Opinion: Vehicles That Deserve A Heritage Parts Program

opinion vehicles that deserve a heritage parts program

You finally did it, didn’t you? You beautiful disaster, you did it! You spent nearly $30,000 US American dollars on thirty-seven-year-old Toyota Corolla because of a comic book, and you aren’t even mad about it. Hell, you paid a little extra for the “authentic” Fujiwara Tofu Shop decals on the doors. You. Kick. Rear. And now, after you didn’t think it could be possible to feel better about your automotive purchase, I’m going to make you feel better about your automotive purchase – because you can now buy factory-fresh parts for your Corolla AE86, straight from Toyota.

That’s right kids, through its captive motorsport brand, Gazoo Racing, Toyota is reproducing spare parts for the Corolla Levin Sprinter Trueno “AE86” as part of the GR Heritage Parts Project. The project reproduces new original parts that have been discontinued and sells them as genuine parts with a standard new part warranty, “ in order to support customers who wish to continue driving older vehicles that are full of memories and that they truly love.”

All kidding aside, you have to admit that the concept of a Heritage Parts program is great, even if the Initial D AE86 isn’t exactly your cuppa – but it sort of begs the question, what other new-age classics might be worthy of a heritage program? I’m glad you asked!

GMC SYCLONE

The cover of the September 1991 issue of Car and Driver occupies a huge amount of my mental real estate. If you haven’t seen it, it features a dramatically slanted view of a GMC Syclone pickup alongside a Ferrari 348 ts. The text reads, “The $96,000 Sting!” and implies – quite correctly – that if faster is better, then the Syclone is better than the Ferrari.

If ever an American pickup deserved a heritage parts program, it’s the one that made buying a Ferrari seem pointless and stupid. That’s a statement made even more true by virtue of the fact that virtually every example of the GMC Syclone (and its SUV stablemate, the slightly more practical Typhoon) has been bought, tuned, and absolutely driven into the ground. Even the “nice” ones show signs of abuse, here and there, and I can’t blame their owners for a single 13-second ¼-mile blast.

Cars are meant to be driven, after all. Even the trucky ones.

The best part? If GM did the heritage thing right, that would also give anyone who finds an old S-10 or S-15 Sonoma/Jimmy a fresh supply of genuine parts for restoration. Even if you don’t put the Syclone up on the same pedestalic (I swear that’s a word) heights that I do, there can’t be too many Gen-Xers out there who can’t appreciate a minty, first-gen S-10, right?

Right.

DIAMOND STAR TURBOS

If you were an import drag racer in the 1990s, your world revolved around the black art of EFI tuning and turbocharging – and no car had a better chance of getting you into the 9s than the all-wheel drive Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon, and Plymouth Laser triplets. Collectively, they were referred to as “DSMs”, for the Diamond-Star Motors factory in Normal, Illinois, where they were built.

In their day – and even by today’s standards – the DSMs were fast. They benefited from a low curb weight, all-wheel drive, and 195 turbocharged horsepower straight out of the box. They were relatively affordable, too, which is why almost every single one of them was (more or less objectively) beat to absolute dog shit.

I remember when they suddenly dropped off the planet, too, after being almost everywhere for the better part of a decade.

“What ever happened to all these cars?” I asked Tym Switzer, one day, while we were poking under the hood of his own white Talon.

“They’re fast and idiots can afford them,” was his only reply. He didn’t even turn his head.

Fast forward another decade or so, and it’s nearly 2022. Mitsubishi could use a halo car, badly, to help restore its fortunes in the US – a market that, frankly, has mostly forgotten Mitsubishi even exists. Similarly, the CJDR stores seem to be flush with buyers willing to spend big money on high-horsepower internal combustion machines, and they might fancy the positive vibes that a heritage parts program for its sportiest Rad-era might bring to the ICE faithful, especially in these trying, electrified times.

Mitsubishi needs a PR win. A program like this – along with a few “restored” CPO Eclipses in the few Mitsubishi showrooms still standing – could be a big one.

ALFA ROMEO SPIDER

Despite being built from 1966 to 1993 – a full 27 years! – the Alfa Spider was old-tech almost as soon as it launched. It didn’t matter, though, because you didn’t buy a Spider to drive fast or impress the kids with the latest in electro-wizardry. You bought it to drive on twisty back roads with wind in your hair, the sun in your face, and your mechanic’s phone number in your back pocket.

Despite being unreliable rusty turds at the worst of times, a fresh-faced Alfa Spider is an instant contender to get parked up front, especially as the number of nice ones continues to dwindle and mid-range Lambo Gallardos continue to trickle down to the Dogecoin millionaires. The Alfa has style where others have fashion, and (as Coco Chanel put it) style endures.

With sales continuing to – well, suck – Alfa Romeo is another company that could use a PR win, and helping bring a bunch of old Spiders back from the grave would surely be one. Heck, they could even give it an environmental spin, calling the cars “recycled” and marketing the new Alcantara seats as “vegan leather”, at least until Stellantis get their EV line sorted.

As with Mitsubishi: what have they got to lose?

[Lead image: FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock.com]

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  • FreedMike FreedMike on Dec 02, 2021

    1) The O.G. '83 Rabbit GTI (particularly the seats and the dash). 2) 240Z, as part of the intro marketing for the new Z.

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Dec 02, 2021

    "The Alfa has style where others have fashion, and (as Coco Chanel put it) style endures." Jo, you are quickly becoming my favourite TTAC writer/commentator. No surprise, I would vote first for early/mid 1970's Lincolns. In particular Mark IVs. Next would be late 1950's Cadillacs. Then anything rear engined, and air cooled by VW. When was the last time anyone saw a Type III or a Type IV on the road? Finally any and all pre-21st century Jaguars. As I posted earlier this week, every day I see the same Toyota Tercel and 4th generation Grand Prix on their commute to work. Also numerous Astro/Safari vans, usually driven by a contractor/cleaner. And I forgot to mention that during the 'good weather' there is an Eagle Talon Tsi AWD that I see daily during our commute.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.
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