Over at the Car Lust blog, one of the authors is sharing a little pipe dream of his. Chris Hafner imagines he invents a time machine and goes back to the 1970s to save the American Motors Corporation. (No, he won’t do anything really worthwhile, like preventing disco.) His plan to save AMC? Bring back cars from the then future to revamp AMC’s lineup. And he’s got the entire AMC lineup to replace.
The criteria he’s using is the new cars have to replace an existing model in the AMC lineup, be significantly better than the competition of the time, and not be instantly recognized as versions of other makes and models.
It’s a fun notion, and I hope Chris keeps up the conceit of the piece — writing as a journalist of the time evaluating these “new AMC models.”
He also issued a tacit challenge — what models would you choose to replace the AMC lineup? Here are the models and categories:
- AMC Gremlin–the subcompact economy car
- AMC Pacer–the innovative compact people-mover
- AMC Hornet–the small sedan and wagon
- AMC Eagle–the go-anywhere, do-anything AWD wagon
- AMC Matador–the mid-size sedan and stylish coupe
- AMC Ambassador–the full-size sedan
- AMC Marlin–the casual, feel-good sporty car
- AMC Javelin–the more serious sporty car
- AMC AMX–the hard-core sports car
I decided to take up that challenge. But I decided to make my choices to cars that featured major changes to appearance, performance, or other capabilities. Cars that were in no way instantly identifiable as related to existing makes or models. I skipped the Gremlin, ‘cuz that was already covered. And I’m not quite certain about a couple of them, but here’s my first draft.
- Pacer — 2000 Ford Focus
- Hornet — 1992 Saturn S-series
- Eagle — 2003 Honda Element
- Matador — 1984 Ford Taurus
- Ambassador — 1992 Cadillac Seville STS
- Marlin — 1989 Ford Probe Turbo
- Javelin — 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
- AMX — 1990 Mitsubushi 3000GT VR-4
The Focus, coming in 3-door, 4-door, 5-door, and wagon form, was (and still is) one of the best small cars ever made, and its angular styling makes it look like nothing else on the road.
The Saturns were simple, cheap, efficient, flexible, and their use of plastic body panels was a major departure.
For the Eagle, most people would want to go for a Subaru as a “go-anywhere, do-anything AWD wagon.” But I can’t do what everyone else would do, and Subarus are just distinctly odd. The Element, though, looks truly unique.
The Ford Taurus changed the way American sedans were made. Front-wheel drive and exceptional (for the day) aerodynamics gave the Taurus a futuristic look, and still influences cars today.
The first Seville STS was unlike any other Cadillac ever made. Big, luxurious, but swoopy as hell and very aggressively styled — but still with the sharp edges that define “luxury.” Coupled with the legendary Cadillac Northstar engine, it reshaped the Cadillac line.
The Ford Probe was another groundbreaker — a performance coupe with front-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine, and out-of-this-world looks. It wasn’t a huge performer, but it was good enough.
At about the same time, though, Mitsubishi was taking that niche and just owning it. The Eclipse GSX took a tiny, aggressive as hell body and wrapped it around an amazingly powerful (for the day) engine and an all-wheel-drive drivetrain.
Then the Mitsubishi engineers took those basic ideas and cranked it up to 11 with the 3000GT. The top-of-the-line model had a twin-turbo V6, all-wheel drive, 4-wheel steering, active aerodynamics, and a body that looked like it was starting to change into a giant robot.
I’m not entirely satisfied with my choices here. I think there’s too much overlap between the Focus and the Saturns, and the Eclipse might be a little small for the Javelin. Plus, there is a decided lack of familial looks between the Taurus and the Seville, when they should bear a bit of resemblance to each other. But overall, I think it’s a decent list.
Anyone else wanna take a stab at it?