2009 Pontiac G8 GXP (© General Motors)

2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

They are the lost souls of the automotive world, the abandoned brands that collectors call "orphan cars." Technically, the latest brands to bite the dust — Saturn, Pontiac and Hummer — are not true orphans because General Motors and Ford are still in business and offering parts and service support. But just as Packard and Hudson, Studebaker and DeSoto, Nash and Corvair have faded into the mists, so eventually will the Oldsmobile and Plymouth nameplates, even if their corporate parents survive.

A bad economy or a misguided business plan may have derailed most of these defunct brands, but that doesn't mean every model they built was a loser. Saturn, for example, was finally selling some fine automobiles just as GM pulled the plug on its subsidiary in 2009. On the other hand, do you really miss the AMC Gremlin? We didn't think so.

Here's our list of 10 cars by discontinued brands that deserved a better fate.

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Hudson Hornet (1951-1954)

Click to enlarge picture1951 Hudson Hornet (© Car Culture/Getty Images)

1951 Hudson Hornet

The Hornet was one of the first cars with a "unibody" chassis, which combined the frame and body in a single structure. Its floor pan was lower than the frame. This "step down" design gave the car a low center of gravity and outstanding handling, which made it almost unbeatable in the early years of dirt-track stock-car racing. Hornets won 49 of 71 NASCAR races in the 1952 and 1953 racing seasons. Its 308-cubic-inch engine was the biggest 6-cylinder produced at the time, and in Twin-H Power tune made 170 horsepower from the factory.

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Studebaker Golden Hawk (1956-1958)

Click to enlarge picture1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk (© Conceptcarz.com)

1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk

This low-slung two-plus-two coupe was one of the hottest cars on the road when it was introduced. Powered by a 352-cubic-inch 275-horsepower Packard V8 engine, the 1956 Golden Hawk could outaccelerate the Corvette, Thunderbird and Chrysler 300. A lighter, 275-horsepower supercharged Studebaker 289-cubic-inch V8 was offered in 1957-'58. Designer Raymond Loewy created the body work over his previous Starliner hardtop, with a tall grille and domed hood to clear the large engine. An economic recession in 1958 killed Golden Hawk sales and began the decline of Studebaker.

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Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda (1970-1971)

Click to enlarge picture1971 Plymouth HEMI 'Cuda (© Chrysler Group LLC)

1971 Plymouth HEMI 'Cuda

Introduced as sporty variant of the Valiant model in 1964, the Barracuda got its own platform in 1970, with a gaping engine bay that could swallow the biggest engine Chrysler could offer. That monster was the 425-horsepower 426-cubic-inch Hemi V8, which propelled the Hemi 'Cuda down the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds. Fewer than 1,000 of the menacing Hemi 'Cudas were built, and survivors are among the most valuable cars on the muscle-car collector market today, with ultrarare convertible models selling for more than $2 million.

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International Travelall (1953-1975)

Click to enlarge picture1973 International Harvester Travelall (© Courtesy of Paul McCurley)

1973 International Harvester Travelall

International Harvester created a template for the modern SUV when it added a 4-wheel-drive option to its truck-based Travelall passenger wagon in 1956, four years before a 4-wheel-drive Suburban was offered by Chevy. Developed by adding side windows and seats to an R-Series panel truck in 1953, the Travelall always reflected the rugged reputation of International commercial trucks. Its long wheelbase and a stout 392-cubic-inch V8 engine made it a popular choice for towing boats and travel trailers.

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Triumph TR6 (1969-1976)

Click to enlarge pictureRM license before reuse 1974 Triumph TR6 (© Uli Jooss/culture-ima)

1974 Triumph TR6

The TR6 represents the final evolution of the Triumph TR line, which began in 1953 with the TR2, a car that introduced Americans to the classic British sports car. With fresh body work designed by Karmann, the TR6 looked lower, wider and more aggressive than the TR250 it replaced. Its 2.5-liter 6-cylinder engine made 104 smooth horsepower, and the 2-seat cockpit was roomy and comfortable. Actor Paul Newman drove a TR6 to his first national racing championship in 1976. Driver and car had similar presence and character.

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