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martes, septiembre 19, 2023
HomeVintage CarsNeighborhood Outtakes: Extinct and Orphan Brands

Neighborhood Outtakes: Extinct and Orphan Brands

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A few months ago we got a dog, and although I’ve always walked a lot and noticed interesting cars close to home, the two or three daily walks have revealed a lot of interesting sights. Though to be honest, a few of these finds weren’t in our immediate neighborhood. Let’s start with one of the oldest, which was actually over the hill near a friend’s house in Palo Alto, this Nash Ambassador.

I’ll let you guys tell me the year, but I know it’s older than me. And, it’s the only American Motors or Renault related sighting I’ve found for quite a while.

Moving from extinct to orphan, at least in the US, here’s a Peugeot 505 wagon just a few blocks away from the Nash. 505’s are pretty rare finds, but I had to look up the designation on this one.

The SW8 was the US naming for the station wagon (hence SW) which seated 8 in 3 rows.

There were several other nice CC finds on that walk, but this is the last of the extinct brands I found that day, a Pontiac Solstice. I’ve been noticing quite a few of these in my own town recently, as well as at least one Saturn Sky. At lot has been written about these here at CC but I still find them eye-catching and an interesting example of GM’s odd path in the final years of several of their brands.

Moving closer to home, but still Pontiac, this 6000LE has been sitting in the driveway just a block from my house for a long time.

The slightly odd stance isn’t due to a flat tire, but comes from a mini spare on the front. There are a couple of daily driver A Body Buick Centuries I see pretty often, but this is probably the only 6000 around.

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Does a Vibe count as a Pontiac? This red one is also a resident of a nearby street. For those unfamiliar with this car, it was a near-twin of the Toyota (Corolla) Matrix. I say near-twin, because while they were mechanically identical, the Pontiac version had some unique sheetmetal and other components, perhaps due to local sourcing. Interestingly, while the Matrix was only made in Canada, the Vibe was manufactured a few counties away from me in Fremont, California, at the Toyota-GM joint venture factory which is now owned by Tesla. Both cars were sold in both countries, and the Vibe was also rebadged as a Toyota Voltz with right hand drive and sold in Japan.

Another extinct brand from the GM family is this Saturn Astra I found a few blocks up the hill from me. In retrospect, its styling shares a lot with the Vibe, though a little more of a conventional 5 door hatch and less of a “tall wagon”. Was this the only Belgian-manufactured car ever sold in the US?

Another black 5 door hatch with GM-genes is this Suzuki Aerio. The Honda Fit (Jazz in other markets) is also extinct as a model here in the US, though hopefully not orphaned by Honda parts departments. Unlike the Suuzki SX4 which followed the Aerio, the earlier car’s stance and proportions always looked odd to me. I prefer the Fit. When I saw these two parked nose to tail, I immediately thought of the Mad Magazine comic Spy vs Spy.

Moving over to the Ford side of the house, this Grand Marquis in full Florida (or New Jersey) trim stood out on a nearby street mostly populated with pickups and newer imported brands. Sorry for the stereotypes, but half-vinyl tops and whitewalls aren’t too common here, and really never were. On the other hand, as the number of aero Panthers is dwindling, I’m starting to notice more clean MGM’s than Fords, which are often well-worn ex-taxi or ex-cop cars, perhaps both.

Back to General Motors, here’s a second-to-last generation Pontiac Bonneville. Late 1990’s I believe.

And within a block of the Bonneville, an Oldsmobile Alero.

And another one. Not cars I would have bothered photographing even a few years ago, but these are getting rarer all the time. A few days ago I saw another Alero, a 2 door, but was unable to get a photo.

Still GM, and like the Astra from Europe, but at least bearing a European brand name, is this Saab 9-3. Although I took this picture on a sunny day, we had an exceptionally rainy winter and this car sat outside with the open (or broken) rear window for months. And now it’s gone.

I’ll end with this Fiat 500L. Not an extinct brand of course, but in the US it seems just a few steps from becoming an orphan. Only the 500X is sold here currently, although a new electric 500 has been announced for 2024. Just under 500 of the 500L’s were sold here in their last model year, 2020. I had trouble finding recent sales numbers for the 500X in the US, but one estimate was less than 1000 units last year. As a comparison, the 500X’s stablemate the Jeep Renegade sold about 30000 units in 2022.

With a few exceptions, I took most of these pictures over the last few months of dog walking. I soon noticed the number of extinct or orphan brands, which prompted the theme I picked for today’s post. But one brand continued to elude me, Plymouth. I would cross the street to look more closely at every minivan and Neon I saw. No luck, they were always Dodge or Chrysler. I’ve seen a Dart and an Aspen recently, but no Valiant or Volare. Oh well.





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