The CAR Top 10: motoring comebacks

Published: 24 September 2013

They all kicked the bucket, but then the bucket kicked them right back again.

By Chris Chilton

1. AC Cobra

The Cobra story is more tangled than a nest full of vipers. Britain’s AC cars axed the little roadster way back in 1969, but production restarted in 1982 when Autokraft bought up all of the moulds. Production later moved overseas to Malta and Germany, while in the United States Carroll Shelby was making his own versions – and even faking a few originals with sham VIN numbers to cash in on demand.

2. MGB

Launched in 1962, no-one could argue that the B hadn’t had a good innings when the much-deserved axe fell in 1980. But that didn’t stop Rover making use of the new Heritage shells being flogged to restorers, adding curvier wings and a 3.9-litre V8 to create the RV8 in 1992.

3. Lancia Montecarlo

Suffering more premature lock-up than a maternity ward in a prison hospital, Lancia pulled its handsome little mid-engined sports car from sale in 1978 and spent two years fixing the problem. The Montecarlo reappeared in 1980 minus its brake servo, but could only fend off the Grim Reaper until 1982.

4. Marcos

Production of most low-volume British sports cars was always more on-off than a soap-opera romance. Jem Marsh’s sexy Marcos 1800 first appeared in 1963, but by ’72 the company was bust.
But in the late ’70s Marsh bought back the name and moulds, and by 1981 the car was on sale again and remained in production until the century’s end, even having a crack at Le Mans along the way.

5. Aston DB4 GT Zagato

Nearly 30 years after the last of the original Zagatos was built, Aston allowed four unused chassis numbers to become the basis of a new run of ‘sanction II’ cars, again built by Zagato. Two leftover bodyshells from that project later became ‘sanction IIIs’.

6. Clio Williams

Introducing the incredible new Clio Williams, one of just 390 cars coming to the UK. Sorry, did we say 390? We meant 872. No, sorry, what were we thinking? We meant 1180. But of course that’s over three versions, and they’re all different. One has a sunroof.

7. Lotus Elan

The Elan was great at corners, but rubbish at staying dead. Ten years after Chapman killed the original, Vegantune resurrected it in modified form as the Evante. The later front-drive Elan died in ’92, reappeared in ’94, re-died a year later and was then resuscitated in ’96 by, of all people, Kia.

8. Porsche 911

Okay, so this one didn’t die, but it came close, and it was Porsche, not falling sales, holding the pillow to its face. The plan was to replace the 911 with the modern, sophisticated 928. Punters had other ideas, and the 911 got a modest slug of much needed investment, outliving its successor by 17 years to date.

9. Lamborghini Silhouette

Sant’ Agata’s 1976 riposte to Ferrari’s coquettish 308 was the Silhouette, an angular two-seat middie with a 3.0 V8, bulging arches and fat telephone-dial wheels. Dead by ’79 after only 52 had found homes, it made a surprise reappearance in 1981 with a few cosmetic tweaks, another 500cc and a new name: Jalpa.

10. Jensen Interceptor

When the receivers were called in to Jensen in 1976, its burly, bubble-backed GT went to meet its maker. They obviously didn’t get along, because by 1983 it was back in production, surviving into the 1990s. Now one of the undead – Jensen International Automotive will rebuild an old one from a bare ’shell.