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!
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?
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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