6 May 2013

Tough Automotive Acts to Follow: Five Sequels that Couldn’t Match the Originals

Most of the time, the automotive world doesn't serve up a "Godfather II," the rare sequel that is the equal or better of the original. Sometimes, you get "Godfather III." Here are cars that today are regarded as classics in their own right, but initially had a hard time living up to the legacy of their predecessors:

  1. 1958 Thunderbird: The original two-seater 1955-57 Thunderbirds — or “Baby Birds” — were recognized as classics almost as soon as they went out of production. They were replaced by a larger four-seater that came to be known as “The Square Bird.” While the Square Bird was an immensely popular car that handily outsold its predecessor, the original two-seater remains the one that most people think of when the topic of T-Birds comes up.
  2. 1979 Datsun 280ZX: The 280ZX had the misfortune of following one of the all-time greatest classic sports cars, the Datsun 240/260/280Z. And it also committed the cardinal sin in the eyes of sports car enthusiasts (although not necessarily in the eyes of the buying public) of being heavier and more luxurious. It was derided by the magazines of the time as being a flashy “discomobile,” and collectors are only now starting to realize the merits of the comfy and more grownup ZX.
  3. 1971 Oldsmobile Toronado: The first generation Toronado that appeared in 1966 was a stylistic and engineering tour de force. Reminiscent of the great classic Cord 810 of 1936, it was a milestone car for GM. Hardly anyone remembers its successor, the second generation Toronado. Where the ’66 broke the mold, the ’71 was the mold for generic American luxury cars of the 1970s. 
  4. 1976 Jaguar XJS: This one had the extreme misfortune of replacing one of the most beautiful cars of all time, the Jaguar E-Type. So naturally, people were predisposed to hate it when it came out. Other than initial quality control issues, which have become legendary, the XJS was neither a bad nor ugly car — quite the contrary. But for Jaguar, lightning just couldn’t strike twice: There was simply no way that the XJS could be as lovely as the E-Type.
  5. 1974 Ford Mustang II: The early 1970s were dark times for the automobile. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 put the brakes on large displacement high performance engines. What was Ford to do about cars like the Mustang, whose reputation was built on V-8 performance? Replace it with a four-cylinder version based on the Pinto, of course. Although V-6s and V-8s were offered, it was the sting of the anemic four-banger that stuck with the II until Ford replaced it in 1979 with what would become the very good and very popular Fox body Mustang.

8 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Paul Duca United States May 8, 2013 at 01:23
    The Mustang II was designed and on the market by the time of the Arab oil embargo in October 1973.
  • 2
    Lee SF Bay Area May 8, 2013 at 14:52
    Is it just me or is the order reversed? While the 58 T-bird was a total shift from the original, it is still a good looking car. The mustang II was an absolute travesty. The only redeeming quality it has is that the frame (e.g., the front clip) components are cheap and useful in modifying and/or building other cars.
  • 3
    Terry Sacramento May 8, 2013 at 14:55
    I like reading Hagerty's articles (Thank you!), but I'm always frustrated that no photos are included when clicking on the specific car model links. Why is that?
  • 4
    AJ Ross NY State May 8, 2013 at 15:28
    Ford went into a panic. The Pontiac Trans Am offered the 455SD up to 1974 and offered a 455 up 1976. The hp might have been down but they are torque monsters. Not to mention how well they respond to routine modification. The Baby Birds are all time classics to be sure. The square birds, well not too many folks realize that they were raced in the first Daytona 500, one in the top 3. What ford did not do is put much "thunder" under the hood.
  • 5
    Tom Pittsburgh May 8, 2013 at 17:32
    I'm sure the author puposely wanted to limit this article to 5. But there are more. For example, what about the 1983–1987 Dodge Charger? The FWD L-body Charger was definitely a big shock compared to its B-Body big brother of the past. Sure, the Shelby Charger was somewhat interesting for cars of that era, but also easily forgettable unlike the '69 Charger, which most car enthusiasts never forget.
  • 6
    Chuck McDonnell Mystic ct May 9, 2013 at 00:12
    I'm in the minority, but I still love the mustang II Ghia with the 302. Mine is a 1978 Black Ghia w/ the 302, tan Vinyl top, tan interior and gold lace wheels. It runs well is comfortable, handles decently and gets better gas mileage than my 1965 289 mustang. The only thing I wish the car had is a 4 speed rather than the automatic. The car I aways felt has the lines of a baby 450SL Mercedes. Perhaps some day these Mustangs II will get the respect they deserve. They're certainly a lot more rare than almost any other production mustang on the road. When was the last time you saw a really nice mustang II at your weekly cruise in? When and if my Mustang II engine bites the dust perhaps a replacement with a smog free 302 and a 4 speed is the way to go. just my opinion but let's give some respect to the baby mustangs. We certainly adore our baby birds. Chuck
  • 7
    ANDY MELDERIS Canada May 11, 2013 at 07:09
    Just like the first Mustang, the Mercury Cougar suffered the same fate of becoming a luxury personal land yacht. The original spirit of the car was lost. It should have been kept a Pony car.
  • 8
    Mr. Bill California October 1, 2015 at 14:17
    Got to second Andy M. on the Cougar. Original was a beautiful car, great lines. The Cougar line ended ingloriously with a bloated 4 door sedan that was an abomination. Long time back but I seem to remember the Ford LTD (nice) turned into the not-so-nice LTD II.

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