et al.
    With that in mind, I will get in my Oldsmobile-powered Pontiac and go for ride on this sunny November day.

  • avatar

    We are living in a Rambler age. If AMC stuck with it’s Romney mission, and kept their compacts and subcompacts competatively healthy and modern, it would have survived. Jeep would have been their SUV brand during the small car market drought, and when the SUV boom finally popped, been right there with another practical Rambler.

    A Rambler minivan would have been a natural with it’s reputation for wagons. As would the Subaru 4 wheel drive market, calving off from Jeep in that market. Rambler would have been there for the Hyundai and Kia markets.

    Like what has been written here before – when our daily auto brands go in search of a rebirth, they end up with a version of the 1957 Chevrolet, 1963 Fairlane, 1976 Accord, a Corolla, a Camry – a Rambler.

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