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.

For worse - Volkswagen Beetle

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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

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

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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

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.

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For worse - Mini

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

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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.

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.

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Jack Phillips, deputy editor

For better - Ford Mustang

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.

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wyaak2 5 August 2020

Another 2

2 more to add on this list:

Hit: AC Cobra - recent updates consistently get good reviews

Miss: MG RV8, which I remember Autocar giving a 2 star road test and the comment that the MGB should have not been disturbed in its grave.

 

streaky 3 August 2020

Why DS?

I don't know why DS is even mentioned here - it hasn't revived any classic at all, just taken a well known badge that, for most, conjures up memories of something entirely different to what its currently being stuck on.  No attempt has been made by either Citroen or this upstart "premium" brand to even suggest any heritage from the wonderful DS car (or the GS, CX or SM for that matter).

jonboy4969 3 August 2020

The DBS is beautiful and

The DBS is beautiful and carries the name with pride and will become a historical wonder, maybe not in the same as the DB5, but wil become an iconic car in it's own right, the DS, why have you put the DS3 awfully ugly heap of C-Rap with this beautiful DS of yesteryear, surely the first generation DS3 should be used, as already stated above, that car is still not a comparison car, the DS9 is the nearest they have to the DS of the 60's so why not use that.

 

 

The MINI is just a bloated rabid heap of P00, The Beetle is a Golf is tarts clothes, and fails at that, Where is the Fiat 500, it is the nearest to the original in looks that the rest, but still over sized, Only idiots that have no clue berate the 2.3 Ecoboost engine in the Mustang, it is still a V6 and still goes like stink, just because it is not a V8 doe snot make it bad, the Foxbody is not my cup of tea, its not the worst Mustang made by far, but Todays car is a better reinvention of the original that any of the other cars in the list.

 

 

The Toyot ais nice, but the original cant be beaten, it was harsh, noisy, uncomfortable and served a purpose that only the Land Rover was better at achieving, the newer one, was just another blatent attempt to cash in on history, it sold reasonably well, in the first year or two but then fell off a cliff. Today's Alpine is a brilliant car, thats not to be argued about, Renault have pulled out all the stops on it, and have hit the nail on the head, it has, the looks of the original looks with the modern tech but does not take anything away from its heritage like the MINI or Beetle, they have just raped the history and failed, (sales are not at question, just design), the Vauxhall is another car that is in a different range, the Viva HA, HA & HC were all family saloon cars, the newer Viva is a City car Hatchback, so like the Citroen, non comparable cars, the new Viva is just a rebadge Spark, i believe, and that car, albeit, a sales success for Chevy, is not really a good car, the Viva has taken all the bad parts of the Chevy and sorted them out, its not a bad car, just not good enough, it sold reasonably well in Europe, as the Karl, but ifear Viva was wrong choice of name, and they should have given it more funky colours and graphics, it might have sold more than the MG3, which has been a success for MG because of this.

 

The G-Wagon is without doubt a tour de force, and a car that has been developed over decades to be a car that is truly a great car, its like the Range Rover, it too has been developed from its origins to uber luxury too, both have remained the same shape, albeit bigger, both have the over looks carried across and with some similarities in interior designs, all to keep that historical sameness, the G-Wagon though is not a replacement new model as, like the Range Rover, it has never been out of production, so has just improved, like a fine wine, with age, which is no difference to the MK I Focus and the current one, the same name, same style, just improved with each new generation. The Toyta Supra, is another brilliant car today, with both Toyota and BMW at the helm, you get the reliability of Toyota, lacking in BMW's, and the ompff of the BMW's with driveability too, that a lot of Toyota's fail to get to grips with, the design is brilliant too, and i believe that it is currently one of teh best looking two door coupe's available today, within that price scale.As i mentioned above, there are a lot of issues with the piece posted, and those that have written them seem to have little knowledge about historical cars, with incorrect pictures, and, incorrect comparisons, Autocar has become a former shadow of it's self over the alst few years, and i hate to say its now heading down to Auto Express levels, and that pile of horsey smell, is the worst car magazine in existance.

xxxx 5 August 2020

Lot of insults there, best get things right then

jonboy4969 wrote:

Only idiots that have no clue berate the 2.3 Ecoboost engine in the Mustang, it is still a V6 and still goes like stink, just because it is not a V8 doe snot make it bad, ..

Would those idiots be the one's that know it's not a V6.

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