It takes a dreamer to create a legendary car. But a dream is a delicate thing, and the motor industry is tough.
Many of motoring’s most fantastic brands have passed into obscurity because the real world is unkind to dreamers. Incredible makes and models were discontinued because the marketing wasn’t right, the numbers didn’t add up, or the car-buying public chose to play it safe.
But motorists and car designers continue to dream. And nothing reveals the truth of your subconscious than your internet search history. So, Budget Direct used Google Search data to discover the extinct car brands that still get the most searches online: Mercury, Saturn, Sunbeam, Firebird, Cobra, Cougar, Bug. Highly desirable car brands and models that we can’t forget.
To see which cars most haunt motoring’s collective memory, try using the interactive table below. You can sort our data by number of searches, make, model, and more. Or use the drop-down menu to filter by brand. And be sure to scroll on to see what these cars looked like – and find the top examples from each decade.
The Pontiac Firebird is the most-wanted discontinued muscle car
Top 10 most-wanted American muscle cars that are no longer produced
Muscle cars: “American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.” An icon of the ‘60s and ‘70s, perhaps the best-known muscle car is the General Lee, the Dodge Charger that bounced improbably around Hazzard County with Bo and Luke Duke in the front seats.
Dodge is still in business, but Pontiac didn’t make it. The Pontiac Firebird lives on in our minds though, as the most-searched car in our study (with 35% more searches than the runner up – also a Pontiac). Like the Charger, the Firebird is a screen hero, famous for the Smokey and the Bandit films (and designed by John “Back To The Future” DeLorean). Plymouth, AMC, and Mercury are among other eye-watering muscle car brands who didn’t make it to the finish line.
The AC Cobra is the British car motorists miss the most
Top 10 most-wanted British cars that are no longer produced
The roll-call of fallen British car brands is really something: Rover, Triumph, Austin, Morris. But the most-missed British car is no household name: the AC Cobra. Also known by its American brand name, Shelby, the Cobra looked exquisite, and its V8 engine gave a hell of a kick. While AC has gone in and out of business over the years, one reason it gets so many searches could be that the latest owners of the brand name have re-released the Cobra – as an electric car!
British cars are known for their character. And our number two, the Robin Reliant, had to ‘rely’ on its character since neither its looks nor its driving were well-regarded. Still, the ‘the worst car ever’ is also a ‘design classic.’ Affordable, economical, recognizable, and all on three wheels, the Norman Wisdom of motors.
Australians still love the Holden Commodore
Top 10 most-wanted Australian cars that are no longer produced
The Holden has it. This distinctly Australian brand, recently retired by GM, occupies eight of the top ten spots for most-searched extinct Aussie cars. And the powerful Holden Commodore is the outright winner – a position to which it is accustomed, as a frequent Bathurst champion. The Commodore gets more searches than the next nine Australian models put together.
But there’s room on the table for the unique Purvis Eureka. Allan Purvis unveiled the ‘Australian supercar’ at the 1974 Melbourne Car Show but would build and sell just 683 Eurekas before offloading the company 15 years later. Made of fiberglass and based on a kit car, the Eureka was highly adaptable but is best remembered for its sporty canopy roof/door.
The most-searched extinct car, decade-by-decade
Here are the top ten most-desired discontinued cars, one decade at a time. Click the arrows to scroll through the years.
A quick scroll through the decades provides a bold history of the evolution of the car over the past 70 years. But slow it down and it is the oddities that standout: the bizarre cars we love to remember, but whose creators wouldn’t last the distance.
The 1959 Saab 95 was an atomic-age station wagon with a foldaway bench seat that belongs more rightly in the speculative pages of Popular Mechanics. The 1970 AMC Gremlin looks like a Reliant Robin shunted a Plymouth Superbird. However, the affordable, nippy, American-built Gremlin caught the consumer’s imagination and sold well. The noughties gave us the Scion xB. Hardly sexy, but as the car equivalent of the Shiba Inu (cute and boxy), it found its niche driver.
The Hall of Fame of extinct motors
Cars that were too good to be true
The road is supposed to be a sensible place. It’s no wonder that the extinct cars we desire the most are those that dared be a bit… less sensible. Of course, the designers of the most-loved discontinued cars had no idea the market could be so cruel. Will we see Tesla and the Cybertruck appear on this list in fifty years’ time?
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
We used existing articles to gather a list of popular models from extinct car brands, including articles from TitleMax, TheDelite, and ProctorCars. Then we focused on brands that were still in production after 1950 omitting very small and/or unknown car brands. This gave us 742 car models from extinct car brands.
Then, we used Wikipedia to collect the most-popular models of extinct car makers. Using Ahrefs we found out the number of global Google searches for every model. To identify the most-desired extinct car brand, we took the top 3 models for every brand and summed the values of the monthly searches.
All data was collected in October 2020. The full data and sources are available upon request.
Car images attributed to:
Charles01. (2013). Reliant Robin. commons.wikimedia.org
Jeremy. (2001). Holden Caprice. commons.wikimedia.org
Jeremy. (2004). Holden Brougham. commons.wikimedia.org
Mick. (2011). AC Cobra. commons.wikimedia.org
Nakhon100, (2012). Saab 95, CC BY 2.0,. Commons.wikimedia.org
Riley. (2014). Holden Camira. commons.wikimedia.org
Sicnag. (2009).Plymouth Superbird. en.wikipedia.org
Sicnag. (2015). Purvis Eureka. commons.wikimedia.org
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