A sizable portion of North Americans have travelled to the Bahamas, but for those of us who haven’t, WilliamRubano has uploaded a number of interesting non-US models either sold there or imported later in their lives. As traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road, many cars are imported from Japan or the UK, though many come from the US, as the country lies just East of Florida. A lot of it falls into the “crap we didn’t get here,” camp and isn’t exactly forbidden fruit, depending on your viewpoint.
The best model to illustrate this point is the Smart Forfour, or what I like to call Europe’s Saturn Ion. Based on Mitsubishi’s last-generation Mirage/Colt, which was well-received upon its intro in 2002 only to fall back to also-ran status, it lost the donor car’s sharp Olivier Boulay-penned lines in exchange for Rubbermaid-inspired switchable body panels and is best remembered as an embodiment of Daimler-Benz’s abusive relationship with Mitsubishi Motors (so calling it Europe’s Dodge Caliber would be just as valid).
So, it was not innovative like the actual rear-engined Smart, nor was it as pretty as its platform mate. Americans almost got the car, built at NedCar after Volvo’s contract with Mistubishi expired (in an abortive attempt to bolster the wretched Smart franchise) but as it didn’t last more than two years in Europe (the Colt lasted through some ugly facelifts until 2012), I wouldn’t say we exactly missed out on a great small car. But moving on, we have this Hyundai Terracan.
Traditional Japanese body-on-frame SUVs have never failed to please, and this second-generation Montero-based wagon seems like a mostly-faithful copy. There are typical late ’90s/early ’00s Korean car touches as evidenced by the less-than-sharply defined grille and headlights set in a square-rigged overall shape, but it’s an overall honest proposition which would’ve been an interesting slow seller. Note, also, the scoop on the hood for the intercooler, indicating that this has a 2.9 liter turbodiesel. I actually like it quite a bit (but don’t tell anyone).
Next, we have this mid ’90s Ford Laser, basically our Mazda Protege with different head and taillights. Considering how lucky Mazda salespeople would’ve been to get people to pay full price for the mid ’90s Protege, it’s best that this car stayed outside the American market. In those days, their US operation was desperate to lease four-cylinder 626s with leather seats and steel wheels and thanks to the disastrous implementation CD4E automatic Ford foisted onto Flat Rock built examples, a high proportion were built with the five-speed, further limiting sales.
I’m sure bystanders assumed WilliamRubano was taking a picture of this gorgeous sunset when in reality he was capturing these obscure workaday cars for us, but that’s part of being a car geek. Thanks to CC, we don’t have to feel so weird on such occasions. Behind the “Ford” we see the Honda Stream, a seventh-generation Civic-based minivan we never got (I imagine it may have enjoyed minor success with a 2.4 liter K-block, owing to its badge) and behind that, a third-generation Nissan Primera, a desperately unremarkable testament to another Japanese tragedy, Nissan’s bankruptcy.
Luckily, we in the US have the 2003-2008 Maxima to more clearly remind us of that disaster. This car, the Nissan Teana, is basically the same car and sold in the Japanese and Asian markets since its North American equivalent was deemed too tacky to pass muster there. It looks as though this was no more convincing, though, since it’s been discontinued as a unique model and replaced with a rebadged version of the current Altima (which explains why that car’s profile now looks so similar to this model’s). But don’t get me wrong, cars like the Smart ForFour at the top show that tackiness is by no means limited to the US and that for all their famed good taste, Europeans are just as guilty of propagating it.
It’s odd that a country so close to the US has such a different automotive culture, but as Cuba proves, proximity is no guarantor of similarity. Got any interesting shots of cars from trips abroad? Post them to the Cohort!