Flashes in the pan: 7 cars that flamed out in no time


Bringing a new car to market is never cheap. Automakers spend millions of dollars developing, testing, and certifying a model before it ever goes on sale. But sometimes, the finished product vastly misses the mark. The only choice is to kill it before the losses mount.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/03/30/flash-in-the-pan-cars

Interesting post. I had forgotten about a couple of these and it was a good refresher.

I am reminded of how the '62 Dodge & Plymouth models were shunned by consumers and due to the disastrous sales year that was 1961, the Chrysler board of directors was seriously considering giving the Dodge brand the axe. But for strong pushback by the stockholders it might just have gone that way as Plymouth (as was the norm) was out-selling Dodge by a fair margin.

In order to solve the problem it was determined to immediately redesign the Dodge body but there was practically no time left for that exercise. So, designers went to the abandoned DeSoto brand and pulled designs intended for the 1962 (or perhaps '63 models, I don’t accurately recall) and used them to create what became the 330, 440 and 880 series Dodge; a design that sold exceedingly well as it resonated favorably with the customers as a more conventional and modern offering.

Who would have imagined that the beleaguered (and by then defunct) DeSoto would be instrumental in saving the great (almost iconic) Dodge brand? But such is life in the automotive world and the rest, as they say, is history.

An interesting side note is that the '62 Dodge and Plymouth 2 door hardtops and in particular the post 2dr hardtops are some of the most sought after bodies among serious '60’s era MoPar restorers and muscle car builders. Go figure…


Fun piece! Minor point of information: The V8-6-4 was available on every '81 Cadillac, including the Seville (the only model for which it wasn’t standard). While the standard Seville engine was the equally ill-fated diesel V8, you could select the V8-6-4 as a credit option. Your third choice was the 4.1L (gas) V6, which surprisingly out-output the diesel not only in hp but torque as well.


@roadtripchris - Not a lot of attractive engine options looking back!

1 Like

Not any, some might say!


It’s true that the Cougar shared Fox chassis elements with the Capri, the closest sibling was the Fairmont, (commonly known as the "Fair Amount of S&%t!) in that era. Lots of steaming heaps have been deposited over the years - the Edsel probably being the most celebrated of the North American Producers, but who could forget the “TC by Maserati”, the Chevrolet SSR, Cadillac Cimarron, and countless others from OEMs domestic AND imported!


@roadtripchris We’ve updated the story, FYI.

1 Like

Thanks, Mike! It’s a well-done, fun piece.


I bought a low mileage 1981 Cadillac sedan Deville in 1983. The 4 6 8 engine worked perfectly! Sold it to a neighbor in 1985, who drove until he died. A production line change in April, 1981, eliminated most of the problems–I bought a post change model.


It seems to me that you might have missed the Chrysler/ Maserati TC. You know the Italian K Car!


The whole two seat market collapsed in the early 90’s not just the Cadillac Allante. Buick Reatta, Pontiac Fiero, Ford Thunderbird, Chrysler TC. Crossfire, Pontiac Solstice, Plymouth Prowler didn’t fare much better. British marques like MG and Triumph simply no longer exist.


A couple of Cadillac points: The Allante by 1993 was a very good car as you mention and actually by 1993 it was one of if not the highest quality vehicles in the corporation and won several awards stating this fact. The 1981 V8-6-4 Cadillac 368 engine had issues the first year no doubt but actually went on to power the Cadillac Limousine models through 1984 and was quite reliable.


Lincoln Blackwood was very similar to the F150 Harley Davidson of 2002-2003. I have one of those and see a Blackwood once in while. The HD is a Crew cab with a supercharged Triton V8 (5.4 L) engine. HP not too impressive (350?) but torque was 465 lb. ft. and it was easy to chip this engine and use larger pulleys for the supercharger. Rear drive only, The sticker was about $52K then. With so few Blackwoods produced, I can see it gaining in value.


One thing not mentioned on the Allante is that Cadillac offered a depreciation program with the first cars (if not all of them) that the depreciation would not be more than the “comparable” Mercedes Benz SL (R107). When Mercedes dropped the 560SL (R107) a number of MB people decided that they liked the old SL better and depreciation numbers changed beyond the expectations that Cadillac had. I believe that this was a factor in ending the Allante as well. Maybe an old Cadillac dealer out there can comment on this?


I was a Lincoln dealer back when the Blackwood was introduced. The only problem with trying to sell it in the Northeast was the rear-wheel drive only. As usual, Ford Division ruled the roost at Ford Motor Company and wouldn’t allow Lincoln-Mercury any products that might impact their sales. I ended up dealer-trading our one-and-only Blackwood to a dealer down South.


There seems to be two themes here. Single year models like the ‘77 Cougar Wagon and single year engines like the Northstar in the Allante. There are plenty of the latter and far fewer of the former. How about the 1978 Oldsmobile Toronado XLR or 1970 Chrysler H300 Hurst, both which had their own unique designs? One year only paint and badging specials should not be included either. The Jaguar XKSS would qualify as would the Maserati Quattroporte II although perhaps tiny production numbers would exclude them.


Speaking of the 60s,

Chevy had a lot of 1-year only models in the corvair line.

Specifically, the Ramp side pickup
the Greenbriar van
and the Lakewood.

All decent looking vehicles, just one year only the lot of them.


@01ksdavis - The Corvair did have a one-year-only, but it was the 1960 model and that still shared both name and some styling with the '61-64 models

The Greenbrier was a 1961-65 run, the Corvan (windowless Greenbrier) and Rampside were 1961-64, while the Loadside (Rampside with no side ramp) was '61 and '62. Corvanatics details the production numbers in a chart here.

The Lakewood (wagon) was '61 to '63.


Borrego has to be one of the most poorly timed vehicle launches of the century. It hit right as gas prices shot up in 2008 and people started abandoning large, RWD/AWD SUVs in droves. Just a few years earlier, or even later, and it could have been a cash cow. Only this year are they getting back into the large SUV game with the Telluride, and that is a FWD vehicle deep-down.


I stand corrected. For some reason, around here, the only models that weren’t traditional sedan/convertible corvairs around these parts were all from 63.

You know what they say about assuming =)