Fake Fast: 5 Automotive Sticker Packages That Over-Promised and Under-Delivered
The auction houses today might be dominated by classic big-block muscle and exotic sports cars from days gone by, but the reality is few of us actually had the dough to roll in these kinds of rides when they were new. Instead, our longing to drive something fun and exciting was seized on by marketing departments well-attuned to manipulating the heartstrings of enthusiasts and convincing them to get behind the wheel of a vehicle that was a little more budget-friendly—especially if it was covered in cool decals or a wing or two.
Most of the time, these sticker-package specials promised fun, but delivered only disappointment. Let's check out five of the worst "fake fast" special edition cars to have hit the domestic scene.
1. 1976 Dodge Charger Daytona
The Charger Daytona name was made famous by its brief dominance of NASCAR before the winged monster was banned for being a little too serious about high-speed aerodynamics. Never one to let a great name rest in peace, Chrysler decided to sully the Daytona badge by affixing it to the decidedly pedestrian full-size Charger coupe starting in 1976.
What set the Charger Daytona apart from its lineup mates? Well, there was a big billboard tape stripe on the rear fender…and then another matching stripe on the front fender, and part of the door…and a black grille. Oh, and you could also get turbine wheels, and if you ordered a tan car, then the stripes came in a darker tan, too.
Conspicuously absent from the equation was performance. Although the Daytona was offered with both a 360 ci and 400 ci engine, both were identical to the smog-choked V8s found in any other Charger model, and were, at best, a consolation prize
2. 1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I
The malaise era was a burial ground for anything resembling speed, and even the once-mighty Mustang was no exception to this rule. By 1974 the pony car had moved to the plain Pinto platform, which conspired with EPA regulations and surging fuel prices to limits its horizons.
Desperate to turn the heads of potential buyers who may have had fond memories of the Mustang's past, Ford trotted out the Mach I moniker and passed it onto the Mustang II's black-painted rocker panels using the same script that had once adorned the considerably-quicker O.G. model. There was no V8 under the hood for that initial year, just an anemic 2.8L V6 that produced barely enough grunt to keep the alternator spinning. Oh, and horizontally-striped polyester seats. Truly a fitting epitaph for a legend, and a diss that wouldn't be corrected until the New Edge Mustang resurrected the Mach 1 and gave it the 32-valve horsepower it deserved.
3. 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix Richard Petty Edition
From the '70s, we zoom ahead to the early '90s to come face-to-face with the epitome of marketing group think: the NASCAR tie-in. Unfortunately for GM, this particular era of stock car competition was the thin end of the wedge that would push the cars racing on Sunday increasingly farther apart from the ones sold on Monday.
Case in point—the 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix was indeed a two-door coupe with a vaguely-similar profile to its NASCAR sibling, but it featured a front-wheel drive setup motivated by a 3.4L V6 rather than the V8 Cup car's rear-wheel drive layout. Oh, and it also came with one quarter of the horsepower.
None of this daunted the folks at Pontiac who were itching to cash-in on celebrate the legacy of racing legend Richard Petty, who was retiring from active competition that very same year, while spending the least amount of money possible. The solution was to stick a "Richard Petty Edition" sticker on the front doors, a spoiler on the trunk and jack up the price, all while limiting production to a mere 1,000 examples.
Would you believe that each and every one of these were sold? At least you could order the car with a five-speed.
4. 1978 Dodge Aspen Super Coupe
By the mid-'70s Dodge was no longer convinced that a simple call-out to the ghosts of performance past would be enough to sell a mid-pack coupe. Enter the Aspen Super Coupe, a model that swapped "SC" for the "R/T" of previous years in a bid to boost its profile during one of the darkest times in American automotive performance.
Again, it was a case of trying to distract would-be customers with as many add-ons as possible to keep them from looking at the numbers on the dyno sheet. Even the biggest V8 offered in the Aspen barely made it to 175hp, so Dodge splurged on fender flares, window louvers, stripes that ran from the leading edge of the front fender to the top of the B-pillar, a matte black hood and of course, a special…horn? To be sure, the car came with a stiffer suspension package, making it one of the few on this list to at least nod in the general direction of fun, but with just over 500 built, very few Mopar fans took the bait.
Fun fact: Chrysler tried to get some mileage out of Richard Petty too in 1978 by offering the "Kit Car" alongside the Super Coupe. Again, it was all about the look—exposed fasteners, windshield tie-downs, spoiler under the front bumper and on the trunk, 43 decals on the doors and no hub caps—and not anything actually approaching race car readiness. Petty left Dodge that same year, forcing Chrysler to stop all Kit Car sales with only 145 Aspens (and close to 250 Plymouth versions) having made it out the door.
5. 1975 Ford Maverick Grabber
At first blush, there's not a lot to hate about the Maverick. Ford knew what it was doing when it introduced this low-cost leader to slot in below the Mustang, and its combination of decent styling with an affordable price endeared it to first-time buyers and bargain-hunters alike.
Still, the product planners couldn't leave the Maverick well enough alone, which lead to the sad saga of the "Grabber" package. Although the Grabber was sold for most of the Maverick's initial run, we're singling out 1975 because that was the year its available 5.0 V8 engine dropped all the way from the 205hp of '71 to the 129 that would sweep the floor for the Grabber's demise in favor of 1976's "Stallion" package. A V6 was available, too, in case you hated yourself that much.
What did the Grabber get you? By 1975, not much. The trunk spoiler and fake hood scoops that had initially been a part of the package were long gone by that point, but you still got stripes, and, um, fog lights? Oh, and decals on the fenders, of course. Somehow, Ford moved 138,000 Grabbers, a huge number until you consider it's less than five percent of the 2.1 million Mavericks that were sold in total.