5 December 2014

Four-Wheeled Fun: Our five favorite forgotten AWD cars

With winter hitting a fair chunk of the country right now, it seems only right to highlight some of the lesser-known AWD vehicles from our automotive past. Completely by accident, this list starts with fairly attractive vehicles, and it is all downhill from there.

  1. Toyota Celica GT-Four All-Trac Turbo: One of my favorite lesser-known AWD vehicles, the Toyota Celica GT-Four All-Trac Turbo was not only attractive but packed a punch compared to the standard Celica seen in many high school parking lots. The intercooled turbo four-cylinder engine was capable of producing over 200 hp and 200 lb-ft. Plenty of power for helping you through some snow drifts on your way to work, or getting air over some crests in a rally stage.

    [Related Article: Winter Wonders: Classics that can handle the snow]

  2. Mitsubishi Galant VR-4: Sitting on top of the Galant line, this Evolution predecessor was limited in the USDM to only 3,000 units reaching our shore from 1991-1992. Any owner of the Galant VR-4 will proudly show you the production number plate on the dash. While the stock 237 hp from the factory is nothing to be ashamed of, the tuner favorite 4G63T engine is capable of making this an alarming sleeper car.

  3. Honda Civic Wagovan AWD: I don’t know which I love more — the prospect of an AWD Civic (I’m a fan) or the fact that they named this the Wagovan. While you won’t be passing any other car on this list while driving one, you will get a fair number of people commenting, “I’ve never seen one of these.”

    [Related Article: It's time for winter storage preparation]

  4. AMC Eagle Kammback: Any list of odd AWD vehicles is going to include the Eagle wagon we all know and love, but if you want to get even weirder, here is the Kammback. Utilizing the aerodynamics derived from Wunibald Kamm, the Eagle Kammback was available for two whole years. AMC dropped the Kammback in 1983 due to slow sales after only 6,123 made it to the streets.

  5. Toyota Previa S/C AWD: Okay, this is not a car, it’s a van. But it’s an undeniably cool van. Toyota decided to produce a jelly bean, then super charge it and push the power to all four wheels. The Roots-type supercharger provided 6psi through the air-to-air intercooler pushing the 2.4-liter four cylinder to an “impressive” 160 hp.

    [Related Article: Let it snow: Classic designs that you don't have to put away until summer]

  6. Pontiac 6000 STE AWD: I know, Pontiac and AWD go hand in h… wait, what? For a whole two years (I’m sensing a pattern here) Pontiac offered the 6000 STE that could turn all four wheels. The fairly standard 3.1-liter V-6 had 135 hp. Not a crazy amount, but still enough to get you down the road in 1988. With hopes to compete with BMW and Audi, the Special Touring Edition fell short in multiple categories.

51 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Dennis SE Kansas December 10, 2014 at 17:11
    I had a 1985 6000 STE that was FWD. It was a great car. It had a pigskin suede interior that wore like iron. Never considered it as BMW or Audi competitor, but it was a heck of lot better than the rest of what the big 3 had to offer at the time. I owned it 7 years and the subsequent owner had it another 3 and together we put well over 150,000 miles on it with no major issues other than routine service.
  • 2
    Marc Ogren Renton, WA December 10, 2014 at 17:13
    Can't imagine how you include a minivan and leave off the Subaru SVX. Radical styling and a state of the art 230 hp, dohc, flat six with coil over plug distributorless ignition.
  • 3
    Tom Giffen United States December 10, 2014 at 17:59
    With the exception of the Mitsubishi and possibly the Celica and Civic, all of these require a Groucho mask to drive. The Pontiac- really? The Civic is a useful and reliable piece but far from an enthusiast vehicle. What about the Quattro Sport or the Jensen FF?
  • 4
    Kevin NY December 10, 2014 at 18:16
    What about the inspiration for the Previa, the Town & Country/Grand Caravan?
  • 5
    Will Irby Madison, MS December 10, 2014 at 18:30
    What? No GMC Syclone or Typhoon?
  • 6
    Jan Long Island, NY December 10, 2014 at 18:52
    How about the Jensen FF, first produced in 1966?
  • 7
    Harold Hyatt United States December 10, 2014 at 19:03
    Ford made an all-wheel drive in the 1970 or 1980
  • 8
    mike United States December 10, 2014 at 19:30
    I guess that means the Audi Ur Quattro isn't "forgotton" but I thought it should be mentioned anyway.
  • 9
    Andy Stahl United States December 10, 2014 at 19:31
    No Ford Tempo love? A college buddy had a Tempo with a push-button 4x4 on the HEADLINER near the windshield. What about the VW Quantum syncro? :-D
  • 10
    Dave Richard Massachusetts December 10, 2014 at 19:44
    I could have use a few picture.
  • 11
    Ben WA,USA December 10, 2014 at 19:46
    Surprised the BMW 325ix isn't listed! The E30 body ('88-91),was a great car in both coupe or sedan.
  • 12
    RJ West MI December 10, 2014 at 19:50
    IIRC, the Michigan State Police in either 1957 or 1959 tested Plymouth pursuit cars with the Ferguson system.
  • 13
    Jeff Forss minneaplis/GV MN. December 10, 2014 at 20:04
    Ford had an AWD Tempo. There was also an AWD Colt minivan. There were Camry "Alltracks". And, I think, a Protoge' AWD sedan. JMF TAG
  • 14
    Rich Romero Stonybrook NY December 10, 2014 at 20:05
    As the once proud owner of a Civic AWD Wagon I can verify that if you swap in a D16Z6 with a Jackson Racing supercharger you'll be leaving plenty on this list in the dust. Loved my Wagovan and it was Unstopable in the snow.
  • 15
    Stuart deBaker Portland December 10, 2014 at 20:14
    Oops, you left out the original, production, four-wheel-drive, passenger car -- Jensen FF. It come out in 1966. Also had anti-lock brakes. Lots-more-interesting car than these tofu tractors.
  • 16
    John NE IN December 10, 2014 at 20:43
    If I saw one of those AMC Kammbacks on the road, I surely would've confused it for a Gremlin.
  • 17
    originalhondafan California December 10, 2014 at 20:48
    Great list! My only gripe: There was never an AWD Wagovan. Despite so many people casually calling all the toaster-shaped 3rd-gen Civic Wagons by that name, "Wagovan" was a specific submodel of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-gen Civic Wagons. The Wagovan was created to allow a few extra vehicles in toward the end of each model year, back when import quotas were in effect. Its pseudo-commercial-grade features let Honda create a "new" model with minimal effort and cost. It was slightly de-contented compared to the standard Wagon, and featured little metal bars across the rear quarter windows, intended to protect the glass from shifting cargo (even though no one used one like that). It only came in FWD. The car on your list was actually called "Civic 4WD Wagon" in '85 and '86, then "Civic RT4WD Wagon" for '87, when they introduced Real Time 4WD that didn't need to be engaged via pushbutton. Honda didn't call it AWD, and each was its own model above the standard Civic Wagon. Wagovans actually had tailgate badges or decals that read "Wagovan" as well. Wagons said "Wagon" in the 2nd gen ('80–'83), but nothing after that.
  • 18
    Dantheman Vermont December 10, 2014 at 20:54
    Looking at these cars the concept was ahead of its time. Another example where AMC had an innovative product and it didn't sell. Makes one wonder if they marketed products differently would they have survived?
  • 19
    Ray Ohio December 10, 2014 at 21:09
    5 good reasons why they are forgotten...
  • 20
    Jeff AZ December 10, 2014 at 21:14
    What about the Subaru SVX? Flat 6, cool body styling, and who didn't love the windows?
  • 21
    Dale Wisconsin December 10, 2014 at 21:16
    We had an 80's something Mercury Topaz AWD, 4 cyl, and the rear half-shaft u-joints were not CV and had to be replaced on a regular basis.
  • 22
    Jeff Southfield, Mi December 10, 2014 at 21:21
    Where is AWD tempo? I'm always curious about it!
  • 23
    Luckless Pedestrian NE USA December 10, 2014 at 22:32
    Eagle Kammback... aka Gremlin...
  • 24
    Jim Mill Creek,Wa December 10, 2014 at 22:56
    How bout the Ford Tempo? Drove mine in one of the worst snow storms Seattle experienced in years. Snow hung around for awhile, which is unusual out here. 4 snow tires and I pretty much went where I wanted to. AND didn't have to chain up to go over the mountain passes since it was all wheel drive!!!
  • 25
    Mike Choi United States December 11, 2014 at 14:12
    Very cool list! I have owned 2 of the ones on the list (Toyota Previa S/C AllTrac and Celica AllTrac Turbo). The van has been sold, but the Celica is insured by Hagerty since 2003 when I bought it... I was afraid they wouldn't insure it because they wouldn't understand how it's different from a regular Celica. With only 250-ish brought to the USA my year (1992) and only 81 the next year (1993), it's a rare car and even a 90s car can be a "classic" due to how special they are. It has a racing pedigree (WRC Driver and Manufacturer wins) and true enthusiasts and rally fans always give me a thumbs up or stop and talk to me when I'm driving my car. :)) And you're right: I have never seen 3 of the cars on this list, ever (The AMC, Civic Wagonvan, and Pontiac 6000). Not even at a car show... Where are the owners? I'm sure they are Hagerty customers... Speak now! :))
  • 26
    Flyn Sy Blaine December 11, 2014 at 02:26
    Why wouldn't you include the '91 GMC Syclone or the '92-93 GMC Typhoon? Certainly not your run of the mill AWD vehicles.
  • 27
    Bob Portland December 11, 2014 at 16:26
    A car guy sees something in almost all cars to like. AWD is something to like. Mike you are are a car snob, not a real car guy.
  • 28
    mike indiana December 11, 2014 at 07:28
    Sorry, but all these cars suck. I think of the Hagerty web site for Classis cars. None of these fit the bill. This makes me think the the writer is not a true car guy.
  • 29
    Brian Smart United States December 11, 2014 at 07:38
    So the Eagle Kammback was essentially an AWD Gremlin. I like it!
  • 30
    John Ledman Rockledge, FL December 11, 2014 at 19:56
    Sorry you didn't choose to include the Corolla All-Trac Wagons I have a nice '89. I believe the picture is on file with Hagerty. Its a wonderful little hauler with a unique body style.
  • 31
    Vincent Fama United States December 11, 2014 at 20:01
    as a former owner of a gremlin (great car) & a pontiac 6000 STE fwd (horrible car) i don't long for the 70's & 80's as most cars were junk
  • 32
    Cal Verduin Grand Rapids December 11, 2014 at 09:06
    What about the Mazda 323 of 198? Which in addition to being 4WD, was turbocharged?
  • 33
    Cal Michigan December 11, 2014 at 09:35
    What about the most fun 1988 Mazda 323 AWD? Most fun ever!
  • 34
    dukeisduke United States December 11, 2014 at 10:56
    The AWD Previa is called the AllTrac. And the supercharged 2TZ-FZE ("S/C") engine was offered as an option for both 2WD and AllTrac models for 1994 and 1995, and became the only engine offered in 1996 and 1997.
  • 35
    Warren Parks Fort Collins, Co December 11, 2014 at 11:17
    It's disappointing that you would choose the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, a super rare model to extol many of the virtues found in other similar much more available DSM models. Is this an elitist article on rare animals, or one intended to remind enthusiasts about AWD models actually available to them? The turbo/AWD versions of the DSM 1G (Eclipse,Talon,Laser) all have the 2L 4G63T and are affordable and widely available as rebuildable project cars. I love mine- it's like a tank in the snow.
  • 36
    Dale Texas December 11, 2014 at 23:23
    A GMC Typhoon is a nice obscure AWD, and bad to the bone, to boot. I know the writer had to economize his space, but....
  • 37
    David Houston, TX December 11, 2014 at 11:27
    A couple of other oddballs come to mind like the VW Syncro Vanagon and the three cylinder Subaru Justy AWD. Both lots of fun in mild-offroad conditions like sand or snow.
  • 38
    Kevin Boyd western NY December 11, 2014 at 00:26
    You left off my favorite. Subaru only made the RX for two years - 1985-6. It was their basic AWD 5 speed four door sedan. BUT it also had hi/low range, a limited slip differential and it was turbocharged! With four snow tires was unstoppable in the worst winters.
  • 39
    Michael Lagor Las Vegas nv. December 11, 2014 at 12:37
    What about 91 3000gtvr4. it has james bond gadgets that are cool and the car is fast and looks great. Also how can I find out how many are still around. thank you
  • 40
    Bruce Sanborn Southern California December 11, 2014 at 12:37
    And then there was the Subaru SVX-AWD and half(or whatever the name)windows
  • 41
    Dave CT December 12, 2014 at 14:37
    I took an '86 STE for a test drive and schooled the salesperson on why she should be selling me this car. I however, ended up buying a Taurus instead
  • 42
    Don Nebraska December 12, 2014 at 17:19
    I used to work at a Honda dealer back in the days of the Wagovan. Original series did have an AWD version (3rd gen Civic), but I don't think we got any of the next series (4th gen Civic) Wagovans in AWD. Plenty of regular 4th series Wagons with the excellent "Real Time 4WD". The later Wagovans we got were basically a Civic wagon with a vinyl interior and an odd set up on the rear seat. It would fold flat, but only sat upright at a 90 degree angle. )They were pushed as a small delivery vehicle). Way too uncomfortable to sit in. Honda supplied a kit that made the rear seat recline back to a usable angle, and we installed that in virtually every Wagonvan we sold. Strange idea, but Honda threw us a few curves back then. They would load you up with Wagovans you had to sell to earn some Civic LX 4 door automatics - the hot seller.
  • 43
    James California December 12, 2014 at 09:58
    Mike, Matt Lewis did not say they were your favorite cars. He said they were his favorite cars.
  • 44
    Michael O'Leary Washington December 12, 2014 at 11:02
    I would put the Mazda 323 GTX at the top of the list. I owned and 88 and this turbo charged hatch was a great all wheel drive car. So Fun!!!
  • 45
    Chris Cranston, RI December 12, 2014 at 12:30
    My brother owned two 1990 Pontiac 6000 SE AWD's. They were beasts. Unstoppable in the snow. And not bad looking either. Truthfully, pretty quick too. Pontiac scaled back the STE and only offered the upscaled model as an "SE" for 1990 & 1991. Both offered in AWD.
  • 46
    Adam Wisconsin December 13, 2014 at 19:15
    I think Mike from Indiana sucks. These cars are interesting mechanically unlike the old boring everything v8 cars of the past.
  • 47
    Spiros L. Karabelas Lynn, Massachusetts December 15, 2014 at 18:28
    I find it hard to believe that Subaru is not in this list, but the truth is that the BMW 325 IX should have made it to the top!
  • 48
    Todd United States December 23, 2014 at 19:15
    Another for the "what about" list. The Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon. Couldn't get out of its own way and was a joke in the snow all the more reason for "top of the list" preference!
  • 49
    Paul USA January 15, 2015 at 16:31
    Celica All-trac is one of the coolest, most unique, and best looking imports of the 90's. Power and handling weren't too shabby either. I'll take one in black any day.
  • 50
    Kevin Grand Rapids mi April 7, 2016 at 14:16
    I was a Pontiac zone service rep when the 6000 awd were on sale. I had them as company cars and found them very good in the snow and I preferred them over other car lines. Range was a problem as the gas tank was smaller to allow for the rear axle. Trunk room also was less as the spare got put in the trunk for space as well. They did not sell well but those I met who bought them loved them.
  • 51
    Jim Utica(snow country)NY June 6, 2016 at 15:01
    Someone mentioned Detroit police testing Plymouth police cars with the FF 4wd system. Indeed they did, but era was late '60s. Harry Ferguson didn't apply his system to a road car (Jensen) until 1966.Detroit police cars were '68 or '69 if I remember correctly.

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