My Favorite Long Lost Souls

Over the course of 40 years of driving, there had been some vehicles that stood out among others that I had a very enjoyable time behind the wheel. These vehicles were so memorable that they evoke recollections today. 

However, some of those vehicles no longer exist. Brands that have been erased from recent memory. Certain models no longer offered due to market conditions. Entire segments of automobiles withered away into dust. 

While some are worth forgetting, there those who I can remember well. 

What are those vehicles? This month’s My Favorites column goes back a few decades to recall what was lost in history as it was yesterday. Good times with wonderful machines. A tear could be seen in motion when writing down the memories. 

Let’s recall some lost machinery, shall we?

1982-1996 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS CIERA: General Motors did not screw up the front-drive X-Body when they debuted in 1979. It was a first attempt, which was not as well executed as we all hoped. However, the platform would form the basis of a new generation of A-Body cars. That is where this perennial rental car comes in. The Ciera may have been “badge engineered,” but one could feel the Oldsmobile-ness of this one. I certainly did. No, they did not exhibit the luxury of my first car (a 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight), but there were certain elements that made it clear that it had the lineage of the Rocket badge up front. I actually enjoyed driving these into the 1990s. They were fun to drive for a car that took itself seriously for the line and segment. 

1983-1988 FORD THUNDERBIRD: The "aerobirds" were the first cars I rented.  Built on the Fox platform, Ford implemented their aerodynamic design philosophy on their iconic personal luxury coupe for the 1983 model year. What drew me to the Thunderbird was the design. That was followed up by a 1985 model year mid-cycle refresh that overhauled the interior to match the exterior. Driving a Thunderbird was a treat, despite the lightness of the front end that played with its overall handling and on-center feel. Still, there was something special about driving a Thunderbird that only a few vehicles today can match or exceed that feeling. 

1991 ACURA INTEGRA: This is on the list because I owned one. And, I do miss it. It was the right car for the right time – my final few years of my undergrad studies, living in Marin County (California), and I needed to explore my automotive enthusiasm with it. The second generation Integra came at the right time in my life, which I bought new in late 1990. Yet, the car was flawed in various ways. The driver door was not aligned properly from the factory. Acura service was being outclassed by Lexus and Infiniti. Not to mention that low end grunt was semi-existent. But, I loved how it drove otherwise. It was also surprisingly practical. It was the best vehicle I ever owned – period. 

1998-2002 OLDSMOBILE INTRIGUE: When it was time to develop a replacement for both the Cutlass Supreme and Ciera, GM went with a more advanced second-generation W-Body platform. This continued an exploration as to what Oldsmobile should be at the onset of the millennium. The Intrigue met the new century with a sleek, aerodynamic design, excluding a grille while reframing the Rocket logo. The interior matched the exterior with curves and component integration. It felt more powerful and confident than the vehicles it replaced. That is what I recall from this lost soul – a victim of GM ending the brand’s run after 100-plus years. 

SCION (2004-2016): Toyota wanted to capture the youth market really badly. To do so, they created a brand for the USA with vehicles that might capture everyone’s hearts. Although some youth grabbed either an xA or the original toaster, the xB, it was an older demographic that bought a lion’s share of their vehicles. One of the first vehicles I reviewed was a second-generation tC. Years later, I was invited to the final regional drive event for the brand with the iA (that became the Yaris sedan), and the iM (that became the Corolla iM). They were fun to drive and offered plenty of content standard that others in its price range offered as optional – or not offered at all. We can say that Toyota tried with this brand. Luckily, we are able to see plenty of them still on the road to evoke some wonderful memories. 

2013-2016 DODGE DART: The sad story of #VOTY12 began on a very high note. It was the story that set that stage for the forming of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. What began as a platform brought over from Fiat turned into a competitor in the compact sedan class. And, we loved it! With the right specification, the Dart would be rather darty and fun to drive. But, no one bought them. The proliferation of the SUV simply halted the progress of the sedan – especially at FCA. It was definitely full of promise. When I attended the media drive eight years ago, I experienced what this car could be. A few reviews later, my original thoughts were confirmed over every drive. I just wished people would have considered one – and buy it. 

All photos by Randy Stern

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