The special edition models…what better way is there to tart up an ordinary car for sales? Many cars sold past and present rely on the special models to keep up the sales momentum after launch, or in super-special cases, to send an otherwise unrealistic version of that vehicle onto dealership lots with all of the hype of a new car. It’s difficult to determine what the buying public would want in a special edition of a vehicle, and it’s even worse trying to market to gearheads. But hindsight is a beautiful thing, so we sat down, took a look at vehicle that mostly came from the Malaise era, and looked for a way to make them acceptable. We think we did a pretty good job, but you will be the ultimate judge of that!
11. Chevrolet S-10 SS 350/GMC Sonoma Hurricane
As soon as the S-trucks appeared for 1982, gearheads were figuring out how to jam a small-block Chevrolet V8 into the engine bay. With the sport truck craze in full effect by the early 1990s and at least eight years of trial and error, surely General Motors could’ve seen an opportunity for a spot between the blown V6 Syclone/Typhoon twins and the 454SS pickup? Take the L98 from the F-body, back it to a manual trans, and check the options box if you want to see how long a Bravada transfer case can hold up to V8 power.
10. Toyota Celica GT-Four “1994 WRC Season Special”
In 1994, Toyota got a three-season ban from the World Rally Championship after arguably the most ingenious cheat device ever used in racing was finally discovered. (You can read more about that device HERE) Well, if the race cars ain’t going anywhere, and for sure the trick turbo inlet system isn’t going anywhere, surely it’s time to celebrate by offering a wicked take on the already impressive GT-Four AWD Celica! 350 horsepower in a turbocharged four banger from 1994 would’ve been the equivalent of dancing a jig in front of the judge during sentencing.
9. Chrysler Phantom R/T
To be fair: this car was actually made…just not for the United States market. The Chrysler Phantom is the Mexican model of the Chrysler LeBaron, and it’s a pretty set-up kit as it is. What made this car special over the U.S. market K-car coupe? The Phantom R/T got the same 2.2L Turbo III mill that we saw in the Dodge Spirit R/T. 224 horsepower, 217 ft/lbs of torque, 14.5@97 MPH quarter mile times in the Spirit R/T means that the powertrain could rock and scare much bigger prey than it’s own. The only issue with the Spirt was it’s looks: we’ve seen more aerodynamic barn doors. The Phantom’s shape, by comparison, is outright sexy. Would’ve made for a nice top model, wouldn’t it?
8. Oldsmobile Holiday 88 “85th Anniversary” Coupe
Oldsmobile’s take on performance cars was rather bi-polar: they would shy away from them most of the time in favor of classic American luxury, but every now and then they’d hit a one hell of a home run. And that’s what we view with our take on the Holiday 88 coupe the factory should have built: slick roof, bucket seats, floor shift for the automatic, color-coded Rally wheels and a final run of the Oldsmobile 403 to celebrate a comparatively mild anniversary. The G-body might have ran with the 442 nameplate, but this big-body bruiser would’ve had more in common with it’s ancestors.
7. Buick LeSabre Gran Sport
Just like Oldsmobile, Buick’s semi-aversion to performance meant that more often than not, things were soft and plushy, but in the 1980s the mad scientists had gotten ahold of the reins and brought in an era of hot-rodded fun that helped reignite the horsepower wars. The Grand National, GNX and T-type Regals all were wicked, and we aren’t discounting their contributions at all, but Buick made other cars besides the Regal. Here, we’d take on the LeSabre sedan before it’s conversion to front-wheel-drive. Since the Olds 403 was dead and gone by this point, we’d have go to raiding Chevrolet for the L98 and 700R4 automatic and 9C1 Caprice suspension. Think of it as a predecessor to the Chevrolet Impala SS.
6. Chevrolet Nova SS
The 1980s Nova was a clone of the front-drive Toyota Corolla Sprinter, a result of the NUMMI partnership with Toyota. They were good on mileage, but as far as driving excitement…no. But there was a Corolla in the lineup that did have some punch: the Toyota Corolla AE86 is the rear-drive, 4A-GE powered drift machine that millions of import fans lust after due to it’s light, tossable nature. It still would deliver decent mileage when you kept your foot out of it, but when you wanted to play, it was ready and waiting.
5. Ford Mustang II Gapp And Roush Limited Edition
The Mustang II will never be loved like every other generation of Mustang, but that’s ok. Whether you view the car as the Performance Pinto or the Miniature Mark IV, the Mustang II did two things for Ford in the Seventies: it kept the Mustang nameplate alive and it sold remarkably well. For gearheads, the Deuce is a snoozer, but there were Mustang IIs that were feared, and most of them sourced from the same shop: Gapp and Roush. If Ford had allowed ten a year to be built to their standards…call it a beta test or an engineering exercise, if you must…then imagine the following they would have today.
4. Dodge Avenger Venom/Chrysler Sebring Plus
When the Avenger body appeared in IROC racing to replace the Daytona, enthusiasts had hoped that Mopar’s aversion to rear wheel drive had finally been done away with…or, at least, that the Turbo III 2.2L four had a new home. Both were false…the Avenger and it’s Chrysler Sebring twin were effectively slightly lengthened Mitsubishi Eclipses, and worse off is that Chrysler didn’t take advantage of the possibility of a turbocharged 4G63, all-wheel-drive version. It worked for Mitsubishi, Eagle’s Talon and Plymouth’s Laser…
3. Mercury Cougar 5.0 Eliminator
For decades, Mercury was just a cheap shot for Ford to double-sell it’s products. Make some visual tweaks and dig up a new name, and voila, you boost the numbers up. Mercury had been scratching at racing in 1989, and fielded GTO-class Mercury Cougars to run. Additionally, at least one NASCAR-spec Cougar was built before Ford came down hard, demanding that the Cougar stay out of the limelight while the Thunderbird got all of the glory. At that point, if we were working inside Mercury, it would be go-time for some shenanigans. The powertrain from the 1993 Mustang Cobra paired off with the MN-12’s independent rear suspension and interior space would be a riot, and giving the cars a dark color/gray combination to fuel in the evil vibe would be the perfect mix to infuriate Ford leadership.
2. Pontiac GTO/Can Am
Forget internal strife, there was a war going on within Pontiac during the 1970s: you were either backing Brougham qualities or you hadn’t forgotten that performance cars kept bread on the table. This strife is evident in the cars that were sold: the 1977 Pontiac Can Am was the luxury liner Grand Am with GTO qualities, that Pontiac would not allow to be called a GTO. By 1978, it looked like the Brougham guys were gaining an upper hand anywhere that wasn’t Firebird territory, but the flame still flickered with the A/G body. Two 1978 Pontiac Grand Am CA concept cars were shown, and to our knowledge, the black car still exists (the silver car was reportedly crushed.) Had Pontiac ran with the idea, they had two good names to use and would have beaten the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS to market by years.
1. American Motors Eagle with Go Package
There was no doubt by the 1980s that AMC was doomed…no matter how good they were at repackaging the 1970 Hornet into something kind-of fresh, without a new body they weren’t going anywhere, and that new body didn’t appear in time to save the company. What do you do at that point? If it was us, we’d say screw it and shove the AMC 360 back into the engine bay. In the Hornet SC/360, it made for a potent junior musclecar…in the Eagle wagon, it would’ve been a shock to the 1980s performance arena. The four-wheel-drive system would never survive, but going out in a blaze of glory sure beats the hell out of trying to convince the buying public that the Renault Alliance wasn’t a complete shitbox.