Posts from ‘Review Flashback!’
It happened to the Ford Thunderbird in 1980, and it was about to happen to General Motors’ “E-Body” cars in 1986–a downsizing so dramatic and so incredibly unpopular as to render classic model names moot in the eyes of new-car shoppers.
I would argue that it was the ’82 Accord that changed the way Americans thought about Japanese cars. By this time many car shoppers had heard good things about Honda, but the cars were still a little too small, a little too modestly powered, and a little too, well, Japanese-looking. That all changed for 1982. All new that year, Accord grew up before shoppers’ eyes. The car now stood taller, boasted substantial-looking creased lines, and offered a decent increase in horsepower and torque. Also worth noting, 1982 was the first year for U.S. Accord production.
The era of downsizing was a period of mixed blessings for automakers. Some vehicles were transformed into blockbuster sales successes, and met with enormously positive critical reviews. Other slimmed-down vehicles didn’t fare as well with shoppers or reviewers, however.
Think of the 1977 redesign of Chevrolet’s bread-and-butter Impala and Caprice. An instant success, the big “B-Body” sedans, coupes, and wagons, perfectly balanced size, economy, and price. Now, consider the 1980 update of the Chrysler Cordoba. Following the popular luxury coupe first seen in 1975, the newly slimmed and overtly aerodynamic two-door seemed to eschew the traditionally baroque trappings that made the first-generation car a success, and sales suffered as a result.
It was a marketing experiment gone horribly wrong—but the thinking was sound. If German luxury-car makers sell diesel engines in premium automobiles, shouldn’t Lincoln?
Taking no chances, Lincoln secured a suitable engine from BMW, and placed it in its two most sophisticated vehicles, the Continental Sedan and the Mark VII coupe.
Long before the names Caravan and Voyager would end up on a car-based front-wheel-drive platform, Dodge referred to this people mover as a, “domestic compact wagon.”
Regardless of how accurate that description seems in retrospect, Consumer Guide was impressed enough to dub the 1973 Dodge Sportsman a Best Buy.
The current editorial team here at Consumer Guide couldn’t think more highly of the Porsche 911, but was our appreciation for this German icon always so robust? To help celebrate this rear-engine sports car’s 50th anniversary, let’s jump back 40 years and see how the team felt back then.
Please enjoy this review extracted from Consumer Guide Auto ’73.
It’s tough to write about the Pacer. Like Edsels, Yugos, and Pontiac Azteks, the AMC Pacer is used too often, and too freely as a punch line, which is kind of a shame. To put things into perspective, Consumer Guide used the term “Futuristic” to describe the car back in 1977.
New for ’77 was the wagon shown here. Though only four inches longer than the standard Pacer, the wagon boasted a solid twenty additional cubic feet of cargo space. The wagon came out of the chute strong, outselling the standard car almost 2-to-1 (about 38,000 sales to 20,000).
At a starting price of $3799, the wagon cost just $150 more than the standard car. Opting for the 258-inch six over the standard 232 mill added just $79 to the tab, while going with the “Torque Command” automatic transmission with the column shifter cost you another $267.
I’ve written some about key events on my journey to becoming a car guy. One event was asking my father about the 307 badge on his Nova, and a decade or so later came my being hired to work at a service station. A somewhat less momentous—though still significant—incident fell in between those events, in the autumn of 1977.
American Motors entered 1975 as a company in transition. The top-of-the-line Ambassador and sporty Javelin were both discontinued at the end of the 1974 model run. The company’s plan was to concentrate on small cars, including its compact Hornet and subcompact Gremlin. During the year, the wide-yet-small Pacer was introduced. The last car in the line was AMC’s largest, the intermediate-sized Matador.
The Matador line had been updated for 1974. The sedan and wagon received fresh front and rear styling and some other tweaks, but in reality they were heavily based on the 1967 Rambler Rebel under the skin. The big news was the all-new 2-door coupe. It rode a wheelbase that was 4 inches shorter than the 4-doors and had completely different styling.
The coupe had a fastback roofline, fixed quarter windows, and large doors with frameless glass. Signature styling touches included headlamps set into round housings that extended back into the hood. The leading edge of the hood also formed the start of a crease that ran around the middle of the entire car. Freestanding chrome bumpers and a quartet of round taillamps were other touches.
Question: What’s 26 inches shorter and about 600 pounds lighter than Cadillac’s big sedan? If this were 1985, the answer would have been, “Cadillac’s other big sedan.”