Home Cars Blast From The Past: The Best & Worst Retro-Futuristic Cars Ever Made

Blast From The Past: The Best & Worst Retro-Futuristic Cars Ever Made

Vukasin Herbez August 28, 2023

For over two decades, retro-futurism has been a part of modern car design. This is when car designers borrow shapes, ideas, and details from car history to revive the famous models of the past. Cars like Volkswagen’s New Beetle, the Ford Mustang, and the Mini Cooper are examples of perfect revivals in modern form.

Designers turned these once-classic shapes into modern vehicles with unmistakable charm, designs, and appearance. During the height of retro-futurism, it looked like any car with classic lines was a sales hit, so many manufacturers decided to introduce such models. As always, there were ones that implemented this style perfectly and ones that failed miserably. Today, we will cover them all.

Photo Credit: Dodge

Dodge Challenger

After the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro got their own fantastic retro versions, the Challenger was next to receive a reimagining of a classic shape. It was a success, staying on the market for over 10 years with minimal changes. Drawing inspiration from the classic 1970 to 1974 model, the Challenger is one of the most successful retro-futuristic cars ever. This is especially true for its high-performance models, the SRT, Scat Pack, and Hellcat versions. This includes the insane Demon model (via Dodge).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

With standard fuel, the Demon delivers an insane 808 hp, but if you use high-octane stuff, it will pump out almost 840 hp. The rest of the Demon package is equally insane from its special transmission, suspension, and brakes to the widebody stance and exterior details. Its acceleration time from 0 to 60 is less than 3 seconds, and under full power, the Demon will accelerate with 1.8 G force. The car is capable of covering a quarter-mile sprint in less than 10 seconds straight out of the box.

Photo Credit: Fiat

Fiat 124 Abarth

One of the most stylish roadsters currently on the market is Fiat 124 Spider. The original 124 Spider arrived in 1966. More than 50 years later, Fiat presented this new version with charming retro-futuristic styling, several exciting features, and a chassis borrowed from the Mazda Miata/MX-5 (via Abarth).

Photo Credit: Fiat

Fiat used a tiny 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as its engine. The displacement may be small, but this engine has significant power and produces 164 hp. That’s good enough to launch this small roadster from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and it can achieve 130 mph in the Abarth trim level.

Photo Credit: VW

Volkswagen ID Buzz

Even though the ID Buzz has been out for selected markets, US buyers will have to wait a bit longer to purchase this masterpiece of retro-futurism. As a part of the big EV push by Volkswagen, the ID Buzz has a special place because it represents a fresh take on the minivan concept and retro styling (via Volkswagen).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The ID Buzz comes in six or eight-passenger form with an 82-kWh battery pack and two power levels – 201(RWD) and 335 hp (AWD). Despite the considerable power, Volkswagen engineered this model not for performance but for practicality and hoped to turn buyers away from SUVs to more practical, spacious, and energy-saving vans.

Photo Credit: Chrysler

Chrysler PT Cruiser

Even though the PT Cruiser was a substandard model in terms of power and technology, it was an immensely successful model, although very ugly. It managed to sell 1.35 million examples in 10 years. It was the last big sales hit for Chrysler. The PT Cruiser’s appeal was its faux-retro design, affordable price, and wannabe excellent image of the custom car from the past (via Auto Data).

Photo Credit: Wiki

Under the hood, there was nothing special. The PT Cruiser shared many mechanicals and engines with the Plymouth/Dodge Neon. This meant that the PT Cruiser could have been more engaging to drive. Nevertheless, it was an exciting, quirky little retro-futuristic car.

VW Beetle
Photo Credit: Volkswagen

Volkswagen New Beetle

The New Beetle was one of the first mass-produced retro-futuristic cars, with the first examples leaving the factory in Mexico back in 1997. It was revolutionary due to its use of a classic Beetle shape but remastered for the 21st century. However, despite looking like the old one, the New Beetle had nothing in common with the old model in the mechanical and engine departments. Overall, this was essentially a good thing (via Volkswagen).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The New Beetle was a popular car with a life span of 22 years and two generations. However, underneath the retro-futuristic body were Golf mechanics and ordinary engines. The New Beetle will still remain one of the most successful retro cars ever.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Mustang Boss 302

Ever since the first retro Mustangs appeared in showrooms across America, Ford fans asked for the return of the Boss 302. For those who don’t know, the Boss 302 was first introduced in 1969 as a racing car homologation special intended for Trans-Am races. And 43 years later, Ford revived the Boss 302 with the new 5.0-liter Coyote V8, delivering 444 hp and 380 lb.-ft of torque. Again, this was almost a pure racing car with no backseat, a factory-installed roll cage, and a host of other external and internal modifications (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

As you may expect, the performance was better than the regular Mustang GT, and the 2012 Boss 302 could accelerate to 60 mph in 3.97 seconds and top 155 mph. Until we see the future version of the Boss 302, the 2012 model is widely considered one of the best modern muscle cars and deserves a place on this list.

Photo Credit: Arab Motor World

Alpine A110

The legendary Renault Alpine A110 was a rally legend and one of the best sports cars in the early 1970s. Now it finally has a modern version. For years, Renault teased performance car fans with concepts and announcements. Finally, they announced a production-ready car. If you are familiar with the classic Alpine, you’ll instantly recognize the shape and the idea behind this fabulous car (via Alpine Cars).

Photo Credit: W Super Cars

It’s a small, lightweight sports coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. It provides driving excitement and unparalleled road holding. That was the idea behind the new Alpine A110. This small coupe weighs just over a ton and has a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder behind the driver, powering the rear wheels. The power is more than adequate, with 252 hp running through its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution


When BMW introduced the Z8, the car world was stunned. It was a retro-inspired roadster with a V8 from the M5, gorgeous design, and uncompromised performance. This is precisely what BMW fans want to see again from this company. Something so elegant and timeless in an automotive world full of luxury sedans and overpriced SUVs will undoubtedly gather an extensive fan base (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

The BMW Z8 was the clear successor of the BMW 507 – a beautiful and exclusive car but a sales flop. BMW never intended to sell many Z8s, and this car was just a styling exercise. It was a very successful styling exercise, we might add. Today, the Z8 as well as the 507 are cherished collectors’ items.

Photo Credit: Auto Evolution

Chrysler 300C SRT 8

The Chrysler 300 C is an interesting car. Not only is it one of the last (if not the last) true American, boxy-looking sedans with big V8 power and chrome grille, but it’s also a successful model that’s been on the market for over 15 years. To some viewers, it looks like a typical rental car and nothing to be excited about. However, there was a 300C SRT-8 (via Chrysler).

Photo Credit: Mecum

Equipped with a 6.1-litre V8 Hemi engine pumping out 425 hp and a glorious soundtrack through twin tailpipes, the SRT-8 was a fast and capable car. The 0 to 60 mph sprint took around 4.9 seconds and its top speed was over 170 mph. However, the best thing about this caw will always be the chrome grille and design cues from Chrysler’s past.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Mustang GT

The world was stunned when Ford introduced the fifth generation of Mustang in late 2004 as a 2005 model. The retro-futuristic design was perfect for the times. It captured the essence of the legendary first generation and presented an exquisite, modern shape, even 18 years after the unveiling (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Ford

The new Mustang featured a lot of new technology but still a somewhat old platform with a live rear axle. Nonetheless, buyers went crazy for the car, and during its 10-year market life, Ford introduced numerous special versions and extremely powerful Shelby models. But the sweet spot in the range was always the regular GT model. With a 4.6-liter 300 hp V8 engine at first and a 5.0-liter 425 hp V8 engine from 2011-2014, the GT was a very capable car with exceptionally good road manners.

Photo Credit: Fiat

Lancia Thesis

When retro-futuristic fashion stormed the car industry, Lancia’s designers realized they could borrow from their rich history. During the ’50s and ’60s, Lancia made one of the best-looking cars in Italy, which is a significant accomplishment considering many famous design studios there. Models like Aurelia B12 or Flaminia Sedan were the most elegant Italian sedans of the period and well-respected classics. Back in the early 2000s, Lancia desperately needed to get back in that segment, so a big four-door retro remake seemed like a great idea (via Wiki).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

It was an interesting and luxurious car with clear retro influences, but it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it wasn’t even close. It looked ugly, unfinished, and out of place. It didn’t help that it had creature comforts or that a high-revving 3.0-litre V6 powered it. And it was a sales flop that pushed Lancia deeper into oblivion.

2003 Ford Thunderbird
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Thunderbird

In 2002, Ford introduced the new T-bird with fantastic retro-inspired styling reminiscent of the 1955-1957 models. It had a 3.9-liter V8 in the front, a stylish interior, and decent performance. The car looked great, and Ford got the retro feel of a classic Thunderbird right. The initial response from buyers and the automotive press was fantastic, but the hype was gone very soon. Thunderbird sales became disappointing as a result (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The new Thunderbird wasn’t the performance car people seemed to believe it was. Yes, it was comfy, heavy, and not very fast despite having 280 hp. Ford realized that it wasn’t the competition for Mercedes SL, instead being just another underperforming, expensive model in the market segment, which is pretty much gone today.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Chevrolet SSR

Amid the mid-2000s retro craze, the Chevy development team came up with a crazy idea to produce a nostalgic two-seater convertible pickup with muscle car performance. The result was the SSR, a vehicle that looked different from any other car on the market, and not necessarily in a good way. The 1950s-inspired design didn’t work well, so the SSR was simply ugly (via Edmunds).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Despite many efforts to make the SSR appealing to the intended audience, Chevrolet only managed to sell around 24,000 of these oddballs in a painful realization that they needed much more than wild imagination to make the concept work.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Bronco Raptor

One of the best retro-futuristic cars in recent years is the Ford Bronco. Almost identical to its predecessors, this new off-road SUV took the market by storm. Unfortunately, Ford won’t drop its famous 5.0-liter Coyote V8 into the new Bronco. Instead, the latest and most potent version got a 3.5-liter EcoBoost good for 418 hp, which is more than enough (via Ford).

Photo Credit: Icon

Interestingly, despite being a desert runner, the Bronco Raptor is quite capable on the streets. Understandably, the Bronco Raptor has a relatively low top speed due to its brick-like aerodynamics and massive 37-inch tires. However, it can reach 60 mph in six seconds, which is quite respectable for an SUV.

Photo Credit: Fiat

Fiat 500 Abarth

Even though the 500 Abarth has only 160 hp coming from its tiny turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, it’s a seriously fast and fun little car due to its small weight and compact dimensions. Also, it’s extremely practical in everyday driving, easy to park, and has a small price and running costs (via Abarth).

Photo Credit: Fiat

Be aware of its relatively small power output, however. Thanks to the tiny dimensions, this car is extremely capable and agile and can leave a few V8s in the dust. The classic models obviously inspired the 500 Abarth design.

Mini Cooper
Photo Credit: Mini

Mini Cooper

Mini was also one of the first successful retro-futuristic cars that had their debut in the early 2000s. With the same lines, proportions, and stance, the Mini was always considered a benchmark car in terms of driving dynamics, precision steering, and pure hot hatch feel. The newest John Cooper Works edition doesn’t disappoint, and with a 228 hp four-cylinder engine, it’s a very capable urban runabout (via Mini USA).

Photo Credit: BMW Group

Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph is achievable in just 5.9 seconds, while the top speed is 140 mph, more than enough to run away from most V8 engines.

Photo Credit: Car Gurus

Toyota FJ Cruiser

When the retro-futuristic craze swept the car industry, Japanese companies had a problem. Although they had their classic models to borrow from, most European or American customers needed to learn about them. As far as Europeans or Americans go, Japanese companies didn’t have a history. So they found classic Japanese cars that were widely recognizable in Europe and America, such as the legendary Land Cruiser FJ 40 (via Toyota).

Photo Credit: Hagerty

Toyota decided to revive this iconic shape in the form of a modern-day SUV named FJ Cruiser. It left the factory in 2006. Intended mostly for American and Middle Eastern markets, where the original Land Cruiser was well-known, the FJ Cruiser had some success but also drew a lot of criticism for changing the original narrative. The classic FJ 40 was a rough and capable off-roader, and the modern FJ Cruiser was a big SUV. Also, it featured weird opening side doors and relatively small luggage space.

Alfa Romeo 4C
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Alfa Romeo 4C

Nobody expected such a car from Alfa. The 4C was kind of a “junior supercar” with a carbon fiber tub, a cramped interior, and a four-cylinder turbocharged engine behind the driver. It looks like the classic Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale. The goal was to make the 4C as light as possible. So there were no power steering components and luxury items. The result was a highly capable little sports car weighing under 1000 kg. There was no need for power steering (via EVO).

Photo Credit: Fiat

The heart of the 4C is a tiny, 1.8-liter engine with a turbocharger that delivers 238 hp to the rear wheels. The performance is amazing as you would expect. And 0 to 60 mph is possible in 4.7 seconds while the 4C can top 160 mph. The downside is that the car is extremely wide. However, interior space is limited and the ride is very harsh since the suspension is tuned for the race track rather than street use.

Photo Credit: Top Speed

Chevrolet HHR

When Chrysler’s PT Cruiser hit the market and became an extremely sought-after model, at least for a short while, Chevrolet decided that it wanted in on the retro-design game and introduced HHR.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The name stood for Heritage High Roof and the design resembled the classic panel vans and Suburbans of the ’50s (via Car and Driver). The HHR could have offered more than the faux-retro looks. The drivetrain and driving dynamics were modest and the interior materials were inferior.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Land Rover Defender

The first Land Rover Series 1 model appeared in 1948. Over the years, the Defender has made improvements and has been redesigned many times. But it has still retained its rugged exterior, exceptional build quality, and uncompromised off-road capability. The Defender would certainly remain in production if it weren’t for the modern safety and environmental standards that forced Land Rover to retire this iconic vehicle (via Land Rover).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

That is why the new Defender was on its way for the 2018 model year. The final design should look like the concept from 2011 shown under the name DC 100. Today, we have a new Defender that looks identical, has a wide range of engines, and hasn’t abandoned its off-road roots.

Photo Credit: We Are Curated

Ford GT

The early 2000s supercar boost motivated many manufacturers to offer exotic cars, introduce new models, or revive some legendary names. Ford jumped on the bandwagon with a new and retro-styled supercar simply called the GT. The new car was an obvious successor to the fantastic Le Mans-winning GT40 from the late ’60s (via Auto Evolution). The 2004 GT was a perfect car in many ways.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Not only was it introduced at the height of retro-futuristic car design, but it was also extremely fast. At the moment, it was one of the best supercars on the scene. Buyers loved it, even in Europe. The heart of the Ford GT was Ford’s fabulous 5.4-liter supercharged V8 pumping out 550 hp. The GT was capable of achieving 0 to 60 mph time of just 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 205 mph. Even though the Ford GT wasn’t constructed or designed with racing in mind, the car proved capable on the track in the hands of private teams.

Photo Credit: GM

Chevrolet Camaro SS

Camaro fans were disappointed when Chevrolet decided to retire the nameplate after the 2003 model year. It looked like the Mustang had finally won the muscle car battle with the Firebird also gone. The Mustang was the only domestic pony/muscle car on the market at the moment. However, it turned out that Chevrolet was just waiting for the right moment to bring back the Camaro to the market with a redesigned, restyled, and re-engineered form. That moment came in late 2009 when the new fifth-generation Camaro left the factory to the very eager market. After a few years of showing concept cars and design renderings, Chevrolet was finally ready to present its modern interpretation of the classic Camaro shape with its new, highly advanced chassis and engines (via Edmunds).

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Rally SS via GM
Photo Credit: GM

The 2010 Camaro was a triumph of retro-futuristic design and engineering. GM’s Zeta platform was highly sophisticated and allowed the new model to sport car-like road holding and driving dynamics. The base engine was a V6. But from the start, fifth-generation Camaro buyers had the option of the SS model with a 6.2-liter V8 engine and 426 hp. These figures made the 2010 Camaro SS one of the fastest domestic cars at the time. With advanced chassis and brutal performance, the Camaro SS was far better than the Mustang GT of the same vintage, which helped Chevrolet beat Ford in the sales war.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

International Scout EV

The International Scout was a small and highly usable off-road SUV with choices of engines ranging from a 2.5-liter straight four to a 4.4-liter V8. Also, it came with a removable hard top, which meant that every Scout was also a convertible, and it also had a fold-down windshield (via Inside EVs).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Over 40 years since the last Scout rolled off assembly lines, Volkswagen is ready to revive this brand. With a modern and electric version of this famous SUV. Yes, it will have body-on-frame construction like the original. It will come in two versions – SUV and pickup. The design should be almost identical to the original.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth Prowler

The Hot Rod culture is one of the critical ingredients of the American automotive landscape. However, no company ever dared to present a factory-built Hot Rod until 1997, when Plymouth introduced the Prowler – a retro-futuristic roadster with a V6 engine and fantastic looks (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Imagined as the follow-up of the Viper, the Prowler was the hit on the show circuit, and Chrysler wanted to capitalize on that. Despite having initial success, the car proved to be a failure.

Photo Credit: Wiki

Mitsuoka Viewt

In case you were wondering what would happen if you combined the classic Jaguar Mk2 and Nissan Micra, don’t worry. We have the answer – the Mitsuoka Viewt. This crazy, retro-futuristic car comes from one of Japan’s most obscure brands. Which is dedicated to building retro-inspired cars based on ordinary models. The Viewt was introduced in 1993 and is still in production. The chassis, drive train, doors, and glass are all from regular production Micra. But the front and rear end are unmistakably Jaguar, complete with a chrome grille, bumpers, and headlights (via Mitsuoka).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Jaguar Mk2 is one of the best-looking British sedans ever made. Still, elegance and appearance are gone when its characteristic front end is transplanted on a cheap Japanese compact car, making Viewt a bizarre and repelling model. Fortunately, they are only sold in Japan and are quite expensive, so production is limited.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Dodge Charger SRT EV

We saved the best for last. And although the Dodge is busy introducing yet another Hemi muscle car, their sights are on an all-electric future. Hence, the next generation of a muscle car embodied in the Charger SRT EV will arrive in the next few years. Dodge knows that the muscle cars as a product will always stay in style, but they needed to find a way to make them interesting for future fans (via Car and Driver).

Photo Credit: Mecum

We know little about the performance, but Dodge claims it will be quicker than the Hellcat. Also, it will feature an 800-volt battery and one very cool feature – speakers that will emit loud engine sounds. After all, what’s a muscle car without the roaring sound of an engine, even if it is digital?

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