Look, we don’t want to come over all ‘old man shouts at cloud’ here, but this one hurts. It’s the perfect case study of the cars we used to want, versus the cars the world wants now. In 1997, Ford’s idea for a healthier bottom line was to take the humble Mk4 Fiesta, clothe it in a feline two-door body, have chassis genius Richard Parry-Jones set up the handling, and develop a completely bespoke, Yamaha-honed 1.7-litre, 123bhp engine that was exclusive to the Puma. The Focus, Ka and even the Fiesta never got a sniff. It was a smash hit, out-driving the mainstream coupe rivals of the time, which, in fairness, were rubbish. We’re talking dullards like the Corsa-based Vauxhall Tigra and Renault’s Megane Coupe. Puma MkI was euthanised in 2002 and never replaced.
Fast-forward to 2019 and coupes are dead in the water. Hatchbacks don’t spawn two-doors; they’re the launchpad for the opposite: taller, ruftier crossover SUVs. And so, the Puma’s morphed into yet another take on the well-trodden Qashqai & Co cliche. It’s all a bit off-the-shelf. More 2019ness comes in the form of a hybrid drivetrain. Ford promises it’ll handle, well, like a Ford, but we’ll be consoling ourselves in the brilliant Fiesta ST instead.
Difficult act to follow, the ol’ best-selling car in the whole entirety of history. But Volkswagen’s 2012 reincarnation, the ‘new new’ Beetle, particularly failed to hit the spot. The first reincarnation’s friendly retro bubble-car design was swapped for a slightly squared-off look that left the Beetle in no man’s land between authentically kitsch and downright cute. And when VW already had the fine Golf and handy Scirocco on its books, the Beetle felt and drove like a bit of an undeveloped afterthought. It went out of production in July 2019. As if you noticed.
A car for the baby boomer who refused to buy a Japanese hi-fi because of that film they saw about Pearl Harbour, this one. Ford resurrected the Thunderbird in 2001, five years after the unbroken line of models bearing the name stretching back to the Fifties lapsed. Retro styling followed the trend of the (then) New Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser and other early Noughties rubbish. Underneath, it was a Jaguar S-Type, hauled along by an anaemic 252bhp V8. After a strong first year, it tanked, and was quietly snuffed out for good after only three and a half years.
It’s 2009 and Ferrari has a problem. It does a fine line in supercars, but it wants to pinch sales from the more relaxed likes of Aston Martin, Bentley and Mercedes. It wants an entry-level car to encourage new people to the Ferrari brand. So, Maranello decides to dust off one of the most evocative names in its repetoire: the California, as worn by the multi-million-pound 250 GT California SWB (a darling of auction houses everywhere), and apply it to a new front-engined, open-top sports car. Fab idea.
The execution, including a folding hard-top roof and dumpiest rear this side of a Pontiac Aztek was not, it’s fair to say, Ferrari’s finest work to look at, and it wasn’t much cop to drive either, thanks to the roof system’s sheer heft. Ferrari fettled the power and the handling, tried again with the styling when the car was turbocharged, then gave up on the Cali altogether. These days, it’s morphed into the Portofino – a name with no history to sully.
Here’s where the marketing sorts earn their wedge. Porsche has just lumbered the sublime Cayman and Boxster twins with laggy, rough-sounding turbo’d 4cyl boxer engines in an effort to improve their in-lab CO2 emission results. How to convince buyers that the cylinder and noise downgrade was actually in the spirit of the brand? By rummaging through the family archive and slapping on a badge from the Sixties 718 which had – you guessed it – a mid-mounted four-cylinder engine. The hoodwink worked flawlessly, which is why Porsche has just gone to the trouble of doing a new flat-six, non-turbo engine for the 718 Cayman GT4…
Hands up who remembers this thing? Citroen’s 2003 homage to the ultra-cheap, versatile, egg-carrying-across-a-field 2CV was, well, a four-wheeled frog with multiple roofs. By removing the thickset roof rails, hapless Pluriel owners could configure their mobile teapot as a full roadster, a pickup truck, or with the roof structure left in place, a coupe. Or a semi-cabrio landaulet thingy. Still, enough eccentrics were happy with their flatpack Citroen that it lasted on sale for seven years. Which is about as long as it took to refit the infernal scaffolding.
Range Rover SV Coupe
Ah, the classic Range Rover silhouette, rejuvenated for the 21st century. As SUV sales boom across the board and luxury players such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce wade into the fray (in their designer wellies), Land Rover decided it ought to have a bit of the action, by deleting the Rangie’s back doors and charging £240,000 for each of the 999 units of the ‘Range Rover SV Coupe’ it promised. Bespoke leather and trim were lavished upon the cabin. A supercharged V8 came as standard. Not that it helped. A year after being revealed, the SV Coupe was quietly axed. Meanwhile, classic Range Rovers have never been more valuable.
BMW 8 Series
The old BMW 8 Series was a deeply cool thing. It had POP-UP HEADLIGHTS, after all, and could be specified with a V12 engine and manual gearbox. And it looked the business. The new one, meanwhile, is a tad disappointing. It’s less special than its rivals by some margin, and doesn’t do enough to stand-out from other cheaper BMWs. The old 8 was a proper halo car, the new one is just a big BMW.
And just to properly close the book on resurrecting much-loved old cars that ought to have been allowed to rest in peace, it’s over to Japan for your regular slice of Mitsuoka lunacy. This is the Viewt. The Viewt is an old Nissan Micra, onto which a facsimile of the Jaguar Mk2’s face – and arse – has been grafted. According to one well-known online encyclopaedia, 12,000 of these hideous abominations have been flogged – to people of questionable spatial awareness, we presume – since 1993. What is it about Micras and bad retro facelifts? This mess, the Figaro… why?