News that the legendary Chevrolet Chevelle nameplate may be making a comeback yesterday was mainly met with trepidation rather than optimism, even among the most hardcore GM faithful. As much as we all would like to see the Chevelle come back as a muscular coupe with a V8 — or maybe even that 420-horsepower V6 from the 2014 Cadillac CTS — experience tells that isn't likely.
That's because car companies have a long history of bringing back famous old car names and slapping them on new cars that really don't deserve them. For whatever reason, the American car companies seem to be the worst at this, perhaps because they have more of a tendency to play up their heritage and go for nostalgia when they probably shouldn't.
Like I said yesterday in the Chevelle story, sometimes that works — the new Camaro Z/28 and the Corvette Stingray are great examples of this. But should the most recent Pontiac GTO have really been named the GTO? That's one of my favorite cars and a hugely underrated performance bargain, but its failure to live up to the old Goat in the looks department hurt it in the eyes of the hardcore muscle car folks.
However, there are far, far more egregious examples of bad car naming than the GTO. At least that one had a V8 and rear-wheel-drive. The offenders below were so badly named that the people behind these decisions should face prosecution.
Without further ado, let's look at some of the worst car name revivals ever. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1978-1983 Dodge Challenger
I wrote about this one in my feature on the Mitsubishi-Chrysler partnership a few months ago. The Challenger was a badass muscle car until it was revived as re-badged version of the Mitsubishi Gallant Lambda. That one only stuck around for a few years, and it's probably something the Mopar people don't like to talk about. Thankfully, the Challenger regained its badassery a couple years ago.
Photo credit Aldenjewell
1989 Lotus Elan, 1995 Alfa Romeo Spider
I'm putting these in the same category because they're guilty of the same sin: legendary sports car names that sold out and went front-wheel-drive in the name of efficiency and cost-cutting. The Elan was one of Lotus' most famed sports cars, and while the Isuzu-powered front-driver that came out in the 90s had great driving dynamics and looked awesome, it was never really accepted by the Lotus purists.
Same with the Alfa Romeo Spider, which became essentially a roofless version of the front-wheel-drive GTV in the 90s. Again, not a bad car at all, but why couldn't it have had its own identity?
Photo credit Martin Pettitt
1988-1993 Pontiac LeMans
The original LeMans/Tempest line gave birth to the GTO. So how did GM honor the name LeMans, which is also the name of the most famous race in the world? They slapped the badge on a sedan and hatchback built in South Korea by Daewoo (which was in turn based on the Opel Kadett.)
I cannot fathom the amount of cocaine that must have been consumed by GM executives in the 80s for them to have even considered this idea.
1985-1988 Chevrolet Nova
And here's the example that makes everyone worried about the new Chevelle. Like its contemporary the Dodge Dart, the original Nova was a much-loved compact car with impressive performance on its top V8 models. The one that came out in the 80s with the Nova name was a rebadged Toyota built at the NUMMI plant in California. To say it probably shouldn't have been called the Nova is kind of an understatement.
Photo credit Bikesandwich
2006 Lincoln Zephyr
The original Lincoln-Zephyrs from the late 1930s were gorgeous, glorious luxury coupes with V12 engines. What kind of glorious comeback did the Zephyr name get? It got plastered onto a rebadged version of the uninspiring first-generation Ford Fusion in 2006. The next year, that got changed to "MKZ."
Yeah, that's much better.