5 classic nameplates that deserve an electric comeback

2016 Buick Avista Concept Jim Fets

As much as we’d love for our favorite classics to be revived as pure internal combustion vehicles, the industry is at present clearly embracing EVs. Our wishes were at least partially granted with the return of the Ford Lightning as an all-electric truck, so we’ve naturally been thinking about which of our favorite vintage vehicles deserve a similar resurrection.

It’s true, the Lightning is not quite the electric hot rod we’d hoped it would be. We knew that a regular-cab pickup was not destined to be a big seller. Nevertheless, the Lightning appears to offer innovative packaging and loads of useful features, and is more practical and marketable than any regular cab. With that in mind, here are five classic nameplates that—either due to the obvious electrical connotations or their car’s particular developmental history—could come back as automakers transition to electric propulsion.

Ford Thunderbird

Ford Thunderbird PDC closing car show
Matthew Tierney

A sporty personal luxury car that lasted for ten uninterrupted generations and one short-lived comeback, Thunderbird offered bold styling and powerful engine options for much of its existence. You can’t have thunder without lightning, and Ford already has plans for that, so why not expand the electric family to include one of the brand’s most recognizable nameplates?

Dream: An upscale coupe or swoopy four-door (perhaps with rear-hinged rear doors like the fifth-generation models from 1967–1971) that shares plenty of mechanical parts with the Mustang.

Reality: Considering that Ford used the Mustang Mach-E name rather than the Thunderbird (which already has a history as a four-door) there’s likely no place in the Ford lineup for a reborn Thunderbird other than as an even larger crossover.

Buick Electra

Buick Avista Concept
Buick Avista Concept Buick

Buick’s full-size C-body cruiser was available in two-door and four-door versions, as well as a convertible. The name makes it an easy choice for an electric car, and the 225 trim could be repurposed for the initial model’s range in miles.

Dream: An electrified version of the Avista coupe concept, which still looks good even though it debuted more than five years ago.

Reality: A modern version would likely be a crossover, because, well, it’s a Buick and that’s all that brand makes anymore. A flagship, full-size crossover slotted above the Enclave might fit in Buick’s portfolio, but it will never be as cool as the Avista.

Dodge Charger

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody (Front) and 2020 Dodge C

Yes, the Charger is currently in production, but that name makes it just about the most obvious choice to offer an all-electric variant.

Dream: The next-gen Charger could adopt an all-electric drivetrain that rivals the performance of the V-8 variants and democratize electric performance the same way Dodge did when it introduced the Hellcat to the masses.

Reality: We can’t see any reason why this couldn’t happen as Dodge ramps up its electrification.

Chevrolet Corvair

Corvair Bonneville front wide
Brandan Gillogly

Chevrolet’s air-cooled answer to VW eventually spurred the creation of the pony car class by pairing sporty styling and bucket seats with highly customizable options. The lively turbocharged flat-sixes didn’t hurt either. Eventually, Chevrolet experimented with its own electric-powered versions in 1964 and 1966 dubbed “Electrovair”.

Dream: A return of stylish Chevy coupe and possibly wagon that offers economical transportation—and a frunk!

Reality: The name likely carries too much baggage, as people unfairly associate it with Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed.

AMC Gremlin

1972 AMC Gremlin X_R32 side profile

The original Gremlin was a shortened Hornet with strange proportions and a name that basically implied that it would have mechanical or electric problems. That didn’t stop us from loving them. They were available with lively powerplants including AMC’s venerable inline-six as well as AMC’s 304 V-8 and made for great hot rods.

Dream: A compact, nimble city runabout and grocery-getter with fun styling. Offers an affordable way into electric cars while leaving plenty of room in the garage for internal-combustion playthings.

Reality: Stellantis could likely revive any AMC name it wanted, but we doubt Gremlin would fly with consumers. Just because we enthusiasts want a car doesn’t mean carmakers will build it because, well, we enthusiasts are really bad about buying new cars. Perhaps “Neon” instead?

We’re sure we missed some obvious, electrifying nameplates. Feel free to sound off with your own suggestions—be it wagon, coupe, pickup, or ute—and join the conversation in the comments.

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