The 6 Most Baffling Attempts to Improve Classic Products

Products are great.

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Not only that, many products are so consistently great that they become classics, respected and trusted by consumers for decades. Depending on the specific product, this often involves a slow process of redesign, the product getting refreshed and updated over the years to remain competitive and relevant to the market, while maintaining the qualities that made it a classic in the first place. This is a tricky business, and thankfully for the purposes of this article, it sometimes goes badly wrong.

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Like all writers, I pick the title of an article first, and if the real world doesn't cooperate
by existing the way I need it too, then I'm fucked.

And so, with reality thankfully cooperating for me this one goddamned time, I set out to assemble a list of just such horribly misconceived reboots. To add to the challenge, I decided to omit movie and television remakes, there being so many awful examples of those that it would turn a bit into shooting Godzilla movies in a barrel.

#6. Dodge Charger L-Body

Cracked doesn't normally talk about cars very much, so I won't make any assumptions about your knowledge level and will start right from the beginning. A car is a vehicle invented in 1973 by Gerald Ford of the Ford Motor Company, in response to the oil crisis going on at the time (he would later be named president of the nation for his efforts). Cars typically have between four and five wheels, a mirror, and for a time were the only places where people were legally allowed to have sex.

irina88w/iStock/Getty Images
Until the invention of the car bed in 1978 by Jimmy Carter.

Cars are more than functional, however, and certain models are known for being extremely attractive. One of the best-looking cars ever made was the Dodge Charger, in particular the version made in the late 1960s. (It was the bright orange one from the Dukes of Hazzard, if that helps your pop-culture-addled mind.) The combination of gorgeous sheet metal and an enormous bruising engine makes Chargers from this era some of the most celebrated and sought after muscle cars ever made.

Jerry Aman via Wikimedia Commons

The muscle car era was squished pretty comprehensively by new fuel economy regulations in the 1970s, which most manufacturers responded to by selling cars with smaller engines. This resulted in many classic sports and muscle cars being remade in humiliatingly neutered forms, like the Camaro Iron Duke or the Corvette California. But fuel economy alone can't explain what happened to the poor Charger.

Sfoskett via Wikimedia Commons

That Dodge Charger was made in the 1980s and was based on Chrysler's front-wheel drive "L" platform, made famous by the Dodge Omni your grandmother drove. Making all of 84 horsepower (about a quarter what the old versions managed) it also had the misfortune of being designed by someone with a deep-seated anger at the world. Look at the thing.

Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons
It's like the automotive equivalent of puberty.

As a crappy little car, it's kind of unremarkable -- that era was filled with crappy little cars. And they did end up making a souped-up model of the thing that, although still ugly as sin, had sort of credible performance. But calling it a Charger? That's not a Charger.

Bull-Doser via Wikimedia Commons
In that color it looks a little more like something a Charger ate, digested, then shat out in the middle of the road.

#5. The CD-i Zelda Games

Every time someone makes one of those "Best Games of All Time" lists, the Zelda series of games regularly appear near, if not at, the top. An almost perfect blend of exploration, puzzle solving, and fast-paced, accessible combat, they represent the high-water mark of what games are capable of. Even the worst Zelda games are miles better than almost everything out there.

"Really?" you might ask. "Even the worst of them?"

"Ho ho ho ho ho ho! No."

What the hell was that? That fan-art-looking piece of crap is a screenshot from The Wand of Gamelon, one of three Zelda games made for the Phillips CD-i. How did a video game console originally intended to be a child's training toaster end up with three different Zelda games on it? In the early '90s, Nintendo backed out of a deal with Phillips to make a CD-ROM add-on for the Super Nintendo. Because Nintendo's executives didn't apparently know what the fuck they were doing, part of the condition of backing out gave Phillips the right to use Nintendo characters.

imtmphoto/iStock/Getty Images
"But only on the condition that you animate them and make them look like horrible mutants."

The CD-i that Phillips made turned out to be hot garbage, and the Zelda games made for them weren't much better. The Wand of Gamelon seen above (and it's cousin Link: The Faces of Evil) featured an awkward side-scrolling perspective, floaty and unresponsive controls, and terrible hit detection. The third game, Zelda's Adventure, was even worse, and it also featured live-action video, which I highly encourage you to check out if you've ever wanted to see a programmer mumble exposition into a fake beard.

The best thing that anyone can say about these games is that they're some of the better games made for the CD-i, which is damning with the faintest praise modern scientific instruments can detect.

#4. New Coke

Coca-Cola has long been locked in a bitter war with its arch-nemesis Pepsi-Cola, a feud which began millennia ago when Pepsi-Cola killed their sensei in a duel. By the 1980s, Coca-Cola was losing this war, its flagship product hemorrhaging market share with each passing year. Pepsi's main claim to fame at the time was that it tasted sweeter than Coke, and holy shit, that was their main selling point? How could Coke not taste sweet enough to people?

DundStock/iStock/Getty Images
It's actually kind of impressive that those all fit in there. Nice work, chemistry.

In response to this, Coca-Cola executives decided to create a new formula for Coke, one much sweeter than the original recipe. Test groups responded fairly well to the new flavor, although some respondents objected to the idea of the new recipe replacing Coke altogether. "Fuck 'em," I like to imagine the Coca-Cola executives said while hoovering up vast quantities of their product's namesake. Days later, New Coke was born.


People were outraged, and soon found themselves hording cases of "Old Coke," organizing letter-writing campaigns, or breaking down crying in the middle of traffic. It wasn't so much that the new flavor was unacceptable, people were just gutted by the loss of the old version. The taste of Coke, it turns out, is this fundamental taste that people get exposed to in childhood and become emotionally attached to. It's the same reason everyone thinks their mom's Thanksgiving dinner is the best, even though most of your moms suck. Losing the old Coke was like losing a piece of your childhood.

DundStock/iStock/Getty Images

The decision was hastily reversed, and Coca-Cola Classic was introduced soon after. In the years that followed, Coke regained almost all of its market share, proving conclusively that nothing strengthens a relationship like a nice, well-timed threat to leave.

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Chris Bucholz

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