The term “salvage auction” probably brings up all sorts of horrible images in one’s mind. Completely destroyed cars that look as though they’ve been run over by a Caterpillar D9 or perhaps used as Satan’s barbeque grill. Every once in a while, there’s a diamond in the rough. Today is one of those days.
So, what would it take to get you in a never-registered, brand-new condition hatchback?
You may assume that it’s in factory-new condition. In fact, there’s still plastic on the seats and steering wheel. The car has only 54 miles under its 20-year old tires. Oh sorry, did I fail to mention that the car in question is a 1993 model?
Perhaps with that knowledge you start to worry a bit. It’s older, hatchbacks of that age period are generally regarded as being a bit penalty-box-ish. After all, this particular hatchback has no stereo. No power windows or door locks either. In fact, it comes with a bit of gray carpet covering the area where the back seat should be. But, it’s from the final year of the Golden Age of Hatchbacks! A piece of history could be yours!
Hmmm… Yeah, it’s pretty basic. Oh, so you want to see the outside?
Here’s a rare find – according to the seller, it is #5 of… well, it was the fifth one built. Or something.
The car in question? A Ford Mustang pace car… I’m sure it was a pace car for something important, right? Like the Sanpete County Fair demolition derby? Or maybe the Indianapolis 500? Who knows – all you need to know is that this car is a pace car and all it needs is the stickers to be a show winner. That and it books at $22k. So for $15k, you know you’re getting a great deal on whatever this thing is…
If you’re a long-time Hatchtopia reader, you may have been wondering – when are we going to get an explanation of the nebulous Golden Age of Hatchbacks. You may have Googled it, Wikipedia’d it, looked at your local library or landfill – nothing. Today is your lucky day, hatchback historian.
Here’s an available example of a nice mid-80s performance coupe. The Toyota Supra was the big dog in the Toyota lineup in those days, and competed against other Japanese coupes such as the Nissan 300 ZX and Mazda RX-7. All three shared a hatchback body style and were front-engine, rear-wheel-drive. The ZX and Supra both were powered by 6-cylinder engines, while the Mazda stuck with the traditional rotary.
And here is yet another example of the Golden Age of Hatchbacks for you as I continue to flesh out that idea (full story coming soon, I promise). Back in the days when many midsized, mainstream cars were available as hatchbacks, Mazda was a niche player like today, but turned out an impressive product nonetheless.
The house in the background of this photo was built in Salt Lake City, Utah around 1890. One hundred years later in Normal, Illinois, the first generation of the “Diamond Star Motors” trio of sporty hatchbacks was built as a joint venture between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Sold as Plymouth Laser, Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse models, and powered by a variety of normally-aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders, available as front- or all-wheel drive, they competed in a crowded segment populated by such others as the Ford Probe/Mazda MX6 twins, the Toyota Celica, and Nissan 240sx. What the DSM cars had on most in that class was the aforementioned powerful turbo engine and all-wheel drive. With horsepower ratings up to 190, the DSMs generally outgunned the competition by 40 or more horses, placing their performance more on par with the next class of sporty vehicles, anchored by the pony cars – Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. That performance, paired with reasonable prices, made the trio a popular pick in the early 90s.
But by the time the second generation was released for the ’95 model year, those pony cars had started to separate themselves from the rest of the sporty hatchback crowd. A horsepower war was brewing between Chevy and Ford, and their V8 engines were finally starting to put out the sort of power that many expected after years of malaise-era emissions-choked disappointments. Meanwhile, the popularity of the SUV was starting to put the pinch on the sporty hatchback and personal luxury coupe markets – those looking for status symbols wanted to be seen in a rugged truck rather than a low-slung coupe.
During my formative car geek years (junior high and high school), I lived outside Kansas City, Missouri. I only mention this because I knew someone who had a late-80s Subaru GL 3-door and it was such an interesting and unusual vehicle. People in the west and northeast may scoff at this idea, but the fact is, Subarus were rare in the midwest at that time. An interesting aside to that rare theme – my dad still had the ’79 Rabbit during this period – and no dealership at which to service it. The only VW dealership in the Kansas City metro area folded sometime around 1989. If Subarus were rare, VWs were downright exotic.
Ah yes, you knew it was only a matter of time until a Chevy Citation graced these pages, right? Late and unloved, the Citation was Chevrolet’s answer to the rising tide of much better cars coming from Japan (and honestly, damn near every other car manufacturer in the world). The Citation was front-drive, available in several different body styles and aimed to compete head-on with the best.