25 May 2012

The automotive threatened, endangered and extinct list

Since the last installment of this story in May, nobody has collected the outstanding reward of $50,000 for conclusive proof of the continued existence of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, nor has anyone insured a Plymouth Champ with classic car insurer Hagerty Insurance. Sadly, both may be extinct. To qualify for the Automotive Threatened, Endangered and Extinct List, a car must have been produced in large numbers (10,000-plus) within the last 40 years with few (if any) roadworthy survivors. Here are some more of our favorite threatened, endangered and extinct cars:

  1. 1980-85 Chevrolet Citation X-11: The Chevy Citation was a car with a checkered past. One of the GM X-cars (“X” now shorthand for “X-tinct”), the first American front-drivers since the Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado of the mid-’60s, it blazed a recall trail that was nothing short of shameful. Any Citation would surely make the Threatened list. Although 1.6 million were built, few are left on the road. The X-11 was the performance version and while more than 25,000 were built, a miniscule number remain. It’s clearly “endangered.”
  2. 1982-88 Oldsmobile Firenza: Based on the same J-body platform as the far more common Chevy Cavalier, the Firenza was positioned as Oldsmobile’s premium compact car. Available with more luxury features than a Cavalier, Olds buyers still preferred their big 88s and 98s. Still, enough of these were sold that one should pop up on the street every now and then. We wait in vain. The Firenza is possibly “extinct.”
  3. 1982-88 Cadillac Cimarron: Perhaps the one car on this list that will generate a hearty “good riddance” the Cimarron was a rather cynical attempt to create a smaller Cadillac. Unlike the new ATS, which really is worthy of the brand, the Cimarron was a thinly disguised Cavalier that wasn’t exactly a cutting-edge compact car. In fact, the Cimarron nearly killed the brand. Happily, most have been laughed off the road at this point; certainly the Cimarron is “endangered.”
  4. 1978-2000 Toyota Tercel: The Tercel was Toyota’s entry-level car, and of all the cars on this list, it’s the one that likely won’t slip quietly into the automotive fossil record. Tercels are as rust-prone as anything Japanese of the era, but they were nearly unkillable mechanically — nearly being the operative word. In the animal kingdom, it often seems like the transformation of habitat into a big-box retail store or a gated community is the thing that pushes a species over the edge. In the automotive world, it’s popularity as a pizza delivery conveyance. When the last Tercel dies, it will likely be with a Dominos sign on the roof. The Tercel is likely “threatened.”
  5. 1987-91 Volkswagen Fox: The Fox was VW’s last attempt at a truly entry-level sub-compact car. The idea was to rekindle the spirit of the Bug with modern water-cooled front-wheel-drive technology. Unfortunately, whereas the German-built Beetle was inexpensive but never cheap, the Brazilian-built Fox screamed “cheap” louder than a cage full of finches. The two-door wagon seems to have the only thing approaching a survival rate, and only because with the rear seats folded down, one can sleep in it. Like the African Bat-Eared Fox, the Brazilian Fox is “endangered.”

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5 Reader Comments

  • 1
    John Kitchener, Ontario December 27, 2013 at 19:04
    1978 to 2000 Tercels are threatened? So, the 1997 Tercel that I drive daily is a rare car? Hmmm...maybe you could survey the area around my house. On any given day, as I drive down the street, there are probably at least 5 or 6 other drivers using their own Tercels for errands, going to work, the usual tasks. It is unlikely they use them for pure pleasure... Mine has 368,000 kilometres showing on the clock, runs sweetly. If you check local scrap yards, you'll still see quite a few in stock....with at least that many kms on them. Now and then a clean 98 or 99 will be listed, asking silly high prices. Usually they actually sell for between $300 and $1000 if in decent shape, although I have seen people asking as much as $3000 for them at a dealer's lot....where they sit, and sit and sit.... I'd say that's above market value unless it's in perfect low mileage shape. There are still two or three older Tercels in use around here. One is a very clean low mileage 1986 two door hatchback...and there was a two tone FWD AL21 wagon in use, too. I have had three of those cars, the AL21 wagons....one a bog slow automatic and the others manual 5 speed cars. I did see one for sale recently in southern Ontario, for less than $1000 asking price. It needed brakes, but the body was still reasonably solid. The ones I had were worked very hard. They carried only a little bit of weight, but they went almost anywhere. They were good for bargain hunting expeditions....
  • 2
    Rob Podell Madison WI December 23, 2015 at 09:32
    In 2009, I was touring Colorado and came across a totally mint Plymouth Champ. I had never seen one before, but I talked to the owner. It had 60k on it, and it was his daily. It might still be around, if I had to guess I would say it was near Walden, CO
  • 3
    Donald Risen California June 22, 2016 at 18:25
    Rare and extinct cars should include my 1955 Hillman Husky Station Wagon.
  • 4
    Joe Central VA June 22, 2016 at 21:41
    Two cars I've owned or almost did here. I really liked our '85 Citation. We got lucky; never had a bit of trouble with it, beyond the poor paintwork. It was a four-door hatch. I'd love an X-11 hatchback, if that car came in that body style. Great storage and decent pickup for a Malaise machine. I almost bought a second-hand red Firenza hatch with a five-speed. Lovely car with low miles, but the dealer wanted too much for it.
  • 5
    Sam DC July 20, 2016 at 14:02
    Dad had a VW Fox Wagon. Why he loved it I'll never know. It did scream cheap and rusted like it was its job. After getting scared about how badly it braked despite all the work he had done, I begged him to sell it and jump into a used Miata instead.. an infinitely better cheap, used car.

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