February 13, 2012
How often have you seen an automobile that you like, only to discover that particular model has been discontinued? You've probably wondered why it got the axe, when so many other less worthy vehicles are still on the market. Although my favorite discontinued cars are often based more on emotion than practicality, I can't help wondering - what were the automakers thinking when they stopped making these cars? Here are five cool cars that left the showrooms far too soon.
After taking some time off in the late '90s, the Ford Thunderbird was reintroduced in 2002. This two-seater sports convertible, which won the Motor Trend Magazine Car of the Year award in 2002, was clearly modeled after the popular mid-'50s T-Bird. It captured the spirit of the early Thunderbirds, but with its more rounded styling, Ford created a car that was both sporty and elegant, at the same time. In a very clever marketing move, Ford made a special arrangement with Neiman Marcus to offer the public an opportunity to purchase the first 2002 T-Birds through their Christmas catalog. All 200 specially-designed, limited-edition cars were sold within a few hours at a price of $41,995. These catalog purchases were orders that would not be filled until the fall of 2001. Unfortunately, sales were never fully realized for this unique automobile, and after 2005 the new T-Birds were again missing from Ford's lineup. Hopefully, they will make yet another come back in the not too-distant future.
This little roadster, with its distinctive front nose and flowing body lines, has an attitude that personifies Pontiac's slogan, "We Build Excitement." First introduced in 2006, it was selected North American Car of the Year in that same year. However, despite it being a standout in a field of sports cars, the Solstice was part of the ill-fated Pontiac brand GM phased out in 2010, making it obsolete way before its time. It's too bad, because this stylish car deserved better.
In 1999, James Bond got a new ride in the 007 movie "The World is Not Enough." What better way for BMW to introduce their new super car, the 2000 BMW Z8, to the public than to have it star in an action-packed film with a suave secret agent at the wheel? Although the Z8s at your local car dealership didn't come equipped with machine guns or rockets, like in the movie, these sports cars, with their long hoods and short decks, were absolutely gorgeous. As is expected of a BMW, the Z8 is much more than a beautiful car. The powerful V8, with its advanced, lightweight body components made it the Ultimate Driving Machine, and it looks as good with the convertible top up or down. Surprisingly, production stopped on the Z8 after 2003, so only a few of them are in existence today.
What do you get when you cross a custom '50s pickup truck and a two-seater sports convertible? You get a fun, one-of-a-kind vehicle called the Chevy SSR (Super Sport Roadster). There is no need to personalize the SSR - GM has already done it for you. This roadster truck, with its big wheels and retractable hard top, has the look of a restomod that will get you noticed wherever you go. First introduced in 2003, the SSR was in production until 2006. Although the SSR never enjoyed runaway sales, you have to give GM credit for bringing such a unique vehicle to market. One look at the SSR will make you smile, even on a bad day.
The history of the Ford GT dates back to the early '60s, when Henry Ford II tried unsuccessfully to buy Ferrari. When he couldn't buy 'em, he vowed to beat 'em at the world premier endurance race, Le Mans. For many years Ferrari had dominated this event, but with the full backing of Ford, a three year development effort resulted in the Blue Oval Team finishing 1-2-3 in GT 40s entered in the 1966 Le Mans race. Then, fast forward to 2004, when Ford, as part of the company's 100 years anniversary celebration, released a street version of this racing legend. The new GT, simply called the Ford GT, was slightly taller and wider than the original, making it more driver-friendly, but it had the look of a Le Mans winner. True to its predecessor, the Ford GT was a mid-engine rocket sled that didn't take a back seat to any other super cars, foreign or domestic. Even today, this car looks ahead of its time. The production of the GT only lasted a couple of years, but it certainly was a treat to see this legion reborn.
Only the Good Die Young
With so many great-looking cars being discontinued, it is difficult not to question why automakers made the decision to pull these cars off the production line. Perhaps Billy Joel is right - "Only the Good Die Young."