Retro-style cars that didn't work out

By jaytee, 14 July 2021

We all love our share of the oldies, don’t we? Music, movies, and especially cars. A time where hand beaten body panels preceded modern mass production methods, a time where car design was styled by form rather than function. In this day and age, it’s rather hard to find a modern vehicle that emulates the charm and allure of classic cars. Cars that would stand out amidst the sea of drab family saloons and minivans.

Take the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG for instance. It may seem rather distant from its spiritual ancestor, the 300 SL Gullwing. But it works, and it looks fantastic. The same can be said for a modern Ford Mustang. Or a modern MINI. However, we don’t always get success stories when manufacturers try their hand at designing a retro-styled car. Here are just some of those cars that don’t make the cut.

Volkswagen Beetle

The VW Bug, an instantly recognisable icon. Air-cooled rear-mounted engines, rear-wheel drive, Cute, compact, and heaps of fun. What you see above, is not the same car. VW has done away with the rear-engined RWD drivetrain in the original Beetles, and in its place lies the same front-engine FWD chassis that underpins the VW Golf. While they might not be as sought after as their air-cooled counterparts, but they still do look rather faithful to the original Bug.

Thanks to the modern running gear underrate the classic silhouette, these cars are no harder to live with than your run-off-the-mill hatchback. But between the choice of a standard Golf hatchback versus a re-skinned Golf with the same FWD platform and two fewer doors? I’d still pick the 5-door hatch.

Chrysler PT Cruiser

It’s really hard to tell what this car was supposed to be. I mean, sure, it has the right grille and front end for a retro-style vehicle, designed to appear like something from the 1940s. But as you move past the A-pillars, the rest of the body shell looks peculiar and discombobulated. Despite these oddities, Chrysler sold over a million of these cars.

Ford Thunderbird

It’s got the right grille, it’s got the right lights, but it just doesn't fit the bill for a Thunderbird. Among other things, it lacks the long low-slung proportions of the original 1950s car. Granted, it is rather hard to incorporate styling cues from the fifties into a 21st-century car, which is why this modern equivalent looks nothing like the original. But I’ll give them points for trying their best. It sure fits the “retro” bill.

Plymouth Prowler

Modern wheels, modern brakes, modern components and hot rod retro styling. Designed by Chip Foose, It vaguely resembles a door wedge with wheels, in true hot rod fashion. While it may look incredibly appealing to children or men experiencing their mid-life crisis, it certainly isn’t our cup of tea.

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