The ’70s were an odd-time for the sports car market. The fuel crisis was among us and the automakers were scrambling to get fuel-efficient cars onto the road. The next-generation Charger was lighter and introduced new modern features over the previous model. The problem here was the same as it was with most muscle cars at the time. A lack of innovation and too much smog control caused the engine to lack power. In fact, the car was lethargic at best, which left a bad taste in the mouths of Mopar fans.
Reliability issues were rampant for this generation of the Charger. This vehicle was released right on the cusp of the K-Car. When you look back through Chrysler’s storied history, the Charger from this generation is worth avoiding. The car didn’t bring anything new or unique to the table worth mentioning.
When you think of legendary sports cars, the 1953 Corvette model is one of the first that comes to mind. But what the car had in terms of originality, it lost in the mechanic department. Like most GM cars and trucks, the first year is always the most tumultuous. Reliability was where the 1953 model fell short. The carbureted engine is known for having all kinds of failures at a time when reliability was a must. With the Corvette, these issues ended up costing owners a good deal of money.
Still, the original Corvette is a piece of history. But if you can avoid this model as a daily driver, you should. There were later Corvette models that were more pleasant to drive and offered a good deal more performance. At the end of the day, driving a sports car should be fun, not a stress-induced experience that ends up costing you.
The original Thunderbird was an iconic car. Flowing lines and a functional engine made the car an absolute experience to drive. Fast forward into the new millennium and the car got a retro-themed redesign. The problem here was the Jaguar-derived V8 engine that was unreliable and expensive to fix. To make matters worse, this generation of the Thunderbird had a tightly squeezed interior and no rear seating. The Thunderbird models that came before it had functional backseats.
There were high expectations for the Thunderbird because of the unique, retro-themed design. But when the final product hit the market, it was a disappointing mix of unimaginative design and price. The new generation of Thunderbirds was extremely expensive. For the features that you get with this car, it’s best left avoided.
A lot has changed since the original Miata hit the road. Cars are much more advanced and most convertibles have some sort of an electronic retractable top. The Miata used the formula of a lightweight sports car mated to a lively suspension. The problem here in modern terms is how underpowered the car is, in addition to the fact that repairs can be costly. Miata parts are easy to come across for the most part. Fixing the car, however, is another story. If you want a lightweight roadster, the second-generation Miata is a much better choice.
The later versions of the car were much-improved in-terms of driving characteristics. Original Miatas are still a cool car to look at. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty aspects of ownership, there are better choices out there. You can get away with a much more modern and fun-to-drive the car for less.
GM was experimenting with a few affordable sports cars during the early part of the decade. Saturn was the guinea pig brand for experimental models. The redline brand was attached to the ION and the Vue as a performance-oriented option. Then there was the Greenline, which was the hybrid-oriented product line. When you look at the options, the ION Redline looked the part of a performance car. The ground effects kit was aggressive and the spoiler gave the car a mean look. But performance-wise, the car didn’t deliver for the price. Reliability on the ION was spotty.
Sales never really approached the numbers that GM had hoped. The ION Redline should be at the bottom of your list when you are looking for a sports car. Nothing about the car has held up well over the lapse of time. Saturn ended up being disbanded after the 2008 recession, and the Redline brand vanished as well.
The ’80s were not a pleasant time for any automaker, much less the domestic brands. When you took a look at GM’s product portfolio, most of the sports cars were weighed down by smog regulations. To put this in perspective, the California Corvette stands as one of the slowest models to hit the road. The smog-choked 5.0L V8 is one of the worst in GM history. This was the same engine that you’d find under the hood of the Camaro Z28. The engine was notorious for running hot and having vacuum line issues.
Needless to say, the California Corvette was not a standing achievement for the brand. Cars around this period were being pinched for EPA regulations. This is why the Corvette and many other V8-powered sports cars from this era are lackluster at best.
Although Maserati has recently been a strong presence in the media world, the brand has been around much longer. Maserati is not the first brand that comes to mind when you think about buying a car. With that being said the Biturbo was a highly hyped up model. The car was released at a time when exotics were becoming more of the norm. The main selling point for the Biturbo was the fact that it had a functional backseat and interior. While the car performed admirably for the time, consumers couldn’t get over the hideous looks. The car had questionable reliability for a car in this price range.
The Biturbo is often a forgotten part of the eighties sports car world and with good reason. There was nothing increasingly special about the Biturbo to make us remember it. This car is in the same ranks as the Ferrari Mondial.
General Motors wasn’t the only automotive brand that was in the dumps during the ’70s and ’80s. Heavy smog regulations were crushing all of the automakers. The days of the fuel-gulping V8 was becoming a distant memory. Ford decided to base the Mustang off of the lightweight Pinto platform. The car was a good effort. But the performance was mediocre at best and the car suffered from a lack of quality. Dials would fall off and interior parts were cheaply made, as with most domestic cars around this time frame.
The Pinto based Mustang model will go down as a blip in the history of Ford. The Fox-body hit the market not long after to try and repair some of the damage that was done. Interestingly enough, Ford is attempting a drastic change again with the release of the Mustang Mach-E electric SUV.
At some point, during the 2000s renaissance of the Ford brand, there was an idea to give Mercury another sports car. The Cougar was a lightweight, V6-powered sports car that brought with it a rather edgy design for the time. This vehicle was part of Ford’s “New Edge” design philosophy which emphasized lots of edges and ovals. Performance-wise, the Cougar was nothing amazing by any means. The car was downright slow and the unimpressive exterior styling made the car an forgettable part of history. People would often mistake the Cougar for the cheaper Escort ZX2.
Sadly, the Mercury brand didn’t survive the new millennium. The Cougar was just one of many lackluster cars that made their way onto dealership lots. Perhaps if Ford had based the Cougar off of the Mustang, things would have been a little better for the car.
You’ve probably seen these cars in grocery store parking lots. The paint peeling off and hubcaps missing from years of abuse. But at one point in time, GM had high hopes that the Geo Storm would attract a younger buyer into the showrooms. The Storm did have some redeeming qualities such as a reasonably sized backseat. There was also the hatchback which made loading the little sports car a breeze. Color combinations were quite wild for the Storm, ranging from purple to yellow. In a lot of ways, the Storm was a revolutionary, but as far as a sports car, the Storm just didn’t add up.
In a sea that was flooded with cheap sports cars during this period, the Storm is a blip. If you want a ’90s sports car that’s good on gas there are many options. The Geo Storm was a car that was just intended as a budget-minded addition to Chevy dealerships.
The final incarnation of the Celica was a curvaceous little car. Designed to entice younger buyers into the Toyota showroom, the new Celica had a lot going for it. But the model never really had a performance-minded version. This was a drawback for Toyota since the competition for the Celica was cars like the turbo-powered Tiburon and the 350Z. Sadly Toyota never offered this generation of the Celica in a convertible version.
With good reason, as far as a commuter car, the Celica was golden. But when you wanted to take the car out to see what it could do, the lack of performance showed. Toyota didn’t go all out designing this car. The Celica line disappeared from the Toyota brand soon after the car hit the market.
The Eclipse that hit the market in 2006 was a bold new statement for Mitsubishi. The new design was much more radical than previous versions. What made the Eclipse unique was the fact that it was always an affordable sports car. This generation of the Eclipse was lacking in the power department. Shoppers also complained about the cramped interior, which made living with the car hard. If you wanted to drive something fast this generation was basically on its way out. The engine was average in terms of performance.
Buyers were quick to dismiss this Eclipse model. You can tell by how the resale values have dropped in recent years. Still, if you can find one for really cheap this might be a fun first car for a new driver. The exterior styling is still beautiful to this day.
Finally, we have a sports car that really shouldn’t even be called a sports car. During the’90s, Ford introduced us to the ZX2. Which was essentially a bite-sized version of the Escort sedan and wagon. While the car had some pretty cute looks at the time, performance was lackluster at best. Then you got into the shoddy build quality which resulted in many reliability issues. The ZX2 lasted for quite some time, even as the rest of the escort lineup was replaced by the modern Focus. But if you wanted a lightweight sports car, the ZX2 should be avoided.
There was actually nothing that was or is remotely sporty about the ZX except for the name. When it comes to forgotten relics of the early 2000s, the ZX2 is the pinnacle. The forgettable styling and ho-hum reliability make the ZX2 avoidable