Unlike the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger, a lot of newer cars that were designed with retro influence, didn’t achieve as great success. See…most cars, especially these slight pinnacles of design, can be victims of badge engineering or doomed to rental car lots. Tha can ruin any car, no matter how impressive it may be look or even drive
If you didn’t know what badge engineering is, I’ll explain in a few short sentences. Badge engineering, is the process in which an automaker takes one car, adds or deletes certain features such seat materials or engine options and then adds a badge or nameplate for a specific brand. This can be better explained in the graphic below.
Chrysler PT Cruiser– After trying to search for the lo-side for the air conditioning on one of these, the PT Cruiser gets nailed to this list. Not only was the PT Cruiser doomed to Avis, Budget and Enterprises nationwide, the PT Cruiser had wood paneling. I understand, retro was the thing around that time, but wood paneling? Of all things…wood…freakin…paneling. The struggle was never that real.
Plymouth Prowler- On this whole list, this car had the most potential. It is arguably the most visually stunning on this list as well as the overall coolest. Had the Prowler been fitted with a 4.7L V8 that the Durango, Grand Cherokee and Ram had, it might have had a longer life span. You can’t design a modern hotrod and fit it with Chrysler’s 3.5L V6. That’s blasphemy!
Ford Thunderbird- Other than the Prowler, the Thunderbird had plenty of potential as well. It started off with strong sales and seemed to be somewhat of a hit in the beginning. The main killer was these three points. 1) According to Forbes and I am paraphrasing, Ford had terrible marketing for the revamped T-Bird. Ford has traditionally more success with near $40k trucks than they had with a similarly priced luxury coupe. 2) Rhe Thunderbird had fallen into obscurity prior to the revamp and that was damaging to the nameplate. 3)It should’ve had a 4.6L V8 not the Jaguar 3.9/4.0 V8.
Chevrolet SSR- After the Camaro and Firebird/Trans Am took a hiatus and a dirt nap, Chevrolet needed a performance vehicle. Pontiac, which was dubbed the “excitement division” was as exciting as quantum physics and the GTO wouldn’t be imported for another year. So what does GM decide? To take the Trailblazer EXT chassis and add a retro designed body, dubbing it the SSR or “Super Sport Roadster.” The only problem was that it didn’t sell, it was a heavyweight and actually caused layoffs at the facility it was produced at.
Chevrolet HHR- I think the HHR saw more sales during the “cash for clunkers” fiasco, than it did at any other point in it’s lifespan. Granted I could be wrong, the HHR was also wrong. The design reminded me of the old Suburbans from the 50s and 60s. The only difference from the classics was the fact that, the HHR had shrunk a bit and it followed the lead that the PT Cruiser forged. Granted the SS version was fairly quick, I think most opted for the Cobalt SS, which was also ill-fated.
Volkswagen Beetle- This is the only car on this list that is still in production. Although, it has seen some success, the current Beetles, in my opinion will probably not catch the nostalgia level that the originals. I think I actually see more of the classics still roaming the streets than the newer models.