Home Cars Cheap Old-School Rides That Fuel Every Driver’s Nostalgia Factor

Cheap Old-School Rides That Fuel Every Driver’s Nostalgia Factor

Cameron Eittreim November 3, 2022

Sometimes cheap isn’t always a bad thing. And with the prices of used cars going through the roof, finding a fun car for a deal is not easy these days. But there are cars built that aren’t exactly what you’d call popular in the resale world. However, many of these cars were fun to drive and still present a fun driving experience today. There were cars like the Mitsubishi Eclipse designed with top-notch engineering and features that cost a fraction of a high-priced sports car.

Driving helps many drivers relive the nostalgia of their youth, which can be refreshing. Cars are one of the things that bring us back to our golden years and help us relive our greatest memories. We looked back at cheap rides that fuel every driver’s nostalgia. Many of these cars were once popular, but have since fallen into obscurity. The drivers who remember them will instantly be brought back into a better time in their lives. Reminisce on them right here.

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1998 Porsche Boxster

The Boxster was the first affordable Porsche sports car ever built and it was a success. The Boxster was marketed toward young professionals who wanted a Porsche but couldn’t afford a 911. The main thing about the Boxster was that it was powered by a stellar 2.5 L 6-cylinder and a short wheelbase. The car had excellent performance for the price and was popular (via KBB).

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The Boxster was initially only offered in a convertible body style, but the coupe was added years later. Few cars were as iconic in the late 1990s as the Boxster as it reinvigorated Porsche. The car was affordable and provided cheap thrills with Porsche quality behind it. The resale value for the Boxster is still affordable, and the earliest models are the easiest ones to get ahold of.

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Audi TT

The TT was the first two-door sports car built by Audi in a long time. It ushered in a new modern era for Audi and introduced consumers to an alternative to offerings like the Porsche Boxster. The TT had all the same German engineering of the Boxster, but with an Audi twist. And if there’s something about Audi cars, it’s that certain look and feel. The TT was the pinnacle of design and innovation at the time it was originally unveiled (via AutoBlog).

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The TT was originally a coupe, but there was a convertible model added later. For some reason, the resale value of the TT is very low, which means you can snag one for an affordable price. In addition to the low price tag of the TT, the car offers many nice features. Leather seating was standard in the car, and the Quattro trim level gave the TT the type of handling and performance Audi was known for.

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Dodge Viper

The first-generation Viper was not cheap by any means, but relatively speaking for what it was, it was a great ride. The Viper was a barebones, no-nonsense roadster. The first-generation Vipers are cheap now, especially considering what the original price tag was. The eight-liter V10 was the fastest production motor on the market in 1993 (via Cars.com).

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The Viper was a surprise success for Dodge and the Chrysler Corporation, which needed a halo car. When compared to the Corvette, the Viper was a completely different type of beast. Its powerful engine and no-nonsense design made the Viper a seriously fast and fun-to-drive roadster.

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Chevrolet Corvette C5

Released in 1998, the Corvette C5 was a completely new and modern design. But it was what was under the hood of the C5 that completely changed the game. GM launched the LS1 V8 engine with the C5. There was nothing else on the market that looked or performed like it at the time. For its relatively cheap price, it competed with the best sports cars money could buy (via Corv Sport).

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The C5 was one of the best-designed and most popular Corvette models ever released and it’s still affordable today. With the LS1 engine under the hood, the Corvette C5 was one of the most reliable Corvettes ever built. The engine will outlast everything else on the car in terms of repairs.

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Pontiac Firebird WS6

By the early 2000s, the market for pony cars was drying up and the Firebird was on its way to extinction. But right before GM pulled the plug on the F-Body cars there were a few special editions released. The Firebird WS6 took the LS1 engine and added a Ram Air induction system into the mix. Coupled with the LS1 engine, the Firebird WS6 offered Corvette performance for a cheap price (via Hot Cars).

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The WS6 was offered in a convertible and a coupe version and the yellow color was rare. While the Firebird never achieved the same level of success as the Camaro, it did have a loyal following. The WS6 was not an expensive car back then and it has retained that same type of affordable value today.

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Mitsubishi 3000GT

The 3000GT was released simultaneously with the Nissan 300ZX and the Toyota Supra, but it never got the same notoriety. That doesn’t mean the 3000GT was a bad car. In many ways, it was better. You still got the stellar performance of a turbocharged engine and the precision of Japanese engineering. The 3000GT was no slouch when it came to performance and could compete easily with the likes of the Supra.

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From an engineering and performance standpoint, the 3000GT was in a league of its own. Its affordable modern price tag makes this a great car that you can get for cheap. If you want cheap thrills behind the wheel, the 3000GT is one of the best cars on the road as it was criminally underrated and affordable.

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Audi Quattro

For a period, Audi dominated the rally car circuit around the world, and the Quattro was the car responsible for that success. The outward appearance of the Quattro might not look like much, but it is. The engineering behind the Quattro made the car amazingly adapt to rally racing, and those attributes carried over into normal road driving (via Auto Evolution).

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The Quattro has become the used car, and there are very few that are as fun to drive as it is. The resale value for the Quattro is also a lot less than you’d think, especially considering its heritage. Few cars dominated the rally car circuit in the 1980s as the Quattro did. Its driving characteristics are hard to come by in a cheap car.

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Ferrari Mondial

The Mondial is often criticized as the worst Ferrari that was ever built, but there was a lot to like about the car too. For starters, it had a much easier barrier of entry to Ferrari than the other models. If you’ve never driven a Mondial, then you are missing out because the car had excellent handling and road manners (via Classic & Sports Car).

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The Mondial was the new breed of Ferrari in the 1980s, and although drivers didn’t embrace it then, nowadays, it makes a cool retro ride for a cheap price tag. There were few Ferrari models from this era that could be had for the price that the Mondial could. With some modern tweaks and improvements, the Mondial was a great sports car for a cheap price.

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Acura Legend

With suction doors and a powerful engine, the Legend was not a slouch when it came to performance. There was a time when the Legend was the most popular Acura model on the road. Star rapper Ludacris still owns his original Legend model. What made this car so good? Beyond the performance, its build quality was also exceptional (via Road & Track).

Acura Legend
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The Legend was fun to drive and didn’t break the bank. Although it wasn’t as refined as the more expensive Lexus models, it still gained a loyal following. The original Legend won’t cost a lot to obtain and the maintenance is affordable. Fun to drive old school rides are getting tougher to find for a cheap price, but the Legend never disappointed.

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Pontiac GTO

2004 was a great time to be a young person, especially if you were of driving age. The GTO was revived as a rebadged Holden model in 2004, and although it received negative press, the car was fun to drive. The 2004-on generation of the GTO was relatively affordable and offered some of the best horsepower numbers of the era (via MSN).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

With a little work, the GTO was an excellent performance car and the styling still attracts attention. Just the name of the GTO was one of the most storied nameplates in the history of Pontiac. Nothing was boring about this car and it invoked the nostalgia of anyone who played Need for Speed Underground 2 in the early 2000s.

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Ford Mustang GT (New Edge)

The Mustang New Edge released in 1999 kept most design attributes from the SN-95. The car was mostly the same from the frame up but it still incorporated a new design. One of the best things about the Mustang has always been the affordable resale value and the cheap price and that holds true with the GT (via Mustang Specs).

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The New Edge was one of the most popular Mustangs Ford ever built, the modern styling and V8 power were the perfect combinations. There were also special editions of the New Edge Mustang as well such as the Mach 1 and the Bullitt. The Mustang has always been an affordable option that provides a fun and cheap driving experience.

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2003 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The Golf GTI was one of the most fun to drive and economical cars on the road. Where else can you get German handling and performance for a cheap price? The GTI competed against the likes of the Neon SRT-4 and the Subaru Impreza but held its own (via New Car Test Drive).

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The GTI has always been one of the most underrated performance cars that you can buy. The simple exterior masks the excellent engineering and build quality that the GTI has always had. The resale value of the GTI is affordable, and these cars can be found anywhere, and they’re usually in decent shape.

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C4 Corvette

The C4 Corvette was not as popular as the newer C5 or C6 models, but it has a special place in history. The C4 was the first Corvette model that introduced fuel injection into the mix. Not only was fuel injection introduced, but the C4 Corvette also offered many special edition models as well as a completely digital dashboard (via Auto List).

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The C4 is also a cheap car nowadays and that bodes well for anyone who wants to experience nostalgia. The performance of the C4 Corvette shouldn’t be underestimated, and there are plenty of aftermarket additions that you can get for it. When it came to engineering and fun driving, the C4 Corvette was no slouch.

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Mazda Miata

The Miata is the best-selling two-door sports car in history and has been on the market since 1990. That’s a long time for one car to be in production and first-generation models are cheap. The original Miata was a very simple car with a short wheelbase and a convertible top, but all that combined to create magic. There were very few cars that looked or performed as well as the Miata did and it was a fraction of the price of an expensive sports car (via Car and Driver).

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The Miata was the old-school roadster everyone wanted and it drove better than anything else. Although the Miata was not a rotary-powered car like the RX-7 it still had spirited handling and performance. For the price, the Miata was a car that couldn’t be beaten in terms of quality and performance.

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Honda Del-Sol

Honda has sold a lot of fun rides over the years but the Del Sol was one of the most unique. The ambitious little roadster took the basic design of the Civic and added some pizzazz to it. Anyone who was a young person in the 1990s will remember the Del Sol because it was a popular car for a short period (via Hot Cars).

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The Del Sol was the product of everything that made the Civic fun to drive but amplified. The shortcomings of course were that the car was only a two-seater, and the only available roof option was the Targa top. But if you wanted a fun-to-drive two-seater that didn’t fit the normal bill of what one should be, the Del Sol was a great option.

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1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo

The MR2 of the 1990s was often referred to as the “poor man’s” Ferrari, and with good reason. The car had a striking similarity to the Ferrari models that were on the market at the time. The turbo-powered mid-engined design gave the MR2 the ability to move with authority without needing that much displacement behind it (via Cars and Bids).

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The resulting product was a car that gained a fan base with enthusiasts and has still amassed a following today. But unlike the Supra Turbo and other turbo-powered sports cars from that era, the MR2 is cheap. There are also lots of aftermarket upgrades and clubs that you can take advantage of while being the owner of an MR2.

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Pontiac Fiero

The Fiero was the right car at the wrong time with the wrong engineering behind it. There was so much potential with the Fiero and GM squandered it with a lack of proper engineering. But if you can find a Fiero model that hasn’t caught fire or been heavily modified, the car was one of the most pleasurable driving sports cars ever created (via Hot Cars).

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The Fiero competed with the Toyota MR2 and while the Toyota was generally credited as being the better car, the Fiero had a lot of potential as well. The final models of the Fiero were much improved visually and under the hood. The Fiero was a car that could be had for cheap and still invokes all kinds of nostalgia for the driver.

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Lexus SC400

The SC400 was the pinnacle of engineering when it was first released alongside the LS400 and ES models. Toyota spent billions to ensure that Lexus-branded cars could compete with BMW and Mercedes. This focus on quality and engineering made the SC400 one of the best-driving sports cars on the market and still does to this day (via Cars.com).

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The V8 engine under the hood was smooth as silk and one of the most reliable engines that Toyota ever built. The SC was a rear-wheel drive car with a lot of power behind it. The interior was luxurious, with lots of sounds deadening to ensure the ride was quiet. There were very few sports cars from this era that could compete with the SC400.

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Lexus LS400

The LS400 was one of the best-engineered cars ever to come out of a dealership. The interior alone had some of the highest quality materials Toyota had ever used in a car. The V8 engine under the hood is shared with the SC400 sports car and still offers plenty of performance today (via Edmunds).

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The LS 400 might be an oldie, but it’s one of the few old cars that can still hold its own. The build quality and affordable price tag make the LS 400 a stellar deal. For an even bigger dose of nostalgia, just take a look inside the center console. The LS 400 was one of the few cars with a built-in car phone.

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Eagle Talon

Remember when Chrysler sold branded Mitsubishi sports cars? Probably not, but if you do, the Eagle Talon probably comes to mind. Eagle was the result of Chrysler purchasing AMC in the late 1980s and the brand was sold at Jeep Dealerships. While the brand was a failure, there was one bright spot, the Talon (via Hot Cars).

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The Talon was sold with a turbocharged engine and a fairly nice leather interior. The small size of the car coupled with the turbocharged engine made it a blast to drive. On top of all of those benefits, the Talon was also an AWD car, which meant it could compete with the likes of the Subaru Impreza.

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Plymouth Laser

Another great car that was sold by Chrysler in the 1990s was the Plymouth Laser Turbo. If the Laser Turbo looked familiar, that’s because it was a badge-engineered Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Laser Turbo can be found for a lot less than a comparable Eclipse or Talon, and that’s because of the lack of brand recognition (via Hot Cars).

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The Laser was an assuming car that packed a punch in terms of performance. The Mitsubishi engineering is evident in every part of the Laser. This was by far one of the best generations of Mitsubishi-designed sports cars because they were reliable, cheap, and fun.

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Plymouth Prowler

The Prowler was a halo car and the last effort by Chrysler to save the fledging brand. While the Prowler was unable to generate any serious interest in Plymouth, it was a cool ride. The retro-inspired hot rod design was one of the first cars to attempt going back in time, and it influenced cars like the New Beetle and the PT Cruiser (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The Prowler was an expensive car when it was first released, but those prices have gone down dramatically. Part of the reason for the drop in value is the fact that the car has a standard Chrysler V6 under the hood. That was the same engine that you’d find in your mom’s Dodge Intrepid. But the Prowler was fun to drive and still invokes all kinds of stares today.

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1990 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas Majestic

Jaguars from the 1990s were criminally underrated cars and were some of the best designs to come out of the company. The XJ6 was a large and luxurious car that had plenty of power to spare. The interior was massive and exhibited all the high-end luxury that you’d expect in a stately car like this (via Cars & Bids).

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The XJ6 was the last of the traditional luxury cars to come from Jaguar, as Ford purchased the brand in the late 1990s. The powerful engine moved the car with authority, although the repairs were expensive. Most older Jaguar models are affordable collector’s items nowadays, which makes the XJ6 worth checking out.

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Honda S2000

Although the Honda Del Sol was an interesting concept, it was no sports car. But in 1999, Honda released a real sports car in the form of the S2000. The S2000 was everything that you’d want in a Honda sports car. There were no gimmicks, no turbo-powered engine, and no high price tag. The S2000 was a fun-to-drive car that did everything right without any fuss (via Cars).

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In terms of resale value, the S2000 was a cheap car to come across and it still is. There isn’t a lot to unpack when it comes to the car as it was only available in a single trim package. But when you got behind the wheel of an S2000 you knew that the car was something special. Any driver from the early 2000s will get a dose of instant nostalgia behind the wheel of this car.

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Volkswagen New Beetle

When the New Beetle was released in 1998, it was one of the hottest-selling cars on the market. Everything about the New Beetle was new and refreshing compared to just about everything else on the market. The car offered many trim packages and one of them was a turbo-powered variant (via Edmunds).

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The New Beetle also had interesting features such as a built-in flower holder on the dashboard. The car was everything Volkswagen enthusiasts had been hoping for. The New Beetle was also the main reason Volkswagen had a turnaround in the late 1990s and early 2000s thanks to strong sales numbers.

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Ford Probe

The Probe was the car that you wanted to hate but secretly admired. The car was originally planned to be the replacement for the Mustang, but a lot of public outcries prevented that mistake from happening. The Probe was a fun-to-drive car with a few different options to choose from. The late 1990s model probably invokes the most nostalgia with drivers as it was the most popular (via Edmunds).

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The 24V package was exhilarating to drive and gave the Probe a good footing in the sports car market. The fact that it is a Probe has made the resale value of the car almost non-existent. Although the car invokes nostalgia, the consumer demand wasn’t there for it so prices are still fairly cheap.

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Volkswagen Cabriolet

Even when Volkswagen was financially in the tubes, the Cabriolet was still a promising seller for the company. The car utilized a basic design that was shared with the Golf, but the final package was popular. The simple convertible top and well-appointed interior made the car popular (via BAT).

Photo Credit: BAT

The Cabriolet was sold well into the 2000s in an updated form, but the original car is still the most popular. There is something about the 1980s nostalgia of the Cabriolet that has always made drivers fall in love with it. The stellar build quality and German engineering made the Cabriolet a pleasure to drive.

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Honda Prelude

The Prelude was never the most popular or practical Honda, specifically the first and second-generation Prelude models. The late 1980s model is often remembered for introducing the SI line to the public. The interesting quirks and features of the car made it a popular choice for young drivers who wanted something fun (via Bring a Trailer).

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There was not much to dislike about the Prelude as it was the complete package. The engine was reliable, and the interior was spacious enough to have passengers in it if you desired. Later models introduced a lot of new luxury features into the mix. But it was these original models that cemented the brand in the eyes of consumers.

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Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

The Camaro IROC-Z was the pinnacle of 1980s muscle cars as it introduced several new features. Perhaps the most nostalgic 1980s feature of the car was the T-Tops, which were removable glass tops. The IROC-Z built on the success of the previous Camaro models and it was one of the most popular Camaro models at the time (via Classic).

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The IROC-Z was the last Camaro model that generated a lot of interest in the brand. The late 1990s models were bland and the current Camaro was nothing more than a retro throwback. It was the third-generation car that had the spirit and originality of GM in the 1980s and it made people from this era remember that car.

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1989 Chrysler Conquest TSi

The Conquest was another product of the Mitsubishi/Chrysler relationship. The car was based on the Mitsubishi Starion and the two vehicles shared many components. The TSi model was turbo-powered, and this was the most that most enthusiasts remembered the most. The performance of the car was exhilarating back then, especially for a Chrysler (via Cars & Bids).

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The interesting thing about the Conquest was the unique design for the time. The car was ahead of the curve in interior design. Sadly the Conquest was not as popular as it should have been. But those who were young in this era will remember the Conquest and Starion as notable alternatives.

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2001 BMW 740i “Sporty Shorty”

The short wheelbase model of the 740i with the M Package was the most desirable 7-Series on the market. Enthusiasts remember this car well for its stellar performance and luxurious interior. There is truly nothing else on the road that sounds like a 740i with a good set of aftermarket exhaust on it (via Cars & Bids).

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Many enthusiasts consider this the last great generation of BMW cars. After this period, the 7-Series was plagued with all kinds of reliability and build quality issues. The sporty shorty as it was called was a rare version of the 740i that was sold for two years. With a car like this, you’ll experience an instant burst of nostalgia.

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Chrysler TC

The Chrysler TC was part of an interesting partnership between Chrysler and Maserati. The idea behind the car was to elevate the Chrysler brand beyond its blue-collar image. The TC was basically a shortened version of the LeBaron that was wrapped in Maserati luxury. Unfortunately, the performance of the car was still not that exciting to justify the high price tag (via Cars & Bids).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Chrysler TC was the quintessential bit of 1980s design, though, and everything about the car screams 1980s opulence. There was a lot to like about the general styling of the car, but the performance just didn’t add up. The TC was sold for a few years before being discontinued no other car came out of the partnership.

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Mercury Capri

Only someone born in the late 1970s or the early 1980s will remember the Capri convertible. It was a last-ditch effort by Ford to try and invigorate the dying Mercury brand. The Capri convertible was based on European styling and design and there was a lot to like about it. Unfortunately, the reliability of the car and the brand image at the time were questionable at best (via Edmunds).

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The Capri was sold until 1994 and which point it was discontinued. There was a lot to like about the Capri initially, and seeing one in person invokes instant nostalgia. The car had many positive attributes, but the negative brand image Mercury had at the time doomed the car from the start.

Chevy Beretta
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Chevrolet Beretta

The Beretta was launched in a way that was similar to what Ford did with the Probe. The idea was to launch a car that would replace the Camaro as GM believed that consumers were moving away from V8-powered engines. Well, they were wrong and the Beretta was not a successful car at all. But that doesn’t mean it was bad and there was actually a lot to like about it (via How Stuff Works).

Photo Credit: GM

The Beretta was discontinued before the turn of the new millennium, but there are still many on the road. The Z26 model was the most desirable option, and it featured an appearance package. The lightweight design of the Beretta made it a great car to upgrade, which is what many owners did to them.

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Chevrolet Caprice

No matter what generation it is you just couldn’t go wrong with the Caprice. The big V8-powered family sedan was sold in the most desirable form until the 1995 model year. But even the 1980s offerings were great cars that offered a lot of performance for a cheap price. Not to mention the fact that the Caprice wagon seated eight passengers (via How Stuff Works).

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The Caprice was a car that had a lot of potential and it was sold in many body styles. The V8 engine was smooth as butter and reliable and the interior was well-appointed. There aren’t many cars on the market, like the Caprice anymore, which is why this is a car that invokes some serious nostalgia.

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Ford Pinto

The Pinto was the car that started a compact revolution. It was also one of the few cars that almost bankrupted Ford Motor Company in the process. But there was a lot to like about the Pinto and the most obvious thing was the design. The Pinto could also be equipped with an aftermarket V8 engine (via Hemmings).

Ford Maverick
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The Pinto was often a misunderstood car but there was a lot of potential with it. The design was one of Ford’s most original designs, and at the time it fit perfectly with what was going on in the world. Few cars were as polarizing and controversial as the Pinto was when it first hit the market in the 1970s.

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