QOTD: Are We Done With Retro?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd are we done with retro

Nothing like a nice evening drive on a warm summer’s night, streetlights whipping by as the western horizon glows with hues of peach and lavender. Yessir, there’s nothing like some leisurely motoring. And what’s that up ahead?

Oh, an FJ Cruiser, Toyota’s answer to the retro craze sweeping the industry back in the early to middle 2000s. Big ol’ thing, it was — and thirsty, too. Kept its resale value, though, but certainly not its initial sales prowess. That thing’s popularity dwindled faster than inhibitions at a kegger.

Will a time ever come when automakers again dive into retro with such ferocity, I wondered?

Recall that simple, long-ago time. I do it often after spending time on social media! It was a decade that brought us the blandest of mainstream sedans from all corners of the earth after a decade that saw the pinnacle of Japanese quality reached.

In the background, however, another crop of designers toiled furiously, dreaming of another era. From those pens came:

PT Cruiser (2001)

Ford Thunderbird (2002)

Chrysler Crossfire (2004)

Fifth-generation Ford Mustang (2005)

Toyota FJ Cruiser (2006)

Chevrolet HHR (2006)

Yes, the Volkswagen New Beetle and Plymouth Prowler was just a warm-up act. These were not cars that boasted a clear design lineage with the generation of vehicle that came immediately before, and before that, and so on. They were departures; either aping a long-ago model or adopting distinctive styling cues of yesteryear.

And history has not been kind to these models, with the exception of the Mustang, which continues to wear its heritage on its sleeve, and possibly the HHR, which was an interesting way to package a cheap Cobalt. The panel van version remains an intriguing vehicle. The SS variant of said van is very intriguing.

Automakers continue to try to rekindle past successes and foist historical design elements on us, but there’s no critical mass of unabashedly retro design like we saw 15 years ago. There’ll be a new Nissan Z soon, but the previous 350Z and 370Z more or less kept the original design recipe intact, minus the distinctively retro flourishes expected of the upcoming model. There’ll be others, too, but it’ll be a scattershot affair.

In this writer’s view, the public’s current disinterest in the passenger car arena makes a wide-scale retro effort unlikely. Crossovers don’t lend themselves to mimicry. What could they mimic? And trucks are trucks, always existing in the present day.

What are your thoughts? Have we finished blasting from the past?

[Image: General Motors]

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3 of 80 comments
  • Don1967 Don1967 on Jun 18, 2020

    Faced with the choice of a modern Yamaha MT-09 vs. mechanically-identical retro XSR900, I chose modern. The advantage to modern is that you can customize with a functional windshield, luggage, Waze, etc. without ruining "the look". The downside is that you have to wait 30 years to be imitated by hipsters.

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Jun 18, 2020

      Had to google those but the "retro" looks pretty cool, especially in the right livery. But then I'm the guy who would choose a cruiser over any other type of bike, every dang time.

  • Vulpine Vulpine on Jun 21, 2020

    Obviously not, considering the look of the new Bronco in the most recent TTAC article.

  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.