Those vehicles are among the many long-gone models that automakers have recently revived, breathing new life into nameplates that died decades ago.
With the enormous buzz surrounding the release of the Bronco and, now, the newly revealed and revived Jeep Wagoneer SUV, automakers are expected to continue looking into their past to determine their future.
One big reason: It costs a lot to market a new built-from-scratch model that no one’s heard of. In fact, sometimes it can even be hard for automakers to identify an original name.
“When it comes to real words, English words, it’s tough to find some that haven’t already been reserved or purchased, so to speak, and licensed by a car company,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with car-buying site iSeeCars. “So if you still own one of those nameplates, that alone gives you some incentive as an automaker to revive it.”
What else could come back? How about the Cadillac Eldorado? The Chevrolet El Camino? The Dodge Dakota?
Because it’s much easier to attract car buyers to a vehicle that already has name recognition, the temptation to bring the dead back to life is palpable.
What’s tougher to figure out is which dormant nameplate to revive, and when to do it.
“It comes down to how long it’s been gone, whether it was allowed to fade off into the sunset or what was really happening when they stopped,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst for research firm IHS Markit.
It doesn’t always work. Ford revived the Lincoln Continental to critical acclaim in 2017. But the large car never clicked with buyers, mostly because big sedans have fallen out of favor as SUVs surge in popularity.
The Continental was discontinued last year, serving as a cautionary tale for automakers that reviving old names isn’t a guarantee of success.
“Using that name didn’t save the product because the segment was such a struggle,” Brinley said.
General Motors is going beyond bringing back old nameplates by reviving an entirely defunct brand as a new lineup of vehicles. The company is resurrecting Hummer, once known for its gas-guzzling ways, as an electric pickup and SUV under the GMC brand.
That move poses another question: Could other automakers revive long-gone brands, too? How about Pontiac? Plymouth? Saturn?!
Passenger cars have fallen out of favor in recent years, and automakers have dropped family cars like the Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Fit. But muscle cars and sports cars are hanging on, suggesting that some of the long-gone performance vehicles could have a second life.
Let’s be clear, though. Some vehicles are never coming back. Let’s hope the famously faulty Ford Pinto never sees the light of day again.
But as they said in “Game of Thrones,” “what’s dead may never die.”
Here’s a list of vehicle names that seem like the best fit to make a grand comeback.
Rumors have circulated for years that GM was considering reviving this luxury car name, which was originally a stately two-door ride but was discontinued about two decades ago.
“Eldorado could be interesting in some ways, but it would have to speak to what people remember from the last Eldorado,” Brinley said.
Asked by USA TODAY in 2019 whether Cadillac would resurrect any of the brand’s historical names, such as the Eldorado or the Fleetwood, then-Cadillac President Steve Carlisle smiled and said he was “very open-minded” about it.
But since then, GM has decided to turn Cadillac into an electric vehicle brand in the future, with each nameplate ending with “iq,” as in the Cadillac Lyriq.
The Eldoradoiq? That doesn’t work.
This two-door muscle car, gone since the 1970s, was originally a Plymouth brand pony car. Plymouth is long gone, but the company that controls the brand, Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, could choose to revive the Barracuda under a different brand.
How about, say, the Dodge Barracuda or Dodge Cuda?
“To me, that’s an obvious big one that’s been sitting around there for a while, and there’s been rumors that it’s going to come back,” Brauer said. “There’s a lot of enthusiast energy around the term Barracuda.”
Chevrolet El Camino
This combination pickup-car made mostly in the 60s, 70s and 80s has one of the cooler names you can imagine on a vehicle. For that reason alone, you can imagine it coming back.
But is its extended-bed body style necessary in an era defined by larger pickups with more utility?
“The idea of bringing El Camino back has never really gone away,” Brinley said. “We’ve been talking about that one, off and on, for 10 to 15 years. We might find ourselves in a space where it does work.”
If GM brings back the El Camino, Brauer urged the automaker to not introduce it as a “trim level or stylish rebody” of the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup.
“It should be a whole new vehicle,” he said.
But with rumors swirling that Ford is weighing a compact pickup smaller than the Ranger, GM could have an incentive to do it.
Speaking of pickups, this compact or midsize pickup, depending on how you measure it, would seem to be a great fit to bring back.
Stellantis, the company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, owns the Dodge and Ram brands, which are separate these days, as well as Jeep. Ram has the 1500 full-size pickup, and Jeep has the mid-size Gladiator pickup, another vehicle that was recently revived.
But Dodge doesn’t have one.
Could the word’s Native American origins prove problematic at a time when Jeep is under scrutiny for using the Cherokee name?
“I think they’re struggling with whether or not they’re going to do the midsize (pickup) and whether or not to use the name,” Brinley said.
Any Pontiac vehicle (except one)
The Firebird, the GTO, the Fiero, the Vibe. Pontiac had some great nameplates.
But the brand itself was discontinued when GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. At the time, the company was desperate to reduce expenses and complexity, so Pontiac was a casualty.
Could it come back?
Hey, if the once-disgraced Hummer can return, anything’s possible, right?
“Technically they could,” Brinley said. “But there’s not a really clear expectation that it would be as successful.”
Brauer said Pontiac retains a fair amount of cachet among performance car enthusiasts.
Just don’t bring back the much-reviled Pontiac Aztek SUV, a vehicle once drubbed by car-research site Edmunds as “the very worst car of all time.”
“It’s such a bizarre vehicle that was very much loved by its owners and very much vilified by everyone else,” Brinley said.
Buick has largely gotten away from performance cars, so don’t hold your breath for this one.
But it holds a special place in the hearts of Buick aficionados, especially after a snazzy Buick Riviera concept car was introduced as a plug-in in 2013. That vehicle never came to fruition, yet it still resonates.
Just “don’t bring it back on an SUV,” Brauer said.
Pretty much anything from the past that looks like a pickup feels like a candidate for a comeback.
Yes, this four-wheel-drive utility-pickup blend was a little odd. But all things Subaru have been clicking lately, so maybe it’s time to bring this one back about 15 years after it was discontinued.
Dodge tried bringing back a small car about a decade ago: the Dodge Dart compact sedan, which turned out to be a flop, in large part due to uninspired design and engineering.
The Dodge Magnum is a pretty sweet name for a car, but wagons like this one have lost a lot of ground to SUVs.
“I loved the Magnum,” Brinley said. “It was unapologetic about being big and bold and American and kind of in your face.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.