I started thinking about this list one night when a friend mentioned her family had a Dodge Matador. I gently corrected her and told her the Matador wasn’t built by Dodge, but by American Motors. She adamantly stood her ground and so I was forced to reach into my stacks of automotive research books to prove her memory had obviously faded. Except it hadn’t. Turns out Dodge did indeed make a car called the Matador for just the 1960 model year. About 23,000 were sold.
There really was a Dodge Matador (motoburg.com)
There I was, a true-blue car guy and I’d never heard of it. Which got me to wondering what other cars have been forgotten? Needless to say, this could be a massive list so I decided to place some arbitrary limitations. First, I’m only going back 40 years. After all, we should remember those cars, right? Second, I didn’t choose special editions. These are all cars that were produced in large volumes and well promoted.
It’s important to point out that, as soon as you see the name, you’ll remember every one of these cars. But they’re not cars that come to mind quickly. Nor do we see them very often at car shows and auctions. One more caveat. This is my blog, so these are obviously the cars that drifted away from my memory!
Ford Maverick (OldCarBrochures.org)
1. Ford Maverick – Produced from 1969 to 1977. This was Ford’s answer to the import invasion. Personally I liked the looks of the two door model with its sleek fastback styling. You could even get the cool Grabber model. It’s been called the most successful car in Ford history. I hear it’s still really popular in Brazil. Go figure.
Cadillac Cimarron (CDDailyDrive.com)
2. Cadillac Cimarron – Produced from 1982 to 1988. Yet another effort by Detroit to battle the imports, only this time the competition was BMW, Audi and Volvo. Just for the record, Detroit lost this round. Built on the same chassis as the Chevy Cavalier, the Cimarron did attract younger buyers, most of whom are still trying to forget their youthful transgression.
3. Chevy Citation – Produced from 1980 to 1985. The Citation was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1980. It was Chevy’s effort to head into the future with lighter cars and the V6 engine. Unfortunately the future included lots of recalls and problems with the brakes and workmanship. Chevy did make a high performance version called the X-11. It’s still not a collector car.
Chrysler Laser (Productioncars.com)
4. Chrysler Laser – Produced from 1984 to 1993. It was billed as Chrysler’s first sports car and developed as a near twin to the Dodge Daytona. This car was hardly a flop and the turbo version delivered plenty of fun. There was a time when they were everywhere, but when was the last time you saw one?
Pontiac Astre (OldCarBrochures.org)
5. Pontiac Astre – Produced from 1973 to 1977. Not only can I not remember the car, I’m not even sure how to pronounce the name. Was it Ast-er or Ast-ray? I remember its sister car, the Chevy Vega very well, unfortunately the Astre has faded into the automotive oblivion.
Ford Fairmont (OldCarBrochures.org)
6. Ford Fairmont – Produced between 1978 and 1983. Ironically, the Fairmont replaced the Maverick. Both of them have been forgotten. This car was actually built on the same chassis as the Thunderbird, the Mustang and the Continental for a period of time (I actually remember them). Ford proudly bragged about how the Fairmont had more room for the money in 1978.
AMC Spirit (OldCarBrocures.org)
7. AMC Spirit – Produced between 1979 and 1983. Everyone remembers the Gremlin, right? Who remembers the car that replaced it? Ironic that the much prettier replacement is little more than a footnote in AMC history (which most people have a hard time remembering, anyway). They did make a Spirit AMX for two years, but it’s not something I see at collector auctions.
8. Cadillac Catera – Produced between 1997 and 2001. Come on people, this wasn’t that long ago! Built in Germany on an Opel Chassis and quickly ignored by American buyers. Yet another attempt to lure import buyers that didn’t work. On the other hand, maybe this is the car that made Cadillac realize it was time to forge its own path and ultimately brought us the CTS.
Ford Contour (autobooksbishko.com)
9. Ford Contour – Produced between 1995 and 2000. This was Ford’s world car. The idea was to have one car that could be marketed everywhere. It worked, sort of. The compact Contour got a lot of praise in its day, but didn’t develop enough of a following the save the name (at least not in my memory).
Oldsmobile Starfire (OldCarBrochures.com)
10. Oldsmobile Starfire – Produced between 1974 and 1980. Oldsmobile actually used the Starfire name twice. Between 1961 and 1966 it was a full-sized car. Olds pulled the name out of the deep freeze in 1974 for a much smaller model. The second generation Starfire, was built on the chassis shared with the Monza.
Remember, this is my arbitrary list based on my own (often faulty) memory. Feel free to add to it, or tell me how I’ve slandered the memory of your favorite car.
Bio: Rick DeBruhl is a gearhead since birth. Growing up he had car wallpaper in his room. In high school he spent way too much time in auto shop. After working his way through college at Sears Automotive, he turned to journalism, working as a reporter for more than three decades at KPNX-TV. Of course, he couldn't leave cars behind completely. In the mid-80s he started covering auto racing for ESPN. These days he covers IndyCar for ABC, NASCAR Nationwide for ESPN, and the Barrett Jackson collector car auctions for SPEED. His day job is working as the Chief Communications Officer for the State Bar of Arizona.