QOTD: The Camelot Cars?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

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]

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Geekcarlover Geekcarlover on Feb 03, 2017

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

  • 05lgt 05lgt on Feb 03, 2017

    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.

  • Land Ark Land Ark on Feb 03, 2017

    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.

    • See 3 previous
    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Feb 06, 2017

      @05lgt No wonder they're rare. He settled for a sedan, but hasn't stopped looking for a good wagon.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Feb 04, 2017

    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.