If you watch Breaking Bad, you know that Walter White drives an old Pontiac Aztec everywhere he goes. The car gets driven hard, has been through countless ordeals, and yet it soldiers on.
Of course, none of it is real on the show, but it’s still interesting that producers chose a car that is universally hated and chided as one of the world’s ugliest vehicles of all time.
Maybe, though, the show has given a second life to Aztecs everywhere. No longer are they weird afterthoughts from a forgettable era, they are now, somehow… cool. Especially ones with a perpetually broken windshield and one steel wheel.
The Aztec is just one example of cars from the past that were written off in their prime, but are now becoming popular again. Sometimes they gain a cult following after being featured in film or on TV, and sometimes because they are just great values once they’ve had a few years to sit on the used market.
The Volkswagen Phaeton comes to mind. Sold in the U.S. for the 2004-2006 model years, the car when new was a premium sedan, had an optional W-12 engine and a price that could rival a top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz. While those sky-high prices proved too much for anything with a VW logo on the grille, now the car is rare on the used market and generally priced below $20,000.
I might put the Ford Five Hundred in a similar category, though it’s far less luxurious than the VW. What it did offer was size, convenience and that floaty ride that so many older folks and traveling salesmen prefer in their land yachts. The Five Hundred only lasted for the 2005-2007 model years, and was built on Volvo architecture.
Today, that makes for a safe, comfortable and and inexpensive ride. Check the CarGurus used listings, and I’ll bet you can find a top spec SEL AWD for well under 10 grand.
What are some other cars that were unpopular when new, but gaining traction today?
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Used Pontiac Aztec
Used Volkswagen Phaeton
Used Ford Five Hundred
Some of those strange-looking little two seaters like the Honda Del Sol and Mercury Capri come to mind. Geo Metro convertible was another and I think Nissan or Suzuki had another that was particularly ugly. Most seemed to appeal to young women (most of whom couldn’t afford one) and didn’t seem to be very popular. An older one was the AMC Pacer, which was so out of the ordinary that it didn’t catch on until it became a character in the movie “Wayne’s World”.