The Best Automotive Comebacks of the Century So Far
When carmakers want to pay tribute to the great cars of the pastby Dim Angelov, on
When we talk about legendary cars, we usually talk about those from the previous century, as in 1900 to 2000. In this period, many innovations and rivalries occurred, producing some truly epic cars in the process, while at the same time constantly evolving the car formula.
Despite the current focus being maximizing profit, carmakers occasionally bring back an old name or simply make a modern-day version of an old, legendary car to commemorate its success and to remind us of some of their highlights. Here are 10 such cars.
While every next generation becomes bigger, heavier, and more complex, it’s nice to see a car that not only goes back to the basics but also honors one of the most fun Japanese cars ever made – the Toyota AE86. Although visually the cars couldn’t be more different, the GT86 captures the spirit of its predecessor with relatively low weight, playful chassis, and high-strung naturally-aspirated engine. Just like in the old one, you don’t get tons of tech on board, and all driver aids can be turned completely off. Its 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet (212 Nm) are enough for a 0 to 60 mph time of around 6.0 seconds.
Read our full review on the Toyota GT86
Another iconic name made a comeback in 2016. The 1990s NSX was the epitome of the usable supercar. It was reliable and at the time quicker than the equivalent Ferrari. Just like its predecessor, the new car was a mid-engine supercar with great handling characteristics.
But whilst the original was a no-nonsense analog performance machine, its modern-day counterpart looks like a tech-fest.
It features a hybrid powertrain with three electric motors, two of which in the back. The engine was still la V-6 but now bigger and with twin turbochargers. The combined 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet (646 Nm) now go to all four wheels through a rapid-shifting nine-speed automatic.
Read our full review on the Acura NSX
If the previous car shares only a name and a segment with its predecessor, this one took the original’s skin. The compact French sports car was reborn in 2017 and aside from the chrome bumpers, it kept the exact same design theme as the original. The original A110 was a successful rally car too, which is why the modern-day version had to back up the aesthetics with some zest. Thanks to a 1.8-liter turbo-four with 249 horsepower (288 for the A110S) and 236 pound-feet (320 Nm) it could hit 62 mph (100 km/h) in as little as 4.4 seconds. The car was very light too, tipping the scales at just over 1,100 kg (2,400 pounds).
Read our full review on the Alpine A110
In the 2000s American manufacturers decided to honor some of the most iconic 1960s cars they’ve given us. They did so by utilizing a design language known as retro-futurism. The fifth-generation Camaro was one of those cars. After a couple of years sitting on the bench, the Camaro was ready to get back in the game. From every angle, the new 2009 model screamed 1960s muscle car but with a modern flavor. Even on the inside, they kept the dashboard layout similar to the classic model, even retaining the four gauges at the bottom of the center console. Power for the V-8 variants was from 400 to 580 horsepower, depending on the version.
Read our full review on the Chevrolet Camaro
It doesn’t take long for one to see where the SLS AMG took inspiration from. The overall design language, proportions, and especially the gullwing doors are a not so subtle hint to the 1950s Mercedes 300 SL. The car was more of a tire-slaying super GT than a track-focused supercar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Unlike its older sibling which used an M198 3.0-liter inline-six, the SLS used the M159 6.2-liter V-8, producing 563 horsepower (622 for the Black Series), which was the most powerful and also last naturally-aspirated AMG V-8 engine.
Read our full review on the Mercedes SLS AMG
Another representative of the retro-futurism design is the current generation Dodge Challenger. The big muscle car was absent from Dodge’s lineup for 25 years. The current model remains, for the most part, unchanged since 2009, experiencing the occasional facelift. Although it’s based on an old Mercedes E-Class platform, design-wise the American muscle stays true to the 1969 original. From its quad-headlights to its long and narrow taillight design, the modern-day Challenger pays homage to the classic car. The same could be said about the engine, as under the hood I once again have a mighty V-8 HEMI, with power output from 370 to over 800 horsepower.
Read our full review on the Dodge Challenger
Known as the Emperor of tuner cars in Japan, the GTR has become a symbol of Japan’s automotive engineering prowess. Every car wearing the three letters, from the 1960s “Hakosuka” through the R32 “Godzilla”, to the Porsche-slaying R35, enjoys glorious racing history as well as a dedicated fan base. Although the GT-R name was absent only for a couple of years, many fans were worried about the future of the model. In 2007 their fears were put to rest, with the introduction of the R35 GT-R. It quickly became a bargain supercar and was surprisingly practical. At the same time, it had enough performance to take on the latest Porsches or Ferraris for a fraction of the price.
Read our full review on the Nissan GT-R
Just like the GT-R and NSX, the Supra too made a comeback. Its return was surrounded by mixed reactions since it was based on the BMW Z4 and even used the same engine and drivetrain. Because of the brand’s focus on hybrid and electric vehicles, all of their recent sports cars are joint projects. Toyota reassured the fans that despite using BMW parts, they did their own adjustments and did their own reliability testing. As a result, the A90 Supra has a capable chassis and even superior to the Z4 performance. Despite the German roots, like the Mk IV before it, the new Supra boasts a tuner-friendly turbocharged inline-six engine and rear-wheel-drive.
Read our full review on the Toyota Supra
As far as modern recreations go, this has to be one of the most epic ones. In 2004 Ford made a successor to the 1960s Ferrari-beating Le Mans legend – the GT-40. The car looked exactly the same as the original. The number 40 was dropped from the name since the car was now taller than 40 inches, but it retained every other aspect of the classic car. It was also one of the first American cars to utilize the retro-futurism design. Its 5.4-liter Supercharged V-8 pumped out 550 horsepower and 571 pound-feet (774 Nm).
Read our full review on the Ford GT
The original Lancia Stratos from the 1970s was a true Ferrari-powered rally legend. Initially, a modern-day successor would be in the making in the form of the Fenomenon Stratos, since the British company had the rights to the name. The project would be dropped but would later be picked by the Pininfarina studio. Once again, there was a Ferrari connection in the form of the engine, which was a 4.3-liter V-8 from the F-430. It was modified, however, to produce 540 horsepower and 383 pound-feet (519 Nm). The whole car, in fact, was based on the F-430 chassis, which was shortened by 7.9 inches (200 mm). In February 2018, Manifaturra Automobili Torino commenced production of the 25 intended cars.
Read our full review on the Lancia Stratos