When the Mustang came on the scene in 1964, Ford’s Mercury division wanted a cut of the action. Because, however, of parent Ford’s uncertainty with the Mustang until after its launch, Mercury’s Cougar didn’t make its debut until 1967. What emerged was a luxurious coupe that had the same underpinnings as the Mustang but with more size, more luxury, more comfort and a tad less sportiness. The Cougar was initially marketed as the car for the “man on his way to a Thunderbird”, the Thunderbird being the most luxurious non-Lincoln two-door Ford was making at the time. As a Mercury, it was at the top of the heap. As part of the Ford product family, it was more than a little lost, like the rest of the Mercury brand eventually turned out to be.
The smallest of America’s “Big Three”, Chrysler have always been in the shadow of Ford and General Motors. They’ve never led the overall sales charts, and have generally been more content with following instead of leading, with a few notable exceptions. Not always having the best sales means not having pockets as deep for product development, and in fact Chrysler’s history is marked with several near-deaths, though they always manage to find a way to save themselves, either by inventing a hit new category, as they did with the K-based Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town and Country minivans, or with acquisitions, mergers or bailouts, or by bringing in captive imports which capture the heart of America.
If you’ve gone to any store that stocks magazines in the past month or two, you’ve probably noticed the big splash Peugeot is making. Maybe you’ve even encountered an example of the very pretty 208 hatchback, the eccentric 3008 minivan, or the slick 508 executive sedan. Yup, the French automaker is making big news, and while they may need to release an educational campaign telling people how to correctly pronounce their brand, this is really not the first time they’ve been available in the country.
25 years ago, a relatively small Japanese automaker served the world a surprise by doing what the British have – arguably until now – been unable to do: revive the two-door top-down sports car.
In 1989, Mazda won everything when it loosed the Miata unto the world. Magazines sang its praises endlessly, grassroots motorsports held a feast upon its capabilities, enthusiasts snapped them up, and most importantly the little roadsters sold. In truth, what the Miata was, more than an extremely popular little roadster, was the second coming of the British roadster. Back in the 60’s, MG’s MGB occupied much the same place the Miata does now.