Reviving a discontinued car nameplate is trickier than it sounds. Sometimes a company puts the name on a car that isn’t quite worthy of the legacy, such as muscle cars on sedans or even low-slung sports cars, completely ruining the legacy of the nameplate. In other cases, the car may turn out to be terrible and unworthy of its name. Despite the risks associated with repurposing lost and beloved nameplates for new models, auto revivals can be incredibly profitable for the brand if done right — take the Bronco or the Challenger, for example.
The best revivals are not only worthy of the original name, but also manage to surpass it in performance, style and impact. The worst are seen as an outright mockery of the models that came before and amazing that everyone thought they would work. So let’s look at a few examples of each.
9 Worst: 1999 Mercury Cougar
A classic of its time, the Mercury Cougar was a beast on the road, selling nearly three million units over its long life. Even in the rougher ’80s, the car had a name that exemplifies great power as it turned into a luxury car before ending its original run in 1997.
Just a few years later, Mercury tried to bring it back into a beautiful list. Unfortunately, among that beauty was an ugly 2.5-liter V6 that was plagued with problems that caused constant shutdowns and more expensive to maintain than buy. It ended in 2002 and sad that the Cougar died with such a wail.
8 Best: Alpine A110
As France’s premier sports car for decades, the Alpine A110 was considered something that could never be replicated. But after years of silence, Renault revived it in 2017 and may have surpassed the original. The exterior may not be as fancy, but a modern edge that helps it stand out.
More importantly, it’s lighter than the original with a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder that delivers 300PS and feels faster than its 250km/h top speed. Although it will unfortunately end in 2024, the A110 showed that a modern supercar can more than live up to a classic legacy.
7 Worst: 2004 Pontiac GTO
Considered the first true American muscle car, the Pontiac GTO is a legend in muscle car circles. Some might even call it an icon, as its mean looks and great engine influenced many other cars. Reviving it in 2004 with modern technology should have resulted in a new classic.
Instead, it was heavily criticized for poor styling, not fitting the GTO name and really just a renamed Holden Monaro. It’s actually not a bad car with good handling, but overpriced and just not worthy of the iconic GTO name.
6 Best: Dodge Challenger
While it will unfortunately end next year, the Dodge Challenger revival was great. The first generation was one of the best muscle cars of its time, with a strong engine and a robust frame that made it stand out. Unfortunately, the second generation ended in 1983.
But it was redeemed when it was brought back in 2008 as a true pony car in looks and, most importantly, power. With engine options as varied as a 3.5-litre V6 to the current 6.4-litre V8 at nearly 700 horsepower, the Challenger may end up, but it has more than met the challenge of becoming a brilliant ride.
5 Worst: 1985 Chevy Nova
The Chevy Nova was not only one of the best performing cars of its time, but also one of the most beautiful. The style was fantastic and matched by an excellent engine, making it a groundbreaking factor in the muscle car era. Unfortunately, the 1980s were the dark times of muscle cars and the new Nova was a disaster†
It really was a rebadged Corolla with a pathetic 1.6l 98-ci four-cylinder that only got 75 horsepower. That’s fine for a typical hatchback of the time, but not for something with such a muscular lineage. Forget a Nova, this thing wasn’t even a bland glow and a mockery of a great car.
4 Best: Ford Bronco
It’s taken 25 years, but finally one of the most iconic SUVs ever made is back and in great style. The Ford Bronco led the way for the genre with great off-road capability, premium engine and pulling power, and rugged looks.
Discontinued in 1996, it was revived in 2021 and features a 300 horsepower engine, a stronger frame and the new Raptor version is a stunner, making it a wish that Ford had brought this back sooner. Like its namesake, the Bronco is ready to ride for a long time to come.
3 Worst: 2013 Dodge Dart
The Dodge Dart may not have been one of the better-known muscle cars of the 1970s, but it was one of the best. Its engines, either a slant or a more powerful V8, were great and matched by a powerful but light frame that reached some high speeds before being discontinued in 1976.
In 2013 it was brought back…as a compact sedan with a four-cylinder that barely gets 160 hp. Using a name like the Dart for this boring car was an insult because it deserved much better. The Dart revival not only missed the bullseye, it didn’t even hit the board.
2 Worst: 2002 Thunderbird
There is a movement that claims that the 11th generation of the classic muscle car is not that bad. However, there is no denying that it was an absolute flop on its release for those expecting a return to greatness for the model. The fantastic muscle styling was transformed into a run-of-the-mill sports car and not even a handsome one.
At least they had a V8 under the hood, but somehow the 252-hp 3.9L felt sluggish and not as punchy as it should have been. A little more work and this could have lived up to the Thunderbird name instead of burying it.
1 Best: Alfa Romeo Giulia
Reviving a classic car from the past can be a risk, but Alfa Romeo has done it with the new version of the Giulia. It looks great with great old-school styling mixed with a modern edge.
The engine is also great, the base models either 2.0-litre 4-cylinder or a turbocharged V6 with the upgraded finish get even more power. It has won numerous design awards and MotorTrend’s 2018 Car of the Year for proving that it is a revival that surpasses the original.