For more than two decades, the Roadmaster was a staple of the Buick model line. But the long-lived model never managed to see the 1960s, as the tri-shield brand sent the Roadmaster to the great junkyard in the sky.
The nameplate was resurrected for the 1991 model year with the introduction of the V8-powered Roadmaster Estate wagon. A sedan joined the model line for the 1992 model year. After a little more than half-a-decade on the market, though, the Roadmaster’s plug was pulled once again. – Greg Fink
The Dodge Charger name is iconic. It first appeared for the 1966 model year on a two-door fastback. Like many muscle cars of the era, the early 1970s were not kind to the gas-guzzling land yacht. By 1975, Dodge restyled the coupe in an attempt to move the model into the luxury market.
However, Dodge replaced it with the short-lived Magnum in 1978. Then, in 1982, Dodge resurrected the nameplate for a front-wheel-drive three-door subcompact hatch/fastback.
While the revival did spawn the Dodge Shelby Charger and Charger GLHS, the Charger from the 1980s never left the 1980s and production ended in 1987. The Dodge Shadow succeeded it with the Charger name roaring back to life for the 2006 model year in the form of a four-door, rear-wheel-drive sedan. – Anthony Alaniz
The first-generation Ford Taurus was a game-changer; not just for Ford but for the U.S. auto industry, which, in 1986, still thought it was hip to be square. The rounded Taurus was so futuristically awesome that freaking Robocop drove one.
But then Ford rolled the dice on a controversial jelly bean redesign in 1996 and lost. The once-hot Taurus became as interesting as beige carpeting. It ended its first life as a fleet-only vehicle in 2007.
Meanwhile, Ford’s brilliant marketing minds in the 2000s thought, “Hey, brand recognition doesn’t matter so let’s name all vehicles with an F, because you know, Ford!” As such, Ford's full-size sedan took on the name Five Hundred. But after the facelifted 2008 Five Hundred debuted at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show, the same car (yes, the exact same show car) arrived at the Chicago Auto Show a month later wearing a Taurus badge. The moniker was back, and a smart redesign in 2010 could’ve led to greatness. Instead, Ford let the sedan wither on the vine for a second time, using increasing SUV and crossover sales as an excuse to not build better sedans. Such a sad fate for a vehicle that many people believe saved Ford from bankruptcy. – Chris Smith
It’s hard to blame Ford for killing the Thunderbird the first time around. The rear-wheel-drive luxury coupe segment was all-but dead in the late 1990s and, frankly, people who wanted such a machine with Blue Oval ties were turning to the Lincoln Mark VIII and its epic DOHC V8. However, Ford can absolutely take all the blame for failing to resurrect the 2002 T-bird as the vehicle it originally was; the vehicle it should’ve always been.
Isn’t that what Ford did with the wonky retro styling and removable porthole hardtop? Not hardly. The two-seat 1955 Ford Thunderbird was originally a direct competitor to the Chevrolet Corvette. Instead of breathing new performance life into a modern T-bird, though, Ford went way too retro with a design that’s merely awkward in the very best of circumstances.
The marketing team must have beaten the engineers, too, because the reborn T-bird was powered by a weak 3.9-liter V8 and springs made of gummy bears. Lastly, it was saddled with a ridiculous sticker price of nearly $40,000. Do you know what else had a $40,000 sticker price in 2002? Yup, the Chevrolet Corvette. Ford mercifully killed the storied nameplate again after the 2005 model year, but it deserved so much more. – Chris Smith
The Lincoln Zephyr brought newfound style to the American luxury brand upon its introduction for the 1936 model year. Unfortunately, the Zephyr’s life was short, and by 1942, the model went the way of the dodo.
Still, its legacy lived on, and Lincoln raised the name from the dead with the introduction of the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. Alas, the Zephyr’s return was short-lived and by 2007 the brand’s entry-level luxury sedan was renamed the MKZ. – Greg Fink
During the 1930s, Edsel Ford and E.T. "Bob" Gregory showed the world that car design as an art form was entirely possible. Among their many historic accomplishments was the introduction of the Lincoln Continental, a car that started as a one-off for the younger Mr. Ford to enjoy during his 1938 Florida summer vacation.
The Lincoln Continental was a dramatically lowered (both in clearance and actual height) and stretched – especially its hood – Lincoln Zephyr convertible. It didn’t have any running boards but showed a prominent covered spare tire sitting behind its trunk lid. The car was a resounding success with the Palm Beach crowd, and soon after was put into production as a 1939 model. Then World War II ruined the party. All civilian automobile production was halted between 1942 and 1947. To make matters worse, the Continental lost its champion when Edsel died prematurely in 1943 at 49 years old.
In late 1946, under the command of Henry Ford II, Ford resumed civilian production with lightly updated versions of their 1942 line while feverishly developing a whole new line of modern Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys for 1949. The 1949 proposal for the Lincoln Continental didn’t make the cut.
In 1956, the Continental returned; not as a Lincoln, but as its own brand. The Continental Mark II, as the sole model of the newly formed Continental Division, was a technologically complicated car with an extraordinarily beautiful design. The car was fastidiously put together, which made it as expensive as a Rolls-Royce of its day. Among its exclusive list of owners were: Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Nelson D. Rockefeller, and the Shah of Iran. But not even that was enough to save the car, which ended up, together with the division that made it, axed by Henry Ford II for the 1958 model year. The Continental was kept in production by Lincoln until 1960, using the cheaper and much less attractive Lincoln designs of the late 1950s, but still without Lincoln badges.
In 1961, the Lincoln Continental returned as Lincoln’s sole model. It featured an iconic design with suicide rear doors and an available convertible top. During the following four decades, the Continental-name lived on in a wide variety of Lincoln models. The name Continental was shelved one more time in 2002 when the Ford Taurus-based luxury sedan that wore it at the time was discontinued without a replacement. It was brought back again in 2017, though. Recently, the brand took the wraps off of a long wheelbase variant that includes suicide doors like the Continental of the 1960s. – Simon Gomez
What a life the Mercury Cougar led. Introduced for the 1967 model year as Mercury’s take on the Ford Mustang, the Cougar evolved from a lithe pony car to a cushy full-size coupe by the mid-1970s. For a brief period in the early 1980s, Mercury downsized the Cougar and added body styles such as a sedan and wagon to the model line. By 1983, the Cougar once again embraced its calling as a full-size coupe, and it maintained this place in the Mercury lineup until the 1997 model year.
The Cougar then returned in 1999. This time, though, it traded its large rear-drive platform for smaller front-drive underpinnings. The reborn Cougar’s life was short, though, and the 2002 model year marked its last before it keeled over once more. – Greg Fink
Pontiac first used the LeMans as the name for the range-topping trim of the 1961 Tempest. The moniker later morphed into a sporty version of the second-generation Tempest.
While the Tempest and LeMans shared the same chassis, they were offset by different badges. For a time, choosing a LeMans was actually necessary for ordering the GTO package. By 1971, Pontiac finally decided to drop the Tempest name entirely, and the LeMans took over the role. Production continued through two more generations until Pontiac finally retired the LeMans name in 1981.
Then, things got weird. Pontiac execs made the bizarre decision to revive the LeMans name, but rather than stick it on a sporty coupe or sedan, it went on an American version of the Opel Kadett E.
Power was rated at a rousing 74 horses from a standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder or a neck-snapping 95 hp from an available 2.0-liter engine. Pontiac killed the model in 1993 and never tried to revive it before General Motors shuttered the entire brand in 2010. – Chris Bruce
Originally developed as a high-performance option package for the Pontiac Tempest LeMans, the GTO eventually became its own model in 1966. In 1972, however, the GTO was once again an option package within the Pontiac LeMans model line. The GTO as a model was dead, and its life as an option package would last only a couple of years longer.
Nearly three decades later, though, the GTO nomenclature was dusted off and placed on an Australian-imported coupe. Although rather dull to look at, the reborn GTO’s small-block V8 engine made it an absolute rocket. Unfortunately, the model was buried once again after the 2006 model year. - Greg Fink
Herbie from 1968’s The Love Bug made the Volkswagen Beetle a pop culture icon. Unfortunately, it's star burned out and the Beetle disappeared from U.S. showrooms decades ago at the conclusion of the 1970s. The spritely runabout continued cruising along in other parts of the world until 2003.
Six years earlier, though, Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle for the U.S. and other markets. In 2011, the German automaker redesigned the model and rechristened it the Beetle. However, due to slowing sales, Volkswagen will once again end Beetle production after the 2019 model year. – Anthony Alaniz
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