As an automotive enthusiast, I am predisposed to liking only manual transmission-equipped, rear-wheel drive station wagons covered in brown paint. Those, and Ferraris, right? Indeed, both are nice, but they rarely tell the whole story of any enthusiast’s tastes. Below I thought I’d outline a few cars that — despite the mocking they may have received over the years, and despite well documented issues with quality and reliability — I like. Amazingly, none of the cars below are RWD and only one of them had a manual transmission on its options list.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at four cars that — while they may have developed a cult following in recent years — were looked down upon for many, cars that, for better or worse, I have maintained a soft spot for, my automotive "guilty pleasures."
Lincoln Mark VIII
First up is the Lincoln Mark VIII, available from 1993 to 1998, though I do prefer the thinner head and taillight design prior to the face-lift in 1997. This car would mark (pun not intended) the end of Lincoln’s luxury coupe offerings and the end of the "Mark" series that began in 1956. All of the Mark VIII models were powered by Ford’s first modular engine, the 4.6-liter V8, which for Lincoln made between 280 and 290 horsepower and up to 295 lb-ft of torque.
A 4-speed automatic and a 3,750-lb curb weight slowed it down, though: 0-to-60 mph times were under seven seconds, but, not by much. These cars included a high-strength roof, steel beams in the doors and crumple zones (remember when this was new technology?). They also had air-suspension that would automatically lower at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. What we don’t realize from pictures, though, is just how big these cars were: truly the end of an era. Indeed, this is a 2-door car that, at 207 inches in length, is longer than a Chevrolet Tahoe! How can you not love that excess? Find a Lincoln Mark VIII for sale
Chrysler LH Family
Consisting of several cars with only small differences that all share the same 113-in wheelbase and the same 3.3- or 3.5-liter V6 engines, the first generation of the LH platform, available from 1993 to 1997, helped turn Chrysler around. The cars may have been plagued with transmission issues and maybe suffered a head gasket failure here or there, but they also introduced a manual mode for the automatic transmission and a cab-forward design to maximize passenger room — along with a style that was nice all the way around.
The raked back windshield and more aerodynamic nose were almost unheard of in the passenger car world at the time — not to mention the more modern looking dash and instrument cluster. I grew up with a father who brought home lots of Mopar products, so I may have been conditioned to like the Chrysler product over its competitors. Even if that is the case, though, you have to admit that the first generation of these cars were pretty stylish — especially when you look at the other cars available in those days. Find a Chrysler LHS for sale
I can still remember the issue of Car and Driver that featured this car. It was April 1994, and it was full of greatness! The debut of the Oldsmobile Aurora was on the front cover, inside was also the road test of the first Dodge Neon, a car whose first generation could also be on this list — along with a crazy thing known as the Dobbertin Surface Orbiter. No one would fault you for not knowing what that last thing is, but it’s worth a Google search.
Anyway, just like the LH-platform cars, the Aurora was a wild departure from what Oldsmobile was making up to that point — and, frankly, what they made after this car, too! The sleek, low-drag design and the wrap-around rear window were surprisingly modern and must’ve made this car look like a spaceship when it was placed next to Olds 88s and 98s on the dealership lots. Indeed, I’m sure it would’ve been a shocking sight for the average Oldsmobile buyer. Inside, the dash design was very reminiscent of the Saab 9000 and 9-5 with similar curvature and center stack layout. Being a bit of a Saab guy, perhaps that was one of the draws for me.
The 4.0-liter Northstar V8 put out 250 hp and could, supposedly, run up to 100 miles without coolant, employing an early version of "limp-mode." An impressive sounding technology that would presumably result in a highly reliable engine, which, alas, wasn’t the case, as they were plagued with head-gasket issues. But, hey, that doesn’t mean I can’t like the car! After all, if failing head gaskets required hatred of the car, no one would like the Ford Focus RS … or pretty much any 2.5-liter Subaru! Find an Oldsmobile Aurora for sale
Dodge Colt Vista
I’m not sure I can even explain why I like these. But, I can remember a friend’s parents owning a couple of them, and I liked the fact that I could get a car with practicality, 4-wheel-drive and a manual transmission! With its 4WD, third-row seats, higher ground clearance and a tall profile, this could be the predecessor to a whole bunch of cars like the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander and the Mazda CX-9. I will admit that the design hasn’t necessarily stood the test of time, but it’s still a cool older car, and I bet a clean one would be the toast of Radwood (especially the one pictured above, as it’s the color of toast)! Its glory may have faded over time, but perhaps it’s time will come again!
Amazingly, the day after writing this (but before submitting it to be published), a still brand-new one of these popped up on my Facebook feed. The only downside is that it’s rather pricey — and it’s in the Netherlands. Find a Dodge Colt for sale
This is just a small sampling of cars that many people have bashed over the years that I’ve quietly harbored stronger feelings for. In looking back over the cars I selected for this article, I’ve noticed a couple things: one, no one would be surprised to learn that I was born in the 1980s and spent the 1990s in school (I’m not sure that "grew up" would be an accurate term). The other is that there is a possible alternative title for this article: "Cars whose first generation was significantly better than their second generation." So, with mine out there, what are the cars you like that make your friends raise an eyebrow and go "…really?"