Five Favorite "Brief Appearances"

2008 Saturn Astra 4-Door
All photos by Randy Stern

O, Five Favorites, we hardly knew ye…

Frankly, the old Five Faves have been set aside somehow thanks to Auto Show coverage, going Way Off Road and whatever floats V&R's boat…er, car. That does not mean we are thinking about that magic number.

Ah, but there is a spark somewhere! Do you remember any vehicle that showed up in one moment and was gone before we knew it? Of course not! If we remembered anything like that, we would talk about for years!

Now, we have a new Five Faves – vehicles we never had a chance to say "hello" or "good-bye." Trust me on this one – it will be quite interesting to see what transpired with these five…

PONTIAC G8: If the brand survived Bankruptcy, the legend of this car would be immense on this side of the Pacific. General Motors gambled on bringing the Holden VE Commodore here complete with Pontiac arrowheads and a two hole front end. Enthusiasts and a few rental car customers got to experience what is truly a fine automobile. The V8-powered models were more desirable than the V6 ones, as it was always the case with Pontiac. Sadly, the brand had to sent off into history. When it was announced that Pontiac would be no more, the boats stopped coming from Adelaide and Melbourne. Sure, the VF Commodore is coming as the Chevrolet SS, but it is truly not the same as the G8. No, the G8 has a legend and cache of its own.

SATURN ASTRA: To change Saturn from a plastic-bodied brand for the masses, it looked to GM’s European operations for inspiration. They found it in the Opel/Vauxhall Astra. The Astra had been selling in most places around the globe – except for North America. Could the Belgian-built compact do battle with the likes of the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Mazda3? Not exactly. It is a good car, but perhaps too European for the S-Series lover to comprehend. But, still, it is a damn good car. With Bankruptcy, the boats stopped coming from Belgium. Saturn was euthanized along with Pontiac and the fun simply stopped.

MERKUR SCORPIO: Commence laughing. Seriously, the Scorpio looked pretty darn good for the time and I was one of the few who actually enjoyed its presence on our shores. The rest of this market just did not get it. Sure, it was expensive, powered by a V6 smaller than in the Mercury Sable, had rear wheel drive, a huge hatchback and acres of leather. It did have a funny name – "Mercury" in German, if you are keeping score. However, the Ford Scorpio/Granada never translated to North American tastes the way Lincoln-Mercury executives wanted it. It is really too bad since it was quite interesting and, on some level, desirable.

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DE TOMASO PANTERA: Though Alejandro had a good long run with the rear-mounted 5.8litre Ford V8-powered Ghia-penned supercar, it only had a brief glimpse of the American limelight for a few years. Between 1971 and 1973, over 6,000 were built. Some of these went to Lincoln-Mercury dealers in North America as a different kind of offering. The Pantera filled a void for Ford as it represented an alternative to the Corvette. Yet, the Italian sports car never quite fit on the same lot as the Lincoln Mark IV and the Mercury Marquis. It is a shame because it was quite the machine for its time.

SUZUKI KIZASHI: A bit of a surprise here, but perhaps I should talk you through this. It was a victim of the Bankruptcy proceedings of American Suzuki. Once they folded the automotive division, it left this favorite of the motoring press in the cold. Some may think that this should not be included because you can still get one in Canada. Down here, that is no longer a desirable option. Suzuki has authorized its USA dealers to liquidate their stocks of these brilliant sports sedans. Though I always wanted to drive one, everything I heard about the Kizashi has been very good. Will we ever know how good it could have been? Depends on whether you could still find one at a good discount.

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