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Cars I Used to Think Were Cool

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author photo by William Byrd June 2017

I recently submitted that your first three cars say a lot about you. The responses were overwhelming -- you all have made a lot of bad decisions and should be ashamed. And as I was reading through your shaky start in the car enthusiast world, I realized something: There are a lot of cars that I used to think were cool, but in hindsight certainly were not.

Now, obviously, tastes change, and finances change -- but I find it hard to defend some of these cars below that I thought were cool back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was a different era, sure, but that doesn't make it right. Let's get started.

Geo Storm

Geo Storm

There may be a reader or two, depending on age, who has never had the pleasure of seeing a Geo Storm in the wild. If you are lucky enough to encounter one, make sure you defer to its dominance. Eyes down, don't show it your teeth, pretend it's a wild dog or a giant grizzly bear. The Storm was based off the Isuzu Impulse and actually produced at the Fujisawa Plant in Japan -- so it had the potential to be a legit sport compact. Sadly, unlike its Japanese cousin, the front-engine, front-wheel-drive Storm never got the optional turbocharger or all-wheel-drive system that Isuzu gave the Impulse. Another reason not to trust Joe Isuzu -- as if you needed one.

The Storm was only produced between 1990 and 1993, which was the sweet spot for teenage-me yearning for a new car to replace my busted Nissan Pulsar. If you read my "first-three-cars" article, you know that I ended up with a 4-cylinder Mustang. Perhaps the Storm would have been better. It was cheap at least; according to Autotrader, the 1990 Storm rang in at just $10,390 for the base model and $11,650 for the GSi Sport. Geo updated the car in 1991 with a "wagonback" version, much like the one offered on my Pulsar. Next year, the GSi version received a larger DOHC engine with 10 more horsepower -- but Geo lowered the base model's horsepower by 5 the following year.

The Storm was light, though, weighing just 2,282 lbs -- and it was tested at a respectable .81 to .85 g on the skid pad. Perhaps it was a little cool. At the time of this article, there were no Geo Storms for sale on Autotrader. Likely because they're just so awesome that people are holding onto them.

Pontiac Grand Am

Pontiac Grand Am

While I was actually yearning for a Pontiac Grand Prix, I knew that the reasonable choice would definitely be to have a Grand Am in my life. Plus, just listen to that name. Grand Am. I know, right? Produced from various points between 1972 and 2005, the Grand Am was often appealing -- but the third-generation model, pictured above, was my cup of tea. At long as it was teal! Just look at those slats along the side: It was like a Testarossa. I'll bet you can't name all the cars it shared a platform with. I'll wait. OK, here they are: Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Achieva, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Beretta, Chevrolet Corsica and the Chevrolet Malibu. What a platform! Some greatest hits from the automotive world right there, my friends.

The Grand Am wasn't just a pretty face. It had other traits ... like an engine ... and a transmission! Although, if you plotted the Grand Am's horsepower rating on a line graph, it would look like a tent. Starting in 1992 with a 120-horsepower 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, the Grand Am also had a model with 160 hp and eventually as much as 180 hp. Unfortunately, from there it all went downhill: In later models, 4-cylinder and V6 versions both hovered around 150 hp. But hey, a Getrag manual was available. So there's that.

I took driver's education in a Grand Am. I recall Amy, my fellow student co-driver, angrily threatening to "put this car in first and peel out" if the range instructor radioed one more critique of her driving. I always wondered what happened to her; she had moxie. The Grand Am, on the other hand, I happily put in my rearview mirror.

There are dozens of Grand Ams for sale on Autotrader, from $1,000 to $7,000, if you are so inclined. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Volkswagen Fox

Volkswagen Fox

I vividly remember wanting a brand-new VW Fox for my first car, and the only reason I can recall is that it was advertised as one of the cheapest cars for sale in the U.S. Indeed, Autotrader says the original MSRP started in the $6,890 range for a base-model late-1980s Fox. Sold here from 1987 to 1993, the Fox doesn't have quite the cult following of the Golf or GTI. Ours was a version of the Gol, a Brazilian VW that's still being produced down there!

Boasting an 81-horsepower 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder, the Fox wasn't fast. Even the sub-2,500-pound curb weight couldn't save it. In its home country of Brazil, you could get a slick-looking 2-door GTS version with 120 hp, which was probably pretty fun. Sadly, the Fox will always be but a blip on the radar of Volkswagen's history in the United States -- though clearly not the lowest point. Yet somehow I remember really wanting one.

You can still find them for sale -- and, surprisingly, there's one available on Autotrader for $2,700 with 300,000 miles (ish). But hey, it's got an extra set of front doors!

In hindsight, my parents should have been incredibly pleased with their son. All these cars I yearned to own were at least inexpensive. But they certainly were not cool cars. What's on your list of cars that you once thought were cool?

Based in Northern Virginia, William is professional writer and editor and acts as the Editor-in-Chief of Right Foot Down. He misspent most of his youth on tracks in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as killing cones in parking lots, and he once taught at a teen performance driving school.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Cars I Used to Think Were Cool - Autotrader