Luxury cars have been around almost as long as cars themselves. Some people want power and torque, others want a zippy little car that can corner like it is on rails. Then you have consumers that want luxury. Comfort and style are more important than how fast it is, or how crazy it can corner. When talking about classic luxury cars you can be limited because only a few American models pushed away from power and performance to meet the demand for this sector.
Another question then arises. What collectors consider a great deal may not appeal to another collector at all. A collectible car is defined as a car that has made an impact upon the history of cars, or that was a special edition that had limited production. Others may look at a car as being collectible due to how popular it is. No matter how it is defined, a few cars remain off the radar because of how bad they were, either due to underpowered engines, unreliability, or their price. Let’s look at ten American luxury cars that do not make the cut, no matter how it is perceived.
10 1982 Cadillac Cimarron
The name Cadillac brings back fond memories of parents and grandparents driving around in style. It is a brand that is luxury and class. One that all collectors want to find and restore. Not so with the 1982 Cimarron, though. It is a car best left in the junkyard.
The Cimarron was produced to make an entry-level luxury car available to consumers that would normally not be able to experience how great a Caddy is. It was built on the J platform, the same as the Chevy Cavalier. The luxurious interior sported a leather-wrapped steering wheel and numerous cheap additions. This car was basically a Cavalier with a few changes and a higher price tag—a substantially higher price tag!
9 1989 Chrysler TC
In the ‘80s, Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca formed a working relationship with the head of Maserati, Alejandro de Tomaso and tried to combine the two concepts into a sports car that would take North America by storm. It did cause a storm, but not the type that the two men had hoped for.
The 1989 Chrysler TC was built off the K-car platform, just like the LeBaron that was branded as an entry-level car. The TC (meaning Turbo Convertible) was not a top-end car like the price tag would suggest, and the few tweaks made to the engine simply made matters worse. Styling designs were the final straw for most collectors because this luxury edition sports car had a Maserati symbol stamped on the grille.
8 1958 Edsel
When Ford presented this car two years before the production date it was well-received, but it fell short of the hype that they had built up. The Edsel was built on two different frames, one to compete with Pontiac and Dodge, and the other to compete with Oldsmobile and DeSoto. As soon as it rolled off the production lines a review called it the “Oldsmobile sucking a lemon,” which stuck to the already doomed car.
Unfortunately, the review was close to the truth. The car was plagued with sub-par craftsmanship, and some even showed up at the showroom with notes attached to the steering wheel. A note listing parts and extras that were not included with the car. To this day Americans compare an “Edsel” to any type of commercial failure.
7 1954 Nash/Austin Metropolitan
The Nash was the first attempt by the United States to build a small compact car to go head-to-head against the infamous Beetle. Developer James Mason claimed that it would be a “big car in miniature.” It was designed to be a top-of-the-line luxury car, but it was not met with a great response. It was a commercial failure in the States, and when it was offered to the public in Europe, it failed there as well.
The negative response was attributed to many things. Mediocre performance, modest reliability, poor handling, and maybe the biggest was that America was not ready for a small compact car. The consumers instead leaned more towards full-size cars that had both power and luxury.
6 1980 Chevrolet Corvette California
1980 was a bad year for carmakers, especially in California. The state always had stricter rules than the rest of the country, and when it came to emissions regulations it was no different. The state lawmakers made it mandatory for every ‘Vette that was designed for California roads would be limited to a 185-hp 305 V8.
The luxury car that dominated American sports cars was neutered down to the size of a Citation. A slight exaggeration of course, but it was pathetic compared to the previous years. The 1980 Chevrolet California Edition Corvette is a car serious collectors avoid, opting to go for the more powerful versions sold in every other state in the nation.
5 1981 Cadillac V8-6-4
Variable displacement engines are common today. The idea behind them is that they shut out engine cylinders when they are not needed, which conserves fuel and decreases wear and tear on the motor. Nothing new, just simple technology doing tech things.
Back when the 1981 Cadillac V8-6-4 came into existence it was a foreign concept, to the point of being ahead of its time. The engine itself did switch from 8 to 6 to 4-cylinder capabilities, but it was rough and sluggish when it geared down. The ability was there, but the technology was not.
4 1975 Cadillac Seville
The ‘70s brought about substantial changes for the luxury cars made in America. Foreign cars began taking over the market, offering smaller, more reliable, better fuel-consuming cars with more luxury. This made a car that was a better bang for the buck, so Cadillac was left scrambling to catch up.
They thought they had done it with the 1975 Cadillac Seville, but they were wrong. When it came to style and luxury, Cadillac rose to a level playing field with the foreign cars, but the American cars were not natural sports cars like their rivals. Overall, this first-generation Seville simply did not live up to the hype that Cadillac had put onto it. Yes, it was a decent luxury car, but it is nothing compared to the foreign cars that had flooded the market, leaving them lacking in the gaze of a collector.
3 1978 Oldsmobile 98 Regency
Oldsmobile had the same issues with the foreign luxury cars as did Cadillac above, but in 1978 they both came up with an answer to them. The smaller, comfortable, luxurious Regency was an instant success. The car had risen to be competitive with the others. That is, the ones that came with the gas-powered 350.
Many of the Oldsmobile’s came out with a diesel engine, which caused consumers nothing but issues. Blown head gaskets and sheared off head bolts caused water to get into the oil, causing more complex problems. And the topping on the cake was the failure to add a water separator onto the motor, which is needed on diesel motors. This is a car avoided like the plague by collectors and gearheads alike.
2 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado
The 1979 Oldsmobile Toronado was the first of the third generation. New for the year was the size. The design allowed the car to lose over 1000 lbs in curb weight, but still offered plenty of trunk space. The interior was as luxurious as could be expected for the time period.
The car was an enormous success when it came to sales, showing that the nation was indeed looking for smaller cars to buy. Two problems have caused this car to lose favor with collectors, though. The first one was that, since they were fairly inexpensive to buy used, consumers that wanted luxury for cheap grabbed them up, and let them wither away, making it hard to find one in good condition. The other big reason that this car is avoided is due to the tranny, unless the transmission is going to be swapped out. The Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was known for failing when placed behind a V8.
1 1956 Continental Mark II
The 1956 Continental Mark II was designed by a group of people handpicked by Henry Ford. The idea was to design a car that could compete with Oldsmobile and Cadillac. The design was unique and set the stage for Ford designs for many years to come.
The Mark II may have been a great luxury car if given the chance, but the asking price of the car was around $10,000, which put it up on the same price level as a Rolls-Royce. Many car dealerships would not order them because of the price, which would put a normal car in the red. Since 1956 was hand made the production costs were substantial, and without sales, the losses were large. Ford discontinued this project after just one year, with very few cars ever being built. It might be thought that this would make it a collector’s dream, but the car is simply not worth much even today.
Throughout the years, the luxury car market has been competitive. American cars trying to compete with the foreign models made it imperative to change how things were designed, but when the asking price of the cars reached up to the levels of the imported models, they were overlooked and often times left losing money for the carmakers. Today, luxury is an option available on almost any type of car, except for low-end entry-level versions.
With the oil crisis sucking out all the fun from performance cars, many great sports cars of the ’70s were left underestimated and unappreciated.
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