QOTD: Pulling From the Past?
Our recent first drive of Volkswagen’s warmed-up Jetta — the revamped and newly potent GLI — sparked a fair bit of discussion among the TTAC crew about front-drive cars that live double lives.
As sedans of all stripes cower beneath the executioner’s wavering blade, fears are mounting that we could lose even more practical and attainable fun vehicles in the years to come, forcing all of us into Ford EcoSport STs or something of that vein. Yes, front-wheel drive cars can be fun, and there’s certainly a lot to be said for a hotter, performance-focused mainstream FWD sedan that offers its driver a chance to work out the stress of a hard week on a twisty stretch of backroad. A roomy Jetta with the heart of a GTI, manual transmission box checked? Sign me up.
Drivers are slightly spoiled these days on that front, as the GLI pairs nicely on the shopping list with Honda’s Civic Si. But let’s travel back in time for a debate.
Let’s also steer clear of Germany and Japan. While Americans would probably list those exotic Depression-era Cords and the first-generation Olds Toronado as their top pic for most famous and desirable domestic front-drive car, today we’re asking you to shorten the calendar.
To make it interesting, and perhaps a bit challenging, we want to know your favorite FWD American car of the period spanning 1980 to 2010. The most desirable FWD car of that era. The one you’d rush out the door and buy this instant if the opportunity arose.
There’s 40 years of goodness (and a lot of badness) to choose from there. Malaise and bankruptcy-plagued recession bookends our time period, during which we saw weak duds like the Ford EXP and Plymouth Turismo, last-gen Mercury Cougar, and all sorts of lost-to-time creations that automakers hoped would spice up a staid lineup of automobiles. Then there were the more lust-worthy crates like the Dodge Spirit R/T, Dodge Omni GLHs worked over by Carroll Shelby, and of course the revered Ford Taurus SHO. Who would ever want to forget the Olds LSS or Buick Park Avenue Ultra? No one at TTAC, that’s for damn sure. (Adam Tonge’s probably thinking about a Calais right now…)
Perhaps you’re among the few who still long for an Impala (or LaCrosse, or Lucerne) with a Chevy or Cadillac V8 plunked under the hood. Certainly, we wouldn’t look down our noses at anyone who feels a supercharged Cobalt SS coupe might offer some fun on the cheap.
It’s not nearly as barren a landscape as some would suggest. Forty years of FWD choice, and you make the call. Sound off in the comments.
[Image: General Motors]
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Because it hasn't been mentioned yet: 1993 Cadillac Allante Of course, I'd fix the head stud and gasket issues first! :D Also high on my list: Ford Focus SVT - 5-door - a sweet handling machine. Add a supercharger and really fly! Ford Contour SVT - I'd swap the block for the 3.0 Duratec 1993 Ford Probe GT - easily the sexiest '90's Ford ever built Dodge Caravan Turbo - with the 5-speed manual, obviously!
I was a teenager in the '80's, so I'll stick to some of the cars that Dad bought for himself, my mother, and my sisters, my brother, and me, in that era. With 5 sisters, that was a lot of cars, so only the good ones on this list: 1985 AMC/Renault Alliance (R9), built in Wisconsin Amazingly fluid and smooth ride, this car had the larger 1.7L engine with 5-speed...wish I had one today. I drove this car the most, while the girls were mostly stuck with diesel VW Rabbits (not bad, but rough-riding and loud). 1983 Dodge Charger, 2.2L with 5-speed, in red...almost gave one sister a reputation on its own! 1986 Pontiac Grand Am 4-door, 4 cylinder, Tech4 (Iron Duke), automatic. Terrific robot of a car with exciting styling, and no defects up until it was traded in at 135k miles a few years later. Rear leg room was tight, but that was really only an issue on a trip with 3 sisters from NC to Utah and return. 1989 Plymouth Horizon 2.2, 5-speed. Amazingly cheap, not bad-looking at all in black with a cushy whorehouse red interior. Good ride and solid power. 1997 GEO Metro sedan (Suzui Swift)...special ordered from Ingersoll with the 1.3L 4cyl (73hp), 5-speed, with no power steering, no air conditioning, and a tachometer and nice radio. Fun to drive without the extra power accessories, and 55 MPG on a trip. Worst MPG was 38 or so during winter on a tank of city-only driving. 2011 Impala, 3.9L with 6-speed auto. Dad's 2nd-to-last car. I could get 37 MPG out of it, and the car had perfect robotic manners. Satellite radio and trip computer that would have been a dream in an '80's Cadillac. Rear seat folded perfectly flat for a huge sleeping area, were it ever to be taken car camping. I would be remiss not to mention the 1979 Austin Allegro that my brother-in-law bought for me to use while I worked for him in England during the summer of '88. 1300 motor and 4-speed manual, and Moulton HydraGas suspension...the car had a fabulous comfortable ride, and had adequate power. The Allegro does not deserve the scorn that it usually gets! Those are the highlights. There's a big blur of Cavaliers, Citations, Daytonas, Rabbits, a Corsica, Caravans, etc, that didn't really stand out as terrible, but none were really exceptional as new cars. An '83 Seville was pretty fine, especially in lemon yellow with yellow leather interior, but with a 4100, it would have been so much better with the 368 from my '80 DeVille. These days I drive an '06 GMC Envoy RWD Atlas L6 so that I can tow my 2014 Casita travel trailer and 1964 Airstream Land Yacht Safari, and still get 15-19 MPG.