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We Haven't Forgotten: Five Classic American Car Names That Were Ruined in the '80s

What’s in a name? When it comes to cars, quite a bit. Automakers have a ton invested in name recognition and the image that comes along with those names. The BMW-built Toyota Supra, the Chevy Blazer Crossover and the upcoming Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV are all examples of iconic names being used in controversial vehicles. But they are far from the first and far from the worst offenders.

Here are five well known and respected American nameplates that have been used on some questionable vehicles over the years. Here’s are five of the worst.

1985-1988 Chevy Nova

The Chevy II and Chevy Nova of the ‘60s and ‘70s were designed to be on the affordable side of the Chevrolet lineup. So in some ways it’s natural that name would be used on a small front-drive compact car in the mid 1980s.

1986 Chevy Nova Side View

But for anyone who grew up with a Nova SS or one of the countless examples modified for racing, seeing the Nova name on rebadged Toyota Corolla is always going to seem disappointing. Hey, at least it was reliable...

1969 Chevy Nova SS 350

1982-1988 Cadillac Cimarron

It’s not just model names that have been disgraced but sometimes entire brands. Just look at the Cadillac Cimarron of the 1980s. Wanting to add a smaller, more affordable offering to its lineup, GM decided to give the Cadillac brand a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Cavalier.

Cadillac Cimarron Front View

Not only did the Cimarron dilute the once great Cadillac brand name, it was a lazy effort all around built on a mediocre car—and it would go on to become one of the most laughed-at cars of the '80s.

1959 Cadillac El Dorado Side View

1978-1983 Dodge Challenger

All through the 1970s up through the 1990s, Chrysler and Mitsubishi had a close relationship that spawned a lot of different cross-badged vehicles, one of which was the 1978-1983 Dodge Challenger.

1978 Dodge Challenger Orange

A re-badged version of the Japan-built Mitsubishi Galant Lambda, the Challenger was a decent looking little coupe for the time, but its diminutive size and four-cylinder engines were a far cry from the muscle-bound Challenger of the early ‘70s. At least Plymouth called its version of this car “Sapporo” rather than “‘Cuda.”

1970 Dodge Challenger 440 Six Pack

1982-1987 Dodge Charger

When Dodge brought the Charger back to the market in the mid 2000s, the car generated some negative reactions from Mopar purists who didn’t like the iconic Charger name being used on a four-door sedan. However this wasn’t the first time the Charger name had been used on a questionable vehicle.

Dodge Charger Hatchback Red

The 1982-1987 Charger did have two-doors like the originals, but it had front-wheel drive, a four-cylinder engine and rode on Chrysler’s L-body platform. While Carroll Shelby and team actually did some impressive work making these 1980s Chargers go fast, we’ll take the modern Hellcats and Scat Pack sedans any day.

1969 Dodge Charger Front View

1988-1993 Pontiac LeMans

Last but not least we get to one our worst offenders. Originally launched in 1963 the Pontiac LeMans was an upmarket version of the Tempest midsize, the LeMans was the model that spawned the groundbreaking GTO in 1964, kicking off the muscle car era.

Pontiac Le Mans Daewoo Hatchback

Needless to say, anyone who grew up around the Pontiac LeMans of the ’60s must have been disappointed to see Pontiac use the nameplate on a rebadged Korean-built Daewoo compact car that it sold in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I guess we are lucky they didn’t make a version with 10 extra horsepower and call it a GTO…

1964 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans

There you have it. Maybe you don't feel so bad about Ford sticking the Mustang nameplate on an electric crossover now... 

  • Don't worry Chevy, there's still room for a reborn Nova that lives up to the car's fanbase. You already built the concept. 
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