Everyone loves a comeback. So when Renault announced its bold rejuvenation plan earlier this year, it was no surprise that the proposed return of one of its most famous cars grabbed the headlines. The company’s icon of the Seventies and Eighties, the Renault 5 – a predecessor to the Clio – is set to be reborn as an electric hatchback designed to lead the company into a brave new era following a torrid few years.
To whet the appetite even further, Renault released images of a concept previewing what to expect from the production vehicle. Fans were delighted to see a contemporary interpretation of the original’s familiar lines – further proof, if any was needed, that reimagining classics for the modern era can be a recipe for success (if done respectfully). Will it kickstart a new wave of returning icons? Probably not, but there’s no harm in dreaming… so here are six more blasts from the past we’d love to see updated and returned to the road.
Once upon a time, the Mazda MX-5 wasn’t the only option if you were after a fun, rear-wheel- drive Japanese roadster. Around 20 years ago, there was also the Honda S2000, and to this day debate rages from owners in each camp as to which was the superior car. The S2000 certainly had a lot in its favour; it was faster, slightly bigger (so a bit more comfortable) and loved to be revved. All told, it just felt that bit more ‘hardcore’. Plus, it arguably boasted more timeless design (it still looks great today). MX-5 fans, however, pointed to their car’s lighter weight, arguing that it delivered a purer, more rounded driving experience. Whatever your preference, one thing is indisputable – it would be fantastic for the argument to be rekindled were Honda to build a new S2000, even if it had to eschew its original 2.0-litre VTEC engine for electric power.
MG’s return to prominence over the past year has been one of the motor industry’s big success stories. UK sales rose 41 per cent over 2019, a remarkable achievement in light of the pandemic and various lockdowns, driven in the main by a range of attractively priced plug-in models. While MG’s renewed relevance is great news, for some the brand will forever be associated with classic sports cars, in particular the MGB Roadster first sold in the early Sixties. Its recipe of lightweight construction, rear-wheel drive, instantly recognizable styling an affordable pricing made it a big hit and set a blueprint for others. In fact, in many ways, today’s current roadster king, the MX-5, was inspired by the MGB; is it too much to hope that one day a reborn version of the latter will be sold alongside the perennial Japanese favourite?
BMW’s careful curation of the MINI brand has been a masterclass in how to successfully revive a much loved name from the past. Sympathetic design has been blended with a new identity and fresh technologies to create a range of cars that appeal across the board. One thing that rankles, though, is that MINIs just aren’t very ‘mini’ anymore – the Countryman and the Clubman, in particular, are most definitely on the bulky side. So is there any chance of a new small MINI, with the ingenious packaging and exhilarating handling of the original, ever seeing the light of day? Over the years we’ve seen a small concept (the Rocketman of 2011) and there have been rumours of a new all-electric ‘minor MINI’ to tackle the likes of the new Fiat 500. This is one potential rebirth that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
Anyone born in the last 20 years might wonder why Alfa Romeo is held in such high esteem. The fabled Italian brand has produced more misfires than successes in recent times. But that hasn’t always been the case. As recently as 1988, it delivered up the SZ, a limited-edition front-drive superhatch that was priced to compete with a Porsche 911 and delivered 207bhp from its 3.0-litre V6 engine. What really appeals about the SZ, though, is the design – although not everyone agreed when it was first revealed. While Alfas of the past had gained a reputation for sophisticated beauty, the SZ upset purists with a brutalist look that hit as hard as a right uppercut from then heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. An updated version with similarly boxy styling would make Alfa a brand that is impossible to ignore again.
Ford is another maker who has made public its plans for an all-electric future. It recently announced that all its new vehicles would have plug-in capabilities by 2026 and that by 2030 it intended to be completely all-electric. While exciting times undoubtedly lie ahead, imagine how much more thrilling they’d be if a reimagined Capri was part of the plan? The iconic Seventies and Eighties coupé was designed to be a ‘European Mustang’ by the US firm and delivered an intoxicating mix of style and affordable performance that was adored by enthusiasts and mainstream buyers alike. Anyone who’s ever watched a Professionals repeat on ITV4 will know exactly why this car has almost mystical allure for some – it would make a lot of middle-aged men’s dreams come true if the Capri followed the Puma back into production again.
Lancia these days is a shadow of its former self. The once proud brand only sells cars in Italy, and offers just one model, the Ypsilon, which was previously sold in the UK as a Chrysler. Sad times. It’s all a far cry from the late eighties when it produced what has regularly been described as “the greatest hot hatch ever made”, the spellbinding Delta Integrale. Massive success in the World Rally Championship, where it won six constructors’ titles and four drivers’ crowns, gave the car undoubted pedigree which successfully translated into a barnstorming road machine. Fast, beautifully balanced and with no-nonsense styling, it delivered everything you could want from a performance package. Few cars of recent times have been so revered by petrolheads, and a return in any form would generate huge interest.