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These Discontinued Cars Will Stun True Auto Fans If They See Them

Vukasin Herbez August 9, 2022

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Packard Caribbean

Packard was always a luxury brand known for heavy limousines and comfortable sedans. In 1956 it tried to enter the performance market with the Caribbean model. Packard was facing bankruptcy and loss of sales, so the company was eager to find new customers in any way it could (via How Stuff Works).

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So in 1956, Packard introduced the biggest V8 engine available in America in the form of the 374 V8 with 310 HP produced with the help of high compression heads and dual quad carburetors. However, despite the immense power, the Caribbean wasn’t fast since the car was heavy and comfort-oriented.

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Pontiac Tempest

In the early ’60s, all major US car makers introduced compact models. Chevrolet had the Corvair, Ford had the Falcon, and Pontiac presented the Tempest. In most cases, those compact models were only more miniature versions of bigger cars sharing design cues and mechanicals. Still, Pontiac went a different route and presented one of the era’s most advanced American cars (via Hemmings).

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The new Tempest had independent suspension all around, in a time when all cars used live rear axle. Then, it featured an economical four-cylinder engine which was a cut-down V8 when all competitors had six cylinders. The third thing may be the most interesting as the Tempest also used a rear-mounted gearbox.

Old Cars Reader Wheels: 1963 Mercury Monterey Breezeway - Old Cars Weekly
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Mercury Monterey Breezeway

Even though Mercury is now discontinued and gone, it was Ford’s affordable luxury division for decades. It was placed between inexpensive Ford products and high-class Lincolns. Learning from Continental, Mercury decided to offer something new to the customers in the hopes of raising sales numbers. In 1963, it introduced an innovative and exciting Breezeway option on its top model (via Motor City Garage).

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This was a reverse C pillar design with a concave profile of the car and tilted rear glass, which was retractable. It was an innovative solution that resulted in more space in the interior and an excellent design. However, it proved somewhat impractical since the passengers could smell the exhaust fumes at low speeds.

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1968 Imperial

Chrysler’s luxury division Imperial always offered a quality alternative to Cadillac or Lincoln models. With powerful engines, plush interiors, and upscale styling, Imperials were always a good choice if you were looking for an exclusive sedan or a two-door coupe. However, by the late ’60s, it looked like Imperial was losing the race against competitors (via Hemmings).

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1968 was the last year this brand featured a significantly different design than the rest of Chrysler’s lineup. In 1967 Imperial switched to unibody construction as a cost-cutting measure from Chrysler. This didn’t affect the comfort; it just saved some money during production. The 440 V8 was standard and delivered 350 HP.

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AMC Ambassador

AMC was always an economy car manufacturer which produced inexpensive but dull models and constantly flirted with bankruptcy. However, they also entered a full-size sedan market with the new 1969 Ambassador (via Automotive Timelines).

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The new Ambassador was one of the better attempts to attract the customers’ attention in 1969. New and improved styling, good comfort and space, and a standard air condition system were unique and pretty impressive features for the day’s standards. The engine lineup started with a modest 283 straight-six unit and went all the way up to a powerful 401 V8.

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Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser

Produced from 1964-1977, Vista Cruiser was Oldsmobile’s best-selling and most popular station wagon. It is also one of the models which perfectly describes suburban America in the ’60s and ’70s. In the ’70s, they were equipped with a long list of optional extras, wood grain trim, and the Clamshell tailgate (via Wikipedia).

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The Clamshell tailgate was GM’s patent which was used on all big station wagons of the early ’70s, including Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, and of course, Oldsmobile. This power-operated system could slide the tailgate into the trunk floor, giving unrestricted access to the luggage compartment.

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AMC Eagle Wagon

Conceived in the late ’70s, the Eagle was AMC’s answer to the rising popularity of AWD vehicles and SUVs. AMC decided to combine their compact sedan and wagon lineup with the rugged and proven Jeep AWD system. The result was a surprisingly excellent and capable vehicle with the comfort and luxury of a sedan. It also featured compact dimensions, relatively low weight, and outstanding off-road characteristics (via Motor Trend).

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The Eagle was one of the first if not the first crossover/all-wheel drive station wagon model in the world. Now only today we can see how important and influential this car was. As expected, the Eagle was a relatively popular car, especially in areas with harsh climates and long winters.

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Checker Marathon

One of the most characteristic American sedans of the ’60s is the legendary Checker Marathon, better known as New York Taxi. The Marathon was introduced in 1960 and was sold through 1982 (via Hemmings).

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Available with a straight six or V8 engine from Chevrolet, Marathon was designed and built as a dependable and rugged machine. That is why it was used and abused as the ideal taxi vehicle for decades. Not only in New York but in other cities as well. The Marathon was available as a sedan, wagon, and even the exciting and rare 12-seat Aerowagon.

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Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile represented the cutting-edge division of GM at one point in time. They presented models that were far ahead of their time and displayed power and style on the global market. One such car is the Oldsmobile Toronado from 1966 (via Drivingline).

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This was a big and powerful personal luxury coupe with a twist since it was front-wheel driven. Designers drew a fantastic-looking shape with a low roof and hidden headlights, while power came from a big block 455 V8 with 385 hp. The Toronado was a success and introduced superb driving characteristics that left competitors in the dust.

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Auburn 851 Speedster

Auburn Automobile was a company that started in Auburn, Indiana, in 1900 and soon grew up as one of the largest local manufacturers. It began as a mid-class offering, but in the mid-1920s, under the supervision of Errett Lobban Cord, it became a premium manufacturer offering elegant and fast cars (via JBS Collection).

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Its finest model and kind of company’s swan song was the Auburn 851 Speedster introduced in 1935. The car had 4.5-liter straight eight engines with an optional supercharger and fantastic performance for the standards of the time. Unfortunately, the market wasn’t impressed and Auburn production ceased in 1937.

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29. Kaiser-Frazer Darrin

The Kaiser Car Company was an economy manufacturer based in Toledo, Ohio. This manufacturer was on the market for a relatively short period, between 1947 and 1955. In the early ’50s, they decided to produce a performance roadster. They contacted the designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, who produced a stylish roadster body made of fiberglass with one unusual feature – doors which slid to fenders to open (via Apex Auto Mag).

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The car debuted in 1954, but its high price tag and modest 90 HP engine turned some customers away. Just 435 cars were made, all of which are sought-after classics today.

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Dual Ghia

Not many people know about Dual Ghia, an exclusive American car company founded in 1956 and defunct two years later in 1958. Started by businessman Eugene Casaroll, Dual Ghia was a producer of high-powered, custom-built convertibles that used the Chrysler platform and 315 V8 engines (via Supercars).

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The selling point was the body and luxury appointments, and Casaroll sent the chassis to Italy to be re-bodied by the famous Italian design house Ghia, hence the name. The Dual Ghia appeared in 1956, and it was the most expensive American car at the moment. Only 117 were made, and A-list celebrities bought most.

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26. Continental MkII

If you think that Edsel is the only Ford’s failed luxury attempt, you are mistaken. In the mid-’50s, Ford established a separate brand, Continental Division, to produce new luxury cars positioned above the Lincoln brand. The first and only car was the famed Continental Mark II, introduced in 1955 (via Motorcities).

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Ford’s idea was to present a superb luxury coupe with the finest technology and comfort and market it as a separate brand. The idea sounded well, but the market repose wasn’t so great. Continental Division was shut down in five years, following the disappointing sales of the Mark II coupe, despite it being one of the finest American cars ever made.

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25. La Salle

Introduced in 1927, La Salle was a luxury brand established by General Motors. Its goal was to fill the market gap between Cadillac as the top name and more familiar brands like Buick or Oldsmobile. La Salle was under the control of Cadillac (via Augusta Chronicle).

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The concept was successful and the La Salle was a relatively popular model. A significant part of its appeal was the design and technology. Buyers got a baseline Cadillac for less money, which appealed to a broader audience. However, by the end of the ’40s, General Motors realized that having several brands covering the same market segment was not practical and decided to kill the brand.

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Cord 812

Despite being involved with Duesenberg and Auburn, Errett Lobban Cord was a successful car salesman and businessman who had a dream of building cars under his name. So, in 1929, he established a company called Cord and introduced it.

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The philosophy behind Cord cars was simple: offer advanced technology, powerful engines, and gorgeous design, which is precisely what he did. The most famous Cord was the fantastic 812, featuring Art Deco styling, front-wheel drive, and a powerful V8 engine. Unfortunately, despite being a favorite ride of the Hollywood elite, Cord was forced to close its doors in 1937 (via Hemmings).

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Ford Edsel

The Edsel story is one of the biggest commercial failures in the car business, even by today’s standards. In the late ’50s, Ford launched the Edsel, an upscale brand based on Ford and Mercury’s models, which they planned to compete with Oldsmobile and Buick (via Time).

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When the car was officially presented in 1959, people were puzzled. After good sales in the first few months, buyers’ interest oddly disappeared. The Edsel was killed in 1960 after just two years on the market. Ford invested so much money to present the image of the Edsel as a fantastic new car with unrivaled features and power, and people were expecting something exceptional. Instead, they got an upscale Ford with a strange and funny design.

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Studebaker Lark

Today, the Studebaker Lark is forgotten as a model. Not only was it one of the first compact cars from a domestic car company, but it was one of the most successful cars for a little while. The Lark was built from 1959 to 1966 in three generations (via Bring A Trailer).

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Most of the cars featured straight six engines but V8 power was also available. Today, you can pick up a nice Studebaker Lark Convertible for under $15,000, which is a steal. And if you’re looking to differ from everybody else at the car meets, you should do just that.

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20. AMC Gremlin

Introduced in 1970 on the 1st of April, the AMC Gremlin looked like April’s fool joke. The competitors laughed at its compact dimensions, funny rear end, and small engines but very soon, AMC was the one smiling all the way to the bank. The Gremlin proved to be a sales success and the first American subcompact car.

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When the car was introduced, it was received with mixed reviews, but it soon became quite popular, especially with a younger audience. In fact, in the decade of platform shoes, The Eagles, and shag carpets, the Gremlin became one of the symbols of the generation and a very influential model (via Motor Trend).

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Plymouth Valiant

One of the best and most interesting classic American compact cars was definitely the legendary Plymouth Valiant. With striking styling, smaller dimensions, and engines, the car had a unibody construction and standard suspension, which included front A-arms and leaf springs set up in the back (via AC).

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Under the hood was the Slant Six engine, which was new for 1960 and later became one of the most durable engines Chrysler has ever built. In the Valiant, it was available in two forms – 170 and 225 cubic inches. The Slant Six characteristic became one of the Valiant’s most significant selling points, and the car had decent performance and good fuel economy, even by today’s standards.

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Nash Healey

The project started when the head of Nash Car Company met with Donald Healey, a British engineer and constructor on a cruise ship, and they decided to make a sports car that America didn’t have at the moment (via Supercars).

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The idea was to take the Nash Ambassador platform and six-cylinder engine and cover it with an elegant roadster or coupe body made out of aluminum. The first cars were introduced in 1951, and despite 125 to 140 HP from a 3.2-liter straight six engine, Nash Healey had a respectable performance. However, the high price killed the project in 1954 after only 506 were made.

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Muntz Jet

Earl “Madman” Muntz built the Muntz Jet, a well-known Californian used car dealer and electronics retailer. With the help of famous Frank Curtis, he produced 400 Muntz Jets, one of the first American sports cars.

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All cars were convertibles and featured numerous unique features along with the choice of Cadillac or Lincoln V8 engines. Unfortunately, the market just wasn’t ready for an expensive and limited production American sports car, so the Muntz Jet was discontinued in a couple of years. Out of around 400 cars built, there are only about 45 left today (via Silodrome).

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Cunningham C-3 Vignale

Briggs Cunningham was a world-known entrepreneur, racer, and constructor who introduced American cars to Europe’s sports car scene in the 1950s. His dream was to make his own sports car. The C-3 was a two-door coupe or convertible produced in his West Palm Beach facility. It used the Cunningham C-2 R racing chassis but converted for street use, and the bodies came from Italy, designed and produced by Vignale (via Topspeed).

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Under the hood was Chrysler’s 331 Hemi engine tuned to produce 300 HP. The C-3 was a luxury sports car that could easily rival any Ferrari or Maserati. It was also costly, with prices close to the Rolls-Royces of the day.

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Gaylord Gladiator

Established by Gaylord Brothers of Chicago in the early ’50s, Gaylord was set to be the producer of luxurious sports cars for the world’s wealthiest clientele. The brothers inherited a fortune and wanted to invest a big part of it into a car company under their name (via Hagerty).

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Their first and only project was called Gladiator, and it debuted at the 1955 Paris Motor Show, causing quite a stir among the world’s car enthusiasts. The Gaylord Gladiator featured a 300 HP V8 (Chrysler Hemi or Cadillac), top speed of 120 mph, and 0 to 60 mph time of 8 seconds which was pretty spectacular for the standards of the day. Gaylord brothers made only two cars. There is a legend of the third car made in Germany, but nothing was ever confirmed.

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Hudson Italia

Today, just a small percentage of car enthusiasts know about the Hudson car company which was one of the dominant forces in the economy car class during the ’50s. Hudson was one of the companies which formed AMC in the late ’50s. Still, before the merger, Hudson tried to offer a particular luxury car to American buyers – the Italia (via Autoweek).

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Designed and manufactured in Milan, Italy, by the famous Carrozzeria Touring, Hudson Italia was a luxury coupe built on a standard Hudson Hornet platform and featured the same suspension and drivetrain. The company only made 26 and production lasted from 1953 to 1954.

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Kellison J6

Established in the early ’50s, Kellison produced several successful kits for installation on popular models. However, in the early ’60s, the company introduced the J6. The J6 could be bought as a kit or a fully-built car, making Kellison a boutique car manufacturer. The J6 was based on a Corvette frame but Kellison didn’t just re-body the ‘Vette (via Topspeed).

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They moved the engine further back in the chassis, changed the suspension, and installed larger brakes and a different interior making the J6 better handling and even faster since the J6 body was somewhat lighter than the stock Corvette. This conversion was pretty popular.

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Apollo 3500 GT

This car is known under several names, including Vetta Ventura and Griffith GT. However, the project started as Apollo 3500, and it was the brainchild of Californian engineer Milt Brown who wanted to build a proper sports car to rival the European exotics. With the help of Intermeccanica founder Frank Reisner, the Apollo project started to take shape in the form of a handsome coupe powered by a 3.5-liter Buick V8 (via Silodrome).

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The production was later moved to Texas and renamed Vetta Ventura, but the car stayed the same. However, it got an upgraded engine in the form of a 4.9-liter Buick V8. Production started in 1962 and lasted until 1965.

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Bradley GT

The Bradley GT was a typical ’70s kit car company that produced cars built on VW Beetle floor pans with flat-four air-cooled engines and suspension. Despite the fact it doesn’t count as a sports car configuration, the Bradley GT was fast since the bodies were light and owners often decided to tune the engines (via Makes That Didnt Make It).

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The Bradley GT was an interesting-looking sports coupe that sold as a kit or as a fully built car, customized to customers’ specifications. It was one of the typical ’70s DIY models with metallic paint, chrome wheels, and gullwing doors, all of which added to the appeal.

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10. Bricklin SV-1

The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin. It was made in Canada from 1974 to 1975 and less than 3000 examples were produced. For a short while, the SV-1 was marketed as the best and most advanced American sports car. However, as soon as the first cars started rolling from the assembly line, it was clear that the SV-1 was not as good as people expected it to be (via Silodrome).

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The idea was to produce a safe and fast sports car as the name SV-1 (Safety Vehicle One) suggested. Bricklin designed the car with big bumpers, numerous additional features, warring sensors, power Gullwing doors, no cigarette lighters, an integrated roll cage, and other aspects making it heavy and not very agile.

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Cheetah

The global success of Shelby Cobra inspired many American race car builders to build a similar car that could compete on an international level. From this perspective, nobody came close to beating the Cobra, but Bill Thomas, a famous Chevrolet tuner and race car builder, was a serious candidate (via Car and Driver).

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A unique lightweight chassis was featured along with a small block V8 moved as far back as possible. A light fiberglass body covered all of this. Despite some overheating problems, the Cheetah was a remarkable performer and won some lower-rank races and even the 1968 SCCA championship.

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Bosley Mk1 GT

Like many car enthusiasts before or after him, Richard Bosley had a dream of building his own sports car. As a very talented person but with no engineering or design education, Bosley started the construction of the Mk1 GT in his garage. In 1953, he managed to complete the car. The result was an amazingly modern sports coupe that featured tube chassis and tuned Chrysler’s Hemi engine with around 300 HP (via Concept Carz).

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The Bosley Mk1 GT was a surprisingly capable coupe with fantastic performance compared to the cars of the period. For some reason, Bosley never intended to start regular production of the Mk1 GT.

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7. Oldsmobile Achieva SCX W41

Despite the very limited sales of the original W41 Cutlass in 1991, Oldsmobile knew that the 2.3-liter four-cylinder had the potential to be more than just a footnote in Oldsmobile’s history. So, for the 1992 and 1993 model years, Oldsmobile offered the SCX W41 model, the last W-named performance version ever built by Oldsmobile (via AC).

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The SCX W41 was heavily based on the previous model and featured the same 190 HP 2.3-liter engine, which revved to 7,200 rpm. The design and interior equipment got better, and there were some changes to suspension and brakes. The five-speed manual gearbox developed especially for this model was the most significant improvement.

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Panoz Roadster

Successful in racing, Panoz was one of those brands which offered a lot of racing technologies in street-legal vehicles. That made them favorites with fans of performance driving (via Motor Biscuit).

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The Roadster model debuted in the early ’90s and as the modern-day version of the legendary Shelby Cobra. Panoz used a lot of Ford Mustang components including the engine, drivetrain, and suspension, which meant that the Roadster had 300 HP and brutal performance.

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Guldstrand Corvette C4

Dick Guldstrand was a household name to all Corvette fans as one of the best-known Corvette racers and tuners. In the early ’90s, Chevrolet introduced the mighty ZR1 Vette but Guldstrand felt it wasn’t enough (via LSX Mag).

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So his shop presented the Guldstrand GS 90 with 475 HP and a host of other upgrades. The GS 90 production was minimal, with some sources stating that only about 25 cars. However, they are easily recognizable due to custom bodywork and paint jobs.

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International Harvester Scout

International Harvester is a well-known American company that makes trucks and agricultural machinery. However, from the ’50s to the early ’80s, International was producing two SUV models. The Scout was a small and very usable off-road SUV with choices of engines ranging from 2.5-liter straight four to 4.4-liter V8 (via Maxim).

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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. The first models were pretty basic and used by nature lovers, hunters, and forest patrols. Still, the second generation introduced a more luxurious Scout with more options, better engines, and exterior trim.

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Jeepster Commando

The Jeepster Commando is a Jeep sub-brand that was in production between 1966 and 1973. It was an upscale version of those pure off-road models that featured removable hardtops and a small truck bed behind the front seats. It was a practical model that drivers could use for cruising, as well as carrying smaller items and going off-road (via Motor Trend).

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Buyers had a wide selection of engines, from small inline four and six cylinders to V6 and V8 engines. AMC produced most of the engines because they owned the Jeep brand at the time. Also, Buick produced a 225 V6 known as the Dauntless V6.

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Pierce Arrow

One of the most famous forgotten American luxury brands is Pierce-Arrow. The company started as a truck and engine manufacturer in Buffalo, New York, in 1901. Pierce-Arrow soon moved to luxury models with great success. Right from the start, the company developed a specific style of its cars with flowing lines, headlights incorporated into front fenders, and wild color choices (via Motor-Car).

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But the Great Depression of the late ’20s and early ’30s killed the brand, and this legendary company ceased to exist in 1938. Simply, a small independent company like this couldn’t survive the big recession.

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American Mercedes

No, we are not talking about Mercedes products currently made in the Mercedes Alabama factory; we are talking about a separate brand made in 1904 in Long Island, New York.

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As you can guess, American Mercedes started producing cars under license from Mercedes-Benz Germany. Soon it started developing its versions of vehicles. However, the venture wasn’t successful, and in 1907, American Mercedes closed (via Supercars).

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