Pick any car on this list and, five years ago, they seemed to be everywhere. Today, they’re becoming rare sights indeed. And five to 10 years from now, they’ll mostly be gone. Whether it’s a quality issue, poor performance in collisions or just the march of time intersecting with their generally disposable nature, these five are our picks for imminent extinction:
- 1995-2005 Chevrolet Cavalier: The last generation Chevy Cavalier is certain to go the way of the two previous generations of Cavaliers and essentially retreat to the automotive fossil record. The third-generation Cavalier exhibited particularly poor build quality (when they were numerous, it was easy to amuse yourself on a long trip by observing how poorly the quarter-panel taillights aligned with the adjacent light strip on the trunk lid). The fact that they fold up like an Origami swan in a collision hasn’t helped much either. In fact, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has noted that the Cavalier boasts among the highest death rates of any car recorded.
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- 1995-99 Dodge/Plymouth Neon: The Neon was a state-of-the-art small car when it was introduced in 1994. Car guy extraordinaire Bob Lutz, then with Chrysler, saw to that. Sadly, most first-generation Neons had a built-in expiration date in the form of a head gasket that would fail at around 60,000 miles. When the cars were younger, Dodge dealers helped out with the normally $900 expense, but nearly 20 years down the road, with the herd thinned by head-gasket failures and the few surviving cars regularly abused by “The Fast and the Furious” generation, extinction probably looms.
- 1997-2002 Ford Escort/Mercury Tracer: These were the bad old days for Ford small cars. Long before we got the stellar cars that Ford was peddling in Europe (like the current Focus and Fiesta), they insulted us with stuff like the Hermosillo, Mexico-built Escort and Mecury Tracer. The sedan and wagon were the epitome of appliances for people who didn’t care about cars. The ZX2 coupe, while bland, was at least an acceptable performer. Today, it seems like there’s a “do not resuscitate” order out on all third-generation Escorts — they’re disappearing fast.
- 1984-90 Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan: The Voyager/Caravan was a category-creating milestone vehicle. And although the minivan seems to have been supplanted by the crossover as the vehicle of choice for family transport, the original Chrysler minivan deserves to be preserved. Sadly, just the opposite is happening. Between poor paint (which often peels off hoods in sheets), the resulting rust and the hand grenade-like Ultradrive transmissions, few of these classic box-like minivans remain.
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- 1995-2000 Ford Contour: Although billed by Ford as a “one-world” design, the North American version was clearly inferior in most counts to the European Ford Mondeo. As bland an automotive appliance as one can imagine — no, wait, its twin the Mercury Mystique was even blander — only the hot SVT versions stand a chance of long-term survival. Like the Cavalier, the Contour was slammed in the safety department by the IIHS.