Currently reading: Don't mess with a classic? The best and worst iconic car revivals
Our Classic and Sports Car colleagues name the cars that have been rightly reborn - and the ones that should have stayed in the past
Autocar
News
5 mins read
5 August 2020

Reviving a classic? Can it ever not be a contentious move? In recent years, nearly every major car marque has indulged in the pursuit, and with Lotus set to revive the Esprit, there's likely to be plenty more in the pipeline.

The stakes are high with classic revivals. It can result in cars like the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera if firms get it right. Though if firms get it wrong, you can end up the recently axed Volkswagen Beetle, too. So which are the best and worst of them? We hand over to our colleagues at Classic & Sports Car to decide.

Greg Macleman, features editor

For better - Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

Where Aston has succeeded with the DBS isn’t in making a car that’s objectively better than its 1960s namesake but in recreating the spirit of the gentleman’s express. Horrendously costly, hugely quick and dripping with cowhide, it’s a car that makes you want to wear string-backed gloves and outrun the gendarmes down to the Riviera. While most reboots leave me longing for the character and purity of the original, the DBS has both qualities in spades. With gorgeous looks and blistering V12 performance, there’s no shame in choosing it over the classic.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Read our review

Car review
Mercedes-Benz G-Class 2019 road test review - hero front

Stuttgart’s big-daddy SUV now offers a genuine 30mpg diesel option, which raises the game for the iconic G-Wagen

Back to top

For worse - Volkswagen Beetle

The new Beetle may have been a hit when the concept was first shown in 1994 but, for me, the design always fell to the wrong side of pastiche. Also consider that the engine is at the wrong end – and completely lacking in character – and you’re essentially left with a chintzy, more expensive and less practical Golf with a vase of plastic flowers stuck on the dashboard. And who wants that?

Alastair Clements, editor in chief

For better - Alpine A110

Back to top

That the original A110 also has a place on my dream list reveals how blown away I was by its reborn namesake: the new Alpine is the closest thing to an instant classic that I’ve seen. Where the old model was gawkily appealing, the newcomer pays homage to its shape without being a pastiche and adds real beauty – particularly in de rigueur French blue. And, like the original, it’s a car that isn’t easy: it requires you to really drive it to get the best from it, and it’s frenetic and fabulous when you do. Best of all, whereas I would have to saw my legs off at the knee and stop eating for a year to sit comfortably in a 1960s A110, the new one fits like a glove. I would pick it not only over the classic but over a Porsche, too.

For worse - DS

I’ve nothing against manufacturers creating a halo marque – the original Lexus LS 400 is an emerging classic, after all – but gift-wrapping a Citroën with plasti-chrome and diamond-stitched cowhides does not a premium brand make. I can live with that, though. The real shame is that, in trying to distance itself from Citroën, the DS brand also distances itself from the piece of automotive art that it should be taking as its very inspiration: the gorgeous original Déesse – a true innovator, not an Audi imitator.

Lizzie Pope, associate editor

For better - Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen

Back to top

I’ve always had a huge soft spot for the Geländewagen, the slice of go-anywhere, boxy brilliance that Mercedes unleashed on the world in 1979. But it lacked that refinement and finesse usually integral to bearers of the three-pointed star – oh and, in its early years at least, it went without eight-cylinder power. Today’s AMG G63 is the perfect update, with serious tech and comfort. And in case you thought it couldn’t get any cooler, it even has side-exit exhausts. It’s still ridiculously capable on and off road, its doors still shut with that wonderful thunk and there’s still nothing else like it. But I still refuse to call it a G-Class.

For worse - Mini

Back to top

It’s a brave company that dares to reinvent an icon. And even setting outdated prejudices aside – and conceding that, yes, it has been a massive sales success – I can’t love BMW’s Mini. It’s everything the original wasn’t – most notably, not mini. As if failing at that most elementary level wasn’t enough, the cartoonish interior that attempts to ape its progenitor’s by patronising its occupants feels terribly forced. The recently introduced Union Jack tail-lights are pretty neat, but that’s not enough to right all the other wrongs.

Damon Cogman, art editor

For better - Toyota Supra

The original Supra spent most of its adolescence mired in mediocrity, with wheezy engines and dull styling. It was basically a Celica wearing a different cardigan. Only when the 1990s dawned did things get interesting, with turbochargers and rear wings sprouting ever skyward and significant cult impact thanks to Fast & Furious fame. The Supra name vanished in 2002 after four generations and 24 years. It took precisely 24 seconds from the announcement of the new BMW-powered version to generate more excitement than all the old ones put together. Japanese styling modernity clothing German engineering gels in a brilliant combination. And it’s better than a Z4.

Back to top

For worse - Vauxhall Viva

The mould-breaking (for Vauxhall) HA Viva was a pretty good car in the 1960s. What followed was the super-stylish HB and HC versions. It wasn’t quite a Ford Capri, but it sold to the tune of more than 1.5 million and lasted more than 15 years. Not bad at all. When the badge reappeared in 2015, stuck over a Chevrolet one, nobody cared enough to stop it disappearing again a mere four years later.

Jack Phillips, deputy editor

For better - Ford Mustang

Back to top

The Mustang is either the ultimate classic car or the ultimate classic car cliché. The latest model is similarly divisive: it depends on which of the former camps you find yourself in. I’m firmly in the latter. Today’s Mk6 car is much more powerful, useful and purposeful, better looking and faster – and comes in right-hand drive. It’s even reasonably priced, regardless of whether or not you overlook the four-cylinder version (file that with the 1980s Fox-body era). The original Mustang trumps its better descendant in the thirst stakes, and not in a good way…

For worse - Toyota FJ

Even if the FJ Land Cruiser didn’t have a growing cult following, the FJ Cruiser would be bottom of my list. Visually, it’s all wrong: overweight where the original was boxily authoritative. That it’s good off road is hard to believe. The only saving grace is you can’t see it while inside it.

Back to top

Join the debate

Comments
20

2 August 2020
What about the fiat 500? Got to be a "for better" surely? It is closer to the original than the mini size wise and always amazed me how it was smaller but more spacious than the mini, like the beetle, which I quite like over the second new one, I don't think it matters that the engine is now in the front, it's a revival of an old name and look/style, not a carbon copy.

2 August 2020

The DBS is a disaster, both in styling and sales, for Aston. Yet another failed design by Marek Reichman, who really should be fired from Aston. That is if you want to save the company.

 

Mine and Beetle a disaster? Nope.

 

I gave up on the article after that...

2 August 2020
Symanski wrote:

The DBS is a disaster, both in styling and sales, for Aston. Yet another failed design by Marek Reichman, who really should be fired from Aston. That is if you want to save the company.

 

Mine and Beetle a disaster? Nope.

No. Wrong. Everyone who have the DBS describes it as a very good looking car meanwhile the New Beetle is a disgusting piece of shit especially when it comes to exterior design.

I gave up on the article after that...

2 August 2020
Govno 2 wrote:

No. Wrong. Everyone who have the DBS describes it as a very good looking car meanwhile the New Beetle is a disgusting piece of shit especially when it comes to exterior design.

They're hardly going to buy a car they didn't like.

 

But then, there's not really enough of those people willing to put their money down on one. And there is Aston's problem. A better designer would have created a far more desireable car and kept Aston afloat.

 

3 August 2020

Not sure what planet you come from but you clearly have no idea about cars, the current DBS is selling more than the similarly badged previous version, the current range of cars are some of teh better looking ones for many years, and clearly if you think the MINI, and Beetle are not awful, that shows what a tool you are, the current MINI, is by far the worst thing that has been developed, they are sold by fools, that do lie to get a sale, thats a fact and one i can easily prove, the Beetle was just a blatent attempt to sell cars based on history, they were no good at anything other than the look of it, but then if you wanted a Beetle, why not just buy a real one, like the Mini, the new MINI is a vile peice of kit, and fails on so many areas, the Beetle has no Go, No Room, No luggage space, poor economy, and dire residules.Can i suggest, as no one else dares too, i just dont care, that you go to the ladies Knitting website, i am sure one exists, and you join that, as you clearly have no idea about cars.... As most of your posts continuously prove.

2 August 2020
si73 wrote:

What about the fiat 500?

Quite - a strange omission seeing as it is probably perceived by most as being much less controversial than the Mini and Beetle.  It looks so good that Fiat have created a rod for its own back in that it's going to be difficult to improve on it.  I am somewhat relieved, seeing as how Fiat have ruined past good designs with unnecessary and clumsy facelifts, that the new electric 500 looks so similar, despite being on a completely different platform.

2 August 2020
si73 wrote:

What about the fiat 500? Got to be a "for better" surely? It is closer to the original than the mini size wise and always amazed me how it was smaller but more spacious than the mini, like the beetle, which I quite like over the second new one, I don't think it matters that the engine is now in the front, it's a revival of an old name and look/style, not a carbon copy.

 

Just compare the height of the Mini and 500, and be amazed no more. 

3 August 2020
scrap wrote:

si73 wrote:

What about the fiat 500? Got to be a "for better" surely? It is closer to the original than the mini size wise and always amazed me how it was smaller but more spacious than the mini, like the beetle, which I quite like over the second new one, I don't think it matters that the engine is now in the front, it's a revival of an old name and look/style, not a carbon copy.

 

Just compare the height of the Mini and 500, and be amazed no more. 

It isn't that much taller and its height is in proportion to its overall size so it isn't too tall. Still consider the mini to be poorly packaged. Thing is, whilst I didn't like the mini when it was launched it has really grown on me, but the latest iterations are far too big and ruin it. I'd have an R50/52/53 without hesitation now.

2 August 2020

Cool, accessible remake of an icon.

2 August 2020

I do so agree about the Beetle, which was just a lumpen pastiche of the original. Interior space is quite tight, with front and rear wings that make the car quite large, yet are just unusable space. The 2.0 litre petrol model I bought had a thirst for fuel that made it a very expensive proposition. It's the one of my many cars that I deeply regret buying and always felt heavy on the road, but not in a reassuring way. The new version of the Viva was just a refreshed Chevrolet Spark and the original may have sold 1.5 million, but most of those rusted away in common with many cars I remember from my youth. I do, however, like the new Mini and I'm sorely tempted by the Mini Electric in level 1 spec.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week