Today’s Bad Idea: 1990 Renault Alpine GTA V6 Turbo

As I’ve lamented before, French automakers have never really found much success in the United States. Lackluster dealer networks, questionable corporate acquisitions, and ultimately the assassination of Renault’s CEO Georges Besse (!) kept some truly interesting vehicles out of the hands of American consumers; this Renault Alpine GTA is one such example. The awful timing of Renault’s American operations collapsing just as these went to production leaves one wondering if the Alpine GTA could have been the product that turned it all around. While we will never know, now it’s at least possible to get a taste of what we missed out on. In this case, anyone with $9500 burning a hole in their pocket can grab this scruffy Alpine GTA on Craigslist in Seattle and finally experience the joy of a rear-engined, turbocharged V6 French sport coupe leaving them stranded on the side of the road.

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati

Chrysler was kind of a weird company in the mid-late 1980’s. Riding high on the success of their K-car platform, CEO Lee Iacocca was on fire. Chrysler was flush with cash and growing aggressively, buying up struggling rival AMC for the profitable Jeep brand, and even acquiring Lamborghini for a short period in 1987. His winning streak had to end somewhere, though. While at Ford, Iacocca had made friends with a guy by the name of Alejandro de Tomaso, and the two subsequently collaborated to create the exotic De Tomaso Pantera sports car. Iacocca figured it might be worth trying something similar at Chrysler; he leaned on his old buddy, who owned Maserati at the time, and the two companies decided to collaborate on a new flagship sports car for Chrysler. Deadlines were blown, somehow the K-car platform got involved, and the final product – ridiculously called the “Chrysler TC by Maserati” – was little more than a dressed-up Chrysler LeBaron for twice the price. If that seems to scratch your itch, for some reason, you might be interested in this 1989 example for a not-quite-reasonable $5500.

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1988 Citroen BX 16 TS

Automotive Francophiles like me are an uncommon group in the United States, as is pretty much anything manufactured by Citroen; they gave up on the American market back in the 1970’s, a good 20 years before its relatively plebeian competitors Renault and Peugeot. Citroen earned its place in the history books with the iconic 2CV, beautiful DS and exotic SM models, which were very sophisticated but characteristically lacking in build quality and reliability. After owner Michelin left Citroen on the brink of death in 1974, Peugeot came to the brand’s rescue, offering a much-needed influx of cash along with a parts bin and platforms Citroen could borrow to slash development costs. By the 1990’s, the quirkiness that once made Citroen so special had all but disappeared, but transitional models like this BX and the later XM managed to wonderfully mix Citroen oddity with Peugeot’s improved build quality and parts support. Basically, these models are perfect for French car enthusiasts who like to drive their vehicles more than work on them. So why is this rather nice 1988 BX 16 TS a Bad Idea?

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1981 Lancia Beta Zagato Spyder

How many Italian car companies can you name? To the average American, Lancia probably doesn’t come to mind, despite their presence in the U.S. market until the early 1980’s. Enthusiasts know and cherish the brand’s famous models; the charming Fulvia, exotic Stratos and rally-dominating Delta Integrale are oft-cited high points for the marque (although the downright bizarre Thema 8.32 deserves some recognition as well). Like most manufacturers though, their bread-and-butter offerings don’t command the same zealotry. Enter the Lancia Beta, offered in a number of configurations: a basic coupe, the racy mid-engine Montecarlo (known as the Scorpion in the U.S. thanks to General Motors), the bizarre HPE (for High Performance Estate, an odd Lotus Éclat-like mishmash of ideas) and finally the Zagato Spyder, one of which is offered here on AutoTrader for an exorbitant $2999.

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Today’s Bad Idea: Three 1970’s Lotus orphans

Most Lotus purists bemoan the early 1990’s Elan model as a travesty, unworthy of the Lotus namesake. I think that’s a little harsh; while they are the only front-wheel-drive Lotus ever made, they were still excellent handling little roadsters with neat styling, a robust and sprightly Isuzu turbo drivetrain and a bit of obscurity thrown in for good measure. Sure, they couldn’t match the revered Esprit supercar, but then again they weren’t supposed to. What really puzzles me is that the modern Elan is so derided, yet the 1970’s Elite and Eclat get a free pass! These hideous monstrosities are probably the worst vehicles Lotus ever churned out, as evidenced by the fact that three of them are for sale here on Craigslist for $1500 each.

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