New cars and trucks come in two general varieties: the good and the bad. (Note that some of each one of those groups will also fall into the "ugly" category too.) People love the good ones and—often by circumstances beyond their own control—are forced to suffer the bad.
If a car or truck is good (or even sometimes "so bad it becomes good") it might survive long enough to become an "antique" car (or truck). But being old doesn't necessarily guarantee that a car will reach the highest level of appreciation amongst those who love motorized transport—in other words, become a recognized classic. That is, though all classic cars are old, not all old cars are classics.
And there's no agreed upon definition of "classic" when it comes to cars and trucks. It's true; google told me so. Go ahead and check, I'll wait here...
That's mainly because transportation has always meant different things to different people and in different times. Over time the relevant industries and technology are also constantly changing and developing. And of course the people and their needs are bound to change as well. All of which must mean that it's pretty much impossible to determine which of today's cars will become classics in the future, right?
Fortunately for you, dear reader, we here at HotCars.com do the impossible everyday. (Not weekends though, just FYI.) Or, at any rate, we're willing to sound off on such topics even though there's a more than even chance that we'll be dead wrong.
So here they are then, tomorrow's classics today...(plus a whole other bunch that probably won't make the cut.)
For a lot of people it's likely enough just to know that a car is a Porsche for them to believe that it will, someday, be a classic. But the truth is that there has been more than one model bearing the Porsche marque that has passed into the anonymity of automotive history.
Part of what makes a classic (probably) is that, regardless of its lineage, it somehow manages to stand out from the pack. The GT3 is in that category because it, like many before it, is focused on being a racing machine. Part of that means buyers won't find a lot more on the car than what's absolutely necessary to make it go fast (and keep it street-legal). The GT3 is what's left after a designer and manufacturer put a car under a minimalist microscope. There isn't much luxury left and yet it isn't inexpensive by any stretch. But it is enough to keep a driver enthralled.
There's a legend (sorry, no online citation for this one) that says that Professor Porsche—yes, that guy—once described the perfect race car as one that "crosses the finish line first and then immediately falls apart." Now, about 100 years after he started to design such animals, the GT3 roams the Earth.
Whatever else happens in its future, it will NOT fall apart...trust me.
For nearly the entire first decade of this century Chrysler was (co-)owned by a German outfit named, "Daimler." You may have heard of them, and if you haven't heard of them, let me advise you right now that you are totally reading the wrong website.
Daimler left a pretty good mark on the entire company and nearly single-handedly gave new life to the Detroit Pony Car war. A quick glance at the continuing offerings from now Fiat-Chrysler, but especially the Dodge and Ram marques, will let you know that the huge effect those years lingers to this day.
Particularly if you are old enough to recall Richard Petty and Buddy Baker driving Dodge Charger and Plymouth Road Runner aero-cars and running roughshod over NASCAR in the 1970's, then you were likely pretty excited when "Daimler-Dodge" revived the Charger nameplate in 2005. And then when they released a Daytona version the very next year you probably sold your house and went down to wait in line at the dealership.
The Daytona designation had been relegated to a bad place in the intervening years as had Charger. But it came back in 2006 and Daimler sold its interest in Chrysler the very next year.
Whew! That was close.
Back in the day Mazda was known mainly for the rotary engine technology. I drove one once. It was under the hood of a friend's RX-7. In the sport coupe configuration of the RX-7 the 1.3L 160hp/110kW Wankel engine was plenty powerful and responsive.
Not long after that car was built, Ford gained control of Mazda and the "R-" designation and all of the rotary engines as well, became something of footnotes in automotive history.
Around 2008 or so, however, Ford sold its interest in Jaguar, Land Rover and Mazda. The product from the Japanese company has changed a good deal since, though Ford continued to rebrand some of their former partners' vehicles (as they had been doing for much the last quarter of the 20th Century.)
Coincidentally, the latest generation of MX-5 was born in the same year as the split from Ford. It also seems to have marked a separation of the original "MX-5" naming from the "Miata" badge which had characterized the car's marketing in North America. In a sense, it seems that Mazda has decided to go back to the car's original intent of being a true roadster.
Is it good? Fiat pretty much cribbed it this year for it's brand new 124 Spider so, yeah...it's good.
It's hard believe, but Shelby Mustangs have been around a full half-century now. That's a lot of snakes!
One of the original GT models was the 1968 GT500KR. The "KR" designation was a tweak under the nose of Enzo Ferrari and company. The story goes that Henry Ford Jr. had taken offense at the famous Italian maker for rejecting an offer to buy out his namesake brand. So Ford threw his company into the goal of defeating Ferrari on its own racing turf: especially the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It took a couple of years and millions of dollars, but Ford eventually did it. In fact, in 1966, they did it in spades.
To celebrate, the '68 Mustang GT's had "Cobra Le Mans" emblazoned on their headers and were designated, "KR", meaning, "King of the road"...as in "winners"...as in, "we won, we won, nanner-nanner-nanner!" Okay, maybe not that last part...maybe.
The 2008 GT500KR, however, is not just significant for being the 40th anniversary edition of those '68's but also for being one of the last special edition Mustangs to be produced in Carroll Shelby's lifetime. He passed away in 2012.
We could wish him godspeed, but he's probably already tuned his cloud and wings to go even faster.
Despite suffering defeat and a series of DNFs in their first two years of competing with Ferrari at Le Mans, Ford came back for more in 1966.
The car they came with was the original Ford GT40. It was "the Ferrari Killer." It was so good that not only did Ford finish 1-2-3 in 1966, but returned to win for the next three years at Le Mans. (The first victory—contentious and much-debated even then—officially went to Bruce McLaren...yes, that McLaren.)
Ford pretty much gave up Le Mans racing then, but as the 100th anniversary of the company (and the 40th anniversary of that string of victories) approached, they at least decided to renew the nameplate...unfortunately they had let the rights to the name, GT40, slip out of their control and so the "GT" was born.
Carroll Shelby again, amongst many others, took part in the modernization of the GT40's redesign. The latest generation of that redesign was released into the wild in 2016 in honor of the golden anniversary of the first victory at Le Mans. It's a beast and a beauty all rolled into one.
Still, if you could get ahold of one of the original 5K or so GTs that were produced for 2005-06, you'd have a car that was painted by Saleen and assembled entirely in the USA...if you can find it and afford it, of course.
The guy driving the Ford GT40 when it beat Ferrari and went 1-2-3 at Le Mans the first time was a 29 year old from New Zealand named Bruce McLaren.
He didn't live too long after that; in fact he died just a few years later in 1970, aged 32. When he died he was driving a car of his own design and he was driving it very fast on a racetrack in England.
Though that first version took his life, his namesake racing team carried on with that design. The car—the M8, M for "McLaren" of course—turned out to be so good it took the Porsche 917 to finally beat it some years later. That is, "THE Porsche 917."
The automotive group that grew out of the Formula 1 team that Bruce McLaren started in the 1960's produced street-legal sports cars until 1998. When they finally resumed in 2011 the 12c was the flagship. It incorporated a lot of what the F1 team had learned from a lot of success on the track over the previous four decades. Most notably, it "computerized" the "second brake pedal" of the 1997 McLaren F1 which was used to minimize understeer and improve cornering.
Butterfly doors too. Nice.
As with the Porsche 911 GT3 and the RC versions of the Toyota 86, the Dodge Viper was always marketed as a track-ready car. That meant that over the twenty-five years or so of its production existence the car offered little in the way of luxury or driver amenities.
In fact, the Viper was so "Spartan"—which was every automotive writer/critic/blogger's favorite way of describing Dodge's V10 bruiser—that it is sometimes more widely known for the many third-party variations it eventually spawned; including notables from Alfa-Romeo and England's Bristol Cars.
Though it was likely intended as a "Corvette Killer" when Chrysler management first dreamed it up in the 1980's, what it became was something entirely different. Where Corvette has always had power it has also always wrapped that power in a very appealing and sophisticated package. Corvette is "finished" and more than acceptable as a midlife crisis car for (especially) the man who could afford it. Indeed, 'Vettes are known for that partly because the insurance rates tend to come down to an affordable level once the driver is over 50 years of age.
Viper, on the other hand, skewed younger. From the muscular and bulging body work to the Lambo derived engine. It was raw, untamed, and athletic, like "Fight Club" on four wheels...it was...it was..."Spartan?"
Like so much of Japanese culture, the Toyota "hashi-roku" has a long winding history that involves food, street racing, manga, and animation.
"Hashi-roku" is Japanese for "eight-six" and the first Toyota to carry that designation became legend. At least it is so if you're a fan of drift racing at all...and at least 30 years old. An early 1980's version of the Corolla coupe was nicknamed, "eight-six" and basically defined drift outfitting for an entire generation.
The car was sold in several worldwide markets by that name, but in North America it was the Corolla Sport in various variations. Its design emphasized cornering and handling above straight-line horsepower, but it gained a lot of the latter though simple weight-reduction.
The food, street racing, and animation come in thanks to the long-running manga series, "Initial D." Which eventually became a very popular anime. It featured a tofu delivery boy who drove his father's "hashi-roku" through twisting local mountain roads in the wee hours of the morning; he was so good that he didn't even know he was racing.
His arch-rival? A frat-boy driving an RX-7 (how's that for irony?). The latest generation of 86 is still an awesome handling car. Some give it a hard time for a mid-range power dip, but then those folks don't really get it. It's got a Subaru boxer engine too, so it growls.
Who's up for some late-night tofu?
If there were any person and brand whose name might be the Italian equivalent of "Carroll Shelby," it's very likely Carlo Abarth.
Before and after World War II, Abarth—actually born in Austria—earned fame as a motorcycle racer and builder. Later, he founded his own company and racing team in Bologna, Italy and—a bit like Shelby's cobra—took the scorpion as its logo. (Legendarily because that was his astrological sign as well...I guess racers must like venom...?) That company helped to design racing cars based on street machines and sold after-market tuner parts as well.
After 3o relatively successful years he sold his company, including his name and scorpion logo to Fiat because...well, likely because he was anticipating retirement and Fiat offered him a helluva lot of money. He passed away in 1979.
Eventually Fiat removed the Abarth name and logo from its racing team and from the performance division that it had been associated with. The scorpion had lost its sting...
Finally in 2007 the insect emerged again, as did the brand and at least some of what it signified before. So when Fiat introduced an Abarth version of its popular CinqueCento ("500") reboot in 2008 it became something of an instant classic.
The 500 is praiseworthy, if for no other reason than because it continues to offer a very metropolitan manual transmission in the 21st Century. When combined with the 1.4 turbo engine and sports suspension it becomes...venomous?
Superhero comic books have always really been about one thing: making nerdy kids (mostly, "nerdy boys") feel less odd. Permit me to explain:
One of the ways that superhero comic books gave nerds some comfort was by encouraging them to believe that one day, being a nerd would be a good thing. Nerd propensities for knowledge and especially for all things "engineering" would be a ticket to social acceptance and worldly success. (Rather than the exact opposite, which it usually turned out to be when they were kids.)
I am qualified to give this explanation primarily because I've always been a nerd. And, furthermore, because I've always bought and read comic books. In fact, I'm such a nerd that I refuse to watch any superhero movies—I prefer the stories in their original form—or any non-Roddenberry, or non-George Lucas, Star Trek or Star Wars movies.
So when Tony Stark and Ironman jumped onto the big screen in 2007, nerds embraced the imagery whole-heartedly. A big part of the image conveyed by that first motion picture was that among the rewards for being nerdy are freedom, wealth and...an Audi R8.
As a car the R8 kind of set the tone for attainable supercars in the first two decades of this century. They gave one away on a US gameshow for cryin' out loud. It's fast and sexy, but it's not a supercar. Like Gwyneth Paltrow, though, it definitely looks the part.
How do I know all of this if I don't watch superhero movies? Nerds talk, word gets around.
I know it's kinda hard to believe, but you're looking at the fastest VW ever made. In fact, for most of this century, the Bugatti Veyron was the fastest thing in the known universe... or at least the fastest that didn't require clearance from air traffic control or the International Space Station to operate.
Classic cars should have classic names and there is probably no name more associated with the gentrified days of early "motoring" than Bugatti. Ettore Bugatti, the company founder, was basically just a guy born with a lot of engineering smarts and what I like to call the "tinker gene." Some people just like to tinker with stuff, be that stuff mechanical, or electrical or electronic. It's in their DNA I think.
Bugatti, part French and part Italian, was also fairly well-to-do by birth and so he actually could- and did act on his tinkering impulses. He was also a bit of an artist when it came to leather tooling and saddle-making. Remember, folks were still making the transition from flesh and blood horses to those produced by internal combustion in the early days of the last century. In that way Bugatti became something of a boutique producer of bespoke automobiles. Almost no two of his "production cars" is the same; certainly none of the ones that have survived all of these years.
The Veyron is not only like the Audi R8 in that it hails from pretty much the same company, but also in the way that it has defined a genre for the 21st Century. It basically tells you: this is what powerful looks like.
Welcome back, signore Ettore.
A lot longer ago than I care to remember I drove a car over 100mph/160kph for the first time. That car was an even-then extremely old Dodge Dart with "Demon" stickering (yes, those aren't new things) and a carbureted V8. Indeed, the origins of the Dart way back in the 1960's was as a very lightweight two-door with a pretty big engine.
As the century wore on, it was marketed to city-dwellers who wanted a taste of NASCAR but had too much in the way of family responsibilities to pony up (see what I did there?) for a Charger, much less the Charger with the Hemi option.
That car was about 25 years old when I got behind the wheel, and though it had a lot of miles on it already, it still did 113mph/180kph pretty handily...albeit while going downhill...with the windows rolled up...and the heater going full-blast...but it still did it.
While a big part of the genius that I personally credit Daimler with during its "partnership" with Chrysler is reviving old nameplates, this one was a bad idea. I have to admit that this one occurred after the big breakup of Daimler-Chrysler, but it was likely already in the pipeline back then. It is rebranded outside of North America by Fiat, current owners of Chrysler House. The current compact version is actually not a bad car and better I think than the Neon that preceded it.
But it's not really a "Dodge Dart," even with the windows rolled up.
There is likely nothing as inspiring in this life as watching someone who's been given lemons by our universal almighty, who flips the script and finds a way to turn that sour fruit into a refreshing glass of ice cold, tangy-sweet lemonade.
As a brand, Subaru is like that. For several decades, Subie watched while Toyota, Honda, and (Datsun-)Nissan carved up the world, at least as auto exports from Japan. Yes, MHI (Subaru's parent Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) had a lot of resources to compensate for the burden of its automotive "ugly step-child", but still...it was sour.
Slowly, Subaru carved out its own niche as the "all-wheel drive" brand. And, through the 1980s and 90s, if you visited any place in North America where roads and weather put a premium on handling, you found Subarus. In number. At elevation their cars also offered forced induction which compensated for the atmospheric challenge of high altitude.
The Tribeca, first offered in 2006, was not an awful car; Subaru doesn't ever make "awful" cars. But it was only half a Forester and half an Outback. When Volvo stopped being the world's source of middle-class station wagons around year 2000, the latter—the wagon version of their supposed brand leader, Legacy—took off like a rocket.
And that was that for the half-measures of Tribeca.
Back in the days before SUVs roamed the Earth in great numbers, GM had an "excitement division." That's right, the company that now brings you the Chevy Avalanche, the Chevy Tahoe and the Cadillac Escalade used to have an entire branded division that was devoted to making driving fun.
That brand was Pontiac. At one time Pontiac's distinctive chevron logo adorned such models as the GTO (that's right, THAT GTO), the Firebird (not just the little Fiero that it became, but the big F-body from the 1970's), and the Aztek...wait, what?
As with the Tribeca, there probably wasn't a lot really wrong with the Aztek from a consumer point of view. It kind of had the same road-going aspect of not only the Tribeca but the Honda Element and several other multi-purpose utility vehicles of the turn of the century. But it was a Pontiac for crying out loud. About that same time GM was putting the Pontiac badge on a beauty of a sedan its newly acquired Saab subdivision had designed: the G6. But even that was not enough to save the marque from its lack excitement and so Pontiac went the way of Oldsmobile in 2008.
More likely it was the great muddle of acquisitions during those years—including brands like Saab—which best explain the death of Pontiac and not cars like the Aztek, but hey...we gotta blame somebody.
Bless me reader, I have sinned. I am guilty of entertaining wrathful thoughts against at least two generations of automotive designers, industry executives and even a few engineers who let the rest get away with adding "-UV" to the designation of so many cars and trucks. I hate those two letters...
But, as with most sinning, it takes two (or more) to get it done. If I'm wrathful then the manufacturers who keep making these things are equally full of lust and greed. And if the makers are sinful, then the people who keep buying the "-UV's" of the world are also guilty of the sin of sloth in being too lazy and thoughtless about the great privilege, freedom, and enjoyment which is driving to care about what it is that they actually are driving.
The Avalanche is one of those "-UV" abominations that greedy makers make and unthinking buyers buy. All of which fuels my wrath; it's an endless circle of venality. It's supposed to be an "M-UV"...I think. That means it can be configured as a pickup or as something of an SUV. Either way, it stinks. Yet, it sells.
The only thing worse would be if someone somehow said to themselves, "Hey, if a pickup truck that becomes an SUV is popular...what if it we slapped a luxury marque on it...yeah, imagine how great that would be..."
The Cadillac Escalade perpetually tops lists of consumer dissatisfaction in the automotive world. People don't like these things, but, as with the Avalanche above, for some reason they keep buying them.
It is true that even in the USA, where SUV's have been the second-most popular vehicle market segment (to pickups) for quite a while now, sales of the big ones seem to be waning. More and more of the market is being scooped up by smaller models many of which are no longer truck-based.
There are predictable reasons for the movement to midsize- and small SUVs and, I dare say, that's probably partly because those really aren't "SUVs" at all. More often than not their designs crowd the margins of what used to be called, "station wagons" (like the Subaru Outback example cited above) or they are simply lifted hatchback models enhanced with all-wheel drive (the VW All-Track comes most readily to mind in this category). As the population in most industrialized nations has aged the need to haul a bunch of kids and their friends around to soccer practice and the like has quietly faded away. As the era of the dinosaurs passed, so may be the days of the land yachts drawing to a close...
Or maybe a meteor will hit and we'll get rid of them that way...whatever it takes...
The Jetta is not a lot of things. That is, it is not a Golf—GTI or otherwise—and it is not a Beetle and, worst of all for a lot of us, it is absolutely nothing whatsoever like a Scirocco.
And yet, like several on this list, VW has sold a lot of Jettas over the years. The reason why, I think, is that it is in fact NOT so many things. It is anonymous and relatively uncomplicated and easy-going. It is like a teenaged boy singer: nimble, tousle-headed and non-threatening. Women love these cars.
But that was not good enough for VW. It always seems like German makers reach for more and more every year because...well because it is their job to do so. Nicht richtig? (Eng. trans.: "Isn't it?")
If you had ever driven a diesel from the last century then you know that the improvement represented by the newer "clean diesel" engines is more than measurable. They are no longer "just" torquey while noisily spewing smoke like a garbage truck. Nowadays diesels have torque and power and they are not noisy at all nor do they blow oil out the exhaust. So...
Tor! (Eng. trans.: "Goal!" or "Score!") Ja? Indeed it seemed so until 2015 when VW was caught trying to massage the emissions ratings of its TDIs starting with the MY 2009s.
Will Jetta survive? Sure, just keep singing: Baby-baby-baby, oooh, baby-baby-baby, oooh...
Besides the often-times coincident worlds of food, drift-racing, manga and anime Japan is also the land that has given us the concept of wabi-sabi.
If there is one phrase that both describes the Nissan Cube and of which it also represents the perfect embodiment, it is the wabi-sabi idea of perfection through imperfection. The Cube is a thing of beauty because it is really not that good-looking. It is not actually a perfect "cube" like a Rubik's puzzle, but for a front-engine automobile it is pretty darn cube-like. And it is not really symmetrical in any direction as a cube should be, but for all of that it is also "architecturally interesting." It has a wrap-around corner window on the driver's rear C-pillar...the "driver's side" in the domestic Japanese version anyway and its rear cargo area opens in the manner of a barn door.
Japan too is that nation where occasionally one may find cube-shaped tomatoes and cube-shaped melons in the grocer store. Making the most of it is important in a culture where space is at a premium. Yet I think the demands of wabi-sabi are even greater. It is not enough to be "interesting" or efficient, wabi-sabi demands that a thing be so wabi-sabi that wabi-sabi is the last thing that comes to mind when you experience it.
And so the Nissan Cube fails...perfectly.
A lot has changed in the US auto business since year 2K. Chrysler in its entirety has changed hands twice, and GM, as noted above, has had its own wild ride; shedding divisions and letting traditional marques slip into the past. Ford too has let loose some of its stable as well.
And all of that has not been necessarily been to the bad either.
Even after being rejected by Ferrari, Ford—as a company—spent a lot of money in the last quarter of the last century acquiring international brands. Those included mass production concerns like Volvo and Mazda, and also luxury brands like Aston Martin and Jaguar.
While Aston has (in-)famously left its mark on more than one of Ford's continuing product lines, Jaguar is no doubt glad to have put the X-Type into its corporate rearview mirror.
The model line was intended as a BMW 3 series and MB C-class killer, but regardless of whatever competitiveness it might have been said to possess in that segment, it looked like a Ford and not at all like a Jaguar. If an entry-level luxury consumer was hoping to buy a Jag they would have been sorely disappointed with this. It's a front-drive, transverse engined compact car with a Ford midsize chassis on it.
The only thing worse would've been if Ford had decided to try removing the Jaguar badging and hood ornament and then try to sell the thing as an executive car...uh oh...
This in fact is largely the nightmare just described come to life. Despite the horror that it eventually became, however, the Ford Five Hundred in fact has a great backstory...
Two things were very popular in the USA in the 1980s: Sylvester Stallone movies and Ford Taurus automobiles. Both of them came out of nowhere and—at least initially—were surprisingly good. Stallone became famous for insisting on writing and playing the lead in the original "Rocky" movie in 1976. The movie turned out to be a huge hit.
Ford meanwhile was working on a replacement for its stalwart, LTD full-size sedan. The LTD had been a mainstay for the company throughout the 1970s and into the mid-80s. But it was angular and overlong. And it was time for some more fuel-efficient changes.
Thus was born the Taurus.
Starting with MY 1986 Ford sold a lot of Tauruses and still does to this day. It was the ultimate family car and, in the beginning, it even came in a station wagon version.
Then Sylvester Stallone made Rocky II...and then Rocky III...and on and on and the magic was sucked right out of it. He had gone too far. And then Ford did too. Emboldened by the tremendous success of Taurus in the face of Camry, they figured why not make something like Camry's rich cousin, Avalon. Thus was born the Five Hundred.
Introduced in MY 2005, it was intended to replace the Taurus, but it died almost immediately thereafter. It sank like a...like a rock(-y). But unlike Rambo, it thankfully never rose from the depths again...
Some cars are forgettable because they are bad and others are so because they were, from the very moment someone dreamed them up, bad ideas.
We began this list with the greatest production Porsche of our day: the GT3 in case you can't remember that far back. And now we end it with another production Porsche that should never have been made at all.
Truth to tell, this first one was probably the high-mark for this model. The latest versions are far better looking, for sure, but whatever traces of the marque's bloodlines might have existed in the first Cayenne has been so watered down by now that the badges are likely glued on with corn starch paste.
On the other hand, the number of luxury marques applying their badges to especially midsize SUVs is growing and alarming. As we've already noted, the market segment is also growing with each passing model year and it's easy money for a company that has a recognized brand.
Maserati, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa Romeo have all joined the fray recently. Of course, BMW, Audi and Volvo have been heavily invested in this segment for quite a while already.
Products like the Porsche Cayenne are proof that not only are all cars not destined to become classics, but some aren't even intended to be classy.
Sources: vipercentral.com, roadandtrack.com