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5 Retro Cars That Don’t Quite Capture Their Old Glory

For the last decade or so, retro has been "in." Retro cars have been coming out by the dozen, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down, with the new Lincoln Continental trying to recapture the brand’s former glory, and the new Volkswagen Microbus concept cruisin’ around at Pebble Beach. Most retro cars are done very well (Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro) or at least pretty well (Toyota FJ Cruiser, the aforementioned Lincoln Continental), but some retro cars just aren’t quite up to the task of carrying on their fabled name.

1990s Cadillac Eldorado

1990s Cadillac Eldorado

Although the final-generation Cadillac Eldorado isn’t technically a "retro" car in the sense that it brought back an old name, it certainly didn’t do the storied "Eldorado" nameplate many favors when it debuted in the early 1990s. While earlier Eldorado models were basically a celebration of Cadillac excess with a luxurious 2-door that featured opulent styling, the 1990s Eldorado was toned down and muted compared to the brand’s past. Hardly an Eldorado worthy of the Eldorado name, there were no fins, no giant chrome bumpers and no other expressions of opulence. The Eldorado died in 2002 and hasn’t been seen since. Find a Cadillac Eldorado for sale

Chevrolet HHR

Chevrolet HHR

While the HHR wasn’t intended to be a "revival" of any one particular car, its name, which stood for "Heritage High Roof," and its design were intended to evoke memories of Chevy pickup and van models from the late 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately, Chevy stuck the HHR on a compact-car chassis and saddled it with relatively unimpressive 4-cylinder engines, save for a rare turbocharged model. The interior was also a victim of General Motors cost-cutting, with cheap materials throughout. Still, reasonable pricing ensured that the HHR wasn’t so bad — just not a good revival of an iconic design. In the end, the HHR lasted for only six model years before its cancellation in 2011. Find a Chevrolet HHR for sale

2000s Chevrolet Monte Carlo

2000s Chevrolet Monte Carlo

The original Chevy Monte Carlo was a muscle car with the style and attitude to go with it. And while the Monte Carlo name declined over time, even the 1980s model was still a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered coupe that could be modified for strong performance. But in the mid-1990s, Chevy revived the Monte Carlo name with a front-wheel-drive coupe based on the Lumina — and the 2000s model, based on the Impala, was even more disappointing. Like the HHR, the 2000s Monte Carlo was a decent car: comfortable, reliable and reasonably priced. But it didn’t quite carry the "Monte Carlo" torch like it should’ve. Find a Chevrolet Monte Carlo for sale

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Like the Chevy HHR above, the PT Cruiser wasn’t exactly intending to be a retro revival of any specific car. Instead, it was designed to conjure up images of 1930s and 1940s styling in general, with a modern spin. Sadly, it was the modern spin that killed the PT Cruiser: While it was hot when it first came out, the design became outdated very quickly, as people started getting familiar with it. The PT Cruiser was also saddled with a poor interior and vast overproduction, which hurt resale values and turned it into a perennial rental car. Somehow, the PT Cruiser lasted through 2010 model year, but the party was over quickly after it debuted in 2001. Find a Chrysler PT Cruiser for sale

2000s Ford Thunderbird

2000s Ford Thunderbird

The 11th generation of the Ford Thunderbird was sold from 2002 to 2005 — and when Ford first announced its existence, everyone was thrilled. It was the first retro-car design that really seemed to modernize an old classic, and the public warmly received the "revival of the Thunderbird" when it was first shown. Motor Trend even named it "Car of the Year." The only problem: It wasn’t all that good. The interior was shamelessly stolen, in its entirety, from the Lincoln LS sedan, and the performance was only average. Two seats didn’t help matters, either. A few excited shoppers bought the car in 2002, presumably at sticker price, and then Ford had trouble selling the rest. The "revived" Thunderbird was cancelled after 2005, following just four model years. Find a Ford Thunderbird for sale

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I feel like the Eldo did great when it came back in the 90s. Maybe looking back it hasn’t held up, but I saw plenty of them when they were new. Likewise the Monte Carlo – I thought it looked terrible, but they seemed to sell really well too.

    That’s the tough thing about these lists, they need to be judged in context, and in that context I think only the T-bird and HHR were really flops. The T-bird for the aforementioned issues, and the HHR because the market was already tired of the PT Cruiser.

  2. I understand all of them except the Eldorado.  First of all, in no way is it a retro car, neither in the styling nor in ‘bringing back a nameplate’…the nameplate had never gone away when the 90’s final generation came out.  And while I can understand why someone may not like it or think it is not worthy of the original 1967 version, it was light years better than the previous mid 80’s downsized version.  For that matter, no subsequent version of the Eldorado to the 1967 original can hold a candle to it…and that’s including the 68’s and 69’s where Cadillac began to ruin the design of it.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a multitude of magazine publications and websites, including here at Autotrader — where he launched the Oversteer enthusiast blog — along with Jalopnik, GQ, and The Week. His YouTube channel has hundreds of published videos and has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Today, Doug lives in San Diego, California, with his 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS, 2005 Ford GT, and 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.

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