Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Euro-Themed Yank Tank?

Euro-sport, ESS, 280slc-aping Mustangs, it seems that while we Americans liked our cars American – i.e. big, shiny and resource-depleting, we also sometimes like them to look a little Euro-centric. Europe is the place from which many of our ancestors arrived, and for more than 250 years, we’ve been trying to carve out our own national persona, separate from our origins. But sometimes we slide back.
In the ’70s, many Americans for the first time, really started to get upset about the quality, proportions, and thirst of the products produced by – at that time – the Big Four. Because of that, many buyers gravitated to the more efficient, and less ostentatious products from Europe and Japan. The U.S. makers, slow on the uptake, didn’t initially compete with like products, but with existing ones that attempted to look alike.
Black-out trim, the banishment of whitewall tires, and maybe a split bench in place of the Nebraska wide and flat front seats, was in their minds all it took to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse of in determinate, mid-Atlantic origin. But of course, no amount of lip gloss would turn a ’70s pig, with its wheezy engines and leaf-sprung suspensions, into your dream date.
That being said, all those Euro-editions still were a damn sight better than their all-American bases. Back then, instead of a ‘handling suspension’ you had to check the box for ‘heavy duty’ in order to keep the door handles from scraping on the corners, and the toned down styling made the cars a little less embarrassing than their be-chromed siblings. Or maybe that’s just how they stack up today. Regardless, the Euro-editions had their fans back then, and still do today. And because of that, I wan’t to know which one is your favorite? Is it the subtle tape and tire treatment of the Granada ESS, or the all-out Euro assault of the Pontiac 6000 STE? And for LTD Scott, we’ll just fill that blank in for you, m’kay?
Image source: [americangranada.com]

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93 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What's Your Favorite Euro-Themed Yank Tank?”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    I remember those commercials, with some actor spouting, "It looks like a Mercedes!". When the ESS came out, I thought it should have been called the A.S.S., for American Sport Sedan.
    Another egregious attempt at Euro-ness would have to be the Chevy Celebrity Eurosport, complete with the jingle singers singing, "Euuuuro-sport".
    The best attempt: definitely the Pontiac 6000STE.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      The Eurosport might have fallen short in many ways, but handling was not one of them. They're quite impressive on a twisty road.

  2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    <img src="http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/chevrolet-celebrity-7.jpg"&gt;
    Although the 6000STE AWD was probably the best drivetrain design to come out of Detroit during that era, I always thought that the original Celebrity Eurosport was pretty darn attractive in silver. Okay, not like Ferrari Barchetta attractive, but definitely a step up over my mom's power blue '82 Celeb.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I drove a black '86 Eurosport wagon for a few months that had alloys, the red trim, and a wine red cloth interior. It was actually quite handsome looking.

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        There was a whole weird design signature there for a while in which a thin red rule on matte black somehow meant "euro design." I had an Emerson boombox that was conspicuously styled like that. I would love to go back and trace what consumer product established it; probably a Krups coffeemaker or something.

    2. Black Steelies Avatar

      Yup. My dad had a regular ole Celeb in Mint Green. In retrospect I rather liked the color, but the Eurosport definitely ups the 'bitchin' quotient.

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3235/3050327688_373c5f6023.jpg&quot; width=500>
    The concept behind Cimarron was slowing the defection of Cadillac buyers to BMW dealerships. Too bad they didn't come up with a CTS-V 30 years ago.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      I actually know someone that had a Cimarron, in pale yellow. Today they still have an Allante, in red.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      Oddly enough the Cimarron and the BMW E30 do share similar looks, especially in the rear half.
      <img src="http://acarisnotarefrigerator.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/1988-cadillac-cimarron.jpg&quot; width="400/">
      <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3160/3101221445_e472c8f1d0.jpg&quot; width="400/">
      Even stranger, the Caddy came out before the 4-door E30.

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        Well there's two great LeMons themes waiting to happen, right there.

    3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Man, I can't believe that no one added that to the Black Gold Hoonatica thread.

    4. Black Steelies Avatar

      Wikipedia tells me they almost called the it the Carmel, Caville or Envoy. At least they chose the best name.

      1. OA5599 Avatar
  4. Maxichamp Avatar

    Wasn't the Chrysler 300C a certain length (in meters, no less) so that it fit in European parking spaces?

    1. Festiva_Movemnt Avatar

      I think you're thinking of the Chrysler 300M, on the LH platform. It was designed for Euro parking spaces. I'd heard that it was actually originally designed as the 2nd-generation Eagle Vision, but then Chrysler put the proverbial plastic bag over the head of that brand, and decided to just repadge it as a Chrysler.
      Makes sense when you look at it's styling compared to that of the LHS/Concorde.

      1. Maxichamp Avatar

        Yeah, whatever the older version is. I get the two confused. Thanks.

        1. dukeisduke Avatar

          The 300M was a "five-meter" car; five meters in length. They whacked off part of the trunk, to try to get sales in Europe.

    2.  Avatar
  5. west_coaster Avatar

    There was a comparo between the Ford Mustang GT and the Chevy Camaro IROC in the mid-'80s in either Car and Driver or Automobile, and the author was contrasting the two cars. He made the case that the Mustang felt very "German" compared to the Camaro.
    His examples were the height and support of the bucket seats, the not-overly-short sidewalls of the tires, the compliance of the suspension, and so on. I'm pretty sure this was before the Mustang GT got those kind of goofy styling touches for '87 like the taillight louvers, side skirts and finned wheel design.
    The bottom line was that the stiff, low Camaro was unapologetically American, but the Mustang tried to be more of an international performance car. Maybe the intentional Euro-ness of the SVO had rubbed off on the rest of the Mustang line.

  6. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    Dodge 600 ES (For European Sport!) You could get a Five Speed Stick, and a Turbo!
    <img src="http://www.allpar.com/photos/dodge/400/dodge.jpg&quot; alt="" />
    <img src="http://www.allpar.com/photos/dodge/400/600ES.jpg&quot; alt="" />

    1. CJinSD Avatar

      I remember that the first model year 600ES was launched with a comparison to the 300D. They even had focus group reactions to ride and drives. This was before the turbo showed up in 1984, so the diesel was the right car to compare a 2.2 5-speed 600ES to. I suspect the Dodge was just as quick and used as little fuel as the Mercedes. The engine was probably just as smooth too! Having experience with both a new 1985 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo and a used Mercedes 240D, I still don’t see how anyone could have gotten as far as sitting down and closing the door without figuring out where the extra money went into the Benz.

  7. P161911 Avatar

    How about an American themed Euro Tank?
    <img src="http://www.carmk.com/media/2009/06/2009062101273757.jpg"width=500&gt;

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Just thought of another European car with a strong American influence.
      The designer of this:
      <img src="http://images.classiccars.com/preview/178395_11175555_1984_Porsche_928S.jpg&quot; width="500/">
      admits that he was influenced by this:
      <img src="http://chrisescars.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/6.-amc-pacer.jpg&quot; width="500/">

    2. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      That Finback Benz really needs to be considered alongside this: <img src="http://www.allcarcentral.com/Studebaker/Studebaker_Lark_4-dr_1963_Rick_Feibusch_2009.jpg&quot; width=500>That's a 1963 Studebaker Lark. You can have your Sevilles and Granadas; I'll take the FIRST American car quite deliberately designed to resemble a Mercedes sedan.

  8. Jim-Bob Avatar

    Pontiac G8. An awesome car that was never allowed to reach it's full flower.

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      That makes it even tougher, because that's an Australian car that is influenced by a similar design philosophy as many european sports sedans. In both Europe and Australia, the RWD performance sedan rules as king, so they come from a common design. As such, it does have its comparisons with the Bimmers and Mercs… but can you truly call it American?

  9. Cynic Avatar

    «It turns heads as well as it turns corners.»
    That badly, huh?

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      My, and what an appropriate ID name you have!

  10. P161911 Avatar

    Someone mention the other week that the styling of this
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/01/Chevrolet_Corvette_C1_Convertible_1956.jpg"width=500&gt;
    was heavily influenced by this
    <img src="http://www.hd-wallpaper-images.com/img/1295422838-mercedes-300sl-gullwing.jpg"width=500&gt;
    I can see it. This would be my favorite.

    1. skitter Avatar

      Tough call. The Corvette was first shown as a 1953 concept, and production began the same year. The racing W194s hit Le Mans, the 'Ring, the Mille and the Carrera in 1952, but weren't introduced or produced as road cars until 1954.
      Edit: Oh, that's a picture of a '56-'57. Well…
      Maybe I should eat breakfast.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Yeah, I was referring specifically to the 1956 restyle. In 1958 they went back to American Excess complete with a hood full of fake louvers.

  11. dukeisduke Avatar

    The Five Hundred shared its platform with the Volvo S60 and S80 (among others), so it was really an American-Euro mashup.

  12. W124 for me Avatar
    W124 for me

    A blind man could spot the difference today: the Merc is still plying the roads, the Granada has been crushed and come back as a container of toasters from China.

  13. Alff Avatar

    Dodge Omni Euro Sedan … for the buyer whose uncle sold Chryslers but who really wanted a Rabbit.
    <img src="http://omnilith.net/teamomni/omnieur2.jpg"&gt;

    1. facelvega Avatar

      Yeah but an Omni/Horizon was basically the same as a Simca Horizon, i.e. it's already a French car. Not even as truly Detroit as a first-gen Focus, say.

      1. Paul_y Avatar

        The Omnirizon was a weirdo car even for Chrysler — the entire rest of their non-truck lineup was on the K-platform, then… this. So yeah, it was a Simca. Some of the early examples had VW engines, IIRC.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          However, the Europeans never got the Horizon-based L coupes.

          1. facelvega Avatar

            People around here seem to like the coupes, but my family had about four of these in the various body styles when I was growing up, and the simple Omnis were easier to live with and handled just as well (i.e., not that great), and nowadays I prefer the cleanness of their styling over the coupes. Never had any of the Shelby ones, though.

          2. Paul_y Avatar

            Lucky bastards.

      2. patrick Avatar

        Where did they sell the Simca Horizon? I remember the Talbot Horizon from England… I thought that, though they looked very similar, in fact, they were quite inexplicably different cars. Is that not true?

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The Horizon was originally sold as a Chrysler in the UK and as a Simca in France. When Peugeot bought and took over Chrysler Europe in late '78, they soon rebadged all the existing Simca and Chrysler cars as Talbots.

  14. Maymar Avatar

    <img src="http://thegarageblog.com/garage/wp-content/uploads/1990-92-eagle-premier-90105021990314.jpg&quot; /img>
    I know it wasn't a great car, but I'm not going to let something small like that stop me from liking it. Granted, its Vision replacement was a rather decent car, so I could theoretically go with that. Or the "5-metre car" 300M that was supposed to be the Vision's replacement (I had an Intrepid, I have latent LH love).
    It might also be stretching the idea of Euro-themed, but still…
    <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2095/4941/30237470002_large.jpg&quot; width=500 /img>

    1. RichardKopf Avatar

      Ah yes, the Eagle Premiere! Without it, my LHS would have never come to fruition.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        On more than a few occasions, I've pointed out that the LX chassis owes about as much to the French as it does to the Germans (basically whenever anyone insists that the 300C is nothing more than a reskinned W124).

    2. Paul_y Avatar

      The Eagle Premiere/Dodge Monaco was originally designed around Renault 21 and 25 components to be sold as an AMC, oddly enough.

  15. raphaelinberlin Avatar

    Corvair, anyone? It also has the added plus of sending all kinds of design influence right back to Europe. if you don't believe me, ask Paul niedermeyer and he'll name every corvair-influenced European car ever made in a several hour long account (if you read this, I love your site Paul!)

  16. skitter Avatar

    I really wish sleek and fast had caught on.
    <img src="http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt237/jskitter/hooniverse/OldsmobileAurora.jpg"&gt;

    1. dustin_driver Avatar

      The Aurora is one of my all-time favorite Olds. And they drove them on X Files for a bit.

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        As long as we're talkin' Gen 1 Aurora, yes. The 2nd gen ruined the look.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          I actually like the Gen 2 a little better. It lacks the puffiness of the Gen 1 cars.
          <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Oldsmobile-Aurora.jpg/800px-Oldsmobile-Aurora.jpg&quot; width=500>

          1. Deartháir Avatar

            I second that. i actually really like the looks of the Gen II Aurora. I think those were just damn fine cars that didn't get the appreciation they deserved. Even if they were wrong-wheel-drive.

          2. Maymar Avatar

            I suppose the Gen 2 has the slightly better proportions (although I prefer the Gen 1's detailing), but from what little I've got to experience of each of them, the Gen 1 is the nicer car. The Gen 2 was supposed to be the Antares, the replacement for the 88, but once Oldsmobile was Dead Brand Walking, the Antares was repurposed as the Aurora to salvage development costs.

    2. facelvega Avatar

      The sleek, grand touring coupe-like sedan look did catch on after the Aurora, it's called the Mercedes CLS and the Volkswagen CC.

      1. skitter Avatar

        I agree, yet they lack the delicacy of the Olds's shape.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Just as an aside, I could SERIOUSLY see myself in a new Regal GS, which really surprises me.
      I can't seriously see myself making the monthly payments on it, however.

      1. Black Steelies Avatar

        I was thinking my post was only half relevant as these are not European inspired as much as semi-imports.
        I didn't delete it because the Regal is sex. And I'm stoked about the manual.

  17. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Buick Calais/Regal. It came with a string of european national flags on the fenders, so it had to be the quintessence of Euroness.

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      So did the cutlass ciera. I remember thinking that little badge was just about the coolest feature it had.

      1. smokyburnout Avatar

        <img src="http://farm1.static.flickr.com/24/39939305_ea504e4ef7.jpg"/&gt;
        I remember being confused by the badge as a child. Can't say I understand it any more now.

    2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      Canada, Mexico, all kinds of European flags……. but notice there's no Japanese flag………

  18. Alff Avatar

    I like this thread.
    <img src="http://blogs.venturacountystar.com/vcs/motorhead/fiesta%20ad.jpg"&gt;
    I remember other ads calling the Fiesta the "Wundercar".

  19. TurboBrick Avatar

    Oldsmobile 98 Touring Sedan from the late 80's. Why yes we can compete with BMW, just put some "bucket" seats, stiffer suspension and BBS-style alloy wheels on. That'll totally go well with the rest of the 98 lineup.
    <img src="http://media.ed.edmunds-media.com/pictures/VEHICLE/1990/Oldsmobile/1816/1990.oldsmobile.ninetyeight.8734-E.jpg"&gt;

  20. nitroracer Avatar

    I like the fairmont and zephyr ess better than the granada. Then again I have been jonesing for an odd fox body lately.
    <img src="http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b238/nitroracer/Other%20Images/FairmontCoupeESS.jpg " width="600">
    <img src="http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b238/nitroracer/Other%20Images/ZephyrAd.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. JayP Avatar

      The LTD LX with the 5.0 and blacked out grill was pretty hot. (for the time)

    2. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      People in these parts tend to ignore just how mediocre the early Fox cars were. The interior was a weird, poorly executed rendition of what the foreigners were doing (remember the stalk-mounted horn?) and the whole car suffered from fit and finish that only Detroit could muster. And don't forget that you could still get this damn thing with the ancient Falcon straight six and three-on-the-tree…not exactly European.
      That said, the Fairmont was a major improvement over the Granada and its circa 1966 suspension (that sucked even in '66). And the platform was a good one. The Fairmont, 2nd generation Granada and early Fox Mustangs and Thunderbirds sucked. But the '83 LTD wasn't too bad, the '82+ Mustang 5.0 was great and the '83 Thunderbird revolutionized Ford's car line.

  21. Tomsk Avatar

    I've grown somewhat fond of the first-generation Pontiac Grand Am. It had Radial Tuned Suspension, so you know they weren't screwing around.
    <img src="http://autopolis.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/74-gran-am.jpg?w=536&h=382&quot; width="500" />

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Yes, but I'm not sure how European-themed the car or the marketing was. I can't imagine that grille on a BMW or Mercedes.
      Actually I can, but I'm weird.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        You could get all the Grand Am mechanicals on the much better looking Grand Prix for not much more money, including that fancy dash. The Grand Am was something of a flop for Pontiac. It's not hard to see why.

    2. patrick Avatar

      My brother had one. I was awesome. Until the door fell off.

  22. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I'm gonna say:
    <img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4046/4349928539_aab57537f8_o.jpg&quot; width=400>
    Based on absolutely nothing except misty eyed reminiscing of Florida vacations past. It was a Euro 3.1, from Alamo, with the power windows and locks group, but not the deluxe gages. And 131hp of throbbing front-wheel-drive thrust.
    And the reddest velour interior you ever did see. Lumina, you have a place in my heart.
    Which you probably don't deserve.

    1. Tomsk Avatar

      As crappy as the Lumina was, part of me harbors a perverse affection toward the Z34, with its quad-cam V6, 5-speed and not-totally-chavish body kit.
      [youtube -Z2Jb9KqcLs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z2Jb9KqcLs youtube]

    2. Tomsk Avatar

      I'm not ashamed (okay, I'm fairly ashamed) to say I have a thing for the Lumina Z34. Still front-drive, but rocking a quad-cam V6, Getrag 5-speed and a just-this-side-of-chavish body kit.
      [youtube -Z2Jb9KqcLs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z2Jb9KqcLs youtube]

      1. Tomsk Avatar

        Gah! The original wasn't there a minute ago, I swear!

      2. Maymar Avatar

        The Euro 3.4 has most of that, except the Chavish body kit. They're also unicorn-rare, but that's besides the point.

  23. tonyola Avatar

    Around the same time, Mercury used the wraparound window theme on the Mercury Sable, though without the hatchback.
    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2115/2060886588_c7c202920b.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      It's amazing how similar those cars look from this angle, except that the Sable has taillights and the Scorpio has "TAILLIGHTS!"

    2. Lotte Avatar

      Oh! Well that's a surprise…that never caught my eye that way; I would've assumed it's the same rear 3/4 as a Taurus.

      1. scoutdude Avatar

        Back in that era the Ford and Mercury versions actually had a fair amount of distinctive pieces. The Merc usually got the "formal" roofline while the Ford favored a more "aero" look. The height of uniqueness were the 92-97 Crown Vic and Grand Marq. The only exterior pieces shared were the windshield, front doors, front door glass, door handles and keyless entry pad. They had unique dashes too with the Ford getting a full set of gauges (even if the oil pressure was rigged with a resistor to always have the same reading if it was above 5-7psi) including a 120mph speedo while the Merc only had a temp gauge and 85mph speedo.

        1. tonyola Avatar

          After a couple of years, the base analog Marquis panel had the full set of five gauges (1996 car pictured). The optional electronic cluster deleted the oil and volt gauges, but kept a temp gauge.
          <img src="http://images.dealerrevs.com/gallery/photo.php?id=46409313&quot; width=500>

  24. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    Someone here may appreciate this nominee:
    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2886/3101/32214050346_large.jpg"&gt;

    1. Patrick Avatar

      My dad had an 84 Marquis. White with baby blue interior. I did not want that to be my first car AT ALL. I was 11 when he bought it and 12 when he started suggesting it could be mine. I mentioned to him that it might be ok if we repainted it black with blacked out grill and trim. He sold it, and my first car ended up being a brown Studebaker. Much better.

    1. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      Those X-11's I always thought were pretty cool.

      1. Black Steelies Avatar

        Oh I do too, but the caption made me laugh considering I haven't seen a Citation in a long while.

  25. LTDScott Avatar

    Well good thing you answered for me, because I was busy all day at work. Stupid paycheck.

  26. LTDScott Avatar

    That's actually a Century Gran Sport, which was a step up from the T-Type.
    <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/119/1221/25295610013_large.jpg"&gt;

  27. texan_idiot25 Avatar

    That is actually pretty handsome looking.