Diatribe: You want retro? I’ve got retro
By Al VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media June 5, 2012 3:01PM
For some time now it seems that “retro” has worked its way into the U.S. vernacular. Automobile-wise there was a trilogy of retro cars that came out about the same time several years ago: Mustang, Challenger and Camaro.
All three cars bore some resemblance to the same nameplates of the ’60s and ’70s, some more than others. Personally, I think the current Dodge Challenger bears the strongest resemblance to its roots. Camaro does as well but the new incarnation is much bulkier than its predecessor. Mustang has always resembled Mustang, so the consistency is more than welcome.
It wasn’t just the domestics that played this game, either. Volkswagen successfully did it with the new version of its historic vehicle, the Beetle.
A group of us auto journalists were shooting the breeze about bringing back names that take us back to the golden age of cars and trucks. The aforementioned three were at the top of the list but then we all took turns bringing up names that could possibly be recycled. For instance, wouldn’t it be fun to learn of a new subcompact Chevrolet two-door that’s been named Corvair? Talk about a built-in family, the Corvair name could be used for light pickup trucks and vans, just like the original expansion of the little guy’s line.
Someone else commented that with Chrysler’s waning list of vehicle lines, it might be “heartwarming” to bring back the name DeSoto. Just like the original DeSoto that fit so comfortably between the Chrysler and Plymouth lines, so too could a return of the DeSoto nameplate rest at ease between the Chrysler 300 and the Chrysler 200.
Still another colleague questioned the efficacy of bringing back the Continental name. Most of us would equate that name to a Lincoln but the closest a Lincoln now gets to a Continental is being parked next to a Bentley Continental GT at a Wal-Mart parking lot. While we were discussing the Ford lineup someone asked if it were feasible to once more bring back the heralded Thunderbird moniker. Of course it is — just like it’s possible to develop a new automobile line that rivals General Motors for size and name it Jurassic Park.
Under the JP umbrella could be individual names such as T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus and the must-have of the family, the Deinosuchus. Right now Ford doesn’t have a model called the Thunderbird. The name tried a comeback in the first decade of the 21st century and had about as much success as the 22nd year of my 20-year marriage. To bring it back now would probably put a burden on a new vehicle no matter how special the original was.
While I would bet your life that the Edsel name will never come back and the Aztek will never see the light of day until after the next meteor attack of Earth, there are historical names and lines I truly do expect to see again in my lifetime.
I fully expect to see the return of Mercury, most likely as a model in the Lincoln line. I expect to see the return of Pontiac as well. Plymouth has a better-than-even chance of seeing daylight again someday. I must say, in all honestly, that these last three names won’t return until all the lawsuits from families and former franchisees are settled and the parties have all “gone into real estate,” if you catch my drift.
At one time, the Oldsmobile brand could have rejoined Pontiac but at this point more dead people than live ones would think fondly of that once-great division. For the same reason, I don’t expect to ever see Kaiser, Frazier, Henry J, Crosley, Nash, Hudson and Packard.
Although being a member of the Golden Years Club does signify a daily battle against the evils of incontinence, it also has its advantages, like recalling the great (and not-so-great) vehicles that have come and gone during one’s lifetime that allows one to write remember-when columns like this one.
The bottom line is that the automobile industry has well more than 100 years of history, including a wealth of memorable names that are available for recycling. It isn’t necessary to depend on a computer to bring up some kind of made-up name like Pheenyxx or something equally as stupid. Archives have a real worth. Like my resources after my kids went to college, they should be tapped.
Al Vinikour is a Midwest-based freelance auto writer. Proving a mind is a “terrible thing to use” he sometimes sits in traffic and ponders about things — generally auto-related — that make him mad. Believing the “pen is mightier than the sword” (and generally results in a whole lot less jail time), he vents his anger through a word processor and produces the Driver’s Side Diatribe column. Email him at email@example.com.
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