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What Makes A Commonplace Car A Rarity

Cars So Common Nobody Thought To Preserve Them

Once upon a time in America, passenger pigeons were the most common bird on the continent. Great swarms of them would cover the sky, so many that people told stories of how they turned day into early night, blocking out the sun and hiding the light. And yet, somehow, today, they are no more. The last, a hen named Martha, died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Here in England, there are many classic cars that have shared the same fate. Once populous, barely any remain. The Plymouth Cricket is a prime example. Thousands of these British-made cars once roared along our roads, yet evidence of them in the automotive fossil record is almost non-existent. The classic Chevrolet Monza did an even more impressive disappearing act: of the 300,000 produced between 1975 and 1980, fewer than 25 remain.   

They are not the only ones to have disappeared. These are the cars that were so popular that no one ever thought to preserve them. They disappeared gradually, yet it took a long time for people to recognise the danger they faced, for they were so accustomed to thinking of them as commonplace. The supercars of legend rarely shared the same fate; so rare were they to begin with that each was treasured as a unique example of its breed – to have scrapped them would have been sacrilege.

Here, then, is a list of the cars that people simply forgot to save. Boasting at least ten thousand vehicles each in their heyday, fewer than 15 of these models survive today…

Mazda RX-2



Photo of Mazda RX-2


This Mazda model was the first rotary-powered car to really make an impact overseas. The impressive engine, designed and built by NSU Wankel in Germany, offered V-8 performance in a pint-sized package. A compact little car, it provided a smooth, fluid drive that the world went wild for. However, it would end its day as one of the many sad casualties of the fuel crisis, its thirsty V8 engine and revolutionary rotary technology proving to be its downfall.   


Mercury Capri



Mercury Capri


Produced between 1971 and 1976, the Mercury Capri was Europe’s answer to the Mustang. Like its American counterpart, it was built on relatively ordinary underpinnings, but the final picture was harmonious, proportionate and, in the case of the V-6 powered cars, delightfully fast. In its first two years, it sold over 100,000 units, but today less than fifteen remain. Where they all went is anybody’s guess.


Renault/AMC Alliance Convertible



Photo of Renault Alliance Convertible


The Alliance was a strange amalgam of a French Renault and Canadian manufacturing. Sadly, this odd cocktail didn’t improve the cars, and Wisconsinites were unimpressed to discover that local manufacturers assembled the vehicles as indifferently as their French counterparts. The convertible did have its strength – the fact that it was AMC’s first drop-top since 1968 making it interesting on its own merits – but it failed to set the world on fire, and, unsurprisingly, no known models remain.   


Toyota Supra



Photo of Toyota Supra


The Supra deserves to go down in history as the proto-Lexus, a revolution for Toyota’s luxury division. With its impressive wheelbase, fancy grill, leather seats and a big, smooth straight six, the car was, unsurprisingly, a huge hit. Although its popularity has sadly waned, this was the car that proved there was a global market for Japanese quality and execution even when it was wrapped in a bigger, more refined and pricier package.   


Volkswagen Scirocco (First Generation)



Photo of VW Scirocco


Sold for 6 years, the Scirocco was a thoroughly modern Volkswagen. Rabbit-inspired, front-wheel drive, water-cooled car, and was intended to replace the popular Karmann-Ghia in the line-up. Its attractive, angular styling was courtesy of Ital Design and Giorgetto Giugiaro, but as attractive as it was it failed to safeguard it against the scourge of all 70s cars: rust. The ranks of first-generation cars have sadly thinned to fewer than fifteen cars, so that imminent extinction now seems a sad reality.


Related links:

Classic Cars with Soul and Passion in Abundance

Classic Cars from the Seventies

Eighties in the Spotlight

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