by Leon Rochocco, Jr.
“Sex Sells” has long been a popular tenet in advertising.
And sex appeal has typically made it easier to sell cars. The movie industry has always favoured convertibles for their leading men and women, whether Carey Grant, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Kevin Costner or Susan Sarandon.
Virtually any car becomes sexy when you chop the top, but I did say virtually. These five cars resist the glamour and glitz that often come with convertibles.
1985-1987 AMC Alliance Convertible
Built in the United States using a 1.7-litre engine and transmission from Renault, the Alliance was very much French in feeling. It was small, mundane in appearance and less than competitive against the best from Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda. It wasn’t cool with a roof and it didn’t get cooler without one.
A good measure of its appeal then is its collectability and desirability now, which is nil.
1989 Yugo Cabriolet
The formula for the Yugo was simple and it was laughable. Buy a 20-year-old-design of a highly rust-prone Italian economy car, barely update it and ship it to America by the thousands. At first, people will buy a product that is vastly cheaper than the competition, but once the public finds out that it is slow, unattractive, outdated, uncomfortable and minimally reliable, the charm leaves in a hurry.
Did a convertible version help the image and dramatically boost the sales?
Again, the answer was “Not really” – a response that was reinforced by a price that was double the cost of the GV Plus hatchback, which had gained fuel injection and six horsepower.
1960-1963 Studebaker Lark VI Convertible
Solid, sensible and reliable all summed up Studebaker’s Lark. It was a good car without flash or panache, which had limited appeal to car-mad teens.
There’s no question that lowering the top on the Lark made for a pleasant experience, but it didn’t change the status of this car from dud to stud when it came to sex appeal.
1908-1927 Model T Ford
Ford’s Tin Lizzie has always been rugged, reliable and in a class of its own. But sexy? Not likely.
The roadster or touring car versions may be fun, simply because fun goes with open-air motoring like peanut butter goes with jelly. Sex appeal, though, simply isn’t part of the equation with this American icon, though the story would be very different if we were talking about a 1940 Ford Convertible Coupe.
1961-1963 Rambler American
The Rambler had to be one of the most sensible cars built in North America: properly engineered to conservative standards, with incredibly reliable straight-six engines and pricing within reach of middle class budgets. For 1961, the line offered a convertible and it was a lot like its sibling – responsible, sturdy and dull.
In appearance and performance, the new drop-top was essentially an open-air version of an orthopedic shoe. You know, the kind of show that Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie would avoid like the plague. Even spraying pheromones on this car wouldn’t give it an ounce of sex appeal.
Leon Rochocco, Jr. writes for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca.
“The notion that a James Bond villain with unlimited resources would build a flying car out of an AMC Matador is simply unfathomable.”
Casting directors, wardrobe designers and set designers are always recognized for their work in feature films.
However, car-casting people are often the real unsung casting heroes. What would “Bullitt” have been without the Highland Green 1968 Mustang 390 fastback? Just as important are the bit-players, the oddball character actors of the movie car world. These are the Jack Elams, Crispin Glovers and the Peter Lorres of movie cars:
1967 Citroen 2CV — “American Graffiti” The Citroen 2CV is a truly strange car. Perhaps the most intentionally minimalist automobile ever to see production, even third-world motorists today would balk at its hammock-like seats and tin can-like appearance. Future writer and pacifist Curt Henderson (played by Richard Dreyfuss), drove this two-cylinder French peasant’s car throughout the film. Strangely, the producers used a 1967 model in spite of the fact that the film was famously set in 1962. A forgivable oversight given the overall excellence of the film and the fact that one 2CV (produced from 1948-90) looks pretty much like the next.
1953 Messerschmitt KR175 — “The Addams Family” The Messerschmitt KR175 was the product of a company that less than 10 years previous, had been building fighter planes for the Third Reich, including the first jet-powered interceptor. From jet fighters to amusing microcars! This bubble-topped three-wheeler was the ride of the chattering, sentient hairball named Cousin It in the great 1991 re-boot of the Addams Family.
1987 Yugo GV — “Dragnet” After Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd lose two previous police-issued vehicles, this was the only car the department would let them have. According to Aykroyd (who did a wicked Jack Webb impersonation), it had been donated to the LAPD by the government of Yugoslavia as a test vehicle “and reflected the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian technology.” As an aside, the U.S. bombing campaign during the Balkan Wars finally put an end to the Yugo when the factory was levelled. Opinions differ as to the magnitude of this loss to the automotive world.
1974 AMC Matador Coupe — “Man with the Golden Gun” It’s difficult to say what’s stranger, the car or the context. The notion that a James Bond villain with unlimited resources would build a flying car out of an AMC Matador is simply unfathomable in any world other than that of product placement. We like the Matador coupe for its sheer oddness, but the fish-out-of-water aspect of it in a big-budget Bond film is what puts it over the top.
1973 Corvorado — “Live and Let Die” Driven by a Mr. Big henchman (aptly named “Whispers,”) this was a C3 Corvette that was for no apparent reason, customized with Cadillac Eldorado body panels (hence the name Corvorado) by one Les Dunham of Boonton, New Jersey. It pre-dated the Cadillac XLR by some 30 years. The car also made an appearance in the movie “Superfly.”
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca.
The classic car market has been on a tear for several years now. Some cars that you would never imagine breaking the five grand barrier have done so, often handily, with the best examples of some of the worst cars ever regularly breaking the bank on eBay. Here are some of our favourites:
There was nothing even slightly swoopy or jet-like about the Hudson Jet, or the rest of these oxymoronic automobiles…
Few things in the development of a new car are more crucial than the name.
In the case of a bland or mediocre car, it’s the last chance the marketers have to generate some buzz. That may well be why some of the most ordinary cars have wound up with some of the fiercest and flashiest names. Here are five inappropriately named cars:
1. Chevrolet Sprint
The Sprint was built by Suzuki for Chevrolet. Powered by a rather anemic three-cylinder engine, its acceleration off the line resembled not so much a sprint but more of a drunken stumble. Its Suzuki-badged counterpart was known by an equally inappropriate name, the Swift.
2. Mercury Bobcat
A bobcat is a rather fierce North American wild cat. The Mercury Bobcat, on the other hand, was essentially a fancy Ford Pinto over laden with chrome trim and other options that added on additional pounds, sacrificing what little performance the Pinto possessed. While the feline Bobcat is plentiful in the wild, the Mercury version is all but extinct.
3. Hyundai Excel
The Excel was first car sold by Hyundai in the U.S., and given the top-to-bottom excellence of the current Hyundai lineup, it’s probably a car they’d prefer to forget. Other than cheapness, the Excel essentially excelled at nothing — unless someone handed out an award for “crudest interior” or “oddest-smelling plastic.”
4. AMC Hornet
The hornet is one pugnacious insect, and as anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of one can attest, they definitely can sting. With the exception of the rare S/C 360 version from 1971, the AMC Hornet was a pleasant-looking and practical compact sedan/wagon/hatchback without much of a sting.
5. Hudson Jet
Jet planes were on the mind of nearly every car designer and ad man in the U.S. during the 1950s. Fins, bogus jet intakes, jet exhausts and jet hood ornaments found their way onto countless cars from that decade. Curiously, the Jet wasn’t among them. There was nothing even slightly swoopy or jet-like about the Hudson Jet. It was a thoroughly upright and conventional compact from a company that later became part of American Motors.
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca and you can email rsass [at] hagerty [dot] com
The Pacer, due to an appearance in the film “Wayne’s World,” was briefly popular as a collectible “nerd car”…
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the American Motors Corporation as a truly American enterprise.
In 1983, Renault of France bought a controlling interest in the company, bringing to an end some of the most stunning shoestring budget innovation that the American auto industry had ever seen.
Here are five of our favourite oddball AMCs:
1. 1965-67 Marlin
The introduction of the Ford Mustang in April 1964 caught most of the competition flatfooted. Like its similarly fishy competition from Plymouth, the Barracuda, it had a bit of a makeshift appearance with a strange fastback grafted on to an existing design. It gave way to the much prettier (and far less weird) Javelin in 1968.
2. 1975-80 Pacer
The Pacer may well be one of the strangest cars ever to come from a U.S. manufacturer. Built to house GM’s stillborn rotary engine, it made due mostly with AMC’s ancient 258 cid six. Seemingly almost as wide as it is long, the Pacer, due to an appearance in the film “Wayne’s World,” was briefly popular as a collectible “nerd car” along with the next car on the list.
3. 1970-78 Gremlin
AMC had a wonderful history of talented designers making due with miniscule budgets, which often meant new models were slice-and-dice versions of older models. And so it was with the Gremlin, which was basically a truncated AMC Hornet. The advertising of the day even made light of this fact with a commercial in which a grizzled gas station attendant looked quizzically at a Gremlin and asked the owner, “Where’s the rest of your car, toots?”
4. 1980-88 Eagle
The Eagle was perhaps AMC’s most brilliant mash-up of existing parts, marrying a drivetrain from its Jeep division with the AMC Concord wagon to create the first successful mass-produced four-wheel-drive passenger car. The Concord wagon-based cars still turn up in places like Colorado and Alaska in regular use. The Gremlin-based Kammback is particularly weird and nearly extinct.
5. 1954-62 Metropolitan
American Motors was among the first of the U.S. automakers to see the value in trying to compete with foreign companies who were beginning to send large numbers of small cars into the United States by the 1950s.
The Metropolitan was a tiny VW Beetle fighter that came in hardtop and convertible body styles. A bit of a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” type of thing, it was built by Austin of England and sold under the Nash, Hudson and Metropolitan names in North America. Collectors like them today for their bright two-tone color schemes and their “almost too cute to function as a car” appearance.
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca
AMC_59 metropolitan: 1959 metropolitan
AMC_67_Marlin: 1967 Marlin
AMC_75_Pacer: 1975 Pacer
AMC_78_Gremlin: 1978 Gremlin
AMC_Eagle_Wagon: AMC Eagle