In these ‘coolest cars’ articles, I try to be as diverse as possible — and this week I’ve managed pretty well, with a forgotten Japanese luxo-barge, a legendary, much-loved-but-ultimately-discontinued American pickup and a German-Brazilian economy car.
Here’s a 1986-1991 Mazda 929. I was only able to identify it by the badge on the trunk lid. I believe this is technically the fifth-generation of Mazda’s line of full-size rear-wheel drive sedans, which was known in many parts of the world as the Lucie, but it was given the 929 moniker in the U.S. and Canada.
This was also just the second generation of the Lucie/929 to be offered in North America after the first-gen model was sold here for just three model years in the early 1970s. For this generation, known as the "HC" Series, two body styles were offered: A traditional sedan, which is what was sold here in North America and in all other markets where the vehicle was sold, and a "hardtop" model featuring pillar-less doors, which was offered predominantly in Australia and Asia. Mazda would also go on to sell the next generation 929 in the United States from 1991 to 1995.
Ultimately, the front-wheel drive Millenia would replace the 929 in 1995, as Mazda prepared to introduce a luxury brand in the United States, called "Amati." These plans obviously never came to fruition, though, leaving the luxury-oriented 929 and Millenia as rather interesting footnotes in the brand’s U.S. history.
Pictured above is a 1991 Jeep Comanche Pickup. Altogether, over 190,000 Comanche models were built over the model’s lifespan, which lasted from 1985 to 1992, when production ended due to slumping sales and Chrysler’s desire to position Jeep as the SUV brand while leaving trucks for Dodge. From 1987 to 1992, the "SporTruck" trim level served as the base model.
I’d really like to see one of these restored using as many parts as possible from a 1997–2001 Cherokee. While neither vehicle can really be considered "modern," the last few model years of the XJ wore a considerably cleaner design than the earlier models. Given the restoration-worthiness of the Comanche and the popularity of the later Cherokee XJ models, fitting late-model Cherokee components to a Comanche seems like it would be a fairly simple undertaking, given how much the two vehicles have in common — and I imagine it would result in a pretty desirable final outcome. An auto industry hack, if you will.
Above is a 1990 Volkswagen Fox Wagon GL. One of the lesser-known VW models, the Fox was sold in the United States from 1987 to 1993 as a competitor to the Hyundai Excel — and, believe it or not, the Yugo. Over its seven model years, the Fox was offered as a 2- and 4-door sedan, and as a 2-door wagon, which you see here. All US-market Foxes were offered with an 81-horsepower 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine.
While the Fox pictured here is a pre-facelift model, the vehicle received a facelift for 1991, giving it one of the less ‘Volkswagen-like’ noses to adorn a VW in recent memory, perhaps second to only the snub-nosed B3 Passat sold in the US from 1988 to 1993. That VW of America was able to offer the Fox as a low-cost model can be attributed to the fact that it was designed primarily for the still-emerging South American market, where it went on sale in 1980 — and the fact that all U.S.-market Foxes were produced at VW’s factory in Brazil. In its home markets in South America, the Fox was known as the Gol, a nameplate that is still used by VW today, while variants were sold as the Voyage, Gacel, Parati, Pointer and Senda.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.