Nine Cars That Never Existed, Even if You Thought They Did

Have you ever seen a 1996 Jeep Wrangler?  How about a 2001 Cadillac Escalade?  If you’re about to say yes, hold on and think again.  A number of models through automotive history have skipped model years.

Even though your car may have been manufactured or sold in that year doesn’t mean that’s what year it is.  If that sounds confusing, it’s because model years are confusing.  Though a car might be, for example, a 2015, doesn’t mean it was actually built in 2015.  Car companies want to have the car already at dealerships by the start of the year.  So, in most cases, the new model year is released in the last quarter of the previous calendar year.  A 2015 might be introduced in October 2014, say.

That’s not a hard and fast rule, though.  Automakers can release a new model year as early as January 2 of the previous calendar year.  That is to say, a 2015 car can be sold as early as January 2, 2014.  Sometimes car companies will make a new generation of a car an early release.  In other cases they might extend the sales of one model year into the next calendar year if the new generation is not yet ready.  That is how most skipped model years happened.  Here’s a quick chronological list of nine cars with skipped model years:

1975 Mercury Capri

In 1975, the Mercury Capri switched from a coupe to a hatchback layout.  The hatchback, called the Capri II was released in 1975 as a 1976 model.

1983 Chevy Corvette

Chevy actually did produce a small number – 43 –  of 1983 Corvettes.  The company planned to have them on sale by October of 1982, but California changed its emissions regulations around that time.  The Corvette wasn’t ready to meet those regulations.  Chevy went back to work, improved the Corvette, and released it in early 1983 as a 1984 model year.

Chevy ordered that the forty-three 1983 Corvettes be scrapped, but clever production workers managed to hide and protect one.  Eventually it was unearthed and sent to the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  So, if you’ve been to Bowling Green, you may have actually seen a 1983 Corvette.

1996 Jeep Wrangler

In 1996, Jeep phased out the YJ generation of Wrangler for the TJ.  Jeep fans will think of this as the year when Jeeps switched from square headlights (YJ) to round ones (TJ).  The last YJs were built in 1995, but they continued to be sold in 1996, as ‘95s.  The TJ first appeared as a 1997 in 1996.

2000 Acura CL

The Acura CL is related to the Acura TL.  The CL is more or less a coupe version of the TL.  When it was time to upgrade both models, the TL beat the CL to the punch.  The new-look 2000 TL was released in 1999.  The CL skipped model year 2000, to show off its new design in March 2000 as a 2001 model year.

2001 Cadillac Escalade

The Cadillac Escalade had a skipped year situation very similar to the Acura CL’s.  The GM models related to the Escalade, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, had already been moved to a new chassis for the 2000 model year.  The Escalade continued on the old chassis in the 2000 model year and skipped the 2001 model year, continuing to sell 2000s instead.  In January 2001, 2002 Escalades, built on the new chassis, hit the market.

2002 Hyundai Tiburon

Hyundai chose to end production of the first generation of the Hyundai Tiburon in 2001.  The next generation started off with the 2003 model year in 2002.

2005 Infiniti M

In 2005, Infiniti decided to try to get a jump on the market.  Rather than releasing a 2005 model year, the company started its new generation of the M-series in February 2005, with the 2006 model year.  That brought it to the market at roughly the same time as the new generation of the Lexus GS, its competitor.

2007 Dodge Viper

Dodge opted to continue selling 2006 Vipers into 2007, until the 2008 model was ready.

2008 Nissan Murano

Nissan Decided to take advantage of press buzz when it introduced the new generation of the Murano.  It unveiled the 2009 Murano at the Los Angeles auto show in November 2007, and started selling them only two months later, in January 2008.

Those are just a couple examples that come to mind and this list is by no means exhaustive.  If you think of any other examples, feel free to leave a comment.


Written by Dan Smolinsky.

Jeremy Nutt

Hi, I'm Jeremy.

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