By on March 19, 2021

There’s always going to be some debate about what constitutes a good halo vehicle. Many will argue that it has to be a flagship model, representing the absolute best specifications and features the manufacturer could cobble together for an eyewatering price. While that’s often the case, successful halo vehicles don’t always need to be at the top of the pyramid since the real purpose is to embody the best of what any given brand represents.

But there’s little disagreement on what makes a bad one and they frequently have a lot in common. Irrational pricing and a sudden shift away from brand identity are usually at the core of a real stinker. If you don’t believe me, here are five of the absolute worst halo cars from the modern era in no particular order…

Lincoln Blackwood (2001-2002)

The Lincoln Blackwood has to be one of the most tragic halo vehicles manufactured within my lifetime. The luxury pickup was an abject failure for the Ford Motor Company, despite it predicting the segment’s future trajectory rather well. Today, it’s not abnormal to see someone driving off the lot inside of a feature-rich truck with a six-figure price tag. But it was unheard of when Lincoln launched the Blackwood in 2002.

The manufacturer had seen customers take to the Navigator SUV for a few years and imagined that there might be a way to replicate that success using the F-Series. Considering that the Ford Expedition could be transmogrified into a luxury vehicle, it seemed plausible the same strategy could be applied to the F-150. But Lincoln overshot, compromising much of the Blackwood’s usefulness as a truck by giving it incredibly dumb features. The most inexplicable of these has to be its clamshell tonneau and carpeted truck bed, which drastically limited the driver’s ability to access and desire to haul things. The rest of the pickup was an amalgamation of fake wood, aluminum pinstriping, an optional color five-inch color infotainment display (that would have been impressive for the time), and a bunch of black upholstery.

Equipped with a 5.4-liter DOHC V8 pushing 300 horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque, Lincoln was asking $52,000 almost 20 years ago. While this again would prove to be a reasonable sum for deluxe pickups manufactured later on, it was a bit much at the time. The company only built 3,356 and discontinued the model after it had been in production for just over a year. Cadillac would ultimately see more success with its Escalade EXT, which was more functional and ostentatious than the Blackwood. But Lincoln would return with the Mark LT before Ford realized that the best solution was to keep offering more options and higher trims on the F-Series.

 

Subaru SVX (1991-1996)

In the 1990s, Japanese automakers had highly distinctive performance models serving as halo cars — most of which would go on to become automotive royalty. Nissan had the 300ZX, Mazda had the RX-7, Toyota had the Supra, Honda/Acura had the NSX, and Mitsubishi had the 3000GT/GTO. Each offered concrete evidence that their respective automaker could not only build a driver’s car but also inject it with a distinctive personality that actually said something about the rest of the brand’s lineup. Unfortunately, Subaru’s entry was the (Alcyone) SVX.

Full disclosure, I have a friend who owns one and I have an unlimited amount of nostalgia for it. But it is an odd choice for the brand and made for a truly horrible halo vehicle. Launched in 1991, Subaru had not yet started building the WRX and figured its showpiece automobile needed to be a luxurious grand tourer and thought the aircraft-inspired XT coupe made a good starting point. The end result was a huskier successor equipped with the 3.3-liter horizontally opposed flat-six EG33. While the biggest motor the company had produced, it only made about 230 horsepower. This resulted in the SVX’s dynamics trailing its rivals and the issue only worsened the better equipped the cars became.

Meanwhile, the best aspects of the coupe also turned out to be the most problematic. The SVX had one of the most advanced all-wheel-drive systems on the market (FWD would be offered later) but people had not yet started flocking to AWD in droves and the decision made the vehicle heavier, resulting in acceleration figures that were more in line with mid-level Japanese performance vehicles than the big dogs Subaru was gunning for. It also came exclusively with a 4-speed automatic in an era where sporting vehicles typically benefited from having a manual transmission. That made the SVX shine the brightest when it could be piloted around at highway speeds, something it didn’t usually need AWD for.

The double window design worked incredibly by shielding drivers from rain when open and helped give it a distinctive look. But it also didn’t create much of a breeze on swelteringly hot days, sullying the otherwise enjoyable (albeit relaxed) driving experience. Ultimately, Subaru’s faithful didn’t really want to buy a car that cost roughly $10,000 more than its next most-expensive model. The company only sold 24,379 globally, with North America accounting for about 14,000 before it discontinued the model in 1996.

As a positive, the Subaru SVX is probably the cheapest way a person living today can buy a vehicle designed by ItalDesign Giorgetto Giugiaro — unless you’re willing to settle for something hideous like a Daewoo Lanos or Eagle Premier.

 

Chrysler TC by Maserati (1988–1990)

What happens when you tell two companies that have gradually lost their identity to jointly develop a halo vehicle? The Chrysler TC by Maserati.

Essentially a super-premium Chrysler LeBaron (although technically a chopped Dodge Daytona), the TC is the direct result of the bromance between Lee Iacocca and Alejandro de Tomaso. Having helped Chrysler corner the market on price-conscious Americans, Iacocca wanted something that could cater to a more upscale clientele. This resulted in a series of bizarre luxury concepts designed on a shoestring budget before de Tomaso figured his company, Maserati, should give it a whirl.

Launched in 1988 and equipped with the best little engine the company had at the time (the 2.2-liter Turbo II), the front-wheel-drive convertible would see numerous changes to its powertrain in an incredibly short timeframe. Later automatics would be swapped to a 3.0-liter Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, while 500 TC’s would receive an upgraded version of the 2.2-liter with 16 valves that had been engineered by Maserati. The later models also came with upgraded pistons, turbocharger, connecting rods, crankshaft, and intake manifold resulting in a much higher peak output of 200 horsepower. They also utilized a 5-speed manual from Getrag, in order to handle the added oomph. Having built up a few automatic Mopars from this era, I can attest to this being an absolute necessity.

The TC by Maserati was an absolute disaster and cost Chrysler a fortune to manufacture thanks to its utilization of premium materials. Interiors used hand-stitched Italian leather, removable hardtops came with opera windows, and even the retractable softtop versions still collapsed into a body-matching receptacle. Few expenses were spared: The cars came equipped with most of the high-end items one would expect to see on models coming from premium marquees. Building one cost the Chrysler over twice the $33,000 starting MSRP and it just continued getting more expensive as the years progressed. The company ceased production in 1993 barely managing to sell 7,000 examples. In the aftermath, practically everyone involved in the project attempted to downplay their own involvement.

 

Cadillac Allanté (1986–1993)

Often compared favorably to the Chrysler TC, the Cadillac Allanté has been a grim reminder that there is no accounting for taste. Aimed at the luxury coup market then dominated by European brands, it also followed a similar design trajectory as the Maserati Mopar. But Cadillac had the money to bring out the big guns, tapping Pininfarina to both model and build the roadster’s exterior. Bodies were then shipped all the way from Italy for final assembly at Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit, requiring the automaker to charter specially equipped Boeing 747s.

As one might imagine, this also helped drive up cost. Base models were priced at $54,700 in 1987 (roughly $126,644 in today’s money) and later model years would see the Allanté growing even more expensive as the number of options ballooned. Well-equipped examples could easily eclipse $64,000 and very little of that seemed to be devoted to providing the best driving experience. The first examples of the Cadillac Allanté utilized a 170-horsepower transverse and fuel-injected version of the 4.1-liter HT-4100 V8 that had undergone some light performance modifications (high-flow cylinder heads and a tuned intake manifold).

While this would be upgraded to a 4.5-liter LW2 V8 a few years later, resulting in 200 hp and 270 lb-ft, the two-seater wouldn’t really start to make sense until it received the 4.6-liter L37 Northstar V8 in 1993. Limited to the final year of production, the Northstar Allanté yielded an output of 295 hp and 290 foot-pounds of torque. However the vehicle’s front-wheel drive, cushy suspension, and 4-speed automatic really allowed it to be sporty in a straight line.

The car certainly has its defenders, most of whom point to the unicorn 1993 model that’s still slower, less engaging to drive, and only a tad more comfortable than a $17,800 Eagle Talon TSi from the same year. Obviously, some of us don’t feel like the Allanté deserves its borderline cult status (the Buick Reatta is so much cooler). But Cadilac managed to manufacture 21,430 examples and it’s not quite the worst halo vehicle General Motors produced for the modern era…

 

Cadillac ELR (2013–2016)

Basically the automotive equivalent of someone saying “watch this” before face planting onto concrete, the Cadillac ELR was GM’s first attempt to put Tesla on notice. Chevrolet had already proven the public had at least some appetite for electrification with the Volt and, with most early adopters being well-heeled, it seemed to make sense to see if electrification could be taken upmarket. Having shown the popular Cadillac Converj in 2009, GM thought it could bring the canceled model back into development by 2011.

Announced as the Cadillac ELR, the model wouldn’t arrive until late 2013, and the end result kind of surprised everyone. While a few inches longer and wider than the Volt, the ELR was still technically a compact automobile many felt was inappropriately sized. Cadillac “solved” this by making it a two-door coupe, despite the majority of its customer base being older people who preferred larger vehicles with more doors. Worse yet, offered less interior volume than the Volt in just about every appreciable dimension (including cargo volume).

A series hybrid with plug-in capabilities, the ELR also borrowed the front-wheel-drive Volt’s powertrain — a 1.4-liter EcoFLEX I4 working in tandem with an electric motor and generating power for a 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. While this was good for a total range of 340 miles, its 39 miles of all-electric range was actually smaller than what was available on the Chevy.

Cadillac decided to ask for $75,000 in the first year while promoting the government incentives helping to tamp that down. But there were few takers when the model was effectively an exceptionally nice Volt, which was retailing for roughly $35,000 at the time.

Then came the ELR’s infamous commercial. GM’s marketing department opted to have veteran actor Neal McDonough play the role of an American businessman as he issued a barrage of platitudes at the audience. It was incredibly effective in grabbing people’s attention but also ended up being extremely polarizing before that kind of thing had taken over every aspect of American culture. Half the audience saw it as an unapologetic love letter to American values, while the other half viewed it as unpleasantly nationalistic. But it didn’t help sell the car and those who praised the ad often felt the ELR wouldn’t have been the kind of vehicle a no-nonsense capitalist would ever choose for themselves.

Production ended in 2016 with Cadillac stopping short of 3,000 deliveries.

 

[Images: Lincoln; Subaru; Chrysler; Cadillac]

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95 Comments on “Five of the Worst Halo Cars From the Modern Era...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve owned one and the Allante wasn’t a bad car.
    Reviews that existed at the time of its production were largely complimentary:
    caranddriver.com/reviews/a33984144/tested-
    1989-cadillac-allante-vs-1989-mercedes-
    benz-560sl/

    It isn’t perfect or anything but the only “worst” list it belongs on is “worst opinions from DSM fanboys”.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      How dare you invoke the holy name of DSM in a negative light.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      It absolutely belongs on this list, as it was an insanely overpriced halo car. Reviews in car magazines are nearly universally complimentary, since they’re largely supported by those manufacturers’ ads. These are the same magazines that drooled over the 90s Chevy Malibu, and mentioned how the last gen Scion tC was so good it felt like it was *two* generations newer!! lolol

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “It absolutely belongs on this list”

        Not a chance. The price was high but the Allante was not a bad car.
        I wouldn’t put it on any “best of” lists either, but people on the internet are way too hard on it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’ve driven Allantes with and without the Northstar, and none were bad at all. Should have been a RWD car, but the rich guys who bought them (and the mistresses who drove them) probably didn’t care. Did you see lots of folks tossing their Mercedes SLs around at 10/10ths? Nope.

        Expensive? Yes, but it was also designed by Pininfarina, coach-built overseas, opulently appointed, and largely hand-finished. Stuff like that is gonna cost.

        I don’t get the hate.

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      “As a positive, the Subaru SVX is probably the cheapest way a person living today can buy a vehicle designed by ItalDesign Giorgetto Giugiaro — unless you’re willing to settle for something hideous like a Daewoo Lanos or Eagle Premier.”
      I’m a person living today who owns a 1981 VW Scirocco, designed by Giugiaro….inexpensive, certainly not hideous and one Giugiaro’s best efforts in my humble opinion.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I maintain ELR was never a “halo” car no matter what Baghdad Bob says about it, hell it didn’t even come in a convertible form. L.A.Z.Y. ELR is an eternal symbol of how bad Cadillac management has been for decades now.

    TC was a hilarious idea that could have worked better given some tweaks (such as not spending $66K per unit). Cadillac thought it was such a great idea it said “hold my beer” and took the concept to an even more ridiculous level. Unlike Chrysler though, GM of the period had the resources to do the Allante much better and what eeked out wasn’t much better if at all even as well. I’m not as knowledgeable on SVX but it sounds as if it suffered some of the same platform/weight issues as the 3000GT. Blackwood you hit the nail on the head, the same problems to a lesser extent happened with the original Lincoln Aviator and Ford eventually chose to stick with loaded Explorers and Mountaineers as it had been doing prior.

    Incidentally there is at least one Subaru SVX on the road in Zürich, Switzerland as I spotted it on Uraniastrasse in 2016 (think I have a pic somewhere).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Additional: Here is how GM could have done the concept of ELR. The Opel Ampera, a badge engineered Volt for European distribution, was built in Michigan first in Warren and I believe then at the Orion plant. Either put a cheap body kit on it to differentiate it from Volt, or spend a little more and redefine sheet metal or *gasp* even find a way to mount two doors and new C pillar onto the existing chassis and sell the “German” Ampera through BPG dealers for more than Volt but not nosebleed pricing as ELR had. Either my suggestion or ELR is probably not the right move to make at the time, given how expensive Volt was per unit and how poorly it sold, but if we have to reuse Volt’s platform to sell more units at a loss my suggestion is cheaper and more pragmatic. Cadillac does not win in any way with this in 2014 and I know from checking wholesale at the time these things sold at a steep discount quickly for dealers looking to clear their floorplan even at a loss. Heck I think there were still many unsold units popping up in the factory sale data in 2017.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I believe the TC ended production before 1993. Like 90 or 91.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Only one of these “modern era” vehicles has been built in the last 20 years?

    I’ve never felt younger.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    Reading some of the baffling details of these cars, and what the execs at the big 3 thought customers would want, is kinda mind-blowing. Everyone loves to blame the well-paid workers on the assembly floor for making it difficult to compete with imports, yet there’s hardly any mention ever of how clueless upper management was, greenlighting half-assed cars nobody wanted or asked for.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I didn’t realize Cadillac (Allante) had spent 8 years producing that dog. Wow. Was that contractual?

  • avatar
    bmcculley

    The worst part about the Blackwood was that it was RWD only. That is incredibly stupid.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Thought the same at the time. MY03-05 Aviator was also only offered in RWD and AWD with no 4×4 option available.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      From today’s vantage point the lack of 4wd or AWD looks incredibly bad but at the time 2wd trucks still outsold 4wds. Plus this was meant for carrying 3 of your friends to the golf course or your boat to the lake, not for going hunting in the woods.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        In the 90s/early 00s, 4WD was what AWD is today as I recall – you’re nothing without it.

        • 0 avatar
          Mike Beranek

          Tell that to the dufus in the G-wagen who, during a snowstorm, couldn’t get a grip to save his life while I sped past him in my FWD sedan.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I say, in that scenario how much of the issue was the Mercedes and how much the driver?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            So true! Watch some of those icy spinout videos, drivers in 4X4s frantically crank it from lock to lock, all four searching for traction then spinning out as FWDs and everyone else cruises past no problem.

            They’d be better off if they let off the brakes, closed their eyes and let go the steering wheel.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          It is true that the popularity of 4wd/awd continued to rise strongly in the late 90’s and early 00’s. However 2wd still sold well. It does largely depend on area. Back before Covid my son and I went to Austin TX to see my bonus son graduate from BMT. Since his mother, aunt and sister were also going to be in attendance along with is actual dad and his girlfriend I did the dad thing and rented an Expedition. I was quite surprised to find that all of their Expeditions and basically all of their large SUVs were 2wd. I also noticed a much lower incidence of the 4X4 badging on the pickups. So I found a local Ford dealer and looked at their F150 inventory and found out over 1/2 were 2wd. Meanwhile at my local Ford dealer they normally only stock 1 or 2 2wd F150s out of 50 or more in-stock.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I just checked again. with the pandemic inventory is low at my local dealer (their storage lot that is normally packed with pickups had 3 when I passed by on the way to Costco). They only have 27 F-150s in stock/on order. 0 are 2wd. Meanwhile the dealer I just looked up in Austin TX has 47 4WD and 46 2WD F-150s in-stock/on order.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Gotta agree with @scoutdude. 4×4’s as a “must have” is a newer phenomenon. Ford would have had a success story on their hands if it was an F150 without the Lincoln badge engineering.

        What I find ironic is that I’ve seen several Chevy pickups with Cadillac SUV nose clips.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    Short of the CADDY ELR, I want every car on this list! Instead of the ELR I would have chosen the XLR.

    The best thing about the Allante was the “Bundy Bounce”

    The was a Pizzaria in Queens that has a poster of the best things Italian that has pictures of Italian-American actors and celebrities and included a picture Lee Iacocca and the Chrysler TC

    IIRC Boyd Cotting drove a Lincoln Blackwood

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Northstar aside, the XLR wasn’t a “worst”.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’d take one. And wasn’t the Northstar basically sorted out by that point?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Supposedly, Freed. I’ve looked at them on and off, I was hoping they’d nose dive (because: GM) but they actually have held as well or almost as well as the SC430. Since they are built from C6 bones I don’t know if people are doing LS swaps or if somehow the Northstar finally doesn’t suck after twelve years in the wilderness.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This post is giving me ideas… I think the TC styling is great and could sell today. Imagine an EV TC with the battery in the platform or perhaps where the engine would sit. Removeable hard top, soft top standard, AWD which can be toggled on and off, and that interior. Gives me chills in a good way.

  • avatar
    Dan

    How u no Nissan Murano convertible?

    Wasn’t it the most expensive car on the lot that wasn’t a GTR (which likely wasn’t on the lot at all)?

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Chevrolet SSR didn’t make the list?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      It came close. But I felt the SSR and 11th-gen Thunderbird aren’t true halos because they’re largely about where a brand has been and trade almost entirely on nostalgia. I suppose that in itself would be a failed halo attempt but I know too many non-car people that still recognize them. Frankly, the whole genre of vehicles needs to have an article of its own because there’s so much to discuss. Stay tuned.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      The SSR would have made top of my list, I suppose I have a slightly different take on what constitutes a Halo vehicle.

      In any event, not sure that looking at these in hindsight is the right way to look at any of these vehicles and appreciate the context that the author and other posters have contributed regarding how these vehicles were viewed at the time.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The ERL actually looks pretty good to me… way better then everything else on this list.

    The Blackwood was ahead of its time, now luxury pickups are common, but when this came out it was just a badge job that made no sense. The carpeted bed with power cover was its claim to fame but clearly people said no thank you. Per Doug’s recent review Lincoln expected to sell 10K of these things yet only moved 3K – that is a massive miss.

    The SVX looked so futuristic when it came out but all anyone wanted from Subbie was that blue WRX rally car with gold wheels and 555 on the side.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Throughout the Allantes existence My Old Man would lease a Cadillac on a yearly basis. Sometimes he would even swap/exchange it before the 12 months were over, depending upon the mileage, if he preferred the newer model, etc. His preferred vehicle was the STS.

    However the sales rep that he/we dealt with would call repeatedly through the years offering a ‘deal’ on an Allante. I doubt if anyone ever paid anything close to MSRP for an Allante. The sales rep even called me a few times to ask if I wanted to purchase off lease Allantes at a cut rate price. Never too him up on it.

    As for the TC. That vehicle epitomized the ‘brougham’ attitude of the Malaise Era. Rather than engineer and build a ‘better’ vehicle, just add on some expensive upholstery/trim/etc and sell it as a luxury vehicle.

    As @quaquaqua posted, don’t blame the auto workers for the woes of the D3. These are fine examples of the incompetence of senior management.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “just add on some expensive upholstery/trim/etc”

      In defense of the TC, that trim and upholstery was very nicely done and it was authentic.
      If every TC came with the 200hp engine and if the styling wasn’t aped by the LeBaron so closely then maybe thing would have ended up differently.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        What the TC needed to be a credible halo car was Torsen AWD and a howling DOHC 24-valve V6. Unfortunately neither Chrysler nor Maserati was remotely in position to deliver either of those things.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    As you say, the Blackwood was just a bit ahead of its time rather than a “worst”. Timing is everything.

    I saw an Aztec yesterday and it hardly stood out in a traffic line of CUVs.
    The only reason I noticed was that it was that taxicab yellow.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The Aztek is interesting to me looking back 20 years now.

      Its styling compared to some CUV/SUV that has come along since has made it appear almost — conventional.

      On paper there was a lot of good ideas, the execution was horrible, and being forced to use the B-platform just added to the suck.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The ELR was perfectly fine for what it was, which was an early plug-in hybrid with a very pretty body. The mistake was trying to make it a halo car. It just wasn’t the sort of product that could support halo status. I think it would have sold reasonably if it had been sold as a new-tech normal Cadillac with a normal Cadillac price starting in the high $40s. The 2016 version with the higher current draw was actually a pretty compelling project, but it was way too expensive straight through the end.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I read a lot of digital ink that gave the interior in the ELR a lot of praise. That it was the most Cadillac interior in years. That doesn’t forgive all the other sins and mistakes.

      It’s an attractive car (I think it is) but they got so much wrong, and it wasn’t a halo vehicle.

      * Should have had more oomf then the Volt, even if it cost some MPG – or had a mode with more oompf while having a “normal” mode to optimize mileage
      * Lower price, it was ridiculously priced
      * Two-seater with a parcel shelf instead of the cramped back two
      * More on the table to make the adoption of semi-electric easier to swallow

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Excellent list.

    The upcoming Hummer is an attempt to right the wrong of the ELR, in my opinion.

    As I’ve said many times, the ELR’s problem wasn’t its price, but its performance. People don’t mind paying a lot for a Cadillac, but they expect something in return. Dropping the price doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pig. Sadly, the last ones to sell were discounted into the 40s just to get rid of them.

    It’s telling the Volt had a pretty short run, too, but for different reasons.

    So the Hummer will have its high price, but it will at least offer some caffeine and interesting features.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “As I’ve said many times, the ELR’s problem wasn’t its price, but its performance.”

      No, I’d say it was both price AND performance, particularly in the first two model years. I mean, seventy-five for something with no back seat and the performance envelope of a base Malibu? LOL…

      To their credit, Cadillac did make major performance improvements in subsequent model years, and dropped the price, but at the end of the day, the price was only marginally less comical, and this was still something that would get walked easily by an Accord V-6.

      Now, if they’d brought out the revised car and tried to sell it at a more sane price point (say, fifty before incentives, which seems entirely fair for what amounted to a tarted up Volt), they might have sold some of these.

      Shame, because it’s a great looking car.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    The Subaru problem is pretty easy to figure out. Anyone parting with $25K back then wasn’t interested in a Subaru, and those who were enamored by the brand didn’t part with that kind of cash when buying a car. Not to mention those dopey side windows…

    • 0 avatar

      And the excess weight. And the automatic transmission and lack of turbo.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      North America didn’t get the VTD AWD transmission that Subaru developed for it. That was kept for all other world markets instead, and first showed up in North America in the first STI. My 2008 Legacy GT automatic had it. Subaru just put in a version of the cheapo 4 speed Multi-Plate transmission in US bound SVX’s. Neighbour across the street had one for years. He loved it, and I thought it wasn’t that bad. Quirky, but then all Subarus were for decades. Thirty years ago, it wasn’t that bad. What was a real downer was the unblown Nissan 300ZX — I considered one, but the engine was soft as soft could be. I got an AWD Eagle Talon turbo instead. My other car was an Audi 4000 quattro as a winter beater at the time. I had some idea of what was what.

      Unless you’ve driven these cars in the time and context, you really don’t know how they “felt”. Young whippersnappers opining from the sidelines decades later I pay no attention to. No turbo? So what?

      Helps to actually have been there and tried these cars out. Ya know?

      • 0 avatar
        22_RE_Speedwagon

        I absolutely remember finding out about the SVX – Subaru ran a full page ad in the newspaper (probably my dad’s WSJ) and I was absolutely floored by the prospect of a 230 hp subaru. I had as my high school car an ’85 XT turbo that was rated at 112 hp (and probably not making all of that…) The SVX was The Total Oddball Dream car. Financially never an option until they got older and by then the transmission woes were well documented, which meant it still wasn’t an option for me. So 30 years later, I could probably swing an SVX and not worry about the transmission. If I had the room I’d get one (though after I find a mint XT6).

        I can also say that back then AWD was such an acceleration disadvantage (because 0-60 is all that matters in high school), the FWD cars were what I was into.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    How dare you on the Blackwood! It was just a badge job, no harm no foul, but it had to be explored. Except it became the Lincoln Mark LT which did sell over 10K units in ’06, its first year and outsold the Cadillac EXT that year (only), sold over 12K the next year at a total of over 30K when it was cancelled in ’08.

    It’s just badges right? And the Mark LT was a decent success in Mexico until ’14 (no aluminum Mark LT).

  • avatar
    DungBeetle62

    While I agree the ELR was WAY out of the desired price range, the one piece of defense I continually bring up about it is if Tesla fell on their arse with the Model S, every greenie early-adopter would’ve been seen in an ELR instead – and history would’ve been far different.

    Yeah, funny that I really liked 3/5 of this list. Plymouth Prowler, anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      That was the first one I thought of. Wrong engine, wrong transmission, wildly impractical even by sports car standards, and actual hot-rodders didn’t want factory-supplied rods. Worst of all, far too disconnected from everything else Plymouth was selling for anything else to bask in its glow.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Definitely agree on the TC – it was a joke. Then again, the idea that Chrysler was an exclusive brand was also a joke.

    Don’t agree the Blackwood was a halo car – more of an experiment, really. And they tried the “luxury Lincoln pickup” thing again with the rebodied F150 (MK-whatever they called it), which also flopped. Cadillac flopped with the pickup Escalades too. I guess folks don’t want luxury pickups that have luxury labels on them…

    Agree on the Subaru. Folks tend to expect things like actual side windows on a top-of-the-line car. But it wasn’t a bad driver.

    Disagree with the Allante – not a bad car at all. I’d take one with a sorted-out Northstar.

    Agree 1,000% with the ELR – I think Caddy’s mistake with this was not trying to sell it for $50,000 or so before tax incentives, as an entry-lux car. At that price, it’d have been a pretty neat vehicle. At $75,000, it was just a bad, bad joke.

    • 0 avatar

      I want to say the Allante, even if you get an OK Northstar one, has some weird brake system issues – like unobtainium parts? I can’t recall where I read that as it was some time ago.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Right concept, but the Blackwood just approached it the wrong way. This is was when the King Ranch was the holy Grail of all pickups known to Man.

      “Flopped” is a bit harsh. Depends on intention. Or what’s the takeaway. Skidding on ice is what some call a fail, but it’s “drifting” if you know what to do with it.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The blackwood was just sort of ahead of it’s time. The SVX was a better drivetrain away from greatness. The rest of these are pieces of $#!+.

  • avatar
    detlump

    I don’t think that any car that would qualify for a historical vehicle license plate (25 years old) doesn’t also qualify for the “modern era”.

    The ELR and maybe the Blackwood, the others are really ancient compared to “modern cars” from 2000 onward (and really 2010 onward at least).

    How about the Viper? Never the success it was planned to be, or the Prowler for that matter. Those cars fit the bill – concepts to draw in regular Joe Lunchpail buyers of Caravans.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I wouldn’t put.the Viper.on this list at all. As a Halo car it was great and replaced the obligatory Lambo on the wall of many a kids room. The prowler though? That fits the bill for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      “How about the Viper? Never the success it was planned to be”

      Depends how you define success. Certainly the fifth generation didn’t live up to sales expectations. But other than that, the car was objectively capable of hanging with almost anything in the world on street or track for a fraction of the price. A far cry from the poseur Prowler.

  • avatar
    ElantraGTIsAllINeed

    The Ewings always drove top-of-the-line Mercedes on Dallas. Yet, I remember several episodes where J.R. can be seen driving an Allante. It was a product placement, obviously:
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1986-09-10-8603070761-story.html

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    You would see the Riviera and Reatta in Buick showrooms as their halo cars. When the Reatta was introduced in 1989 they had one displayed at Grand Central Station.
    I see them fairly reasonably priced. A 3800SC swap with GN badging would be a nice build and truly make it a halo.

  • avatar
    ElantraGTIsAllINeed

    I find that the TC looks amazing; so sleek! Too bad about the economy car innards.
    I also like the look of the ELR, but that is it.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Say what you want about the ELR but I’d trade my Volt in on one in a heartbeat if I didn’t have 3 kids to tote around. Love the styling/looks & interior on the ELR. What great commuter car. Agree with the comments above though that the price when new was ridiculous. It was not however a tarted up Volt. Not even close.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      This may not work since there were so few of them but you should check to see if any are in the junkyard and if so, snatch the bucket seats from it if they are the right color. I’m sure they would bolt right in.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        The leather bucket seats are in my Volt are gorgeous! Not as nice as the Caddy but nice enough that I would never give a 2nd thought to an upgrade like that. And let’s get real, how many junked ELR’s do you think are sitting in junkyards across the US right now?

        If I want ELR seats I’ll just buy the whole car!………LOL

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I had read somewhere the seats were a weak link in Volt Gen 1, something about them being much cheaper than the rest of the interior. I suppose perhaps it was rectified in later models if you have leather and enjoy yours.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Chrysler TC by Maserati, Cadillac Allante…add the 2002-5 Ford Thunderbird and you have the makings of a future Buy-Drive-Burn article!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    … Today, it’s not abnormal to see someone driving off the lot inside of a feature-rich truck with a six-figure price tag. But it was unheard of when Lincoln launched the Blackwood in 2002…

    Ummmm… Cadillac EXT. That was more differentiated than its Chevy sibling with a different engine (and a lot more power), full-time AWD, completely different bodywork (no cladding, body-color matching upper hardware) and a truck bed that was actually useful.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Dishonorable mention:

    * VW Phateon
    * GM/Saturn EV1
    * Acura NSX Mark.2
    * Alfa Romeo 4C
    * Plymouth Prowler
    * Fiat 124
    * Scion FR-S
    * Oldsmobile Aurora

  • avatar
    relton

    I can’t believe any of the folks wo like the Allante ever tried to put the top up, or down. Especially if you had to do it yourself. It was a nighmare, with technology from 1920.

  • avatar
    Safeblonde

    Who could dislike the ELR commercial with Lt. Buck (Band of Brothers)? Consider not the cultural impact of the commercial, but its effectiveness…I never considered electric OR Cadillac until seeing it. Just that I also never considered spending $75,000.

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