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Toyota FJ, Subaru Brumby, Mazda 3 MPS and other cult classics that deserve a comeback

Does Toyota’s FJ Cruiser deserve to make a comeback?

Everyone loves a good comeback story. And in the automotive world everyone has a discontinued car they’d love to see make a comeback.

In recent times, we’ve seen some famous names return as car companies cashin on a combination of nostalgia and brand equity.

BMW arguably started the trend when it revived the Mini back in 2001 and turned it into a modern luxury city car.

Since then, there have been plenty of once-dead cars brought back to life, such as the Fiat 500, Toyota Supra, Ford Bronco and soon the Volkswagen Kombi.

So, in that spirit, we have decided to take a look at some other names and models that we’d like to see make a comeback. But we want to work within the realms of possibilities, rather than pure fantasy, so we’ll hopefully make a case for not only why each of these should make a return, but how. 

Toyota FJ

Yes, we know Toyota made the FJ Cruiser. And yes, we know the company still makes the 70 Series LandCruiser. But neither truly capture the spirit of the original ‘FJ’ LandCruiser 40 Series. 

As Ford has demonstrated with the reborn Bronco and Jeep has continued to show with the steady sales of Wrangler, there’s a strong market for retro-themed off-roaders.

Toyota could follow the lead of both Ford and Jeep and use the HiLux’s ladder-frame chassis as the foundation for a retro-styled (more so than the FJ Cruiser) off-roader that could cater to the lifestyle audience more than the fleet-friendly 70 Series.

Subaru Brumby

We wrote recently of the potential for SUV-based utes, with the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick reportedly ready to hit the market in the near future, which naturally leads to questioning when will Subaru bring back the Brumby.

Given the demand for utes in general, it’s a big market for Subaru to miss out on. Unfortunately, Subaru Australia’s management shot down our recent theory that the company could lean on Toyota and borrow the HiLux for a rebadged Brumby. But there’s a better solution in our mind.

A Forester-based Brumby would create a suitable point-of-difference for the brand, creating space between it and the well-established HiLux, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara, among others. Instead, it would give the brand a rival to the new Tucson-based Santa Cruz and Escape-based Maverick.

The company’s new Subaru Global Platform has proven to be both flexible and impressive, underpinning the new Impreza, XV, Outback and Forester and earning rave reviews in the process. So, adding another body-style shouldn’t break the bank and would open up the brand to a currently untapped market.

Mazda3 MPS

The Japanese brand teased us in 2020, launching a new turbocharged Mazda3. But at the moment it’s simply a more powerful version of its small hatch with the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine as the Mazda6, CX-5 and CX-9. It’s also for left-hand drive markets only (at this stage, Mazda Australia is often very persuasive).

The biggest problem is the engine makes only 184kW/434Nm, which is simply too modest for a modern hot hatch. Nevertheless, we have faith that Mazda’s engineers can extract more grunt from this engine to ensure adequate performance.

If Mazda can find some extra money in the budget to give the chassis some key upgrades – most notably the suspension and brakes – plus some unique styling tweaks, there’s no doubt a revived 3 MPS could bring some new lustre to the brand.

And if they can’t do that, Mazda should focus its efforts on bringing back the RX-7.

Honda Integra 

Those of us of a certain age remember Honda as a brand once filled with exciting and stylish cars – none more so than the Integra. The sleek coupe was a staple of the brand from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, turning heads even if it was largely a rebodied Civic.

Which is why Honda should bring it back now. In this age of modular underpinnings, offering an Integra on the current Civic platform wouldn’t necessarily result in a best-seller, but it would add some spice to an otherwise bland line-up – which could help turn around the brand’s fortunes.

And while we’re at it, Honda must bring back the heroic Integra Type R, which was one of the most desirable hot hatches on the planet at one point. It makes perfect sense too, given the current Civic Type R is lauded for its performance but derided for its styling, a swooping two-door body would help make it even more appealing.

Chevrolet El Camino

Call us optimists, but this is our fantasy, and there are few cars we’d love to see back more than the Holden Commodore Ute. Car-based utes were something of an Australian special, less about practicality and more about performance; especially in the final years.

At one stage, the Holden ute was almost sold in the US as a Pontiac G8 ST (Sports Truck) - even getting as far as having early versions built, but the demise of Pontiac amid General Motors’ financial crisis put the kibosh on it.

Given utes – or pick-ups as the Americans prefer to call them – are popular in both the US and Australia, reviving the Chevrolet El Camino has some merit.

The original El Camino has taken on a cult-like following in the US, and bringing it back would give the brand both an addition to its pick-up range (and a very different beast to the Colorado and Silverado) and an effective replacement for the soon-to-be-axed Camaro

GM already has a rear-wheel-drive platform to build it on (the GM VSS-R used by the Cadillac CT4 and CT5) and even if they decide not to make it in right-hand drive, GM Specialty Vehicles is perfectly positioned to ensure it can be made for local roads, where customers would no doubt be ecstatic to see such a car return.

Alfa Romeo GTV

This is one car that came agonisingly close to actually making a comeback. Alfa Romeo announced a five-year plan in 2018 that had a revived GTV hitting the market by 2022.

Not only that, but it would have been joined by an 8C mid-engined sports car, as part of a plan to return the Italian brand to its glory days as its country’s answer to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. They even went as far as telling us specifications (which sounded great) - a 450kW powertrain with electric boost, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring and 50/50 weight distribution. On paper, it sounded brilliant and just what Alfa Romeo needed.

Instead, the GTV and 8C were scrapped in 2019, as sales of the Giulia and Stelvio failed to meet expectations and the company was forced to reduce spending and focus its efforts on adding more SUVs.

While SUVs are undoubtedly the key to any brand’s future, it’s hard not to think that bringing back a halo model, especially one with the famous GTV badge, wouldn’t have helped Alfa Romeo’s fortunes. The brand needed the GTV to remind (or in many cases, demonstrate for the first time) to buyers that Alfa Romeo is a company steeped in high-performance cars.

Hopefully now that it’s part of the larger Stellantis group, Alfa Romeo’s management can dust off these GTV plans and deliver on what it originally promised.