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Back In The Day: Tracing The Origins Of 10 New Cars

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
July 15, 2012
4 min. Reading Time

Car companies love to recycle, with varying results.  Sometimes it's a familiar nameplate affixed to a brand new design, while in other cases it's the slow and gradual evolution of a popular model from one class of vehicle to another.  It's even possible for automakers to reference a classic vehicle when building a modern edition that bears almost no resemblance to its progenitor, all in the name of maintaining corporate continuity.

Let's take a look at 10 new cars and see how far they have strayed from their origins way back when.


01. 2012 Dodge Challenger

The 2012 Dodge Challenger - at least at first glance - appears to be the most faithful muscle car re-interpretation currently on the market.  A closer inspection, however, reveals some key differences between the 1970 Dodge Challenger and the new model.  The modern-era Challenger is visibly narrower and considerably taller than the iconic version of the coupe, a fact that doesn't become apparent until the two are parked side-by-side.  In terms of interior space, the 2012 Dodge Challenger also carries the day thanks to the fact that it shares its basic platform with the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 full-size sedans.



02. 2012 Chevrolet Impala

The 2012 Chevrolet Impala is the latest in a long line of full-size sedans from General Motors that have worn many different styling hats since the model was introduced in the late 1950's.  The Chevrolet Impala has served as the top-of-the-line family car for the Bowtie brand, a tail-finned convertible and coupe, the favorite choice of low-rider builders across the country, and a box-like police special in the 1980's.  Although the mid-90's saw the Impala briefly emerge as a big performance sedan, as it stands now the model serves as a roomy, affordable and reasonably powerful four-door automobile without any high-speed pretensions.



03. 2012 Jeep Wrangler

The 2012 Jeep Wrangler can trace its roots back to the rough and rugged hunks of all-terrain machinery that carried American troops to the frontlines during World War II, but the Wrangler model itself was first introduced in 1987.  In many ways, the Jeep Wrangler is the direct descendent of the Jeep CJ, the civilian edition of the army transport that had an astonishingly long production run until the Wrangler took its place after more than four decades of service.  The 2012 Jeep Wrangler maintains CJ's basic styling language but dramatically updates ride quality, horsepower, fuel mileage, and off-road capability thanks to a healthy dose of engineering know-how.



04. 2012 Volkswagen Golf

The 2012 Volkswagen Golf is a popular choice for compact hatchback fans seeking a comfortable, fun-to-drive automobile that also has a practical dimension. The Golf has been around quite a long time - since the mid-70's - and it offers a perfect example of how even the smallest of cars have grown in size over the course of the past few decades.  The original Golf (or Rabbit, depending on the model year) was a tiny affair that maximized its gas mileage via a lightweight design and modest proportions.  The 2012 Golf still offers phenomenal fuel economy when ordered in TDI turbodiesel trim, but its interior room, cargo space, and overall footprint make it seem like a luxury yacht in comparison to its starting point.


05. 2012 Dodge Charger

The 2012 Dodge Charger is a full-size sedan that shares it's name with not one, but two vehicles from radically different chapters in the Detroit-based brand's history.  Almost everyone is familiar with the 1968-1969 Dodge Charger muscle coupe that was made famous by television shows like "The Dukes Of Hazzard" and movies such as "Bullit."  A second, less conspicuous era in the Charger saga occurred in the 1980's when the name was affixed to a compact, front-wheel drive hatchback.  Either model couldn't be more stylistically different than the big, bruising Charger of today, which can be had with either a responsible, family-oriented V-6 under the hood or one of two different fire-breathing Hemi V-8 engines for those seeking to recapture its performance legacy.



06. 2012 Chrysler Town & Country

The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country is a minivan with premium leanings designed to appeal to families seeking a plush, comfortable eight-passenger option with loads of cargo space.  Although the Town & Country name has been attached to a minivan for roughly 20 years, it was not always thus - the moniker was originally affixed to a woodie wagon in the late 1940's.  Over time, the Town & Country name became associated with a host of full-size and compact wagons and even a convertible before it was transferred over to the van that continues keeps the tradition alive.



07. 2012 Dodge Avenger

The 2012 Dodge Avenger's semi-aggressive styling is really the only link between its debut as a sleek two-door coupe and its current status as mid-size sedan.  The Dodge Avenger was the direct result of a technology-sharing partnership between Chrysler and Mitsubishi called Diamond Star Motors, a collaboration that saw the birth of the Eagle brand, the production of vehicles like the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the development of a strong turbocharged engine lineup.  From 1995 to 2000 the Dodge Avenger came in coupe form with the Eclipse's platform riding underneath, and after an eight year hiatus the Avenger name returned to brand the family car it is sold as today.



08. 2012 Chevrolet Malibu

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu is another proud bearer of GM's heritage flame.  Originally, the Malibu was known as the top trim level available with the Chevrolet Chevelle, but eventually the Malibu and Chevelle bloodlines separated and the Malibu became its own four-door sedan.  This mid-size model  disappeared from the market between 1984 and 1997 when the name was revived to continue as an inexpensive family car.  It wasn't until 2008, however, that the Chevrolet Malibu received the kind of styling and engineering attention that allowed it to command the same level of respect that it had once evoked in the 1960's and 70's.



09. 2012 Ford Taurus

The 2012 Ford Taurus is the largest and most luxurious family car available in the automaker's lineup, but there was a time when the Taurus played second fiddle to vehicles like the Crown Victoria and had to settle for simply being the best-selling mid-size car in North America.  When the Ford Taurus was unveiled in 1986 it might not have been marketed under the same premium banner but its forward-thinking design was a revolution amongst the squared-off options that sedan shoppers had to choose from during that decade.  The Taurus would loose its edge in the 1990's due to a poorly-conceived re-engineering effort, but after a brief timeout the automobile surged again in popularity after a 2008 decision to bring it back as the car company's flagship model.



10. 2012 MINI Cooper

The 2012 MINI Cooper might be built by German masters (BMW), but the British marque has stayed true to its original mission of offering a fun-to-drive, subcompact car for the masses.  The thing is, since the original Cooper was introduced the definition of what one would consider subcompact has swollen considerably, with the 60's model's ultra-small design having been replaced by a platform that is huge in comparison.  Despite its larger dimensions, the MINI Cooper manages to maintain its ancestor's mission - and many of its styling cues - with considerable aplomb.



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