Five formerly common cars you just don't see anymore
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Some models just disappear without you even noticing. Yes, clearly as time progresses, certain models — especially from our country’s darker motoring past — vanish, simply because they were never completely reliable in the first place.
When’s the last time you saw a Morris Marina, or a Pontiac Le Mans, for example?
But then there are other cars that seem like ubiquitous street furniture one day; and are simply all gone the next.
They’re generally of mediocre fare; utilitarian family hacks, urban shopping carts or utterly flogged workhorses.
And because they might have sprung from a less popular corner of a given manufacturer’s range in the first place, they don’t enjoy the continual generational replacement of your 3-Series or your Golfs.
Once the last one has departed for the great scrapyard in the sky, that’s it. They weren’t so offensive as to have not been bought in the first place, but then they weren’t collectable enough to be kept running, either.
Here are five such cars that once seemed like they occupied every third driveway, but now are rarely seen.
1. TOYOTA COROLLA FX GT
For a couple of years in the mid-1990s, a little three-door E80-era Corolla FX GT was the fledgling boy racer’s wheels of choice. This was before the Nissan Skylines and Subaru Imprezas of the early 90s were cheap enough for your average 17-year-old to buy and ruin with any aftermarket part that fell within their modest budget.
In fact, along with the three-door Cyborg version of the Mitsubishi Lancer – which began appearing frequently in the printed second-hand car columns of the Trade & Exchange newspaper around the same time – the Corolla FX GT formed a kind of bridge in boy racer-dom between the pure performance of Japan’s more iconic 1990s nameplates, and the older British/Aussie hoon-mobiles of the 1980s; your beaten-up Escorts and Kingswoods.
The FX GT lived on into the rounder post-E80 generation, but it was the more angular 1600cc manual, replete with FX GT graphics up the sides, that we remember more fondly. RIP.
2. FORD TELSTAR
Ford’s journeyman sales rep-friendly models have always done particularly well, simply by being available in endless quantities.
Cortina, Sierra, Mondeo ... these badges speak of log books, sales calls and hurried pies for lunch by the side of State Highway 1.
The Telstar preceded the Mondeo, which is still with us today, of course.
But even though it was superseded only in 1999, all the Telstars seem to have disappeared. Even slightly collectable ones, like the “hot” TX5, or the even hotter (albeit much rarer) Paul Radisich-tuned versions have gone ... let alone your common or garden variety medical supplies salesperson’s GL sedan.
It’s also interesting to note that, Radisich’s special edition version aside, the Telstar nameplate never really enjoyed the same level of motorsport success that the likes of the Cortina and Sierra did. While they occupied the manufacturing site office car park during the week, performance-honed versions were busy conquering saloon car circuits at the weekends.
The Telstar? Not so much. And now not ever again.
3. FIAT UNO
From the “no surprise they’ve all gone” file comes our oldest and, arguably, least-reliable-in-the-first-place subject car.
The Fiat Uno debuted all the way back in 1983, although something happened in the 1990s that led to a fair few of them turning up on Kiwi roads, albeit from later in the first and second series model’s run (which ended in 1995).
Taking the boxy-is-beautiful aesthetic, the little Uno became a common sight – for an Italian car, anyway – and was as likely to be seen in the driveway of a Herne Bay villa, as a tattier version might be spied sitting in a car park at the university, 17 parking tickets fluttering under its well-worn windscreen wiper.
There’s no point musing on where they’ve all gone. They’ve all gone to the scrapyard after the electrics gave up the ghost. Yes, we’re generalising. But we’re probably right.
4. MAZDA BONGO
Did any single nameplate sum up the “we’ll take anything you’ve got” onslaught of the early used Japanese car importation push better than the amusingly monikered Bongo van?
Rather than a simple punchline though, the Bongo has a long history in its native Japan.
Manufacture of the perennially practical van started back in 1966 and it was badge-engineered as a variety of other models throughout its long life, including as a Ford Econovan and a Nissan Vanette.
The Bongo became, for a short but busy period, as common a mode of mass-person transport back then as the all-conquering SUV is today. People-mover vans are still offered by some carmakers here, such as Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, but the idea of a privately purchased (and cheap) family van seems anachronistic in 2018.
And while the market moved in other directions here in New Zealand, meaning that by the mid-2000s the deluge of Bongos on importers yards had given way to a trickle, the final-generation Bongo even enjoyed amusing sub-model names in its domestic market too, like Bongo Brawny and Bongo Friendee. Teehee.
5. HOLDEN MONARO (THIRD GEN)
Holden Monaro. Photo / Supplied
Okay, back in the intro to this, we did suggest that the sorts of cars you simply don’t see any longer are never particularly collectable to begin with.
This one, though, kind of bucks that theory. The third-generation Holden Monaro was around only from 2001 to 2005 and, trading as it did on both an iconic nameplate and a sexy coupe silhouette, it was an immediate hit.
So, where on earth have all the VX and VY Commodore-based Monaros gone? Once a fixture of any Burger King car park on a Friday night, they’ve now all but disappeared from the streets.
Maybe we’ve already answered our question; while to many eyes the most-recent (and probably last-ever, now that manufacturing has ceased) Monaro dated quickly, it was probably still just collectable enough to find its way into weather-tight sheds to be kept for “good”.
Will we see an abundance of mint early-Noughties Monaro metal reappear at car shows and club meets in a decade, when they might once again be true head-turners?
It’s likely. But for now, you’re probably not going to notice one alongside you at the traffic lights any time soon.