Few people today would think of taking a treasured classic out in winter weather. This is perhaps partly because, back in the day, the average front-engine, rear-wheel-drive full-size sedan or muscle car was terrible in the snow. A few, however, were outstanding at talking back to Mother Nature. Here are five that more than held their own:
1. 1966-67 Olds Toronado
The first-generation Toro was an amazing piece of engineering. It was the first front-driver from Detroit since the 1930s Cord, and the massive amount of weight from the Olds V-8 over the driving wheels, coupled with the skinny tires of the day, was key to this car’s amazing traction in the snow.
2. 1980-88 AMC Eagle SX4
The Eagle was perhaps AMC’s most brilliant mash-up of existing parts, marrying a drivetrain from its Jeep division with the AMC Concord wagon to create the first successful mass-produced four-wheel-drive passenger car. The Concord wagon-based cars still turn up in regular use in places like Colorado and Alaska. The Gremlin-based Kammback is particularly weirdly cool and nearly extinct as is the sporty SX/4.
3. 1983-86 Audi Quattro Coupe
Audi’s first Quattro coupe (known to fans as the Ur-Quattro) was a breakthrough car. The first mass-produced, all-wheel-drive high-performance car, it was utterly impervious to bad road conditions and quickly dominated the world rally scene. As cars from the 1980s become collectible, we expect the rather rare Quattro coupe to appreciate in value.
4. 1959-69 Chevrolet Corvair
The key to the Corvair’s ability in snow was the exact opposite of the Toronado’s: Its engine weight was over the drive wheels, but in this case, it was the rear wheels toiling under a rear-mounted flat-six. Air-cooled VW Beetles with snow tires also weren’t bad in the snow.
5. 1989-94 Porsche Carrera 4
In the late 1980s, Porsche briefly held the crown for the supercar that everyone wanted (but nobody in the U.S. could get, until Bill Gates changed things). It was the first 911 derivative to sport all-wheel-drive. Everyone hoped that the sophisticated system would eventually filter down to 911s that were actually obtainable, and by 1989, the 911 Carrera 4 had it. Today, the first Carrera 4s (known as the 964) are used cars that are rapidly approaching collectible status. Like the 959, you have to work really hard to get stuck in one, with ground clearance being the only issue.