We'd love to see the return of these legendary nameplates.
Automakers have learned to leverage nostalgia and brand cachet to bring back modern takes on classic nameplates. Recently, we've had vehicles like the Toyota Supra, Ford Bronco, and Jeep Grand Wagoneer all return for a new era, while others on the horizon include the Acura Integra and GMC Hummer. That had us thinking about what other cars should come back with modern technology and styling, and most importantly, why. It's easy to just come up with a list of cars, but we're trying to take reality into account. For example, Mazda is not going to build a new RX model primarily driven by a rotary engine which, let's face it, was the line's defining feature.
One of the most obvious cars that feel ripe for a comeback is Honda's S2000. When it was in production, the S2000 was close to the perfect enthusiast's car with a wickedly sharp chassis, a VTEC engine that revved to the moon, two seats, and a roof that could fold down. Roadsters aren't the biggest market, but Mazda and BMW have both demonstrated that there's a long-term business model to cash in on, and the Honda S2000 could come back and slip in between them on cost. Honda also has an excellent drivetrain available to use that could make up for not having a crazy-high revving engine. The hybrid system in the Accord uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine to back up two electric motors to deliver 212 horsepower. More importantly, the 232 lb-ft of torque arives low down The trick would be fitting it in a two-seater chassis with rear-wheel drive, and the development cost of that would be high.
When BMW built a supercar in 1978, the run-up to the M1's launch wasn't smooth. It was supposed to be built in partnership with Lamborghini as a homologated race car. That didn't work out, and the M1 became the first car to be designed and built wholly by BMW's M division. BMW doesn't need a race car right now, but a halo supercar would get a lot of people excited. The German automaker already has a startlingly good 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 making up to 627 hp to drop in the middle of the car, or a smooth and fast twin-turbo straight-six. BMW is also doing interesting things with hybrid tech, and a new M1 should really show that off to the world.
Cadillac built its name on big, luxurious sedans that floated down the road. Now, Cadillac is chasing BMW around as a sporty premium brand. We think Cadillac needs a halo luxury car again for those that don't care about 0-60 mph or Nurburgring times. All-electric or hybrid technology would be the way forward here - whatever it takes to get a big sedan with a gratuitous amount of legroom for rear passengers and a cavernous trunk moving. As it would be a halo car, real wood and leather for that cigar-lounge feeling in the interior would set it apart from just about everyone in the premium or full-on luxury game - whether it's BMW, Bentley, or any other manufacturer you care to name.
Unless you're in or have traveled to a specific part of Europe recently, you won't have seen a modern Lancia on the road. However, Lancia still exists and it's owned by Stellantis, but only has one car in production. The Lancia Ypsilon is a small city car based on the Fiat 500 and is one of Italy's best-selling cars. If you visit the Lancia website, you can "Discover the brand and Lancia city cars: the perfect balance of style, comfort and eco-friendliness." What you can't find is anything linked back to Lancia's incredible motorsport heritage, particularly in rallying.
Peugeot is also under the Stellantis banner, which has an excellent electric car platform and has used it to make a successor to the 205 GTI hot hatch called the e-208 Sport. There's no reason Lancia couldn't build a Delta revival on that platform with a hatchback range topped off with a super-hot Integrale model. As it would be electric, that would take emissions off the table as a problem for taking the new model and its name recognition worldwide.
Small trucks are on the verge of making a full comeback as a trend, and GMC has shown it's not afraid of electrification and bringing back a name from the past. Chevy is likely doing its damnedest to figure out how to build the next-generation Montana sub-compact truck in Mexico as well as Brazil, but GMC might be smarter designing for battery power from a clean sheet. It'll have a model capable of capturing the zeitgeist, then, and the opportunity to build a crazy-fast street truck version called Syclone again as a halo model.
If you want to step into a new Porsche, the least expensive is the $54,900 Porsche Macan crossover. It's a great entry-level Porsche model - if you want a crossover. If you want a sports car, however, you're talking about a minimum of $60,500 for a mid-engined Cayman. We can't help but think that if Porsche modified the Macan platform and used its engines to create a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe for around $45,000, it would have one serious hit on its hands. A new Porsche 944 would have anyone considering a Supra wondering if they want to spend that much on a sports car with a Toyota badge when a Porsche is competing, and the engines can range from the turbocharged four-cylinder making 261 hp to a twin-turbo V6 making 434 hp.
Conversely, Toyota could mess with Porsche and Chevrolet by bringing back an affordable mid-engined sports car. This one is a stretch, but maybe not as big of one as it seems, as the automaker is willing to partner up with other brands to create something it couldn't make a business case for developing on its own. Perhaps it's how BMW gets a contribution to creating a new M1, or how Subaru could create a sports car above the level of the BRZ and the GR 86 with Toyota.
There are two roads Dodge could go down in bringing the Viper back. One option is to use it to give the famous supercharged Hellcat V8 engine the perfect send-off, although that's a lot of development money to spend on a car for an engine that's going away in 2023. The more sensible long-term option would be to go with some insane electric power. So far, all the proposed electric supercars are technological and luxurious marvels. Dodge could go the other way and deliver a rear-wheel-drive, stripped-down, two-seater roadster that gives an old-school feel to a 21st-century drivetrain while scaring the living hell out of a passenger. Come on, Dodge, you know you want to.
This might be the most unrealistic car on this list as Honda has learned coupes don't sell well anymore. The CR-X and the del Sol roadster version were fantastic little Civic-based enthusiast cars with a light, nimble chassis and peppy but economical engines. A reboot was tried not long ago with the CR-Z and failed despite having a great chassis. The problem was the lackluster hybrid drivetrain which is a shame. However, Honda has cracked how to make a sporty hybrid drivetrain now. It's hard to make a business case for Honda building a coupe for the US in the near future, and the only hope would be for a next-gen CR-Z that could sit in the lineup around halfway between a Civic Si and Civic Type-R in terms of performance.