Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Decades of Halo Convertibles

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn three decades of halo convertibles

Today’s B/D/B was suggested by commenter namesakeone, who posited that a couple of the cars featured in the

Oldest car first. The Chrysler TC by Maserati was the brand’s halo vehicle introduced in 1989. Designed in conjunction with Maserati in Italy, the TC was assembled at two different Maserati factories and fitted with a very luxurious interior before it was shipped to eager US customers. The front-drive TC was technically on its own (LeBaron-based) platform, though it looked a lot like the much less expensive LeBaron with which it shared some components. Today’s example is one of the earlier 500 equipped with a high-output 200 horsepower 2.2 inline-four, developed by Maserati. It’s paired to a five-speed Getrag manual, for the most fun Italian luxury experience possible.

Cadillac Allanté

The Allanté was Cadillac’s grandest attempt to capture the 1980s/1990s “European car buyer” who eluded General Motors for… forever. Introduced for 1987, it was designed and built in Italy by Pininfarina. The bodies included Italian-fitted interiors, and were flown at great expense to Detroit for final assembly at Hamtramck. Another front-driver, the Allanté also used a unique platform, the V. Today’s car is the most developed example from Allanté’s final year in 1993. It has the 4.6-liter Northstar V8 good for 295 horsepower. Those horses are routed by a brand new four-speed auto which debuted in the Allanté and was used through 2006 in the DTS.

Ford Thunderbird

Our 2000s halo mobile is the Ford Thunderbird. It debuted for the 2002 model year, in the prime of the Modern Retro Is Cool thing amongst older buyers across the nation. The only rear-drive vehicle here, the Thunderbird shared its platform with the not retro Lincoln LS, and very retro Jaguar S-Type. All examples had a five-speed automatic that directed power from a 3.9-liter Jaguar V8 good for 252 horses. Pictured is the 2003 007 Edition Thunderbird, but you can swap it for a regular one if it’s your Buy.

Three decades and three halos. Which one will light up your life with a Buy?

[Images: Chrysler, GM, Ford]

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2 of 72 comments
  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Mar 24, 2021

    Why, thank you for using my suggestion! Buy the Thunderbird, unless you're talking about used-car prices. The Allante was too expensive new. Drive the Allante, unless it was the Northstar. From what I have heard, that engine wouldn't be running often enough to be driven. Burn the TC. A bad copy of a good original.

  • FreedMike FreedMike on Mar 24, 2021

    Burn the TC. It's a freakin' LeBaron with a nicer interior. For me, the buy/drive rests on a question: whether the head gaskets on the Allante have been replaced. Apparently the job is so expensive that most folks just junk the car instead, so I suspect these might be rare. Therefore: Buy the T-bird. Like the looks, RWD handling, plus it's a more modern car. I understand the engine in these can be problematic, but it's a newer model than the Allante, and most of these are very low-mileage creampuffs, so I'm thinking these should be OK for light weekend-drive duty for some time. Drive the Allante. Reverse this if the head gaskets on the Allante in question have been dealt with.

  • Bobbysirhan Engines are important.
  • Hunter Ah California. They've been praying for water for years, and now that it's here they don't know what to do with it.
  • FreedMike I think this illustrates a bit of Truth About PHEVs: it's hard to see where they "fit." On paper, they make sense because they're the "best of both worlds." Yes, if you commute 20-30 miles a day, you can generally make it on electric power only, and yes, if you're on a 500-mile road trip, you don't have to worry about range. But what percentage of buyers has a 20-mile commute, or takes 500-mile road trips? Meanwhile, PHEVs are more expensive than hybrids, and generally don't offer the performance of a BEV (though the RAV4 PHEV is a first class sleeper). Seems this propulsion type "works" for a fairly narrow slice of buyers, which explains why PHEV sales haven't been all that great. Speaking for my own situation only, assuming I had a place to plug in every night, and wanted something that ran on as little gas as possible, I'd just "go electric" - I'm a speed nut, and when it comes to going fast, EVs are awfully hard to beat. If I was into hypermiling, I'd just go with a hybrid. Of course, your situation might vary, and if a PHEV fits it, then by all means, buy one. But the market failure of PHEVs tells me they don't really fit a lot of buyers' situations. Perhaps that will change as charging infrastructure gets built out, but I just don't see a lot of growth in PHEVs.
  • Kwik_Shift Thank you for this. I always wanted get involved with racing, but nothing happening locally.
  • Arthur Dailey Love the Abe Rothstein tribute suits. Too bad about the car. Seems to have been well loved for most of its life.