There are still plenty of cars of the 1990s and the 1980s on the streets today, making it seem like just about any four-door from the past 25 or 35 years is still in solid supply. But when was the last time you saw a Peugeot 505 or a Daewoo Leganza on the street? A number of automakers have packed up and left, leaving their cars to be cared for by independent mechanics. But it takes a very dedicated owner to keep an Eagle Summit sedan running in the modern age.
Here are 10 relatively recent sedans that are almost extinct at the moment, or will soon become an endangered species.
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The 405 arrived in the U.S. just as Peugeot faced the prospect of leaving, having relied on the older and larger 505 sedan and wagon for most of its sales in the 1980s. But the aging 505 did not receive a direct successor and Peugeot chose not to bring the larger 605, which debuted in 1989, to the U.S., where it would have been too expensive. The automaker also did not bring other models like the 205 to the States. The 405 sedan and wagon were supposed to carry the entire brand through the early ’90s, but faced an understandably tough time thanks to Japanese competitors. Peugeot sold a few thousand examples of the 405 sedan in the States, and only about a thousand 405 wagons. Today, we don’t believe there are even 200 sedans left in the entire country, and only a couple of dozen wagons at most.
This short-lived sedan was devised towards the end of the AMC-Renault alliance, before the remains of AMC were bought by Chrysler. Planned to be marketed as a Renault in the U.S., the Premier combined a stylish Pininfarina exterior design with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a PRV V6, and a genuinely nice interior. The sale of AMC to Chrysler meant that Chrysler quickly slapped an Eagle badge on the model, which it was obligated to produce. Production took place in Brampton, Ontario. But the model was doomed from the start because Chrysler did not really want to sell the Premier at all, as it had been planning its own series of big sedans. To boost sales, Chrysler also sold this sedan as the Dodge Monaco. Production of the Eagle Premier lasted from 1988 till 1992, and it’s not easy to spot one on the street today.
Produced in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Alliance was the most evident product of the Renault and AMC partnership. With a stylish design and modest dimensions, the Alliance was offered as a four-door and two-door sedan, in addition to a convertible. Offered from 1983 till 1987, the Alliance was aimed at small Japanese and German cars of the day, and for a while it looked like it had a big enough slice of the segment. The smallest engine, a 1.4-liter four, produced just 64 hp, but the 2.0-liter in the GTA models served up almost 100 hp. The end of the Alliance came with the end of the AMC-Renault alliance itself in 1987, and Chrysler bought up the rest. The Alliance sedan is seldom seen today — they’re all in Renault collector hands — but the two-door convertible optioned with the 2.0-liter engine makes up the majority of remaining Alliance variants.
There are two Daewoos on this list, and for very good reason: After Daewoo suddenly packed up and left in 2002, servicing existing cars became a bit challenging. The Nubira was positioned just below the Leganza, and was offered in sedan and wagon form. Powered by a 2.0-liter inline-four engine, the Nubira was offered from 2000 till 2002, giving it a shorter run than other Daewoo models that landed earlier. It also struggled to differentiate itself from the Leganza, but the equipment offered for the price was on the generous side. The obvious challenge to its sales prospects was that it was a bit of a gamble for buyers used to Japanese cars. Not that many are left in running condition today, and wagons are rarer than sedans.
Despite being Peugeot’s best seller during the 1980s, the end of production of the 505 sedan in 1991 doomed Peugeot’s chances in the U.S. Offered in four- and six-cylinder flavors, the 505 served up quick handling, a smooth highway ride and even a turbo. The spacious sedan was also on the pricey side, competing with Volvo and Saab models of the day. The departure of the marque from the U.S. meant that it became tough to keep a 505 running by the end of the 1990s, even in the Peugeot-heavy enclaves on the two coasts. A few hundred remain in running condition in the U.S. today, but you have to get very lucky to spot one.
Daewoo’s time in the U.S. was incredibly short, but in that time it managed to flood the U.S. with its cars to a degree that made it seem like the marque had been here for decades. The biggest sedan in the lineup was the Leganza — a reuse of an exterior design penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign in the early 1990s and originally pitched to Jaguar. In Daewoo’s hands it lost a little in the translation to a small Korean sedan, but looked presentable enough. Powered by a 2.2-liter inline-four, the Leganza served up 133 hp. Sold from 1997 till 2002 when Daewoo pulled out of the U.S. market, the Leganza could still be seen in use by the end of the 2000s, but left without a dealer network their numbers dwindled considerably.
Alfa Romeo 164
Alfa Romeo faced an uphill battle in the late 1980s, as the Spider aged. To help revive sales, the marque introduced the 75 sedan as the Milano and also brought the big 164 sedan to the country. Luxurious and sporty with a suit by Pininfarina, the 164 had a V6 underhood driving the front wheels. Offered in three trim levels, the 164 was a curious alternative to the German sedans of the day, like an E-Class or a 5-Series, and also something of a gamble when it came to reliability. 1995 was the last year the 164 was offered here, but sales were never on par with any of its nominal competitors — the 164 was a very niche item. Today, the examples that are still running are pretty much all in enthusiast hands.
Mitsubishi had a foothold in the U.S. thanks to its partnership with Chrysler. And while it had offered the Mirage in the U.S. for some time as the Dodge Colt, the creation of the Eagle brand out of the ashes of the Renault-AMC alliance gave Chrysler another badge for the small sedan. The Eagle Summit debuted in 1989 with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder under the hood of the base version, but one could also get a 1.6-liter for a little more (but not too much) oomph. The Summit was stylish for the era, and was renewed for a second generation in 1993. The second-gen model can still be spotted in traffic from time to time, but the first-gen model has become very scarce.
Launched in the last few months of the AMC-Renault partnership, the Medallion was a new midsize offering based heavily on the European-market Renault 21. Intended as a replacement for the Renault 18i — another nearly extinct car on U.S. roads — the Medallion offered a spacious interior, an economical 2.2-liter inline-four and a pretty stylish exterior. The Medallion was sold as a Renault for just the 1988 model year. For 1989 new corporate parent Chrysler applied the Eagle badge to the Medallion, which is how it was sold through the end of the year, making it one of the absolute briefest-selling mass-market cars of the decade. Neither the Renault nor the Eagle versions can be easily found today, and best estimates by the Renault club cite just a couple dozen examples of each model in the U.S. today — which is probably why you haven’t seen one.
Lexus ES 250
Everyone remembers the launch of the Lexus LS in 1989, but few remember that the very same year another Lexus model debuted. The Lexus ES 250 was based very closely on the Camry and the Japanese-market Toyota Vista, and as its badge suggests was powered by a 2.5-liter V6. Offered from late 1989 through 1991, the ES was more of a placeholder until Toyota developed a more differentiated ES sedan for 1991. The ES 250, therefore, had a very short run but saw solid sales success. The differences between the Lexus and the Toyota models, however, boiled down to cosmetic changes and equipment — the Toyota model underneath was very thinly disguised — but it prevented Lexus from being a one-model brand during its early years in the U.S.
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