Threatened, Endangered and Extinct Cars: Summer 2011 update

The journal Nature made headlines recently, publishing a study showing that species extinction rates have likely been overestimated. Of course, this got us thinking about our own “Threatened, Endangered and Extinct” list, which hasn’t been revised since last year. So we crunched the numbers again and found that, indeed, some of our estimates have proven exaggerated, as well.

We’re happy to report that we can remove five vehicles from our list: 1971-1974 BMW Bavaria, 1971-1976 Mercury Capri, 1971-1977 Toyota Celica, 1975-1980 Chevrolet Monza and 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT. All can be found in sufficient supply that Hagerty now insures more than 25 examples of each.

But like the aforementioned researchers – who stressed that their work doesn’t negate the seriousness of environmental threats to biodiversity – we’re still concerned with the potential disappearance of a generation of automotive history. So we’re adding another five vehicles to our list, and encouraging car enthusiasts to do what they can to promote conservation.

1984 Plymouth Voyager (Dodge Caravan)

If you’re a Generation X’er, there’s a good chance you learned to drive behind the wheel of a minivan. Introduced in 1983, Chrysler’s original was powered by a carbureted 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine making just 96 horsepower, mated to a standard 5-speed manual driving the front wheels – just like in a K-Car. The third row was optional rather than ubiquitous, and the sliding side door was singular in both senses. Rear-seat entertainment system options included reading, Auto Bingo, and looking out the window. Clearly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Chrysler’s reinvention of the station wagon would relegate that category to “dead” in the eyes of all non-German carmakers within a decade. Despite its significance and first-year sales total topping 209,000, we’re not sure if a single collector-grade example exists outside of Chrysler’s own collection.

Complete Hagerty Threatened, Endangered and Extinct List
(new additions italicized)

Threatened: Hagerty insures fewer than 25

• 1975-1981 Volkswagen Scirocco
• 1971-1974 Mazda RX-2

Endangered: Hagerty insures fewer than 15

• 1981-1985 Chevrolet Citation X-11
• 1963-1966 Studebaker Wagonaire
• 1979-1981 Toyota Supra
• 1974-1981 Volkswagen Dasher
• 1985-1986 Chrysler Laser XE
• 1983-1986 Chrysler Executive Limo
• 1971 Plymouth Cricket
• 1988-1989 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo
• 1980 Dodge St. Regis
• 1984-1985 Ford EXP Turbo
• 1985-1987 Renault/AMC Alliance Convertible
• 1987-1991 Sterling 825/827
• 1979-1980 Plymouth Fire Arrow
• 1974 Oldsmobile Toronado

Extinct: Hagerty insures no examples

• 1983-1986 Isuzu Impulse
• 1986-1987 Renault/AMC GTA
• 1978-1980 Oldsmobile Starfire Firenza
 1984 Plymouth Voyager (Dodge Caravan)

Status: Extinct

1978-1980 Oldsmobile Starfire Firenza

In many ways, what this Chevrolet Vega derivative (and Monza sibling) reveals about GM’s approach to nomenclature says more about the company than the product itself. The Starfire Firenza holds the dubious distinction of both tarnishing the good name of a car that came before it – the early 1960s Olds Starfire that begat the Delta 88 – while at the same time having its own image sullied by a car that came later. The Starfire Firenza was actually a pretty neat 2+2 once you ticked off all the option packages on the base Starfire, a far cry from the rebadged Chevrolet Cavalier that would get the Firenza moniker in 1982. While the Starfire Firenza is undoubtedly a “Decal GT,” it did offer V-8 power in a reasonably-sporty-for-the-time rear-drive platform. In fact, GM would use its suspension design in the third-generation Chevy Camaro. With integrated front and rear spoilers, flared wheel wells, and alloys, a Starfire Firenza was unquestionably the best-looking car you could find in a circa-1980 Oldsmobile dealer’s land of landau.

Status: Extinct

1986-1987 Renault/AMC GTA

We’ve already placed the Renault/AMC Alliance convertible on our Endangered list, but its limited production and high(er) performance sibling, the GTA, deserves its own special recognition. Available in both two-door sedan and convertible body styles, you could think of the GTA as American Motors’ answer to the first BMW M3 – though that would be ridiculous. While the GTA’s 2-liter, fuel-injected four-cylinder was a huge upgrade over the 1.4-liter and 1.7-liter engines in standard Alliances, it still offered just 95 horsepower – about half that of the M3. At least the GTA had a five-speed manual tranny, even if it was wrong-wheel drive. Front-drive or not, with Ronal alloy wheels and low-profile 15-inch wheels, plus an upgraded suspension, the GTA did earn some praise for its handling.

Status: Extinct

1974 Oldsmobile Toronado

When the front-wheel-drive Toronado debuted in 1966, it represented a high point for the GM division that prided itself on innovation. But with the introduction of a second generation for 1971, the Toro became just another GM luxury barge in the fashion of its Cadillac Eldorado cousin. Yet even in the era of bloated behemoths, with high compression ratios and impressive horsepower numbers on the wane, a few interesting things happened as the world’s largest carmaker scrambled to meet ever-more-stringent emissions and safety regulations. In 1974 GM introduced factory airbags on the Toronado, an option that makes for a much more interesting collector car than the standard 455-cubic-inch V-8 rated at just 250 horsepower. The “Air Cushion Restraint System,” as it was called, included front driver and passenger airbags, and a padded knee bolster that necessitated a slightly different dashboard. Toronados with the ACRS can be easily identified by their padded steering wheels – foreshadowing the second coming of the airbag in the early 1990s.

Status: Endangered

1979-1980 Plymouth Fire Arrow

With most of the sporty, “special edition” cars of the late 1970s offering little more than fancy decals and alloy wheels, this was one that actually packed some punch. The Fire Arrow borrowed the big 2.6-liter four-cylinder of the Plymouth Sapporo, enough to propel it to a 17.8-second quarter-mile for Car and Driver. With disc brakes all around and a 5-speed manual transmission, Plymouth dealers had a veritable Mustang-fighter in this Japanese-sourced compact. A product of Chrysler’s partnership with Mitsubishi, the Arrow and Sapporo were Americanized versions of the Lancer and Galant. As such, they never got the love they deserved back in the day, and nobody seems to be collecting them now.

Status: Endangered

Do you dispute one of the cars on our list, or do you have one to add? Leave your comments below. 

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