By on February 3, 2017

2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard, Image: © 2014 Murilee Martin

Willyam asked: What are some vehicles that were right for only ONE generation, before they went back to being awful? Just one brief, shining, moment… when everything came together and the product was genuinely good, you know? It makes me think of Richard Burton signing:

In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here… in… Camelot!

I won’t spoil the fun by listing all the usual suspects here. Instead, I’ll give you my own eccentric opinion about a moment when a really crappy car became surprisingly desirable.


Between 1996 and 1998, it was possible to get a Grand Am GT coupe with a very aggressive bodykit, a 2.4-liter, 150-horsepower twin-cam four-cylinder that was a “Quad 4” by any other name, and a five-speed stick shift. I don’t think this was the fastest FWD Grand Am — that honor would probably go to the turbocharged ’86 stick-shift models — but it looked surprisingly good and it had an entirely acceptable power-to-weight ratio. They weren’t expensive, and you could get them in a monochrome gloss black colorway.

Equipped the right way, this was a car that was cheaper than a VR6 GTI while being about as quick and actually possessing a mild handling edge over the Mexi-German hatch. And the N-body cars were absolute cockroaches in terms of low-budget durability, even if they were more popular with some demographics than others.

When the Grand Am got bigger and heavier in 1999, it lost whatever charm it had possessed for me. It was also not even close to the best variant of its new platform; that honor would surely go to the Alero. So that’s my choice for a Camelot car. What about yours?

[Image: © 2014 Murilee Martin]

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216 Comments on “QOTD: The Camelot Cars?...”


  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    Pontiac Sunfire/Chevy Cavalier — the choice of discerning Juggalos.

    • 0 avatar
      Rochester

      There was never anything good about those cars, so they don’t fit the requirement.

      Here’s one that does: the Dodge Omni GLH.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        Back in the day a friend of my brothers’ had a GLH. I lived in a hilly neighbourhood and he and his buddies would show up on many a Saturday afternoon to enlist my girlfriend and I as ‘road blockers’. We’d stand in the cross streets as the younger boys took turns jumping this thing on surface streets. Crazy but good fun. You’d get three years in the electric chair for that these days – on ‘Sizzle’.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      They had several generations, you gotta pick one to be a viable answer).

  • avatar
    e30gator

    The last of the “square body” Ford F-150s (1992-1996). This was one of the last pickups that didn’t try to be a fashion statement. They could be ordered with either the 5.0 V8 or the indestructible 300 straight 6. Manuals were also standard equipment. Simple, rigged pickups for people who needed one.

    The ’94 RAM changed the pickup into an imagemobile in a lot of ways. Granted, new pickups are still bought by people needing to haul/tow stuff, but for every new one pulling work duty, it seems like there are three more turned into brodozers.

    • 0 avatar
      suburbanokie

      GM held onto its rather square, no-frills GMT400 designs until 1998.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Yep, also F-250/350s 92-’97 (pre Super Duty) were the sweet spot, looks, everything. Still are! Your last chance for the fuel injected, and legendary 351 or 460 V8s. Dead simple, many parts are shared with 1980 and up, F-150 and up.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        My stepdad had a 94 F250 he bought new and that thing was an unstoppable tank.

        He sold it to some guy who did a full restoration on it since it only had 45,000 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Awesome! I get chills when I see one near-mint and 100% original. No lifts, no nothing. Or are they restored??

          Either way, back then, almost all 3/4 tons and duallys were bought for hard work, straight up. They weren’t the fashion statement the are now. If they were, by now the 2nd or 3rd owner has run them into the ground.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well I think his had a factory suspension lift since it was quite tall and my tubby ass could barely jump up into it. :P

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            What? No love for the 1997 Femenine-150?

            Ha ha. IMO, more than the 1994 Ram mentioned below (which was a decent step as well, don’t get me worng), the 1997 F-150 kicked the “nice” (more stylish, more car-like, not a modern 1979 lol) pickup phase into gear and it really hit gold with those loaded SuperCrew 5.4L Lariats late in that generation. The “yuppie cowboy pickup”, if that’s what you want to call it, was fully realized. Now that’s all you see lol, or so it evidently seems to many of you.

            I guess because I live in a far less wealthy area that I gather many of you do, but I see almost as many black grille XL modern (style, as in base GM and to a much lesser extent, Ram, Nissan and Toyota work truck versions) pickups as I do women in their 40s, supervisors, and off-shore workers in their lux’ed up crew cabs.

            I see many decently equipped XLT-level/similar full size trucks, a healthy mix of them 4wd since game hunting is a common activity, and some similar level Tacomas/etc driven by guys my age who are able to work a decent job, unlike me at this time.

            I wouldn’t mind a 4wd F-150 (more for snow on PNW mountain passes, not hunting, but would go off road sometimes) XLT super crew. The modern great all-American Ford Galaxie of 2017.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’ve nothing against ’97+ “Jelly Bean” F-150s. They look/feel decades apart from the ’80s/’90s F-150. But in the last couple years, the older trucks are really starting to grow on me, Hardcore!

            Is it they’re from a simpler Time? They’re more manly for sure. I know I can work on them without learning more than any man should ever know about Cam Phasers, nor having to be lectured spark plug removal.

            I recently picked up an old ex-US Forestry (California) ’92 F-350 XL (injected 351 gas, non dually), repainted white, but with crank window, manual granny-gear 5-speed (3.73s f/r), manual hubs, and manual transfer case. Factory 16″ dish alloys, factory lift, with 285/75 BFGs.

            You can’t get much simpler than that, seriously, without losing fuel-injection and overdrive.

          • 0 avatar

            I love those pre 97 Fords (I really hate the jelly bean ones) I’m really not a Ford guy but those trucks really are handsome and timeless. I had one for a company tuck for a while 94 F250 351 auto steel wheels 4×4. I preferred the ram the replaced it but that truck was great.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Mike, I fully get what you’re saying, the old style really is a classic American truck like the ones before it.

            In its own way, the 1997 is too. It is iconic in its own right, it took the pickup to a different level, probably the most radical redesign of the era. Not even the Tempo and Contour were that dissimilar. (I smell a QOTD?)

            I love the fuel injected inline 6, it was everything the horrible 4.2L V-6 was not. Why didn’t they just use the 4.0 L Cologne engine? It had its issues but I’d take it over anything derived from the Ford 3.8L V-6.

            I have seen many examples of the Triton series V-8s that would blow your mind at the mileage. I think 28 posted an E-series (the autocorrect wanted to make “E-series” into “Al-Qaeda”, blasphemy!) with over 400k? Can’t remember. I’ve seen many Modulars with incredible miles on them.

            My ideal half ton classic Ford is a late 50s-1966, 1965 being the most desirable to me, with an Inline 6 and a 4spd BW transmission. I’d have to convert it to EFI, lol, hate carbs and the Ford’s pre OBD II EEC-IV is easy to implement and get to function correctly when retrofitting a carbureted Ford.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The EEC-IV conversion is exactly what I want to do to my barn-find original ’69 Cougar XR7 w/351w. I too hate carbs, and I’ll even do EEC-IV *emissions*, since I hate the smell/vapors of pre-emissions.

            I haven’t had a problem with my Modular 4.6 F-150, at just 52K mi, and I don’t expect to for years to come. But I see the truck as disposable, if anything major happens to the engine, or it just wears out.

            Older, Old Skool trucks are easy, cheap to service/repair/rebuild, up to a point. You don’t wanna to go too old, for everyday use/work, let alone pulling a gooseneck trailer to and from Colorado and California.

            And I just can’t see spending the big bucks on a new HD pickup, when I love the older trucks I grew up with. Plus I know all the weak links in their electrical, EEC-IV, etc. They’re stupid simple. I feel you just can’t beat them, for now and decades to come, unless you have the cash to have new trucks, constantly under warranty.

            They’re Hot Rods and Muscle Cars I can justify, use for work and write-off the expense.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Mike, I agree. If I bought a truck with more towing in mind than not, the generation you talk about diesel or a 7.3L Super Duty like my dad’s (330k+, original unrebuilt engine, trans, suspension/steering, rear axle (2wd) etc). Easy choice.

            Those early Super Duty (branded) trucks certainly had more in common with their predecessors than the F-150 of the era did.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Btw, forgot to mention, I couldn’t convince my cousin to Let me EFI his 1979ish F-150 4×4 351W. He bought a new very expensive carburetor. It would get fuel, but would barely run (was running well before Ethanol killed the old carb after he let it sit, against my advice). Everybody AND their brother tried to fiddle with it. It was a big F around.

            Sold it as an “almost runner” for half what I could have pulled out of it if it busted off and idled perfect with the first bump of the key, munch less drove to the new owner’s home instead of being hand winched up on a flat bed and towed away.

            I even found a 351 EFI parts Bronco with heavy rust and a cracked block IIRC, couldn’t get him to let me try the conversion.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Rust was the Achilles’ heel of those trucks. I live in an area where most cars don’t rust, and those still do. It’s very rare to see one without cancer.

      • 0 avatar
        IAhawkeye

        Here, where cars do rust, these trucks have all pretty much disappeared. If I didn’t know someone who owned one, I’d say they were all pretty much gone. Amazing when you think about how many they sold. It seems like every one I ever saw even when I was little was rusting.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Yeah, I imagine they didn’t get salt sprayed off them quite as often as a Camry XLE lol.

          My best friend still has his late-dad’s 1994 Ford F-250 XLT reg cab 460 2wd in Washington state. Low mileage, but has been used as a truck. Absolutely no rust, though. The old man and I bought it one day from a damn Cadillac delaer lol. It was a XLT in pristine condition with like 48k on it (early-mid 00s).

          I had found it for him as he said at Christmas he wanted another truck since I had sold his old 1986 Dodge 3/4 ton, and he absolutely loved the Ford.

          Wanted me to test drive it, of course I did. It was perfect except one power window and the pdl switch didn’t work on the driver side. They were the same switch as a 1st gen Sable 3.8L parts car I had, and that’s all it took to fix it. Can’t beat that with a stick, free easy fix.

          He actually drove it the first time 3 days after we brought it home. He backed out of the driveway, put it in drive and floored it lol, that old man (mid 80s) getting rubber in his sweet new-to-him truck. That was worth the whole cost of buying it.

      • 0 avatar
        Paragon

        I’ve actually seen a few of those old Ford trucks in recent months that look almost as good as new at first glance. Like everybody else, I thought most of them were pretty used up by now. But, perhaps some older gents that bought them new put rather few miles on them and took exceptional care of them.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          ^exactly, and we have them to thank for “saving” them for us to enjoy.

          We have a lot to be thankful to the old timers for. If it wasn’t 8:40am, I’d pour a shot of Jack in memory of our recently departed comrade, Whiskey River.

          “Whiskey River, take my mind…”

    • 0 avatar
      eliminator

      I totally agree with you.
      Miss old simple clean design trucks, with manual trans and steel wheels if possible…

  • avatar
    ajla

    “And the N-body cars were absolute cockroaches in terms of low-budget durability”

    Haha. Maybe this is true of the N-body from the perspective of VR6 GTI owners but a Grand Am makes the H,C, and B bodies look like an LS400.

    And my pick is the ’87-’95 LeBaron.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      Meh, N-Bodies roach around for a long time once you fix the LIM gaskets. Although, at this point, it’s probably worth it to pay extra cash to step into anything 3800.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Speaking of H-bodies, there may be too many incarnations of the Bonneville nameplate to define a single right or single wrong generation, but the 8th-gens were terrific cars for their time period, especially with the LN3. (Early 8th-gens had the LG3.) The ’88-’91 SE’s were great all-arounders, with a really nice blend of reliability, comfort, and performance at their price point.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        If H-body wants to be thrown into the ring, I’ll advocate for the 1992 to 1999 incantation and specifically the Bonneville.

        The 3800 was near perfection, the 4-speed auto was a beautiful match to the engines torque. Interior quality was competitive for the rest of the market at the price point. Even the base models handled well and could tackle the on-ramp at a much higher speed than what the hyw department had lamely posted.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          ^I heart FWD Bonnies. Ugly as they may be, they were damn nice cars and very reliable. They looked fine from the inside, let people point and laugh at the last gen’s “Batman’s Rental” look, they were so comfortable and a pleasure to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Mmmm…J-body LeBaron coupe with a turbo 4.

    • 0 avatar
      S1L1SC

      I had nothing but bad luck with my 1998 H-Body Grand Prix GT. First engine went out with a thrown rod, the replacement crate engine went out by sending a cylinder through the block. Plus the darn thing ate through tires like no ones business.
      And the interior seemed to have been designed by rubber maid and creaked and groaned over every single bump.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I worked at a GM dealer when that car was out. I was a dealer transfer driver. I usually went and got fully loaded Z71s from other South Eastern GM dealers, Jasper Ga to Dallas, Tx, all of the Gulf coast in between.

        I usually took a car. Sometimes it was hell. A Metro. A base Cavalier. Oh I hated them.

        One day it was our last (ever I think) V-6/automatic Firebirds.

        I was on I-10 heading towards New Orleans. The damn Firebird was helpless in the downpour. I was doing 45-50 in a 70 zone with hazards flashing. Even then was so stressed and it was going to be like this all freaking day, I jumped off at a populated exit (Slidel? Can’t remember, could be Mississippi) and went to a GM very close (thank God) dealer that carried Pontiac. I called my boss from his counterpart’s phone, and told him the situation. He said he only realized how bad it would be weather wise after I had left. He said he understood and was glad I pulled off before I freakin’ piled it up, lol my words – not his.

        He asked to speak to his equivilent, handed it over and went out of his office. A moment later, their version of me when I’m not driving brought me a maroon Grand Prix GT. Fully loaded. 3800 goodness. “Peanut butter” leather.

        I don’t think “wide track” advertising was out at the time, but I always found it funny that the same year Taurus during that advertising had a nearly identical front, but a wider rear track than a Grand Prix. I love the internet.

        That thing was like a Taurus. And by that, I mean in the way the Taurus feels securely planted in such conditions, safe, predictable. It was just perfect for what I needed. Not a top heavy 2wd SUV or light-in-the-@§§ pickup.

        Actually a nice, warm, comfortable and most of all SAFE road trip car. Never drove one in snow, but in downpours, I was doing 60 until I cleared city traffic, then up to 65 in the lighter (rain) spots.

        No Aztec at that time, or I’d have probably got that LMAO but I loved the Grand Prix. It was my savior that day.

        I did drive a base model GMC back that day, it was way on the other side of New Orleans, but by the time I hit the storms again, they were not as bad like before.

        That was the day I rescued a dear woman who had avoided a hydroplaning car and ended up spun out in the median. I think I’ve shared that one previously haha. I remember the GMC’s rubber floor when she got in, the noise her shoes made.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I had a ’99 Grand Am GT1 coupe. Black over tan leather, every option. I loved that car. Listen. I was 17, and its loud ass factory stereo (“Monsoon” as GM called it), sunroof, and keyless entry were just magical to me. This is because I was coming from my first car, a ’92 4-cylinder automatic Chevrolet Beretta with zero options. The Grand Am felt like a damn Benz in comparison.

    I have to say, it was a very reliable car for me with no major issues over two years and 30,000 miles. I traded it in on a 2008 Mazda3 in August of 2009, and I still see the Grand Am occasionally to this day. It was for sale on Craigslist not too long ago with around 220,000 miles on its original engine and transmission. It unfortunately looks like shit, now, but it still runs well.

    I think I had the only reliable GM N-Body ever produced. I probably should’ve kept it.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Dodge neon 1995-1999

    Sold like hotcakes, lithe screamers with soft seats, nice independent suspensions, great acoustics and radios. Roomy, reliable– put a hurting on Civic and Integra and absolutely destroyed the domestic competition.

    Also cute as a button– ushered in the modern bustleback era.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Agree, except for 2 things:
      1. Awful “Hi” introductory campaign
      2. Folded like an accordian in small crashes.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        You should’ve seen the sunroof cars my family bought. Turned into the golden arches.
        , folding right behind the roof openings at the B-pillar. Few compacts got good ratings then– ever looked at the crash data for Cavaliers or Escorts? Just as ugly.

        I can’t apologize for the state of the then-current art. It’s as it was.

        The ‘Hi’ campaign was quite reminiscent of the OG VW advertisements, good or bad.

        Still stand– the neon was so good the next crop of compacts aped it and it’s ‘bigger than the rest, and damned-near twice as fast’ formula. She was a trendsetter.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        #2. In their defense, so did a full size Grand Marquis or Town Car.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Grand Marquis and Town Car are two of the safest cars as far as crash protection. Turns out sometimes, bigger is better.

          If I had to hit a wall in a paint-flaked off the roof, base model engine, blown head gasket, 3 speed Neon or Grand Marquis GS former independent taxi with a terrible custom snowflake (that looks like dirt) paint job with 398725 miles and 3 different miss-matched rims that leaves a little cloud of blue smoke in the intersection, I’ll take the Merc, if you please sir.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        3. 60,000 mile head gaskets.
        4. paint peels off early
        5. additional nickle and dimeing.

        I had a 2.0l in another car, and was badly burned by the head gasket issue (I’d hate to think what would happen if I had gone for the ACR* car they were trying to sell me. 4000rpm minimum on a highway… But lots ‘o fun… I’ve seen the paint issue directly (worked with a guy who raced them), and I’ve heard of plenty of repairs (but not specifics) of another neon owner.

        Too bad. I’m sure it was a great car before they let the bean counters redesign it.

        * ACR presumably stands for “Air Conditioning Removed” (not “American Club Racing”). Not a good idea for one south of the Mason Dixon line.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The only thing those early run Neon’s destroyed were there engines and head gaskets. These cars were hardly what I would call reliable or well built. Hordes of these things went through the as-is lanes of the car auctions that we frequented back in the day with leaky oil smoking engines, head issues, failed sensors and computers, shot A/C compressors and buggered up interiors. The Cavaliers and Escorts also prominent in that lane and for good reason.

      None of them were good in crashes either.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        As someone that drove his original neon 180,000 miles over 12 years– A/C was never a problem and the vehicle was on it’s original (oversized and very powerful) compressor/charge when it was put out to pasture.

        The head gasket ‘nightmare’ everyone is still complaining about– that took 3 days at the store and I was provided a loaner during the repair. Nothing I’m angry about 15 years later lol

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        Having a 3 speed automatic when even the neglected J body’s and Escorts had overdrive was a glaring oversight on Chrysler’s part.

        The paint that disappeared within 10 years on some colors was also not exactly confidence inspiring, either. A lot of vehicles from that era had paint issues, but Chrysler products (and the GM Express/Savana twins in all-too-common Fleet White) were the worst IMO.

        • 0 avatar

          The 3 speed was near indestructible thou something that could not be said of anyone’s 4 speed at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            GM’s 4T40E appears to be reliable. My mother’s has 240k miles on it now. I had to go to a transmission shop to find an axle shaft seal for it a few years ago and I ended up having a discussion with the friendly owner. He said he’s never had to repair one; just axle seals and fluid changes.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            It also drank gas the way an automatic Tempo would if driven hard. The manual was the answer, to both questions (cars).

        • 0 avatar
          rpn453

          A 3-speed auto with a lock-up torque converter wasn’t so bad, but I don’t think it even had that! Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Count me as a fan of the original Neon. It was a better driving car even in base form than almost anything offered at the time. I got to drive these a lot, as I traveled for work a lot more back then. It was my rental car of choice. With that twin-cam motor, it could eat up the road and the suspension worked rather well on all roads.

      If we were to go back in time, I would rank the Neon #1, with the J’s and the Escorts a tie for #2. Knowing now what I didn’t know then, it looks like I dodged (hah!) a bullet, in terms of reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I do agree, the original Neon was a good product. I know what I mentioned about the 3 speed, paint and head gasket was negative, but its the truth on an otherwise excellent car.

        (They were also incredibly easy to break into with the frameless windows.)

        My ideal would be the Plymouth badge (because Plymouth), two door, manual. Was the 150 hp available in that configuration?

        I know the 2.4/manual was not allowed in the Breeze, only the 2.0L. Kinda irks me.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    First gen Acura MDX.
    Also, First gen Acura Legend and first gen Acura Integra.

    There may be a trend here.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      The last bodystyle Integra crossed my mind for a nomination. But, like I mentioned about why I didn’t pick the 2nd gen Taurus, it would imply that the previous ones sucked as hard as say, an 80s Grand AM Jack refers to, and they didn’t.

      It is my favorite version, although I hate the goofy front end and much prefer the refreshed JDM Honda Integra front clip.

      That’s not because I’m all JDM, yo, its just a cleaner design compared to the weird quad headlight look we stuck with on this side of the Pacific.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      Yes that has been Acura’s problem since the early days – the first generation of each model is the best and it is all downhill after that. I’m also hearing the second gen NSX isn’t nearly as interesting as the first gen.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The first-gen Legend couldn’t hold a candle to the longitudinal-engined second gen, which in my opinion was peak Honda.

      I think the second-gen Legend (1991-95)is a good candidate for this list. Its successor, the first-gen RL, is a cockroach of a car but totally lost the elegance and agility of the second-gen Legend. I like those Legends enough that I bought one, a ’95 with 189000 miles which I still own.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      MDX? I may be racist against SUVs but an SUV? I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.

  • avatar
    CRXPilot

    For me the answer is the Aerostar minivan . This was designed as a body on frame truck while trying to hold on to the minivan look and it was terrible at both . somehow the Chevy Astro van hung on which was another testament to the badness of the Aerostar concept

    • 0 avatar
      CRXPilot

      Since I can’t edit, I’ll reply. The middle-aged soccer moms and business dads who bought these really thought they did well. Lots of available variants, lots of conversion vans, lots of cameos in TV (my judge of popularity), but once those few years passed they were all gone and forgotten. Maybe a few locksmiths kept them around in their fleets, but otherwise extinct.

      The Astro, by comparison, is still a mean-looking beast; https://www.google.com/search?q=lowered+astro+van&safe=active&espv=2&biw=1600&bih=794&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjvls-2iPTRAhVG1mMKHX6XAwAQsAQIGQ

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      So your example of a good generation of an otherwise sucky vehicle is a vehicle with one generation to include a major refresh?

      Maybe some prefer the truck ruggedness of the Aerostar and Astro. I know I do. Since the Aerostar was the second best selling minivan behind the segment leading Chrysler duo for quite a while, obviously I’m not alone here.

      Out of the rust belt, there are plenty of Aerostars running around. I had a 1996 XLT a few years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        CRXPilot

        I guess my pre-coffee reading comprehension got the best of me. In the 80s and 90s, the Aerostar was the suckier choice in the truck/minivan war. Yes, it only had the one true generation, but it spawned a big rush of buyers before everyone went, “what have I done, Dianne?” and sold them on to less demanding secondary markets.

        An Aerostar bubble, so to speak. Made good as a reflection of production numbers. To that group of buyers, they were great for a while.

        I’m still needing coffee. Carry on.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          So, the bubble explains why Ford headquarters were inundated with letters demanding it remain in production after they announced 1994 would be its last model year? Is that why they kept it until they could no longer legally sell it without a major redesign?

          Demand remained strong up until the end of the line in 1997.

          It was not discontinued due to lack of demand, but because it wouldn’t meet new-for-1998 crash standards and Ford decided to pump money instead into the Windstar redesign to better compete with Chrysler’s FWD leaders (launched in 1998 as a 1999 model).

          My parents, having owned a 1990 from new for 6 years, seriously considered buying a new 1997 when they learned it would be the last year for it. Since I was their youngest child and would be graduating in a about 3 years, they decided they didn’t need a minivan and bought my mom a 1997 Mercury Sable sedan instead.

          The Aerostar was still rugged but was more comfortable than Astro/Safari, and outsold it until it was cut due to the aforementioned crash standards.

          In fact, well into the 2000s, low mileage and excellent condition examples still commanded decent money as those with worn out high mileage models chose to replace it with another Aerostar than with the truly “sucky” Windstar.

          ATP for the Aerostar was incredibly strong for what it was. I get that you don’t like it. Fine. But that doesn’t mean nobody did. Quite the opposite in fact.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            *they had the 1990 Aerostar for 7 years, sorry. Traded it in in 1997 on a leftover new 1996 Mustang, which is why I mistakenly put 6 years.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      The Aerostar was not body on frame. It was a unibody with some frame rails added so that it could tow a trailer.

      I had an Aerostar for 10 years, and it served its purpose very well. It remained in production long after Ford introduced the Windstar because of dealer and customer demand, mainly as a commercial vehicle

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        It wasn’t mainly commercial after the attempted 1994 killing, the retail demand remained high right up until 1997, and would’ve lasted a few more years had Ford not been forced to discontinue or redesign it for 1998 to meet newer safety standards.

        It was a hybrid BOF-unibody, like the XJ Cherokee. It was most certainly based on a truck frame, but with coil spring rear suspension similar to a Panther’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        I drove an Aerostar as a delivery vehicle for a year. It was fine for hauling stuff around LA, and a lot easier to maneuver than an Econoline. Borrowed it for a few camping trips. I liked it better than contemporary Caravans.

  • avatar
    John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

    I agree with your choice, having driven a 2.4L/auto sedan of that era for a couple weeks (was a trade in at the dealer I worked at). I almost pulled the trigger, but the morning I had decided to go ahead and buy it, it talked me out of it by stalling on an on-ramp and nearly causing an accident in the process. I took it as a bad omen and decided not to buy it. My luck, the head gasket would’ve blown 3.2 minutes after I signed on the dotted line.

    Off the top of my head is the 1995-1997 Lincoln Town Car, but going back to 1990 to include the entire generation is acceptable.

    I would be nominating the second generation Ford Taurus, however that would imply the first generation sucked, and IMO, it most certainly did not. I just feel like it all came together better in the 2nd gen, having owned several examples of each. I do have a lot of love for the first gen, especially the 1986-1988 pre-refresh “original flavor” cars.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      How do you feel about the 2.5l/3-speed non-OD first-generation cars?

      Mine is still haunting me!

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I had one, 1988 L. It was reliable but got worse MPG than my V-6/overdrive cars.

        I liked mine well enough, but that could be because I paid $50 for it as the owner thought the engine was seized and the trans was failing. Turns out, the idiot had the battery in backwards and the transmission cooler line was leaking. Fixed the leak and the battery situation (it blew out the starter solenoid and the headlamp switch, both very easy and cheap to replace), kept it for over a year (granted, it was parked for a long time since I had left the state for a while), but it was decent and profitable (sold it for $800).

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          Mine was beautiful and comfortable. It was eggshell blue over medium blue interior and I waxed it weekly. How I loved that car!

          It was all good thrown at bad. It broke down in every possible way. We even had to take the dashboard out of the damned thing to do the heater core– and I had to keep a spare ignition part in the trunk(it was round with 4 posts– bolted to the inside fender and went bad on the regular) as well as the trunk inertia switch for the fuel-cutoff. Many a stop sign made the car stall.

          It needed starters, alternators, a full steering system rebuild, 3 engines(bad junkyard engines– the 2.5s were all crap) and multiple transmissions as well.

          Had it 8 or 9 months before the neon and I’m certain the Taurus’ badness is what makes me remember the neon as a reliability marvel.

          Had to do a complete cooling system rebuild, too. The Taurus was so expensive to keep running that my parents decided a new car payment on the neon was more economical lol

          The Taurus was so pretty we got $750 trade-in for it in inoperable condition, though. Dealership couldn’t get it repaired and scrapped it.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            That part on the inner fender was likely the starter solenoid, and it was much easier to replace being mounted there than if it was integrated into the starter itself as with most cars. All Ford’s had that for a long time. If it fails, you can still start the car by using a (rubber handle!) screw driver to bridge the connetion between the two main power nodes that stick out of the device.

            Every car I’m aware of has the heater core mounted behind the daah, on the inside firewall, so removing the dash is a fairly common repair procedure. Yes, their heater cores would rot out and fail prematurely sometimes (the majority of my 10+ Tauruses had no issues), but there was nothing unusual about its location or the repair procedure.

            Sure, some cars were far easier than removing the dash, especially before passenger side airbags became standard in the mid-late 1990s. The easy heater cores were in trucks, like the 1994 and older Ranger/Explorer. All you had to do was drop the glove box and you could wiggle it out from there. I did my dad’s 1994 Ranger’s in about 15 minutes, compared to 8 hours (+/-) book time for a Taurus.

            In the later generations (1996-2007), there is a trick to replacing it that negates pulling the dash. You have to cut a little bracket off to get it to slide out. But, the bracket’s ONLY purpose was to allow the robotic arm in the assembly plant to pick up the dash and place it in the car for installation during assembly, so cutting it out of the way hurts nothing. I’m not sure if 1st and 2nd gen models have a similar trick, but I intend to find out if/when the one in my 1995 fails.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            That sounds kind of like my ’87 Taurus (Vulcan-powered GL). It too munched starter solenoids like candy and required a heater core repair, which was $1000 in 1993 dollars. It also had an issue with alternators. But it was more reliable than the ’89 SHO I bought after it. That thing was an unqualified pile of garbage.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Damn, I’ve only replaced the voltage reg on my original alternator, now on a car with 230k miles. It didn’t outright fail, it would just cause an annoying momentary dip in electrical power when a drain was placed on it (like the brake lights coming on, the HVAC fan turned from low to full hi). The regulator came from the alternator on the 3.8L parts car. The 3.8L alt would not bolt in, but the regulator fit the old alt perfectly and stopped the annoyance.

            My 1993 had its original alternator when I sold it at nearly 300k. I know they were redesigned to accommodate a single serpentine belt at some point, maybe their reliability improved at that point?

            All four window motors in my 1995 have failed. The kicker? They have “Denso” stamped into the casing on the part that failed, which is the plastic teeth that attached to the window winder/regulator, used to transfer power from the electric motor to actually move the window. They have all stripped. I bought a Dorman replacement for the driver’s unit, it lasted a whole week! Then the same problem, stripped gears.

          • 0 avatar
            SaulTigh

            ’90 L with a V6. Replaced the heater core, starter solenoid and voltage regulator. Otherwise reasonably reliable, and the car I took to college in ’94. Had 150,000 on the clock when I sold it to one of my classmates who took it to graduate school in New Hampshire. I’m sure it didn’t take long to rust away into scrap.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I looked at a ’90 L with no options but the 3.0 V6 and air conditioning when I bought my ’87. Being very new at the time (it was late 1991) it was just a bit out of my price range. It was only even somewhat close because it was a completely awful color combo: baby sh!t brown on black mouse fur. But I probably should have bought it; it was lower mileage and seemed much more solid than the much prettier, better-equipped burgundy on gray ’87 GL I ended up with.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Dal, when I bought my 1992 Tempo LX V-6, I worked at a Lincoln-Mercury store and we had a 96 Taurus, Rose Mist with 50-60k on it in like-new condition, and a dark green 1997 with tan interior and 81k.

            The 97 wasn’t bad but had been towed by an RV and had some cosmetic issues up front. I was trying to decide between the two. I could not stomach having a Rose Mist oval/bubble Taurus. The less-nice green one was what I drove back and forth to work for a while after my freaking older Camry LE quit on me lol (I hated that thing). The Rose Mist drove as good as a brand new Taurus. Both were GLs. Both were $6495 IIRC, I know they were the same price and were below $7k.

            I couldn’t decide.

            I knew the Rose Mist was the better choice, but even though I’m comfortable with my gender and sexuality that it wouldn’t hurt me to drive it, I still hated looking at it myself.

            What I mean is, it didn’t make me “feel more gay” LOL because that isn’t really possible, but I have never liked pink or similar feminine colors. Red is good, but a once-red Honda Fit that has fadded to something like Rose Mist, nope. Can’t do it. Lol the heart wants what it wants, rejects what it doesn’t.

            In that spirit, I bought the Tempo which was half as much (around $3500 financed total, slightly below Blue Book retail at the time), had the same miles as the dark green 1997 Taurus (in better overall condition), and I was very happy with/in it. It was much faster (same engine in a slightly larger/much more refined 1st gen Escort). The LX model was damn plush for what it was (much nicer than a Tempo GL), more cloth inserts instead of vinyk, thicker and nicer seats cloth with piping, and even a power seat the green Taurus lacked.

            It was like Tempo Braughm lol, but NO old grandma special “decklid luggage rack” that I hated with a passion on Tempos.

            That Tempo went through hell in the 100k I put on it as a d/d. Crossed this country many times, later with “TEMPOLX” vanity plate. ;)

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      I think the first- and second-gen Tauri were reliable in a Ford way. That is to say, most everything on them lasted as long as Ford wanted it to. Ford’s new slogan in the 1980s, “Quality is Job 1” had some real R&D money and mind-power behind it. But Ford didn’t want all the quality available, only “enough” quality to get through warranty. And that’s what they got.

      I think Honda and Toyota could really separate themselves from the domestic pack in the late 1980s because they were really overbuilding quality as compared to the domestics. That’s something the Japanese makers later “corrected” to an extent, which may or may not have helped their bottom line. Both Honda and Toyota suffered from big quality issues in the mid-2000s. Maybe the legal climate had changed by then, in part because of the high expectations of reliability that the Japanese makers themselves had set in the late 1980s and 1990s.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        So, if what you say is true, mine has a 230K mile warranty? And my neighbors 1997 has a 260k mile warranty?

        Damn.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          If you and your neighbor got 230k miles and 260k miles out of two Tauri with no parts replaced, then I will certainly be quite floored. If it’s true, then you are certainly extreme outliers. In fact, if either of you got 100k miles out of an automatic transaxle, you are outliers.

          Did I mention I have owned a string of old Fords, and my current one has 220k miles? But I won’t kid myself that it was easy getting it there.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            The drivetrain of both cars are original. Nowhere did I say nothing was replaced. Of course normal items to fail like water pump, coil pack, hoses, belt, those kinds of things have been replaced like any car with decades of use under its belt.

            You can try that “lucky to get 100k” line on someone with less experience with these cars than I have, maybe it’ll get you a cup of coffee or something, but I know better.
            My family has bought them new and put 200k on them without a rebuild. But, we had this crazy scheme to make it happen: we maintained it with fluid/filter changes every 30-50k.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          Well, maybe 100k is a bit pessimistic when a transaxle is paired with a Vulcan. Point taken.

          Sorry to hear your 230k warranty wasn’t bumper to bumper. You should have read the fine print.

  • avatar
    mleclerc19xx

    90’s Nissan 300ZX Turbo. A looker and a great performer while being reliable and well built. The previous gen had been left on its own for too long and wasn’t really competitive. The following 350Z, while a decent performer, wasn’t as good looking and certainly wasn’t as well screwed up. Hello cheap plastic interior!

  • avatar
    threeer

    Call me goofy, but when Chevy redesigned the Malibu in 2008, I feel like it had become “just right.” I actually prefer the styling of that variant than pretty much anything just prior or after that. I rented many of them, and with the V6, they were a truly nice vehicle, especially in upper trim levels. The ones before and after just seem to be “off” to me somehow.

    • 0 avatar
      mwellscubed

      Totally agree. That’s why I actively seeked out a loaded ’12 instead of shopping for a newer one at the same price point.

    • 0 avatar
      Thorshammer_gp

      That’s the one that popped into my mind right away when I saw the title. I’ll never understand why or how GM managed to take everything good about it (interior space, styling, etc.) and throw it away for the 2013-15 model.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    My entire automotive biography can be described as automotive Camelot.

    1987 Taurus: Trendsetting design formula. Let down by Ford’s poor powertrain and their(still-there) need to rush (admittedly ahead of the curve) product to market.

    1969 VW Type III 1600TL: Big little foreign thing with fuel injection. FUEL INJECTION!

    1998 neon coupé: Already spoken about

    1979 Mercedes-Benz 240D: Anvil.

    1984 Volvo 245DL: Quicker anvil.

    2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser: Built on the neon’s success and sort of foretold the current crossover’s story(fat margins on basic tiny car bones– also used to pad CAFE numbers by technicalities, though i adored the bushbutton door handles it allowed)

    2015 Dart Aero: Super modern canary in the coalmine. Lightened suspension, active aero treatments and super mileage in an approachably-priced big little car.

    A dozen air-cooled VWs Type I: Everyone loves them, but they’re good at nothing except being repairable on the shoulder. Suppose they were ahead of their time in the 40s whenever they were being developed.

    I like an unlovable car.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      You clearly didn’t understand the question.

      How can the PT Cruiser, for example, have a “best of the worst” generation when it only had ONE generation?

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        I was just trying to be happy about my life’s story as told by automobiles, however off-topic it may have veered. Please forgive my having been so obtuse.

      • 0 avatar
        bluegoose

        The major refresh in 2006 is really considered as a second generation for PT fans. I loved the first gen. I disliked the second gen..inside and out. The first gen was a major hit, was recommended by Consumer Reports, and was on Car and Driver’s Top Ten. The second was a disappointment in many ways.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          My 2008 (always called it a 1.5g car) was screwed together super well.

          It had cheap looking plastics because of their lighter coloring, but it was drum tight to 100k. Got rid of it to move into the current century in a Dart and the Dart rattles worse 12 months later than the PT did at the time of it’s replacement.

          I miss that one.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          I had no idea. Thank you.

          In the Taurus world, we have generations and half generations.

          1996-1999 is the third gen, so 98-99 is gen 3.5 as it was refreshed with a different front facia, tail lamps and option packages (and even more damned decontenting).

          My 1995 is a gen 2.5, since in ’94, the cars got body color door handles for the first time, redesigned (and FAR better looking) driver’s airbag along with a standard passenger airbag for all models, FINALLY a 6 digit odometer (so the fourth owner can’t claim the beat up, well-used car has “32k original miles!” when it’s more like 232k), and LX models got crystalline headlamps (which I need for my GL, its a direct bolt-in replacement).

          Im sure there were other minor changes I’m forgetting.

          • 0 avatar
            Mc40

            R-134a refrigerant for the AC, and the LX wheels were “bright,” instead of painted silver. :)

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Yeah. Very good. :D

            I have a set of 1992 LX painted silver alloys I don’t particularly want, lol.

            I just told my brother the other day that all 1994 and newer Fords had R 134A, including the last year Tempo which was only about 100k units since they stopped production in the spring to retool foe the Windstar in Canada, the Contour in Kansas City.

            Yes. The Tempo was so awful and terrible and sold so badly that they required two factories to produce them to satisfy demand.

            Yes, Hertz was likely the biggest customer, but in those days, a sale was a sale and the Tempo MORE than paid for its design and tooling quite early. Maybe not F-150 profitable, but it did well.

            It sold okay in retail, really. Old people loved the I-4/auto GLs. I liked them well enough, too, but I obviously didn’t buy a new one because I was in grade school lol. I would be driving a spanking new manual coupe off the lot in the late 80s/early 90s.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Original K-Cars, Plymouth Reliant & Dodge Aries. Perfect for the time.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Perfectly terrible.

      And which Aries/Reliant generation was better than the rest? They only had one generation with the lightest of light refreshes until making way for the far superior, but still K-based, Spirit/Acclaim (which also had just one generation).

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        The K-cars were dull as dishwater, but they were roomy for their size, cheap, and relatively simple. Not great paragons of technology or design, but they sure did the job in the 1980s!

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          They did the job, and they did it terribly. Easily the worst FWD era car I’ve driven as far as dynamics and style. I hated My Reliant so much I sold in a week. Yes, I suppose a Yugo or Excel is worse.

          I’d take a Corisca over a Reliant in a second. An A Tempo drives better, is more reliable, and sold extremely well in their day.

          The minivans saved Chrysler, and although based on the K at first, it quicly evolved into its own vehicle.

          The later K cars were far better, like Acclaim/Spirit, Shadow/Sundance, Lancer, etc. But a Reliant/Aries were among the worst cars of the era to drive or look at.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    2002-2003 Maxima. OK, still had the beam suspension out back, but come on. 3200lbs, 255HP, 6 speed manual with a VLSD, legitimately seated 5, as quiet as a Lexus. The 95-99 was the best looking one IMO but the 3.0L was weak sauce, and the 04-08 was made redundant by the same vintage Altima.

    Speaking of which, the 02-06 Altima was the Altima’s peak easily. Dirt cheap almost third world material quality and refinement…. but with mild bolt ons, even with the 4AT that thing was absolutely brutal. Such a great highway eater.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      The 95-99 was my favorite Max ever. I know people say the previous gen was better, and here you provide evidence that the following generation was better, but I drove many 95-99s and I loved them. I’d take an SE 5 speed in a second. I almost had some kid suckered into trading me a nearly 300k (but incredibly well maintained and cared for) 1996 (IIRC) black over black SE manual for my POS 1995 Chevy Blazer. It was his dads old commuter, and he said no way in hell would he go for that trade, lol.

      Yes the Blazer was technically more valuable being a 4wd with just over 100k at the height of the BOF SUV boom, but it was the worst kind of GM product: the kind that caused so many to run into the arms of Toyota, Honda, or just about anything else LOL, to leave GM and never return.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        It’s mine too for sentimental reasons…. my first car was a gorgeous black on black leather 5 speed hand me down from my dad, and I had a nice experience with a no-frills 99 SE a few years later. Plus the 3.5 swaps in pretty easy.

        BUT I will never buy one again, because I’m spoiled by Honda transmissions. The gear shift and clutch action in those Maximas (and every Nissan I’ve driven) is downright awful.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Sporty, and/or anyone else who may know, how hard are 1999 Lexus LS cars to work on? As in not head gasket but other cooling system repairs/etc?

          Found one for decent money (as in cheap as shhhh it), decent shape but it runs hot, has a radiator leak I believe I read.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No individual job is too hard but those cars are exceedingly complex, so there are a lot of jobs, and I don’t think I’d trust a UZ that had been run while overheated.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            That’s what I needed to know, Dal, thanks!

            And, I got more pics. Little details like missing signal light lenses, rock chipping, missing center cap(s?), yellow terrible headlamps.

            Not the ghetto super star I thought at first. Not awful, very fixable, I’m betting with a little investment and major clean up, it would be nice for a resale project.

            If I wasn’t worried about a heavily damaged engine.

            The cosmetics + asking price + maybe a used engine = only worth it if I really needed or wanted it for myself as a keeper. And, in case you’re wondering, I don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Good call on the Altima, the 3.5 V6 was a monster for the time. IIRC from used car shopping with an inlaw, the mid cycle refresh had a much improved dashboard layout and materials. The next gen 07-12 wasn’t much of a drop, though. CVT-is-the-devil not withstanding, it was one of the sharper handling midsizers, was quiet on the highway, had decent (for the low class standards) interior quality, and it absolutely nails the utilitarian family car attributes.

      They are starting to look prematurely ratty in my area, though, possibly owing to a bell curve in the owner demographics who rarely wash them or repair damage from impacts with garbage cans and parking pillars. Shame, I really like the sheet metal on those cars but selling 2 million of them to the mass market really dulls the luster.

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I’m afraid I can’t let that one go. The Altima is a penalty box. The refinement and responsiveness of an Accord makes Altima (both in 4 cylinder/auto) feel extremely cheap and second rate. People settle for an Altima 2.5S when they balk at the price of, or are not approved for, an Accord or Fusion or Camry. The Altima is the class losser in that era, no doubt.

        And NOT that reliable or long lasting.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          *loser lol

          And I was referring to the 07-12 as that’s what I have more recent, regrettable experience with.

          Did not really like the prev-gen 2.5S much more, actually.

          Say what you will, but my experience is with the most common models (I-4/auto/wheel covers).

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          John, I agree an Accord or Camry from that era would be a better new car bet. But I tried them all (used model year 2012 in 2014) and they’re all penalty boxes at that price point. The Accord’s interior was a relentless den of cheap gray plastics and the Camry was even worse. That gen Accord has a real road noise problem. The Altima was the only car in the segment that combined decent driving dynamics with road noise suppression and a responsive powertrain. CR road test scores were higher than the Honda and Toyota. Long term reliability is a big “we’ll see”, so you’re probably right on that one.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Well, I’m curious to know how the 2013 (non-Mazda) Fusion holds up.

            My Taurus, for its age, isn’t terrible. Especially when you consider its price when new, its expected life and its purpose.

            These bread and butter midsize sedans with automatic, cloth, wheel covers, etc are in the end, designed to be pretty much disposable. The fact that one may hang on to its luster longer often depends on many factors.

            I just hated the Altima from new, lol, hers is the most annoying car I drive with any regularity. It is, in a word, terrible *to me*. YMMV

            I had it sitting ideling (a/c on for the passenger who was waiting in the car) and an 06ish Accord pulled up with flakes of clear coat missing, rock chips, missing wheel cover…

            Its engine ideling with the A/C on was noticeably quieter than the MUCH better condition and newer (2012 I think) Altima. That’s what I was getting at, man, yeah none set your heart aglo, but I’d drive home in an Accord if it were me.

            Now, the guy I’m talking to has an Altima with a 3.5L and 5 speed manual. Its loaded. He hit a deer with it and it was totaled but in actuality, not seriously damaged. He kept it. After a while of being parked as he drove his S-10, it did not improve with age.

            He said its full of good clean oil (he maintained it well himself), but when he cranked it to move it, it started knocking.

            I think he said it has under 200k, but I haven’t seen it.

            Seems like one of those extraordinarily bad-luck cars, much worse than the average Altima according to him. Kinda like iNeon’s Taurus experience, only with animal-related damage lol.

            I told him I would find him a good 3.5L, and we would fix it. He seemed relieved.

            He likes the car. Dumping the Briggs and Stratton 2.5L and the rubber band sounds like an excellent way to turn a penalty box into a car you can actually like.

            On that note, I actually like my Taurus, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned LOL. I like how it drives, the sound of the engine, the performance-vs-MPG ratio, its a good car for me and has been a good car for quite a long time.

            I just ordered front struts springs for it and next “payday”, it will be the rear.

            I found some 18″ 2014 Fusion alloys with tires for $350. Man….

            I did find a Nissan 3.5L (assuming a Maxima engine would work), but he was called to another property in another state, so being overwhelmed with work (no days off in several weeks), obviously its not a priority as of now.

            Will update. Stay tuned lol.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The Grand Am GT usually ended up being the dirtbag special by the time it got to it’s second or third owner. At least around here it was standard issue for “first cars” for middle-class kids, or, as time went by, the “other side of the tracks” set.

    Now they’re pretty much all rusted away. The Grand Am is a pretty rare car now. I’m more likely to see a Grand Prix or a Sunfire.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Agreed, but I replied to you to say that when I first read your handle, I thought it said drivebydude, or “drive-by dude”, which I thought was a pretty daring screen name lol, like saying “I murder folks, gangsta style, for a living.”

      Better hit the deck when you see my Caddy come around the corner! Sh¡ts about to go down!

  • avatar
    JimZ

    The Mercury Cougar. Great from ’68-70, then bloated up for ’71. Then they lost the plot and the Cougar went from a fluffed up Torino, to a fluffed up LTD, then a fluffed up Faimont, then a barely fluffed up T-Bird, and finally that FWD abomination in the ’90s.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d argue the Camelot period for the Cougar was actually ’77-’79, with the angular styling. It looked darned nice, as malaise era coupes went.

      Then came the downsized awfulness of the early ’80s.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        sorry, I just can’t see badge-engineered LTD/LTD IIs to be the “high water mark” of the Cougar.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Like you said…the first gen Cougars were legit. Then came the slide into “personal luxury.” Well, if that’s the case, then I’d say the model years I mentioned are definitely the best one before things went truly sideways (with the Fox bodied Cougars).

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Well, to be fair, the first Cougar WAS a “personal luxury coupe” variant of Mustang. Its just when they decided to become wheeled aircraft carriers later that it became more obvious that it was a PLC.

            I say that 3.8L (three point hate) aside, the 1983 “Aero” Thunderbird and Cougar were decent. I wouldn’t specifically look for one, but if the opportunity to pick up a 5.0L example from that era, I think one could certainly do worse.

            And you and others would probably say its worse, but a 1985 Tempo GLX Coupe 5spd would be my choice for a pre-Taurus Ford of the mid-80s. I also liked the old Mercury Zephyr sedan/coupe/Z-7 sport coupe with an Inline 6, although a 5.0L Aero ‘Bird/Coug would run circles around both.

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      Surely you meant to include the ’67 Cougar – about the only visible difference from the ’68 was the addition of side marker lights in the latter, if I recall correctly.

      For me, I don’t think any Riviera ever beat the first generation (’63-’65), though the second generation cars, though a bit bloated, were still pretty sweet. By the time we started looking for a new car in ’70 though, it was all over for the Riv. Of course, the boat tail generation cars were of some interest.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    There is going to be many comments about GM products on this thread. No one likes to kill or update a car they finally got right like the General.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    2007-2009 XJ. The X358 is the XJ for me. Classic Jag looks that were refined and updated. Replaced by a flashier vehicle that hasn’t aged well.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll go with the 2008-09 Ford Taurus.

    It started life as the punk-engined Five Hundred, and was reborn hard as the Taurus for two glorious years. With the bigger engine and a decent transmission, it was a VERY respectable big sedan.

    Then came the slide back to Palookaville with the current generation.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    Ah, the ’99 Grand Am. My 2.4L had over 220K before a bad catalytic converter promoted a trade. The car still ran ,but in truth it needed $1500 worth of combined suspension and emissions work to be shipshape, and that’s money I used to step into a newer daily driver.

    Yet that thing was a quick little monster. I put in a 75 shot Zex kit and a LG0 cam swap (from the 190HP High Output quad 4 ) when I did the head gaskets at 165,000. More then a few Fox body Mustangs ,VW hatchbacks and E36 Bimmers got served the surprises of their lives with that car- and I loved the “WTF?!!! I lost to an NBody!!!” look afterward.

    Add in front and rear strut towers with upgraded tires and new shocks,and that thing wasn’t a bad corner carver. While the Grand Canyon has smaller interior gaps, that’s a good thing when you’re a young kid installing mods : easier to route wires and whatnot.

    I don’t understand why so many folks hated that car. For a compact vehicle it brought a lot of features to what’s otherwise a very boring segment. Nowadays ,it seems the Grand Ams former demographic has moved on to either Chargers or pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      Was it with the 5speed stick? I rented a ton of Corsicas in that era and you looked at the transmission console to see what you had (forgot the markings/low gear options, but that was the tell):
      2.5l 150hp 3 speed wiiiimp!
      3.1l 157hp 4 speed much more fun.

      Essentially it was an introduction to the difference between hp and torque: the 2.5l was peaky as the Washington Monument and the transmission was incapable of hitting that peak, while the 3.1 had a power band starting below 3k and a transmission that could easily find it.

      I think I tried the 5 speed stick in a similar model, but never really warmed up to it.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    The late-90s Integra, particularly the GS-R.

    Say what you want about the F&F/sport compact craze, but this car got everything right where it counted and was the pinnacle of everything enthusiasts loved about Honda in one vehicle.

    light? check
    chuck-able handling? double wishbone check.
    revvy engine with decent power? check, doubly so with a GS-R
    stylish? check
    nice enough, functional interior? check

    The early 90s one was just a continuation of 80s trends, and the successor RSX (which I owned one) was too bloated and compromised the suspension. The K20A2 was a sweet engine though.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I liked a lot of GM cars back then.

    The Grand Am was cool, but that quad 4 had issues.

    I’ll take the very last Cavalier Z24s with the 3.1L V6 and 5 speed manual transmissions.

    Surprisingly fun for a Cavalier.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Ah, the early-’90s Cavalier coupe. I drove one that was a (kind of) stealthy non Z24, with bigger wheels and tires, the V-6, and a manual. I was tempted. But I ended up in a twincam Protege, which turned out to be a good move – it lasted for about 12 years. I doubt I’d have gotten that much play out of an early ’90s GM product. And that coupe would have been seriously useless about four years later – by that time I had a kid.

      Still, that Cavalier coupe was a pretty legit little car.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      The later Z24 Cavalier had the 2.4L.

      Yes, the Quad 4 was trouble prone with head gasket issues especially, but it was highly advanced and very powerful for its time. Especially considering this is 1980s GM we are talking about. I bet being the last independantly designed Oldsmobile engine had a lot to do with that. Despite awful cars like the Cutlass Ciera, Olds was the most innovative division IMO.

      The engine was still good enough to remain the “step up” I-4 in small GM cars long after newer designs had been released.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The Quad 4 was for the redesigned MY 1995, though, John. In the generation before that, the top engine was the 3.1 V-6.

        Agreed, though, I liked the ’95 Z24 as well (and sold them).

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Right, that’s what I intended. Once Cavalier went ahead and dropped the 6 cylinder for 1995, it became top dog.

          P.s. isn’t it peculiar how the 1995 Cavalier so strongly resembled the 1995 Contour, especially in back? They almost look, front an exterior visual perspective only, like they could be badge engineer twins.

          Put it this way, if you didnt know better and saw both in front of you in traffic, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was possible IMO.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Yep, there was a strong resemblance between the Cavalier and Contour…but the styling of the Cavalier coupe was definitely based on the Opel Calibra.

            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/Opel_Calibra_rear_20071007.jpg/1920px-Opel_Calibra_rear_20071007.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Yeah, and the Contour strongly resembled the Euro Mondeo from which it was derived, lending more “evidence” that the cars could be related (obviously I’m not really saying they were).

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    I’m going out on a limb here, but after driving a chevette in 10th and 11th grade, my Dad went out and picked up a used 2.8 V6 Beretta GT (1990?). Maybe it was context, but at the time, I thought that car was a rocket, especially for the money. Long term, I remember coming home in grad school to find that the windsheld seals had leaked and the dash was totally warped and split from sun damage. But for my senior year in High School? Camelot.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      My first wife was gifted a Beretta when she graduated high school (1989). We married in 1992 and not long after that, the steering wheel began to warp! We traded it in for a new Del Sol, and the build quality was leagues different. Her parents weren’t overly amused at first that we had given away the gift they gave her…

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    1987 to 1991 Chevrolet Suburban – EFI became standard in 1987, 4×4 was still solid axle, you could buy one from vinyl seat poverty spec to full Cowboy Cadillac. A true SUV that could be rebuilt over and over for relatively low cost if you wanted to keep rolling the odometer into high 6 figures.

    If I found one with a straight rust free body, 4×4, and needing an engine rebuild I snap it up quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Dan, three words (well the last is kinda a word):

      Seattle
      Craigslist
      .org

      Yeah, I’m sure its a trip from where you are. But its a hidden gem of mostly rust-free cars/trucks/SUVs that have disappeared from (most of) the rest of the country. Also look in Portland, Oregon and other western states, but Washington tends to have the best selection for the prices.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        A colleague has a late 80s Suburban, 2wd, kinda has it set up in “pre-runner” stance with a small lift, 33 in BFGoodrich All-terrains, rear locker, and over 300,000 miles. He’s dropped a new GM crate engine in it once.

        He’s been all over the United States in it with his wife and two kids. Does he need something that big? No but he does seem to have the healthiest bank account v the actually salary he brings in of anyone I know. I think there’s a connection there.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          I like them, too. Although I do prefer the 1990s versions. I remember driving a nearly-new 1997 Suburban in high school once. I told my friends it was hard to admit being a diehard Ford guy (therefore anti-Chevy), but I freaking LOVED it. They were also as reliable as the sun.

    • 0 avatar

      True, all this.

      Stick in a final iteration Gen 1 Vortec 350 and have a fun ol’ time. Also, by 1987, GM had redesigned the TH700R-4 and made it virtually bulletproof.

      Not a bad plan in my book.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I don’t think the B13 Nissan Sentra gets the respect that it deserves. A lot of then-contemporary auto rags called it a poor man’s 3 series. They were simple, reliable, nimble, and fun to drive. Hell, I think Nissan is still cranking these things out in Mexico, at least for now.

  • avatar
    suburbanokie

    I never had much experience with the pre-1988 versions but when Chevy brought back the Monte Carlo, I think it reached it’s peak in its last 2 years, 2006-07. They subtle redesign was spot on with great equipment. My only 2 problems with it were FWD and no manual. (Full Disclosure: first car after college was an ’06 2LT with the 3.9L V6)

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Love me some W124 E class. A friend’s folks had several pver the years, and the W210 that followed has not aged nearly as well. The ones still on the road seem to be in better shape than anything other E that’s more than a few years old.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    WRONG

    I test drove this exact car once… and I can say it was by no means good. It was crude and flimsy. The twin-cam 2.4 had good power but aside from that…
    the interior was classic 90s gm… that is rubbish
    the stick shift was award and balky with zigzagging movement required to go from 1-2, 3-4 instead of simple straight throws.
    the clutch was wayyy too super light but at least did give linear engagement.
    solid beam rear suspension made the ride punishing

    reliability of the N bodies have always been poor from 1985 to 2005. Cockroaches? I still see plenty of 90s camrys on the road..those are cockroaches… the grand ams (and aleros) are all gone.

    I did test drive the next gen grand ams and aleros and they were better in every way with the best improvement being the independent rear suspension. With the twin cam motor these cars felt brisk and fun to drive, even with the automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Can you think of a better Grand AM generation? That was his point. Not that it was the most wonderful car on the planet, just that the models he refers to are the best of the worst.

      American cars of the era have absurdly low resale value, as that’s what happens when you over produce and dump into rental fleets to get rid of inventory. That explains why they were dumped earlier. If you can’t get but $1500 for a nice one, why spend $1200 to replace the head gasket, or however much a clutch replacement is, etc? If you can still get $3500 for a Camry, it makes more sense to repair it and keep it on the road.

      I know one person with a 90s Camry. It has nearly 300k BUT the engine was replaced (and honestly could use an overhaul now, as it drinks and leaks oil so much, regular oil changes are hardly required since the oil doesn’t have time to break down before its spilled on the ground or gone up in smoke, and then replaced with fresh. Yes, he still has regular oil changes done on time though), and the automatic has been rebuilt twice in the car’s life.

      Who would spend that much money fixing a Grand Am when you could buy enough running examples with the same amount of money to start your own spec-racing series?

      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        I apologize, you did give another example. I misread it somehow.

        He did say the next gen, the Alero was the one to get, and I whole heartedly agree. That leaves the best Grand Am his choice I’m afraid lol.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I agree on the Grand Am GT, though I wanted the earlier ’94 version with the 180 hp Quad 4 HO and Getrag 5-speed. I actually owned a 1998 Olds Achieva with the 150 hp version, but got rid of it when the water pump went out, and it was going to cost more than the car was worth to replace it. I seem to recall the water pump was in the block, so the engine had to be removed? Wonderful design.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    My vote would be the 2008 Ford Taurus (née Five Hundred). When Ford renamed the 500 back to Taurus, they put in the then-new 3.5 liter engine and 6-speed transmission. The cars still maintained the roominess of the Five Hundred. When Ford Restyled the Taurus, they made it heavier, less aerodynamic and less roomy. Lose, lose, lose. (The Freestyle and the Taurus-X were pretty good too. Contrary to expectations, the CVT in the Freestyle was not particularly problematic. I have two friends with over 200,000 miles on their original Ford CVTs.)

    Going way back, I pick the 1985-1989 Dodge Lancer and Chrysler Lebaron GTS, whih was the K-car done right. It had fresh aerodynamic styling, a better-than-average interior, reasonable performance and fuel economy from its turbo-4, and a hatchback that could swallow a couple bicycles. I don’t know how reliable it was. Most cars then weren’t very. Chrysler took a step backwards with the follow-on Dodge Shadow, which though smaller wasn’t lighter and wasn’t as aerodynamic. It got worse fuel economy and performance with the same engines.

    Honorable mention: the original Acura Integra was just right. I still kick myself for not buying one.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      I saw a drivable Freestyle with 300k on craigslist recently.

      I say that as the exception, not the norm.

      Besides, maybe they were just attached to it and had the CVT rebuilt 50levn times. Who knows? I’m not going to email em for the story lol.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    The first year of the PT Cruiser.

  • avatar
    phlipski

    I’m going with the 3rd gen Acura TL (2004-2008). Still looks good to this day. Looked better than it’s flabby predecessor and it’s tacky successors. It had good power, good handling and a nice interior. Much like the W210 E-Class it was and is a timeless design that I think would still sell well today if was still being built.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Probably the best selection I’ve seen here.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      So true, I miss mine. Examples still out there are finally starting to age, with their crappy paint and skitzy LED brakelights.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        Not to mention that they’re falling into the hands of those 3rd/4th owners who want to “customize” them.

        “For sale: 2005 TL, 186K miles, custum rimz, lowred, wing, s-Type bages, custum chrome around windows and wheel arches. Tranmisun wont shift passed 2d gear. $12,500 because of all i got in the mods. Enteresting trades considered like Lexes, BMW, Merdeces, Audi.”

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          No used car leads a sadder life than a luxury/premium car.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            So true. Nothing makes you look poor like driving a 5+ year old luxury car. Gone are the days of buying a Mercedes or Volvo that drives like it was hewn from a solid block of granite.

            The truly wealthy people treat them like the disposable fashion accessories that they are. And that’s the thing about fashion. It has to be updated constantly, or you just look like you’re a poser and you don’t belong among the better folks.

            What’s amusing is that even the luxury car makers don’t do much to differentiate their new models. Some don’t even try. A 328? How gauche, don’t you know that the 330 is the one to have now? Never mind that the car looks the same as the E90 that came out in 2004.

            Sorry for ranting. This was on my mind today when I walked past a parking lot with several German luxury cars. I passed a 328 that, from behind, looked pretty modern. But the hazy headlights gave it away. Whoever is driving that car is trying very hard to fit among the wealthier folks parking there.

          • 0 avatar
            S1L1SC

            @TMA1 – The funny thing is that if you do keep them long enough the opposite happens, people do respect them once they reach “classic” status, as long as they are in good condition.

        • 0 avatar
          Car Ramrod

          @TMA, you’re completely right about the 5+ year old luxury car thing. I drive my 15 year old M5 most of the time, and I kind of enjoy that nobody gives it a second look (nobody over 25 anyway). It was also nice to be driving something other than a GL or Land Rover in the private school pickup line, the look of disdain from people who sucked anyway made it worth it.

          The saddest BMW affectionados may be the guys on a local facebook group though, nearly every post was:
          1) Who gotta BMW for sale for under $2,000?
          2) I need a tow, who can help me out?
          Not that there’s a correlation…

          • 0 avatar
            S1L1SC

            @Car Ramrod
            I have a 1994 E32 740iL bought for $500 that is in horrendous shape – needs new shocks, paint is shot, dirty as all get-out – love to drive it on occasion and park it somewhere nice… Never fails to offend.
            The funny thing is that people seem to like its twin, which is in almost pristine condition.

          • 0 avatar
            John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

            Meh, I’ll buy a cheap 318Ti, maybe do a period I-6 swap.

            M3 hatch?

            I’ll need lottery tickets.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Nailed it. I still miss my 2006.

      I used to be afflicted with a terrible case of “must have the most recent body style or I feel like I’m driving a turdbucket”. The final generation TL cured me of that, because it was ugly as sin compared to the model that I owned.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I’ll go with the imported Japanese sports cars of the early 90’s, particularly the Mazda RX-7 and the Nissan 300z. The generation of cars that proceeded them were good, but not great, but the 90’s cars were truly special. Their follow ups, the RX-8 and 350z, were a step down in every way.

    I should probably throw the Supra in there too. There hasn’t been a follow up yet, but what’s coming down the line is a probably going to be some hybrid/BMW halfbreed that won’t channel its namesake.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      At first I found myself agreeing with you. In my mind there was nothing as gorgeous as the 1990-1996 300zx, at least not for those of us who couldn’t afford exotics. But then when that 350z came out I was equally smitten. It’s a very different style, but I think that (for the times)it looked every bit as good as the previous incarnation of the Z car.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I could never get into the 350z. And it certainly hasn’t held up like the 300zx. That car was perfect, inside and out.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Performance junkies just weren’t ready to pay Corvette pricing for Japanese sports cars, even when/if they were faster. Same with the 3000GT/Stealth.

          Mustang GT/IROCz pricing would’ve been just right. They would’ve sold 10x as many.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    TJ Wrangler. Gone were the leaf springs and square headlights of the YJ and it directly preceded the styling disaster that is the current gen JK. IMO the JK, absent a lift kit and big tires, is one of the ugliest vehicles out there.

    • 0 avatar
      afedaken

      I’m biased here, but I’d pick the YJ. Headlights aside, you got all the niceties of fuel injection, with the all the baked in simplicity of the old CJs. Including the leafs.

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I’ll nominate 3…

    third-generation Nissan 200SX (1984-1989)
    second-generation Fiero (of course)
    second generation Tempo/Topaz (with the 3.0 V6, a FAST cockroach)

  • avatar
    whitworth

    The Ford Contour from the mid to late 90’s would be a good example, it was definitely Ford trying to market a European car in the US (Mondeo), and actually was a good car in terms of handling dynamics and understated styling, but it quickly became a car that you would just assume was some rental fleet car.

    I had one, it really did remind you of like a VW Golf or something like that, but it did have quality issues and I sold it as the warranty was expiring.

    I truthfully should have kept it longer because I almost had to give it away despite being in perfect shape. That was when I learned it was actually smarter financially to buy a better car up front than take such a massive hit on the resale.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      I saw a 1996-7 Contour LX yesterday not 45 minutes after reading your comment. It was…not in terrible condition. That’s better than can be reasonably expected unless its a garaged 30k mile old lady time warp example. This one had clearly spent the last 20 years on the road, not in a pampered garage.

      First pre-98 refresh I’ve seen in a while. Always liked the earlier front end. Would love a V-6/manual SE 5spd.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    One other submission.

    The original Infiniti G35.

    That went from being a car a lot of people lusted over to being associated with ghetto “buy here, pay here” type cars pretty quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      I’d say that if you count the earlier Nissan Primera rebadged G20 as part of an entire like of “G-series” cars, the G35 was most certainly the pinnacle of the bunch.

      I’d still drive one. Some were cared for and still look good to this day, I was parked next to one yesterday. Aside from being a 4 door automatic, I would have loved to add it to my collection (not that I currently have a “collection”, but I have before and will again).

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The G35 is hardly unique in this regard.

      I once saw an early 80s Rolls Royce in front of the projects in Coney Island.

      • 0 avatar
        whitworth

        It went very quickly, which was the point of the article.

        The Rolls Royce example you gave took over 30 years.

        The G35 got there before the 2000’s were over.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Two cadillac come to mind
    1. 93 STS with 295 hp northstar for 40-50K would blow the doors of 70K Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs.It had a much more modern look inside and out than previous gen Cadillacs. Didn’t handle quite as well as the RWD Europeans and interior deteriorated over time. Northstar headgasket and other access problems did not really appear until after second or third owner. Cadillac then just rested on its laurels and did not really update the package for next gen.

    2. 2000-2005 Deville. The most successful Cadillac in last two decades. It was large, powerful and comfortable. Looks were soft but its buyers loved. Interior tech matched that of W220 and stability system was advanced for its time. Interior quality was acceptable for its class on DHS and DTS, and thing was unbelievably good in snow without snow tires. Cadillac followed up with neither her nor there DTS.

  • avatar
    slap

    First gen xB

    First gen Monte Carlo

    First gen Camaro

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The GT Cruiser. Could be had with the same stout 2.4L Turbo as the SRT4 Neon with a manual transmission. Made an otherwise dull car fast and fun. They can also be had at 1/3-1/2 the price of an SRT4 if you can deal with the PT cruiserness of it.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    There was a 1991 Pontiac 6000 STE that my buddy had in high school. He used to tell Star of The Sea and Grosse Pointe South women (real dumb, but hot ones) that it was a BMW and get tail all the time in that car for some reason.

  • avatar
    George B

    2004-2008 3rd Generation Acura TL. It was the one generation of the TL that was attractive and more desirable than the Accord that it was based on. It was even available with the largest available Honda engine paired with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    1977 Mercury Comet with the 302 V8.
    A water soluble malaise era Ford product, the rust started before you signed the paperwork.

    The Ford Maverick was the one for “the youngsters”, as Ed Sullivan might say. They were always jacked up, with the diff cover painted orange and some decals of a woodpecker smoking a cigar (but not the actual Thrush exhaust. They just bought the decals from Canadian Tire.)

    The Comet was the sleeper, and the 302 was perfect for squealing those pencil thin tires.

    It didn’t go back to being awful, however. Ford went from the lousy Maverick/Comet in 1977 to the execrable Fairmont/Zephyr in 1978.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Are you kidding? The lighter Fox body was miles ahead in room, driving dynamics, MPG, every measurable sense.

      I just wish you could’ve gotten the bigger I-6 than the 3.3L.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    First gen Monte Carlo – you could have a SS for moderately equipped Ford Tempo money sticker to sticker.

    Ford Mustang LX with the 5.0 package – you could have one for about $1500 more than moderately equipped Tempo money and it was faster than GT because it was stripped down. Ford had a “battleship gray” color in the mid-80s that made these things look so fantastic.

    Pontiac Grand Prix pre-plastic cladding on everything phase where you could get a 2-door coupe with the supercharged 3.8. Cockroach grade reliability, good fuel economy, fast, and styled very nicely for the time.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      And that SS was only marginally faster than the Tempo, with its 165 hp for 3500 pounds.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Wasn’t just about the speed though – the Monte Carlo SS was a nicer overall car, and I say that as a guy who bought an ’87 Tempo new back in…87.

        Living in the northeast at the time RWD vs FWD was a big factor for me.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Probably wasn’t a Sport GL with the H.O. 2.3L and 3.73 final drive five speed, was it? It made a case for FWD/I-4 not-terrible driving at the time. I liked my 1991 GLS a lot, and I did out run a late model Monte Carlo in it once lol. Unrestricted top speed FTW4realz!!

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      When you saw a 5.0 LX, you respected the genius move to get the more pure, faster, cheaper version that almost made a GT driver seem like a poseur trying to substitute money for taste. Ford fixed that pretty quickly.

  • avatar
    Thorshammer_gp

    I’m only going off of styling here, but the 1997-2003 Grand Prix was easily my favorite of the later generations. The previous one always just seemed old and tired-looking (except for some of the later coupes- ’94 to ’96 were good there), and the next one was bloated and bland.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    All of this Pontiac talk reminds me of how much I liked the 9th generation Bonneville (’92-’99). Especially the supercharged SSEI versions. Much sharper than the dowdy 8th gen car, which was the first FWD version of the car, and the instant BHPH 10th gen car.

    Maybe it only applies to the FWD models, since there were some attractive Bonnevilles in the 60’s. But they were pretty miserable in the ’70s and ’80s.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      I also liked that generation of Bonneville also, even with all the ridiculous gadgets and video game dashboard. Just a really fun car to drive.

      I know I’m in the minority, but I actually liked a lot of the Pontiacs from the 90s, although I will never make the case they were reliable cars made for the long haul.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        I have a soft spot for Pontiacs. As a working class kid in the Midwest, where imports weren’t really a factor, Pontiac was exciting.

        My friend’s dad was a business owner who drove a brand new SSEI. My friend and I worked the summer at this business, and he would drive us there in the Bonneville. That was the nicest, most high-tech car I had been in up to that point. I thought it was pretty cool, even cooler than another friend’s mom’s Northstar Eldorado.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Agreed 110%.

    • 0 avatar
      LS1Fan

      Interesting.

      I prefer the unique styling of the last gen Bonneville V6s. The previous gen car to that one always looked like a LeSabre with different bumpers .

      Surprisingly they handle VERY well for a big car without electronically enhanced suspensions. I drove a buddy’s NA 2003 SLE and found it’s a whole different car with the traction off in a corner. Eager to turn, neutral handling with progressive increasing understeer near the grip limit.

      Based on that trip I tested a Northstar GXP. Too many reliability woes to be a good buy, but G-dayum if it’s not a blast to drive with the throttle opened through the twisties,Northstar singing the whole time. I understood why GM went the trouble to swap it on the Bonneville; it’s too bad the motor has the staying power of a Central African peace treaty.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    E36 (aka 4th generation, 1990-1999) BMW 3 series, with the M3 lightweight example the pinnacle of what a 3-series was all about.

  • avatar
    SavageATL

    I am surprised no one nominated the DSM trio, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Plymouth Laser, and Eagle Talon. To me those cars epitomised one good generation and done thereafter. The first generation were light and fun with available turbo and AWD and ran the gamut from sporty looking inexpensive coupe to genuine power. Each succeeding generation was much, much worse.

    The 85-90 Grand Ams were also very nice, almost BMW cars and sold to yuppies. Then the subsequent Grand am got urky styling and a Corsica platform.

    Saturn also had a great first generation, a slightly rehashed second generation when it should have had a new car, and then the Ion.

    Datsun 510.

    Mazda rx7, the 79-85 version was great, nothing thereafter was good.

    Honda Element. Why did Honda stop making this? It was wayyy more popular than the Ridgeline.

    77-90 GM B Body. The whales that came before and after were never as compelling or well built. Gm got the size, handling, durability, and comfort right for these years.

    Honda CRX. The del sol that followed was a disappointment.

    Mazda MPV. That was the minivan to beat in the early ’90’s and suddenly faded into irrelevance.

    Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager, these things were everywhere for a while and then Nissan has never been able to follow it up.

    Isuzu Rodeo. One good generation and even rebadged as a Honda. No follow up even in the SUV era.

  • avatar
    S1L1SC

    I would throw in the E38 BMW 7-series (1995 – 2001), especially the post-facelift examples & specifically the M-Sport versions. Great design & good performance with nice luxury features that made sense. In my mind that generation just got it right. The new ones (current generations) have too much tech for my taste.

    The next generation sucked from a styling standpoint and got too bloated as far as tech goes.
    The prior generation (which I like as well, I own 3), is a bit more spartan in terms of features and appointments.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Subaru XT. They didn’t evolve into a lesser car, they just went away. Everything about it just screamed 80’s.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Datsun 240Z. Raw, light, small, I6 just beggong for a carb upgrade… They just went the wrong direction after 73. The first 350Z was epic, but not the giant killer, not the bang for the buck disruptive concept, not the 240Z. The styling of the 240Z was so right for its time. The later generations never got that “What IS that?” head snapping gawk.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m shocked you didn’t mention it 05lgt.

    Fourth generation Subaru Legacy (2005-2009) – specifically the GTs. The 05-06es had some fairly major issues but by 07 they had fixed many of them.
    The 4th gen all but eliminated the major head gasket issues plaguing the previous gens, the turbo motors had really good power for the time, the body style was (arguably) the best Legacy and one of the best designs of the 2000s, and it was the last generation where a Legacy wagon was available. Not to mention the Spec B.

    Previous generations were good but rust prone, needed HG repairs at 110k miles, and were not exactly speedy.
    The following generations got too big and ugly, killed turbo models at the same time everyone else started adding them, and they eventually lost the Symmetrical AWD system that the previous gens had when they went CVT.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Second gen Lexus GS. The styling was a little quirky in its day, but keeps looking better in today’s traffic – it’s got box-flares! First gen was nice, but bland. Third gen was so refined it became invisible, and somehow looked awkwardly narrow, despite being wider than the 2nd gen car. Fourth gen is dynamically excellent, but no V8 is a deal breaker for me. I would also nominate the 1978 Impala, these cars were a sec on-coming for the legendary Chevy B-body.


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