Hooniverse Asks: What Car Maker is a One-Hit Wonder For You?

First off, let me apologize for the image of Robert Matthew Van Winkle up there. I know that may trigger some musical PTSDs for some people. I thought it was worth it however, to exemplify the musical genre that we want to extend today to the automotive world, that being one-hit wonders.
If you’re a fan of a particular automotive brand then you most likely admire a number of that marque’s products. You can be in love with Porsche’s various iterations of 911 and still not feel like you’re cheating by having an infatuation for 928s as well. If you’re a Mustang maven then there’s little chance you don’t also like the company’s GT40 too.
The question then arises, is there an auto company that, for you at least, has had only one model worth your love and affection? Are there any car makers out there that you consider to be… one hit wonders?
Image: LIB Magazine

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58 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Car Maker is a One-Hit Wonder For You?”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    There are 911 freunde out there that don’t deem the 928 as infatuation-worthy (or the 944, ahem)…
    To me, due to my relative youth, I only saw NSU Ro 80 on the road in regular use, all the previous NSU endeavors (Prinz) are rather prehistoric to me. The one-hit-wonder perception is underlined by the fact that the Ro 80 was the last, glorious attempt that went out. Looking at companies with a similar faith that pushed out some crummy leftover design, this is a wonder indeed.
    Boy did these look good in person!

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And they drive so much better than newer Audis. Somehow they forgot how to achieve perfectly balanced power steering until the arrival of the Ur-Quattro, then they forgot again.
      Also they did finally get the rotary working right-with Mazda’s help.(The Wankel licensing agreement specified the return flow of any technological advancement.)

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      NSU TT-S would like to disagree, as would the Wankel Spider aka first production Wankel rotary

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Based on the NSU Prinz, a lovely wee thing in its own right. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/26/NSU_Prinz_1000_2012-07-15_15-07-37.JPG
        Of course, if you look at the wider context too, NSU/Audi/Auto Union always had an intertwined history and were formally rolled up into the modern Audi entity when acquired by VW. I reckon you can see a lot of NSU Ro80 DNA in the Audi 100, they were even built in the same factory.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          I guess that’s the same factory (Neckarsulm) where they built this one inbetween?

          1. nanoop Avatar

            Now, the believe is strong in this one, too. Where did you get that picture?

  2. Maymar Avatar

    Like Mr. Van Winkle, Kia’s best work is someone else’s.

    1. caltemus Avatar

      broken image link

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Yeah, I click on the image and it works (never figured out what’s going wrong in that case). Kia Elan is the answer.

    2. anonymic Avatar

      For Kia, I’d have to say the Mazda 121 sold as the Ford Festiva is the only Kia I’d have.

  3. Wayne Moyer Avatar
    Wayne Moyer

    Sure they invented the Jeep but really Bantam’s only real vehicle was the Bantam American. It made 20 horsepower and could 45mph. I still want to get my hands on one to add to my fleet.

    1. Ross Ballot Avatar
      Ross Ballot

      I would tend to agree but really do like the Kizashi

      1. caltemus Avatar

        That the foose one with the v8 or just custom wheels on a normal one?

  4. 0A5599 Avatar

    FWIW, Mr. Emslie, Your namesake Vanilla Ice is technically a 4-hit wonder.
    But for me, combining a not-very-good car with a not-very-good boat is sheer brilliance, but doesn’t leave much leeway for a second act.

    1. Papa Van Twee Avatar
      Papa Van Twee

      That would be two-hit wonder. Technically have to hit the top 40 to make it a hit.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        I was kind of surprised not to see his TMNT Go Ninja song on the charts. It was in heavy MTV rotation when that was still a thing.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          Today he’s a fantastic actor (okay, maybe more like ridiculous):

    2. cap'n fast Avatar
      cap’n fast

      often a better submarine than car

    3. Vairship Avatar

      Speaking of one HIT wonders, this was a hit big enough to wipe out most of the company management: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/648b08143c50efb96ad3cf131cc6321b33865d9492a569fc7bdbe452f56b733c.jpg

  5. mdharrell Avatar

    Leaving aside the marques that produced only one model (I’m looking at you, Continental Division, and you, American Microcar, and…), I’d have to say that I have little desire to track down a KVS Mini 2.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      The more aerodynamic version for higher speeds? That’s a bit like that old saying about Citroens: “Saying that a Dyane is more aerodynamic than a 2CV is like saying that a telephone is more aerodynamic than a typewriter”.

  6. Sjalabais Avatar

    SAAB made a lot of cool cars. But somehow, a tiny Swedish manufacturer got to define what an 80s automobile looks like. I hear synthesizers just looking at this photo:
    There was no way to follow it up sensibly.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      I have a soft spot for the 9000 though.

      1. Monkey10is Avatar

        (…but you have to give Lokki +1 for the ‘Zero’ reference, don’t you?)

        1. Harry Callahan Avatar
          Harry Callahan

          You forgot this: https://youtu.be/S4GtYrhflTA
          My girlfriend had one. It was an absolute hoot. We did a 14.2 quarter at Fremont, CA Drag strip one chilly night in 1985. I will never forget how the front end would hop out of the hole.

      2. kogashiwa Avatar

        And not to be forgetting the FTO, that oddly-styled almost-an-Integra-Type-R with an absurd little V6 and mostly coming with tiptronic autos … okay maybe there’s a reason these were mostly forgotten. BUT I REMEMBER
        And of course the GTO was legitimately pretty great, if by no other metric than “how much complication can we fit in a single vehicle”.

        1. JayP Avatar

          I was keeping it ‘merican… Mitsu has cars I’ve only ever see in Gran Turismo!

          1. nanoop Avatar

            The upper one is from Zurich, Switzerland. They definitely have to have car imports, in whatever shade.

          2. crank_case Avatar

            Well, you could buy a few home built options there, but it’d have to be a Monotracer:
            Some demented Sbarro creation:
            ..or maybe something from Rinspeed.
            However, as I’m based in Ireland (not Northern Ireland, which had Delorean and still has Crossle), we really don’t have a domestic car industry to protect at all since joining the EU eliminated the need for local CKD kit manufacturing. There’s a few people making Formular Ford Chassis I think (Sheane) and folks building up rally cars, but the last Irish built road car I’m aware of is the TMC Costin, the rights to which were bought by Panoz and evolved into the Panoz roadster.
            There was also the Shamrock, but we’d prefer to forget about that..

    1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      That was first thought, but while the Evo is the only current product worthy of note, Mitsubishi has an extensive back catalog from rally winning Lancers in the 70s on up through the 80s turbo cars the Paris-Dakar Pajeros, the 3000GT and even the first generation DSM cars.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The Wagonaire was a pretty fair gimmick, but I can see why it wouldn’t be a hit (leak problems saw it quickly dropped)

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        But it had a version that sold well all over the world, Matchbox had one with the sliding roof and a little man with dog.

      2. caltemus Avatar

        Didn’t work with the GMC envoy either, albeit for different reasons

      1. cap'n fast Avatar
        cap’n fast

        i lust fir the style of the car but the technology of it leaves it doomed to the yard. similar styling of the Lincoln Mark VIII piques my interest enough that i went out and found one for myself. think of the hawk with flush windows, good brakes and a hell of an engine and trans and no mice under the seats…

    2. Sjalabais Avatar

      I see where it’s coming from, but, to my mind, Studebaker has made lots of cool cars. Here’s another one.

      1. Popeye Avatar

        My Grandad would have liked that old 4 door.

  7. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    That’s actually tough, I initially thought of Acura and Lexus but each company actually had 2 cars I cared about. I guess I could list a no hit wonder like Wartburg or Hyundai who have nothing I want.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      You don’t want a Wartburg? But that reminds of a true one hit wonder derived of Wartburg “technology”. The one to the right was never to be:

  8. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    This may be a bit of an unpopular opinion, but for me it’s BMW. Apart from one momentary blip in the 80’s, there’s nothing much in their line up I really care for. And that one car is the E24.

    1. HuntRhymesWith Avatar

      But you mean with Euro bumpers, right? Right?!

  9. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
    dead_elvis, inc.

    Heresy? Eh, whatever. This is the sole Jeep that’s ever been of interest to me.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I agree with all of what you said.

      1. vega60 Avatar

        Stillborn effort to modernize the tried and tested formula. Only 48 were ever built.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          It wasn’t an attempt to modernize, for that look to the Caterham CSR (which looks like a 7 but is a radical enough evolution to be considered an entirely different car), just look at the inboard suspension design for starters:
          The 21 was an attempt to gain lost sales to the “my girlfriend won’t get in it” factor. That’s not a joke, that’s genuinely what Caterham managent said in interviews.
          Unfortunately, it had the misfortune to be released at the same time as the spectacularly good Lotus Elise, which was a similar 7 ideals in a more useable package idea.
          Thing is, this is about coolness, not sales, if anything it’s rarity makes it more desirable. It’s Caterhams Morgan Plus Four Plus mistep..