Cars We Once Thought Were Lame, But Are Totally Cool Now

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Every car can’t experience the Corvette effect. Immediate icon status upon initial introduction isn’t guaranteed. And yet, not every dud remains doomed permanently either. Some cars started out lame and wound up being cool later on — much later on for most of the ones in the list below. 

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1. Chevrolet El Camino

Everyone had their panties in a bunch and knickers in a knot when the El Camino first came out in 1959 — they all thought the car was ugly and nonsensical. Um, hello? It’s a damn car with a truck bed on it. The thing is sweet. These days, people are much more enlightened from an automotive standpoint and can appreciate the El Co’s quirkiness rather than condemn it for it. 

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2. AMC Pacer

Retro things are all the rage these days, but here’s the kicker: You have to wait for something to become retro before it can be cool. The AMC Pacer transformed from a fishbowl on wheels to a nostalgic retro ride that people find quirky and charming in an endearing way, rather than decades ago when that was the very thing people ridiculed the compact car for. The Pacer is proof that lameness has an expiration date.

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3. Ford Falcon

During its debut, the Ford Falcon’s biggest downfall is that there were so many other sweet rides in the ’60s that were so eye-catching and iconic, they made the Falcon fall flat. When it came out, the Falcon was marketed for its fuel efficiency and practicality which elicited utter disinterest among auto enthusiasts at the time. These days, the car’s connection to the legendary muscle car era have cemented it as a cool ride after all.

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4. Chevrolet Vega

In the same way that old, corny movies become cool and quirky enough to become cult classics, the Chevy Vega went from being lame and lackluster to a beloved classic. The Vega was plagued by problems during its heyday from poor engine durability and rust to fall-flat performance. Nowadays, the former automotive disappointment proves that the bones mean the most when it comes to a good hot rod — the car is pretty, and the mechanics can be modified. 

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5. AMC Gremlin

AMC’s notoriously peculiar rides were once made fun of and are now seen as iconic. It’s like their calling card. The Gremlin’s name was just the introductory offbeat feature of the compact car — from its unusual shape to its size, this ride was what modern-day memes are made of, a target for easy jokes. These days, the Gremlin’s distinctive character is seen as bold and daring rather than out-there and off-putting.

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6. Nash Metropolitan

Once dismissed as a quirky and underpowered subcompact car, the Nash Metropolitan has since become a beloved icon of vintage automotive design. Introduced in the 1950s, the Metropolitan’s tiny stature and whimsical styling made it an oddity, often overshadowed by larger, more powerful vehicles of its time. Enthusiasts now admire its retro appeal, compact efficiency, and historical significance.

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7. Dodge Lancer

Introduced in the early 1960s, the Lancer was initially overlooked in a market crowded with more powerful and flashy vehicles. Its modest design and performance led many to view it as a practical but uninspiring choice. Looking at pictures of it these days, that notion would induce head scratching. Over the years, car enthusiasts have come to appreciate the Lancer for its distinctive mid-century styling and potential for customization. Restored and modified Lancers are now celebrated for their vintage appeal and unique character, embodying the charm of an era when automotive design was transitioning into new and exciting directions. 

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8. Aston Martin Lagonda

The Aston Martin Lagonda was more like the Aston Martin Lamegonda when it was introduced in 1974. Its futuristic, wedge-shaped body and then-revolutionary digital dashboard were seen as overly ambitious and therefore problematic. People were intimidated and off-put by its radical design as much as its high cost. Nowadays, its blend of luxury and futurism is seen as daring and iconic, and it’s earned a special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts and collectors.

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9. Chevrolet Corvair

The Chevrolet Corvair, once infamous for its safety controversies and mechanical issues, has undergone a dramatic reevaluation and is now cherished as a classic icon. Launched in 1960, the Corvair’s innovative rear-engine layout and sleek, European-inspired styling initially garnered interest — it was even Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 1960. However, its reputation took a severe hit following Ralph Nader’s critique in “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which highlighted its handling problems and led to a decline in its popularity. Despite these challenges, car enthusiasts have rekindled their appreciation for the Corvair, valuing its unique engineering and distinctive look. Restored Corvairs, with their iconic design and vintage appeal, have become sought-after collectibles, celebrated at car shows and by classic car aficionados. 

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10. Plymouth Fury

When the Plymouth Fury came out in 1956, it was more like a fizzle than a fury. This car’s biggest challenge was that it set sail into a sea of more celebrated, flashier muscle cars. It was simply overlooked. Over the years, the Fury’s distinctive design, especially the models from the late 1950s and 1960s with their dramatic tailfins and powerful V8 engines, has gained a passionate following. Car enthusiasts now appreciate the Fury for its blend of style and performance, as well as its role in iconic cultural moments, like its starring role in Stephen King’s “Christine.” 

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11. DeLorean DC-12

You all know the drill with the DeLorean. It was weird as hell and pretty well ugly when it came out. Enter “Back to the Future.” Just like that, this thing was permanently engrained in automotive history and pop culture all at once. There was no turning back, even at 88 miles per hour. 

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12. Buick Grand National

The Buick Grand National, once dismissed as an unremarkable and boxy car, has ascended to iconic status in the world of classic cars. Released in the 1980s, the Grand National initially struggled to stand out. Its plain, all-black exterior and conservative design did little to capture the imagination of car enthusiasts at the time. Over time, car aficionados began to recognize the Grand National’s unique blend of understated style and surprising power. 

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Honorable Mentions

The list of cars that did’t raise eyebrows at first but are turning heads now is abundant, and we’d be remiss not to call out a few honorable mentions:

  • Chevrolet Chevette
  • Ford Pinto
  • Plymouth Superbird
  • Ford Edsel
  • Pontiac Trans-Am

This story was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Image Credit: Different_Brian/istockphoto.

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