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Signature brands make comebacks
By Ira Kantor/ BostonHerald.com
Monday, November 12, 2012

Automakers are always looking for ways to be original when unveiling new models. In certain instances, this means shifting gears and storing vintage nameplates in the garage.
     
     “There just aren’t that many that survive from the old days,” said Scott Oldham, editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com. “A lot of brands move away from old nameplates in order for their vehicles to seem more fresh and not old-fashioned, while others hold on to nameplates to sort of have attachment remain to the glory days.”
     
     Certain car makers such as Cadillac and Buick have retired vintage nameplates altogether. Other brands, such as Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford, have been known to release a nameplate, keep it in the marketplace for years, put the brakes on it and then re-release it to the world.
     
     On Saturday, the Herald unveiled its top 10 list of the best tough and rugged vehicles for 2013. This time we take a drive down memory lane as we present the 10 greatest survivor nameplates on the market today.
     
     
     
     10. Chevrolet Impala
     
     Its peak occurred from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s before disappearing until the mid-1990s. This time around, the modern Impala remains the mainstream American sedan for the everyman, as it is affordable with high value and offers “a large package for the family that’s a little fun for Dad to drive,” Oldham said.
     
     (Production years: 1957-85, 1994-96, 1999-present; MSRP: $29,189)
     
     
     
     9. Chevrolet Malibu
     
     Here, then gone, then back again, the Malibu is a slightly smaller, slightly more affordable sedan than the Impala. Popular in the 1960s and 1970s, the Malibu invokes “positive connotations” with California’s eponymous sun-soaked destination, Oldham said, adding, “Either you’re a little older and you have grand fun memories of it as a child, or somebody you knew in the ’70s had one that fell apart.”
     
     (Production years: 1953-82, 1997-present; MSRP: $25,074)
     
     8. Dodge Dart
     
     The new Dart is unrelated to the Darts of yore besides its nameplate and “the desire to deliver an affordable, high value, small car that’s a bit fun to drive and doesn’t hurt the pocketbook too much,” according to Oldham. This year marked the first Dart released since 1976, which is based on the Alfa Romeo, a Fiat offering. Dodge is hoping family-friendly features and a low price will be “a magical combination” this time around, Oldham added.
     
     (Production years: 1960-76, 2012-present; MSRP: $19,763)
     
     7. Chrysler 300
     
     The 300 may have disappeared from 1971 to 1998, but this has become “the signature vehicle for the Chrysler brand as a rear-wheel-drive performance sedan with some old-school characteristics,” Oldham said. Undergoing a redesign last year, the 300 is as appealing as ever, offering a luxury standard that competes with German counterparts. “Chrysler’s tagline for the vehicle is ‘Imported from Detroit,’ and that’s had some success for them,” Oldham added.
     
     (Production years: 1955-65, 1971, 1998-present; MSRP: $39,324)
     
     
     
     6. Dodge Charger
     
     This is Dodge’s answer to the Chrysler 300 — they share engines, suspensions and size. Yet the Charger proves the winner as it “has a little bit more muscle car sprinkled into it,” according to Oldham. In existence from 1966 to 1978, with a brief return in the 1980s, the Charger is best remembered for its presence on the hit television series “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Returning in 2005, the revamped Charger is horsepower-heavy and “tells the world you know of the Chargers of the past,” Oldham said.
     
     (Production years: 1966-78, 1983-87, 2005-present; MSRP: $33,353)
     
     5. Ford F-Series
     
     On Saturday, we feted the Ford F-Series as being one of the world’s best rugged vehicles around today. The model, in fact, has been in continuous production since 1948, making it the “quintessential American pickup truck,” Oldham said, adding, “It’s a brand within itself and Ford has done a wonderful job of cultivating that brand through the decades and many, many different versions of the vehicle.”
     
     (Production years: 1948-present; MSRP: $44,555)
     
     
     
     4. Chevrolet Camaro
     
     A slight hiatus in the Camaro nameplate earlier in the millennium hasn’t stopped Chevy’s answer to the Ford Mustang from being one of the most legendary nameplates in automotive history. In 2009, the Camaro returned and paid homage to Chevy’s classic 1969 model “which in some people’s opinions is the best looking Chevy of all time,” Oldham said, adding the new Camaro is completely modern in its performance, amenities and abilities.
     
     (Production years: 1966-2002, 2009-present; MSRP: $32,675)
     
     
     
     3. Dodge Challenger
     
     A two-door version of the Dodge Charger, while still retaining the same engines, suspension and hardware as the four-door, the new Challenger is styled to closely resemble the 1970 Dodge Challenger, a famous muscle era performance car prized by collectors. “It sort of looks like a car from 1970, but it drives as modern as anything else out there and that’s a unique package,” Oldham said. “It competes with the Mustang and Camaro for sort of the retro muscle car vibe buyer.”
     
     (Production years: 1970-74, 1978-83, 2008-present; MSRP: $33,020)
     
     
     
     2. Ford Mustang
     
     Nearing its 50th birthday, the Ford Mustang is eternal in the eyes of car lovers and remains one of the best performance car values in the history of the automobile. This is a model renowned for delivering high performance and high style all wrapped up in a uniquely American package, Oldham said, adding “The Mustang, through good times and bad; through the economic boom and recession; through times of war and peace ... is essentially the face of the Ford Motor Company.”
     
     (Production years: 1964-present; MSRP: $32,354)
     
     
     
     1. Chevrolet Corvette
     
     Rolled out in 1953, the Corvette has kept its classic look — and nickname (“America’s sports car”) — in the 21st century. With a storied past and a bright future, the 2014 version of this beauty will be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, Oldham said, adding, “It’s always been a very high performance, affordable two-seater that could compete on the race track and streets of America with exotic sports cars around the world at a fraction of the cost.”
     
     (Production years: 1953-present; MSRP: $67,338)

( -— ira.kantor@bostonherald.com )

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