“I just don’t get it? How can you like THAT thing?”
A former TTAC contributor was busy berating my questionable tastes. I had written an article called, “Choose Your 20 Year Sentence” where you could have any vehicle in the world… with a few small catches.
You had to maintain the vehicle yourself for 20 years from the ages of 20 to 40, it had to be a new car back in the day that cost no more than $25k (in today’s dollars), and you had to use it as your exclusive source of auto transportation.
Like all ‘mature’ men who prioritize fashion or function, I had an inkling of what my modern day choice would have been. It nearly shocked the hair off of my friend. Who we shall simply call Paul Niedermeyer.
“Steve, the seats feel like they’re made out of mouse fur for crying out loud! The interior is a cheap and plasticky catastrophe. My God, how can you even consider that thing?”
“I like decent honest transportation. The Versa is as big as my wife’s Civic. It has a French design with a solid powertrain. It’s offered as a spacious hatchback, has enough space for a good family road trip, and can easily get me over 30 mpg.”
“Is fuel economy that important to you?”
“It’s not just that. I can easily upgrade the seats and whatever else I need at the local junkyards without much of a hassle. It can haul about 2000 pounds which would work for my old jetskis, bikes, and the small utility trailer. Plus they sold over a half million units a year for most of it’s run. Name me another hatchback in 2011 with a wider level of acceptance and versatility?”
“Hate em’. I see too many old VW’s at the auctions.”
“The Mazda 3. Don’t tell my you would take a Versa over a 3. Or a Mini. Or a loaded up Impreza.”
“If I had to maintain it myself for 20 years? I prefer something that’s comfortable to drive and easy to fix.”
“Like your Insight?”
“You would be surprised. It’s easier to keep up than a Volvo 940 turbo. Oh, but forget about me ever maintaining a CVT for 20 years. I would just do a Mityvac flush every couple of years on a conventional automatic.”
“You’re losing it Steve. First the hair. Now the brain.”
“Naaahhh… I just want the Model T of modern day transportation. Something not as big as a Camry. Something that has mild style and a flair for the functional. I could just schlep stuff in it. Get it dented and door dinged without any regrets. It would look a bit tired after 20 full years of driving, but I’ll at least get my money’s worth out of it. ”
To be frank, the prior gen Versa would not have been my top pick back then for a two decade jaunt. I like to be engaged in the driving experience. At least a little bit.
However in this age of electric steering, infotainment systems and oversized tires, I’m struggling to find anything that emulates the idyllic virtues of an old Model T.
So what is the Model T of our time? Is it a car? Is it a truck? Is it a type of vehicle that nobody wants these days? What new vehicle offers simple honest transportation, and provides folks with a long list of virtues that can only come with a focus on functionality and a penchant for long-term penurious pleasures?