RE: Automotive comebacks | Six of the best

RE: Automotive comebacks | Six of the best

Wednesday 25th March

Automotive comebacks | Six of the best

So the Defender has made its triumphant return - here are half a dozen other revivals that made the grade



Reinventing the Land Rover Defender looked an unenviable task. On the one hand it had to doff a (flat) cap to its agricultural, no-frills past, something authentically rugged to do justice to the name; on the other it needed to be a contemporary, capable SUV, one good enough to deal with the rigours of everyday life for those urbanites seduced by the styling. And where on earth do you start with that?

Truth told, there's still a lot more to know about the success (or otherwise) of the new Defender project, though you've probably seen already from Nic's various adventures that there's much to be encouraged by already. It's great off-road, at the very least...

To mark the occasion - this has been many years in the waiting, after all - we've compiled another six-car shortlist of the best comebacks. Those models that, like the Defender, had heritage to consider but a modern audience to placate in their 21st century reboots. Here goes...



Mini
The obvious one when thinking about cars similar to the Defender: decades of history as a global icon of Britain on four wheels, a fiercely loyal (and vocal) fanbase, and a desperate need to update a vehicle chronically out-of-date. The Mini and the Defender are more similar than they look.

Moreover, despite all those reservations at the turn of the century about whether a Mini under BMW's tutelage would be a 'proper' Mini, things have arguably gone about as well as could have been expected. Granted, that first R53 Mini of the 2000s was bigger and not quite as innovative as that legendary predecessor, but the past two decades have given it time (and success) to forge its own reputation. The Mini arguably kicked off the personalisation craze (at sensible money) that now dominates car buying, it has delivered some cracking hot hatches and the Frank Stephenson styling still looks great - not bad given the design dates back to the 1990s. An exemplar for all automotive comebacks to follow - and that's before considering the temptation of a Shed-money Cooper S...


Alpine A110
Nobody really saw this one coming, did they? While Alpine had considerable rallying success with the original A110, the successors never made quite the same impact. Various A310s, 610s and GTAs were far from bad, very good in some instances, but those subsequent French sports cars couldn't capture the imagination like rivals did, and that A110 had done. See how much an early-90s Alpine A610 might cost against an early-90s 911, for example...

All that changed with the new A110 of 2018. Here was a car perfectly attuned to its time: automatic, turbocharged and eminently usable, yes, but also delicate, enjoyable and captivating at sensible road speeds in a way that nothing else is. The A110 couldn't be anything but French, and is all the better for it: small, light, relatively soft and unashamedly its own thing. In fact, the only car the new A110 is attempting to evoke, mimic, or imitate, is like the old one - and there's no better template to follow.


Mercedes G-Class
Another one with uncanny parallels to the Defender, where its reputation with one group of fans comes from its off-road prowess, and the other from its rep as the ultimate in urban prestige. The big Benz became such a cult hero of the latter that Jeezy's 2017 'Trap or Die 3' album featured a song titled 'G-Wagon' (sic) on it. Really.

Like the Defender, the old G was a fairly shonky automobile as well. Hilariously, wonderfully overendowed in AMG specifications, but fairly woeful when it came to actually, y'know, driving down a road. Jeezy wasn't bothered, evidently, but things needed to change.

But not too much. Mercedes was so keen to protect the G-Wagen aesthetic and reputation that, despite the 2018 car being all-new underneath and the most significant update of the car in 30 years, it retained the 'W463' model designation. This is just the second generation of it. It's a masterpiece, too, retaining the famed G-Wagen look and the impregnable feel of a twin-turbocharged nuclear bunker, but now with some road manners, proper refinement and tangible luxury. 'The best of both worlds' often results in an uncomfortable compromise; the G-Class emphatically realised it.


Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
A slightly different approach to the previous cars here, but just as valid an inclusion. Why was the 2014 Z/28 significant? Because, like so many muscle and pony car icons, the Camaro had festered during the 80s and 90s, so that the Z/28 before this one was... well, pony.

The fifth-gen car was emphatically not pony. Already the standard Camaro, not released until seven years after the fourth-gen, had made a favourable impression - the Z/28 transformed it. Weight was reduced, the mighty LS7 V8 dropped in, the suspension overhauled - springs were 85 per cent stiffer at the front, 65 per cent at the rear - and huge 305-section Pirelli Trofeo Rs were fitted at each corner. Here, at last, was a Z/28 that really deserved the badge, that harked back to those timelessly cool first- and second-generation cars while also delivering a genuinely thrilling drive for a 21st century audience. The Z/28 is still beguiling drivers today, even with its motor show debut almost seven years ago - see here for proof.


Toyota Supra
Another tough ask for another big manufacturer; because how on earth do you replace the Mk4 Toyota Supra? The fact that 15 years had passed before we saw the new, Mk5 GR Supra was always going to make thing difficult, given how fondly we all always remember the past, but there was also the small issue of the Supra's image. It was launched, back in 1993, as a sports GT, something to rival the Porsche 928. By 2002, however, things had changed somewhat, the Supra's legendary reputation as a tuner's dream firmly entrenched and ensuring it was remembered as something very different.

All things considered, this latest Gazoo Racing Supra can be seen as a success. This is only the very beginning, too, with more to come from the A90 as time progresses; for now it's a stylish, fast, luxurious, dynamic sports GT, just as it was a quarter of a century ago. There's even a 3.0-litre straight-six under a long bonnet, a nod to the Supra's history and a welcome alternative to the host of downsized rivals. Oh yeah, and Litchfield already has 450hp out of it, with the promise of more to come; for the Toyota Supra, old habits really are going to die hard.


Abarth 500
Like the best Italian food, in fact, the Abarth 500 recipe was a simple one. Always was, probably always will be. Take one humble Fiat city car, stuff it full of more power than it can really handle, adorn it with scorpions and watch the willing customers flood in. Alright, so perhaps that's not entirely true for the early Fiat-Abarths, those cars designed for competition, but playing to that heritage for the 2007 relaunch did Abarth no harm at all. Helped everyone forget about the Stilo, for starters.

That original Abarth 500 of the late 2000s, and all the 595s, 695s, Turismos, Competiziones and the rest that have followed, have all delivered on a few criteria: they've looked cool, gone fast and made a lovely racket while doing so. That buyers have been able to customise their 500s, a ploy surely pinched from the Mini mentioned first off, has only helped their cause. Even back then the Abarths were never the best hot hatches in the world to drive, but that hasn't mattered: the look, the sound and the image has been more than enough to ensure the fast 500s have thrived. Given the enormous commercial success, Fiat would do well to replicate the formula soon with the latest 500 - there are thousands of customers very keen to see another.

Author
Discussion

robsprocket

Original Poster:

62 posts

130 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Was there a gap in production of the Mercedes G-Class between the First Gen and Second Gen? Hardly seems like a comeback.

Gus265

181 posts

85 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Yes I didn’t think the G Wagon fitted into this list and wondered about the Dodge Challenger (definite comeback) and Ford Mustang (sort of a comeback). Also the Jaguar S-Type (although admittedly not a very successful comeback?!)

Veeayt

3,000 posts

157 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Yep, Supra returns in form. German engine, ugly looks, nothing to do with the original

A1VDY

1,624 posts

79 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
MINI with a UJ roof.. WTF..

smartypants

43,500 posts

121 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Defender, yep. Alpine definitely.

The rest were just a load of random cars. PH sponsors perhaps?

Krikkit

17,651 posts

133 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
smartypants said:
Defender, yep. Alpine definitely.

The rest were just a load of random cars. PH sponsors perhaps?
The Camaro (and actually, quite a few US muscle cars) were worthy of note as they've been done immensely well.

The one on that list that definitely doesn't belong is the Supra, what a bloody mess.

josh00mac

210 posts

60 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Supra? Seen as a total missed opportunity by the petrolhead community. Terrible inclusion in this article.

Osinjak

2,781 posts

73 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
What's a 'Jeezy?'

p4cks

4,437 posts

151 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
The Fiat 500 has to be the most successful story, surely. They're still knocking them out 12 years after it was first reintroduced and have sold millions worldwide!

pb8g09

460 posts

21 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
smartypants said:
Defender, yep. Alpine definitely.

The rest were just a load of random cars. PH sponsors perhaps?
Sorry, but I don't understand what you've just written - it's nonsense.

The 500 and the Mini are definitely not random cars - without doubt the two best comebacks in the automotive world, the roads are littered with both, and represent everything the originals did - original design for the masses. The ability to customise both (colour selections and engine variants, convertibles etc.) has kept the sales flowing for well over 10years (even more for the Mini).

I don't lust for either, but they're both exceptional displays of marketing, engineering, design and financial planning.

BFleming

1,938 posts

95 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
robsprocket said:
Was there a gap in production of the Mercedes G-Class between the First Gen and Second Gen? Hardly seems like a comeback.
The same could be said of the Defender. It's not like it was out of production for years before someone said 'I know, let's build a new one'. Unlike the Mini, 500, Beetle, Alpina. The Mustang has never really been out of production, has it? Just gets reinvented every few years (like a Corolla).
On the Toyota subject, I've said it before - the single worst thing about the Supra is the badge. Calling it a Supra has taken the focus away from the car, and become a focal point for Supra fanboys of old. The new one is categorically not a reimagined Supra.

Edited by BFleming on Wednesday 25th March 11:13

griffdude

1,622 posts

200 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
Dear PH,

You missed one of the most PH cars ever:

60s TVR Griffith

90s TVR Griffith

2015 TVR Griffith

Actually, the last one you might have to wait for..........

C7 JFW

1,055 posts

171 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
The FIat 500 does not provide a lovely racket. It sounds like a car with a broken exhaust.

As for the rest, I think the Supra is the winner for me by far.

cerb4.5lee

14,146 posts

132 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
C7 JFW said:
The FIat 500 does not provide a lovely racket. It sounds like a car with a broken exhaust.
I don't actually mind the noise they make, but they do edge over the trying a bit too hard line though I reckon.

Nickyboy

5,850 posts

186 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
While not a model as such but what about Skoda as a brand

Probably one of the best comebacks?

Butt of jokes for decades and now a well respected brand albeit owned by the Germans

RacingBlue

1,286 posts

116 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
The original R53 Mini seems to get better looking by the day - especially compared to the current line up. I'd still love an original Cooper S, either in grey or the light blue that was popular at the time.

robsprocket

Original Poster:

62 posts

130 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
BFleming said:
The same could be said of the Defender. It's not like it was out of production for years before someone said 'I know, let's build a new one'.

Edited by BFleming on Wednesday 25th March 11:13
Apart from a run of 150 70th anniversary Defender Works V8's built by the Land Rover Classic department in 2018, the Defender was out of production for 4 years.

crofty1984

13,764 posts

156 months

Wednesday 25th March
quotequote all
RacingBlue said:
The original R53 Mini seems to get better looking by the day - especially compared to the current line up. I'd still love an original Cooper S, either in grey or the light blue that was popular at the time.
I agree.

unsprung

4,269 posts

76 months

Thursday 26th March
quotequote all
Krikkit said:
The Camaro (and actually, quite a few US muscle cars) were worthy of note as they've been done immensely well.
+1

josh00mac said:
Supra? Seen as a total missed opportunity by the petrolhead community. Terrible inclusion in this article.
+1 (Supra may be here to provoke comment -- to boost page rank of PH content)



Aaa.

2,986 posts

50 months

Thursday 26th March
quotequote all
What's all that nonsense about Jeezy? Have a word with yourself.

Oh, an the G Wagen never went away, so it was difficult to 'comeback'..