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6 cars I wish America would bring back

1994 Chevrolet Caprice

There are certain cars America needs to build again.

One of them in my list below is seen above, the '94 Chevrolet Caprice. Big ol' car. I used to see this big boat every so often when in the pages of Motor Trend that I used to read in my teens... when I wasn't reading Four Wheeler, that is.

People miss cars like the Caprice (and no, the SS is a gas guzzler and doesn't count, and the PPV version is for police use only so you can't buy it). Not so much for the styling but rather because you could order up one in basic trim.

America presently does not build any basic cars at all. And by "basic" I mean "everything possible deleted except A/C and cruise control".

Nissan and Mitsubishi still do make some basic cars but don't list them on their respective web sites. If you want one, you have to go to AutoTrader, sort by lowest price with keyword "cruise" so you get the cruise control option, and you'll see the Mitsubishi Mirage and Nissan Versa pop up starting at just under $10,000 new.

I do wish America would build basic low-cost cars again.

These 3 compact cars need to be reintroduced in basic versions:

These 3 midsize sedans need to be reintroduced in basic versions:

These 3 full size sedans need to be reintroduced in basic versions:

What do I mean by "basic"?

As said above, it means everything except A/C and cruise deleted. Aside from those two options, you get vinyl seats only (no cloth, no leather), plain tilt/telescoping steering wheel with no controls on it and no leather wrap, manual crank windows, no radio (just a plastic plate where the radio would go), no electronic "information windows", no navigation, no touchscreen or any other electronic screens of any kind, manual mirrors only, no remote anything, no keyless anything, plain steel wheels with hubcaps only, sparse gauge cluster (speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, fuel gauge, an array of idiot lights and nothing else), no tire pressure monitoring system, no power locks, no sunroof (hardtop only)... get the idea. Everything that can be deleted is deleted. You get a car in 1 of 3 sizes. Compact, midsize or full size.

Only 3 color options would be available. Off-white body with tan interior, silver body with charcoal interior and sky blue with silver interior (or tan). That's it.

The compact would come with vinyl high-back bucket seats and the sedans would get vinyl benches. Given how fat people are these days, a bench seat would be a welcome thing to fit gigantic posteriors.

All basic models would be built with soft suspensions that take bumps with ease. People these days are totally sick of cars made to feel "sporty" and would much rather have that "feels like your grandma's couch" ride quality, road feel be damned. Nobody cares about a tuned sport suspension when going to get the groceries.

America knows how to build basic cars best

The best cars America ever made were the most basic ones. Sedans, specifically. We've never been that good with compacts, although I will admit we're getting better at it...

...but why bother when we can engineer a genuinely good basic cheap sedan? Why can't we take all we know about crumple zones, safety cage construction and so on and design a basic low-cost car around that - especially considering the thing that screws up a modern GM, Ford or Chrysler car faster than anything else is adding in useless crap that nobody needs?

I'm of the belief America can build a reliable car that doesn't have stupid problems. The way to do it is to build the simplest car possible. Reliability starts with good engineering. GM, Ford and Chrysler engineers need to engineer new cars that have all the crap stripped out so there is far less to screw up when the car is being assembled, resulting in a car that's actually reliable when it gets into the driver's hands.

Just in case any GM engineer happens to read this, tattoo this phrase on your forehead so you never forget it: LESS ELECTRONICS. I don't mean "combine multiple electronics into a module". No, no, no, frickin' no. I mean less. I mean physically get as much electronic crap out of the car as possible. Go back to mechanical. Example: Make all the doors and the trunk manually operated, unlocking by physical key only. That kind of thing.

If you need a word to sell the idea of LESS ELECTRONICS to your superiors so you get the go-ahead to put it to use in a production vehicle, use minimalist. People like simple cars with simple controls that make sense, obviously.

Just imagine...

Just imagine if you could drop by a Chevy dealer and buy a new full size no-frills Caprice sedan for cheap. All you get for options is cruise, A/C and nothing else. No radio, vinyl bench seat in the front (and back), sparse gauge cluster, plain steel wheels with hubcaps, no floor mats, no carpeting - not even in the trunk. You open the trunk and see nothing but steel. Zero tech options in the car. No screens anywhere. No power windows, cranks only. All the unnecessary crap has been deleted.

Even thinking about buying a new Chevy like that gets me excited. What a great auto that would be. The motor would be a modern 4-cyl (the same base engine used in the Impala), and would be a truly good everyman's car. Fantastic family hauler, great interstate cruiser, rides like you're sitting on a cloud, and I bet GM could even eke out 40 highway MPG performance since all the unnecessary crap would be deleted.

Doable? YES!

Can Ford and Chrysler do the same thing? YES!

Would they sell?

I think the more appropriate question is how could they not sell?

You plop a new car with actual size to it for cheap on a dealer lot and watch how fast it sells. Price it under $15K and that car will barely be off the car carrier before someone is signing on the dotted line and driving it home.

Would GM, Ford and Chrysler make any money with basic cars? Yes. A basic car is real cheap to make when all the crap nobody needs is stripped out of it.

Are "stripper" cars actually nice to drive?

Of course they are.

I remember basic trim GM sedans from the '90s. They had few options but rode and drove just fine. GM sold a told of 'em and it baffles me why they along with Ford and Chrysler ever stopped doing it. It's not like they didn't sell.

Did the stripper cars handle like sports cars? Not at all. They rode like American sedans should ride. Soft. Even the cheapest new sedan could handle bumps with no problem at all. And they all had decent ground clearance too.

Hopefully someone at GM, Ford or Chrysler will grow a brain someday and put basic no-frills cars on dealership lots again and stop with the luxury barges. God knows we're all sick of "well appointed" cars that start breaking even before 50,000 miles are on the clock.


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