By on March 30, 2012

 

“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?”

“The Golf?”

“Hate em’. I see too many old VW’s at the auctions.”

“Yaris?”

“Soulless.”

“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?

 

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101 Comments on “What Is The Model T Of Our Time?...”


  • avatar
    DubTee1480

    My GMC Sonoma (93 model) has given me over 10 years of mostly trouble free transportation and is simple enough to work on that it hasn’t been to a shop once, excepting things I cannot do like alignment and windows. The closest equivalent I can think of (and so I nominate) is the 2011 Ford Ranger.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Toyota pickup. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnWKz7Cthkk

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      Too old for the purposes of this argument, but given the durability of most of those trucks it may not matter, lol. I never really wanted one of the old Toyota pickups, but I did admire them. Love that video.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    We know Sajeev will be expressing his Panther Love, it’s a different Ford product which is the legitimate heir to the Model-T mantle….the ubiquitous Ranger small pickup.

    Efficient? No. But in 4 cyl. form, it won’t KILL your bank account, either.

    But it is useful, reasonably comfortable, relatively easy to Fix Or Repair Daily, can’t fling a dead cat without it landing near a parts store or junkyard where spare parts abound. Usually dead reliable. No fancy-schmancy inboard electronics to short out and leave ya dead. In 4 x 2 or 4 x 4 configs, damned near indestructable.

    In short, what’s not to like?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave56

      + 1

    • 0 avatar
      daviel

      I absolutely agree with Mark about the Ford Ranger pick-up. I had a white XLT, 4 cyl (8 spark plugs), stick, roll up windows, openable back window, regular cab, radio, AC (super fast cabin cool down in Texas summer) that I drove hard for years. Some at night – listened to a lot of Ranger baseball on its radio. I wish I still had it. That is the Model T.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A Jeep Wrangler. In spirit, at least.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Zackman…..You didn’t pick the Impala?..Great!

      Mikeys pick? hmmmmmm? Okay the Impala.

      With so many out there, parts will be cheap, and plentifull for years.

      I’m in year number four, 16 to go

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I figured I’d get tarred & feathered if I did! That would have been my second choice after Jeep.

        Thing is…you just can’t beat an Impala for good, practical, economic transportation. Critics may say it’s no different than a Camry or Accord, but it’s a Chevy and that makes all the difference – and it restored my faith in GM whare I like them again after an absence and abhorrance of almost 30 years, 1977-2004!

    • 0 avatar
      Nate

      I would have went with the Cherokee XJ myself, but I may be biased due to having owned several and loved them.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Ford has a fleet of Model Ts that run around Greenfield Village in Dearborn. I had a ride in a few different ones and it’s surprising how well they drive even today.

    Who says we need a Model T for our time when the original is still good (as a city car)?

  • avatar
    nutbags

    The Elantra Touring or Mazda5 (with manuals of course)….only because I am thinking of those when my Jetta Sportwagon lease is up next month.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      You won’t like performing the maintenance on those vehicles when it comes time to replace the clutch. Front wheel drive means you will be removing the engine to replace the clutch. Over a 20 year period, there’s a good chance that you will have the pleasure twice.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Hate to be the bearer of obvious/unpopular news, but it has to be the civic, right? They’re ubiquitous, and they last a long time.

    Personally I’d rather have a Cruze, but that’s me.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Agreed; I think it’s the Civic. Just the right size for most people, mild style, incrementally improved, etc…

    • 0 avatar
      elimgarak

      unfortunately you are correct and that’s why I purchased an 08 civic ex new. plan on keeping it for 20 years, it’s light and more than big enough for me (came out of a 94 accord i received from my parents).

      only gripes are the placement of the e-brake handle and the comfort of the seats over ultra long distances.

      Come 2027, my next car purchase will be a ’27 or ’28 Porsche 911 4S.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    The equivalent of a Model T is a vehicle that can go anywhere, be fixed cheaply, find parts anywhere, have a bed or a second row of seats.

    It’s not a compact car by any means. It’s a compact/midsize pickup or a jeep. But not a 2012 model.

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I agree. The complexity of today’s vehicles makes this question extremely difficult to answer (because few would have the specialized equipment and know-how needed to maintain today’s vehicles entirely by oneself).

      I honestly can’t think of anything.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    If fuel consumption is not a top priority, I vote for Panther love.

    Full disclosure, I own a 97 Crown Vic with 65K miles on the clock. So I only have five years to go to make the twenty year mark.

  • avatar
    Feds

    I can’t disagree with the Ranger too much, other than there is not a (USDM) quad cab, so moving people with legs is a challenge.

    So, I’ll go to the next stall in the Ford stable and say (current) Escape.

    Honest transportation, enough utility, enough ubiquity. Driving one now as a long term rental. Kind of thing I think I’ll steer my (now 4-year-old) son into in 12 years.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Explorer Sport Trac would be the equivalent of a Ranger quad cab.

      • 0 avatar
        Feds

        I’ll give you the first generation, but the second gen went to the more complicated IRS platform, and lost a lot of that simple/unkillable charm.

        This is what I’m talkin’ bout.

        http://www.ford.com.mx/Photos/photo329/SSCMEX/FORD/RANGER/2007/4PU-C.JPG

    • 0 avatar
      ZoomZoom

      What is “honest transportation”?

      And what is not “honest”…do some cars lie to you? Dealers and repair guys, yeah…but cars are also dishonest?

      • 0 avatar
        DubTee1480

        I would gander ‘honest’ here is referring to simple, basic transportation and nothing that’s too high strung on the road, ie no track vehicles. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that my truck’s fuel gauge tells little white lies from time to time depending on if I’m braking or accelerating.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Honest as in simple, unpretentious, and unsophisticated.

        Example: That restaurant in Lake Wobegon has good honest food with no gimmicks. Yep! Ham, eggs, and plenty of good American bacon. No Curly Q’s or other French foods!

      • 0 avatar
        Feds

        Everyone else beat me to the response, but by honest, I mean it doesn’t overpromise and under deliver. My ’98 Pathfinder looked big and rugged, but was cramped and not that great offroad. A Mercury Marauder looked bad ass but was slower than an Accord.

        An Escape looks like a box with some ground clearance, and that’s what it is. It doesn’t try to be overly sporty or rugged. It drives fine and gets decent mileage, but doesn’t like to be hustled. It’s roomier than you expect, and can hop a curb or negotiate a fire road if you take it easy. It looks like what it does, thus: Honest.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        A dishonest car would be something with dishonest styling, a car that looks sporty but drives like a dud.

        The Mustang 2 comes to mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Lumbergh21

        By Ryoku’s definition, my 240sx was very dishonest. Going from my RX7 to that car was very disppointing the first time I tried to really push it going along a twisty back road, but it did look nice and was much more reliable than my tired out RX7.

    • 0 avatar
      daviel

      No 4-person cab is a feature, not a deficiency. I always invited them to sit in the bed. actually a two person cab means you usually do not have to haul people – offsets the “you have a pick-up? Can I..”

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        A manual transmission would probably kill 90% of borrowing requests. Now you don’t have to move people, or loan your vehicle to every acquaintance that has to move furniture.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    Given that I’ve owned a Toyota Corolla, Geo Prizm, or Tercel for 24 of the past 30 years (two out of the three for nine of them), my answer has to be a Toyota Corolla.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Ford Ranger?

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    The Versa is about as close as you can get to a Model T of our times. Even the new one which has been panned for being too plasticky. Lots of virtue here: Useful, large interior for the size of the car. Great price. You can buy one fairly stripped. Comfortable (I like the cloth upholstery — Nissan has the best on the market imo). Excellent fuel economy. Low cost of ownership. Reliable. A sales winner which means parts availability for years to come. Made by a mass manufacturer with a huge dealer body.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I believe that when you start thinking 15 or 20 years, this is where some of the GM stuff is looking good.

    With the exception of Toyota,most of the other imports will kill you with part costs.

    Try taking the instrument panel apart in an Elantra. Now try and put it back together.

    Remember your driving this thing for 20 years, and doing your own repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I had to change a bulb in the instrument cluster on my Accent. Took a few screws out, pulled the cluster back, and popped the bulb out. Hyundai is really good about that sort of thing. Didn’t GM have some recent model where they soldered the bulb leads to the wire trace?

      • 0 avatar
        LectroByte

        GM used to be really bad about not making it easy to DIY. No test point for fuel pressure, etc. As far as maintenance, most vehicles are very simple these days. Oil changes, air filters, spark plugs every 5 or 6 years. The cars I can afford to drive, anyway. I hear things like BMW’s need a proprietary computer update to replace the battery.

  • avatar

    I’d choose Toyota Corolla of any recent vintage. Great fuel economy, 4-speed automatic for simplicity over more modern transmissions, simple 4-cylinder engine, tons and tons of parts. Quieter and smoother ride than the Versa in my opinion. The downside is no available hatchback version, but the upside is fantastic packaging for a compact.

    If I were looking for a bigger car, then I’d choose the current generation Impala. Again, the reason is because of it’s wide availability of parts, decent mpg, and reasonable ride. I didn’t pick a Camry because it’s cheaper to buy a mint used Impala.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    In my experience nothing with a CVT qualifies as a 20-year-vehicle. Although I suspect by year 10 or so you’d be pretty good at changing them.

    Since I’m not sure I would want a truck as my exclusive transport for the next 20 years, the choice would have to be a Camry SE. Toyota is the only company that builds a car that I could seriously expect to go 20 years.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I’ve seen panthers of various years in the yard with 200K on the clock with the message “engine $500″ on the hoods of self service yards. I still see late 80s bonnevilles and lesabres/park ave around here, and this is salt country (Pittsburgh)… at this point that’s over 20 years. If the rules are 2012MY cars then I’m at a loss for 20 year reliable save the last Panthers that came off the line early this year. Given the recalls and other problems Toyota’s have recently I don’t think they are as bulletproof as they once were, at least in an overall sense. The Europeans have packed it in, in terms of reliability. Asian makes are also kinda iffy anymore, if I had to chose beyond a Panther, I would go with a basic low/mid trim truck just because if its simpler design.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I think the popular/proven response is the ’88-00 Civic – probably more shade-tree mechanics working on these than anything else. Other candidates would include any big 3 pickup.

    My choice, for today, is the Mazda 2. Simple, little, fun, efficient. I’d hope to hold off on the day of purchase till the Skyactiv engine shows up in it, but I’m looking forward to replacing every car we own with these. That’ll be a 7-car order – so I’m wondering how to best deal with the Mazda dealer to get a good deal on all that.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s quite a fleet. I think the mazda2 is probably the simplest new design I’ve seen in a while. It’d give the Versa a run for the money definitely. I’d be worried about availability of parts down the line, especially if Mazda goes under.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      I’d like to agree on the Civic, but the D16Y7 engine just expired in my ’96 at 180K miles. It’s been burning massive oil for years, but while parked overnight, it completely lost compression in one cylinder (think intake valve stuck open), and a week later, after being parked for a few days, lost at least two more cylinders (more stuck open valves?). It doesn’t have a prayer of even starting now. Thankfully there is a lower-mileage engine waiting to be installed.

      It is an easy car to work on, save for a few exceptions such as the alternator which is typical of most Hondas.

  • avatar
    critchdizzle

    I’d go with Panther. Its ubiquity in fleets means parts should be easy to find, even in a junkyard, plus the reason it’s in so many fleets is simply because it’s so easy to repair.

  • avatar
    bucksnort

    In terms of sales, ease of maintenance and availability of parts it has to be the F150. Since the Model T, the F150 has probably sold more than everything mentioned above combined. There is a reason why it is so popular and has been around for so long.

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      +1.
      Any full-size domestic truck with a basic spec, quad cab and 4×4. Go-anywhere, do-everything, rugged and simple. Fuel mileage may suffer but for a diesel you have to shop abroad (HiLux, L200 et al).

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Whatever the last year was for the Accord Wagon (97?). Four cylinder EX, reasonably quick (if you’re not concerned about racing), decent mileage, not ugly (read: timelessly non-descript).

  • avatar
    paxman356

    I’ll probably get beaten for it, but I’d pick the Saturn SL. In SOHC form, enough power. Gets good gas mileage. You’ll have to watch the oil, but otherwise it runs like a top. I’ve got a ’97 SL1 5 speed, 202K, has only needed oil, filter, plugs and wires, brake pads and disks, gas and a muffler. I do all the work myself, but fear the day I’d have to get the clutch fixed (not my kind of work).

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Put 250k on an SW1 5 speed. Yeah, just check the oil when you gas it up and they will go forever. Not the most refined motor, but it was engineered to be simple. Timing chain means no belt changes. Additionally the water pump is not inside the timing cover so it was a 30 minute job to do unlike my Miata.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, nothing, really. Given that part of the T’s design brief was that it had to be repairable by its owners in the largely rural economy of the U.S. at the time.

    Failing that, something that is as simple (“crude”) as possible, given the electronic engine controls now required for emissions. Electronic systems work wonderfully when they work, but unlike mechanical systems, they are not particularly fault-tolerant. A fault usually shuts them down.

    So, that means avoiding that stuff as much as possible. The shadetree mechanic does not have access to a lift; and working under a car on jackstands, or even ramps, is kinda scary and not pleasant. So, that means avoiding FWD transverse mounted engine cars, since they have everything crammed into a small engine bay. It also favors in-line engines, because their components are more easily accessible than V-block configuration engines. It also means avoiding automatic transmissions of any kind, since these now have both electrical and mechanical critical failure points.

    So, what are we left with? A Jeep wrangler, maybe, with the 4-cylinder engine. I don’t think the Escape qualifies; I believe it has a transverse-mounted engine. Maybe a Toyota 4-Runner, a Nissan X-terra.

    If we take “ease of self-repair” out of the equation, then you should just look at a vehicle with a good repair record in CR or True Delta and one that does not suck a lot of gas.

    Or, actually, a Mercedes 240D with the 4-speed manual. The parts may be expensive, but they are of high quality, the vehicle is built like a tank; and the engine is bone-simple and uses no electronics. It also gets around 30 mpg on diesel fuel, but you have to be satisfied with a 65 mph top speed.

    Actually, I owned an almost-20 year car — a ’92 Volvo 740 with automatic. The mechanicals were bullet-proof, but the interior was coming apart and they had a hard time getting the paint to stick to the galvanized body panels — so much of the paint on the top surfaces of the car was down to the primer. Otherwise, I would have spent the money to replace the bad cat converter and not sold the car to a salvage guy.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    An interesting question. What cheap vehicle has been widely purchased with a commiserate rise in infrastructure in our modern age. Easy, its is a claas of vehicle, not a model; It is a bicycle. Any other answer cannot be supported because cars are using an existing infrastructure and it’s the rare addition of a new road to our system. Like the T, bikes are simple, maintained with hand tools, used for work and recreation. They are universally recognized as branding is barely recognized. Any single brand or model has no impact, but a class of vehicle (a bike) has enormous impact. Bikes have resulted in an amazing growth of on and off road trails.

    The T will always be unique.

    No flying cars need apply.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Toyota Prius C.

    No belt
    No starter
    No alternator
    No power steering pump/fluid
    No clutch
    No torque converter
    Engine starts with pre-pressurized lubrication
    Very long wearing brakes
    300,000+ mile reputation as NYC taxi
    50 MPG
    $19k MSRP

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Confound you, now I want one of these even more! Is there a waiting list for them?

      The sad thing is, if GM hadn’t disbanded their first-rate EV design team in the 1990s, they could have easily brought this same car to market long before Toyota did. But the Big 3 was focused on making high-profit SUVs during that time instead (facepalm).

  • avatar
    JimR

    The Model T of our time is what we know as the 1991-1994 Sentra.

    The B13/N14/Y10 Nissan platform was sold as a truck, van, wagon, two-door, three-door, four-door, five-door, and egg-shaped coupe in various markets worldwide. Engines ran the spectrum from carburetted 1.3L GA13 to turbocharged AWD SR20. All the basic mechanicals interchange. To sample a few…

    http://serjimr.tripod.com/b13world.html

    It’s STILL sold new today in Latin America, and is used as taxis, police cars, and basic transportation. The B13 Sentra (aka Tsuru) has supplanted the aircooled VW as Mexico’s workhorse transportation of choice.

    My first car was (and still is) a 194k-mile 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R that has been (and still is) autocrossed, open-tracked, RallyCrossed, and ridden hard. Simple, cheap, quick. It’s proven pretty much everything that needs to be proven.

  • avatar
    banjopanther

    Ford Focus ZX3!

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I don’t believe we have a model T. I understand that the Versa and Cube are the same under the skin. Don’t know for sure but I do drive a cube with a six speed manual. Bought it because mama liked the styling and when I looked it over and read about it I certainly approved. I intend to put a trailer hitch on it and Steven, I hope you are right about the 2klbs that it will tow because I intend to put it to the test.

    OTOH I have a 91 S10 with under 100k (maybe) and a 57 2dr handyman special. They won’t touch the cube for mileage but either gives me the utility. Congratulations on the perfect question for a participation blog. There is no one answer that is right. I cannot argue with many but my personal favorite of other peoples answers might be the Saturn S series. Before they became Opels they were tough and durable. I owned two and would have kept them had I known that I was going to an Opel when I traded for Vues.

  • avatar
    wmba

    For ubiquity world-wide, nothing matches the various models of the Toyota Corolla, not even close. Name an unreliable one — none of ‘em. Rustbuckets back in the 70s and 80s, sure, but so was everything else.

  • avatar
    K5ING

    Awhile back, on the “other” big auto blog, I proposed a similar question concerning your 20/40 car as a possible “question of the day”, only I made it a little more interesting.

    My question was was “what kind of car would you choose if someone GAVE you a car. No price limit, but there were catches.

    1) All you got was the car. You would have to pay the registration, insurance, fuel, repairs, taxes, and everything else associated with car ownership.

    2) It would be your ONLY car for 10 (or 20) years.

    3) You couldn’t, say, get a Rolls Royce then sell it and get something else while pocketing the change. You had to keep it for 10 (or 20) years.

    4) At the end of the 10 (or 20) year period, you have to give the car back. You couldn’t sell it.

    What would you get?

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    Honda CR-V.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    For me, a ~110-250 cc scooter with heated grips and a windshield? I could see myself riding it year-round, unless it’s icy out.

    I’d also get a Versa hatchback if I had equipment or brood to carry. They’re very roomy and functional cars. Or maybe a Caliber SXT with the new interior and lots of cash on the hood?

    Rental Versas seem to develop warped disc brakes at around 20 000 km though. When I brake, they go eep-eep-eep-eep-eep until I stop. I don’t expect my personal car to be beaten like an economy rental though.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      150cc is a little chilly on a 17 degree F morning. I know from experience although my little Chinese unit is about as easily fixable as a model T.

  • avatar

    My 1998 Isuzu Rodeo is almost there. So far nothing has broke that I couldn’t fix myself with normal tools. It’s now 14 years old and has 230k miles on it and until some idot changes lanes into me last week only some minor hail damage blemishes. Hopefully it will get to the 20 year mark after his insurance gets it back in shape.

    I would second the Ford Ranger vote as well. Basic, easy to work on, lots of parts, inexpensive and reliable. Yeah the interior looks and feels like shit, but you can’t have everything.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      As an ex-Rodeo owner I can’t imagine being stuck with one for that long. Guess I’m not an SUV-guy because I ditched mine after only 8 months. Terrible handling and gas mileage, wife refused to drive it. The only good thing was the ride height in the rain (4×4 tires) meant you could ignore most puddles. I had a Ranger and much preferred it, despite the serious lack of towing power with the 4.0l V6.

  • avatar
    rjsasko

    Buick Le Sabre is the modern day Model T. Bulletproof 3.8L V6 engine. Enough oomph to get out of its own way. Room for 6 non-midgets and still has room for luggage. Not so large that it is hard to park. Not so little to be a torture device to normal people. Highway cruiser with close to 30 mpg. Cheap repairs. Plenty of used parts available in the bone yard for the DIY crowd.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Sorry, as the owner of a 2001 Lesabre I beg to differ. The multiplexed, distributed electrical control system cannot be diagnosed w/o the use of a GM Tech 2000 scantool, and each module in the system has the vehicle’s VIN burned into it – if you attempt to swap in a junkyard-obtained module, that module will not function at all since it’s VIN doesn’t match the vehicle.

      This is the most complex vehicle, electrically-speaking, that I have ever owned. Tell me again why the truck light has to be controlled by a switch input to a control module, with firmware and a microcontroller, that then tells a solid-state output to turn on the light bulb?

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I hope that electrical nightmare is an H-body thing. I have yet to have any trouble with my 08 Grand Prix. I have a friend with an 04 he beats and hasn’t had any issues save the fuel pump sending unit packed up a while ago and thus his gas gauge doesn’t work correctly.

      • 0 avatar
        55_wrench

        I agree with RedmondJP –for other reasons.
        I couldn’t wait to get rid of our ’01 Lesabre, what a pile of junk it was. True, the 3800 was a great motor, but the rest of the car was horrid. 7 window regulators self-destructed in 4 years, the dash cover shrunk, the seats were torture devices. And they hard-soldered indicator lights in the switches that lived in the steering wheel.

        Great ideas, lousy execution, our. last. GM. car. ever.

        My vote is for the W123 300D Turbo. Retired one at 415,000 miles, what a solid, simple car. True, the AC didn’t work, but the Model T never had it either.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Ah the 300D, turbo no less, the stuff of legends… back when the German’s cared about building a solid car. Maybe we need to put that wall back up to give them some good old Cold War motivation :)

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree on the 3800 being awesome, but in the used market why not strive for the Park Ave, they are almost the same car.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    1996 F150 with the 4.9 I6 and a 5 speed. You can’t kill these things and if you somehow manage to they are cheap and easy to fix. Sure, fuel mileage isn’t greatest but the utility and simplicity are tough to beat.

    If I had to pick a vehicle sold today it would be the Murano convertible with the CVT. Just kidding. Tacoma with the 2.7 I4 and 5 speed since the Hilux is not sold in the US.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    Trucks are just built more durably and generally and easier to work on than today’s cars (you can actually get your hands down into the engine compartment). The 4 cyl Ranger is an obvious choice and I’d happily drive one for 20 years, assuming I could have a second vehicle with more passenger space. If not, I’d probably look at a F150 or Silverado with a normally aspirated V8.

    The Versa (with manual) is also a candidate, and with the uncertainly of gas prices, it might be a wiser choice.

  • avatar
    sco

    It is the civic. Mine is 15 years old, maintained by me except for 2 timing belts, it is dented and dinged without remorse and it has had the driver seat replaced from a junkyard (and junkyards are full of civics of virtually every year). Honest, fuel efficient, durable, even the styling has not gone out of fashion. Oh, and it’s overbuilt also, replaced my first original light bulb this year.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This is a little off-topic, but how is the Yaris “souless”?

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Have you seen it? I think Joe Estevez came by and took it (MST3K reference, google it)

      But in all seriousness, I just think its devoid of style. I read the review TTAC did recently on the 2012 Yaris and was able to agree with some of its merits. Its just a basic car with no frills (or even a tach) in a world where the ‘basic car’ is power everything with 20 in alloys and a navigation system. But much like the Prius styling I do not care for, the Yaris looks obnoxious. What was wrong with the 90s Tercel styling, I mean at the time I thought it was too small and girly looking but I certainly saw quite a few of them floating around back in the day. Honda used to make the delSoul which I thought was sharp, why not that school of styling? It seems with the Yaris, and the B-segment in general, Toyota is just like ‘whatever’ and their attitude is ‘its a basic car, deal with it’. Your entry level should look, feel, and drive fun, even if its cheap[ly made] fun. My first car was a ’92 cavalier (in ’99) which was in retrospect a cheaply made car. But I had a black coupe, I put sliver/white pinstripes on it, and with some 14in alloys and the cutting edge tape deck, it looked pretty darn good. Sure it wasn’t the pinnacle of automotive design, but I had a lot of fun in it, and I looked back at it and smiled because to me it looked sporty (but was realistically light years from it). I can’t imagine having to be 17 again and drive Toyota’s cheap car equivalent, just thinking about it makes me want to kill myself. I look at it and think ‘IRS agent’ or ‘prostate exam’ not ‘fun’ or ‘sporty’… maybe that’s why its soulless?

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    Chalk another vote up for the Ranger. I’m not a fan but I can see how it fits the criteria very well. 2nd vote would go for the Nissan Sentra, especially if it was a bit more versatile for hauling stuff.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    With its long history of service in just about ANY corner of the world, including third world hell-holes, the Corolla is every man’s bread and butter vehicle. It’s no wonder even the junked ones are fixed and shipped to places like Haiti and many poor Latin American countries.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Ill take my first gen Miata. Take away the 2 seat bit and it is an extremely practical car. As it is simply ferrying me to and from work the seats aren’t an issue. The drivetrain is bulletproof and simple to work on since it is oriented in the correct position. I can have the transmission out in 45 minutes for the few clutches it’ll need in that time. The windows roll up and down by hand. The top is manual and I replaced it in a matter of hours. Great on gas and fun to drive. The trunk is big enough to make it a real option and many have been fitted with hitches for puling a small trailer with tires and race gear.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I did get a Civic Si sedan. It’s under the price threshold and doesn’t entail any sacrifices. Great seats, powerful and durable timing chain equipped engine with no expensive regular maintenance requirements, big brakes and stiff shocks that will still be effective longer than ones that start out flaccid, manual transmission, neutral handling for a FWD car, top of CR’s list of cars that can go 200,000 miles, 7 speaker audio and a sunroof. It is a good value, is actually fun to drive, has room for four adults and their luggage, and comes from a company known to make cars that last 20 years. There are other cars that are comparable values over three years, but this is the one I’d recommend as a keeper.

  • avatar
    Sttocs

    Base Subaru Impreza.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    My first thought was a Ford Ranger as well but I can see a case for the Versa, Corolla, or Civic also.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    How about the Smart? You can replace body panels easily, and the engine is very accessible once you get the engine lid off.

  • avatar
    redav

    I’d take my Mazda Protege5. Parts aren’t the cheapest, but hardly anything breaks. Eleven years and counting–I have no doubt I’ll keep it for 9+ more.

    • 0 avatar
      CanuckGreg

      You must not live in the rust belt. Here in Ontario, Protege5′s are still abundant, but every one I see is now suffering from terminal body cancer. My wife’s 2002 P5 had to be sold for scrap last fall: I was looking at spending $3k for repairs and major maintenance on a car that was completely riddled with rust (full perforation in many spots). Great cars when they’re not rotted out, though.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Two Words: Chevy Cavalier

    It’s cheap, can fit 5, has a robust 4-speed auto, parts are dirt cheap.

    They can be worked on in rural areas and are quite crude.

    After all, they are “Cockroaches”

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      Agreed. The original model T was cheap, reliable, ubiquitous, friendly to the shade-tree mechanic, and I would think somewhat fuel efficient. The J-body Cavalier fits all of those specs. Trouble here in PA is they were cheaply made and tend to rot.

  • avatar
    MGRon

    And still running strong after 45 years, a ’67 Triumph GT6. Dead simple to repair, great inexpensive parts availability, cheap insurance, reliable and just good fun to drive. It’s all good.

  • avatar

    The sheer thought of having to drive a car for 20 years, probably as the sole means of transportation, makes me shudder.
    Looking around in my household, there are only few items that are more than 20 years old: some useful, inherited (or thoughtfully bought) pieces of furniture, some books, some tableware. As compared to cars, there is no maintenance involved with these. The usefulness is still there.
    But cars? For me, they get boring after a while. Then I want a new/other car, some new experience.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Well, I did own a 1958 Plymouth Belvedere convertible for thirty-two years. But at no time was it ever a daily driver. I think I’d have to go with the 5-speed Civic.

  • avatar
    Weltron

    Volvo 240 anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I second the motion.

    • 0 avatar
      JJHUNSECKER

      I had a 1993 240 and it broke down CONSTANTLY. Window switches, light bulbs, front end parts, radiator, transmission problems, rain leaks, electrical gremlins, cheap european plastic that would crack and crumble with age. I LIVED the 240 experience for 4 years and it was not the car that most people seem to think it is. What a piece of shit. Somehow the Volvo mystique continues… though, god bless ‘em. They’re welcome to it.

      It was no coincidence that my friendly neighborhood Volvo mechanic shop was ALWAYS full to capacity and he was ALWAYS a happy man. Nonsense.


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