By on June 25, 2013

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Central to the tone of Jack Baruth’s lovely father-and-son 911 vignette is the concept of the Forever Car. It’s a nice thought – the machine acting as fossilizing amber, perfectly capturing a fleeting memory such that it lasts an eternity.

This idea is, to me, an entirely rational way to explain the presence of a theoretical soul in something that is composed of nothing more than steel, glass, rubber and leather. Cars don’t have souls, they develop them through experience – the transference of an emotion felt behind the wheel. It doesn’t have to be a 911 either, even the humblest old Volvo shoebox absorbs a personality as it slots into the background in slide after slide of family vacation pictures.

And then, you find yourself browsing craigslist and seeing a well-preserved you-name-it and thinking, “I could make that mine. I could share that with my children, and they would understand, and when I am dead and gone, they would explain it to their kids, and they would know.”

It’s a nice thought, the Forever Car. It perfectly encapsulates the human need for lasting possessions, of the art scrawled on the cave wall that says, “I was here.” One’s all-too-brief lifetime becomes a link in a chain that’ll stretch out over the years; less an ownership cycle than the work of a custodian/curator.

Well hurry up then. The last Forever Cars have already been built.
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Some years ago I was travelling in Australia, winding up a hairpin road to a resort smack-dab in the middle of a Queensland rain-forest. Stopping for lunch, I took in the grounds in all their parrot-infested splendour, never imagining I’d be bowled over by a herd of centenarians.

This was the Australian Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club, some of whom had travelled from as far away as Tasmania; a creaky herd of antediluvian behemoths, the youngest of which was built in 1923. One old gentleman donned a brown Rolls-Royce jumpsuit and set about rummaging in the gorgeous copper and steel innards of his classic motor-coach. I spoke to several of the owners and they were all experienced tourers, some younger, some older, all with a passion for these beautiful relics.

Of course, you’d have to be slightly deranged to think touring around in pre-war cars is either a safe or reliable way to see the country. Usually the folks that do so are more well-heeled than Disco Stu, capable of flying in experienced mechanics when needed.

However, the cars are simple and sturdy enough that a careful caretaker can keep them running without too much difficulty. They are certainly Forever Cars, in the sense that there’s almost nothing that could break which wouldn’t be worth putting right.
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For those of us that can’t afford a Roller – or who don’t care to – a legion of classic American iron constantly cycles through the auction block, supported by a healthy aftermarket of folks who know how to strip down and build up both Detroit’s best work and its follies. The same is true for less-trustworthy British steel, with stampings still readily available for those fighting cancerous lesions on the flanks of their electrically persnickety steeds.

And then of course, there’s the Porsche 911: a hardy air-cooled sporting car with some wonky vehicle dynamics, or a modern, highly-technical tarmac-ripper with a big, mortal electronic brain – the split occurs in ’98. I have to confess a certain fondness for the 996 GT3 on my part, simply because the 996 is everyone’s least-favourite engine-in-the-wrong-place P-car. There’s no question though, if you stick an air-cooled 911 in your driveway, it’s never going to be worth less than what you paid for it. Even if the mileage is huge, it’s a machine worth keeping around.

More importantly, it’s a machine that can be saved. My dad’s current BMW 550i six-speed is theoretically a last-of-breed too: one of the last proper driver’s 5ers with the very hard to find stick-shift. Once the extended warranty runs out, the thing’s going to start fritzing out like a Aston-Martin Lagonda in a salt bath. There’s no way that keeping it on the road will be worth anything like the money required to do so.

Modern cars are so much better than their ancestral equivalents in many ways. Today’s family sedans – the Mazda6, the Fusion, the Honda Accord – offer exceptional ride, handling, economy and safety. The Accord and the Mazda are also both decently fun-to-drive, and certainly equipped with some level of personality.

But even the traditionally well-built Honda won’t be kicking around in twenty-five year’s time, carefully polished up by some gaffer that kept the miles low, or ruined by some kid with whatever the Buck Rogers equivalent of Hellaflushing will be. It’ll simply be gone, replaced in its product cycle by the next consumer good, a cleaner, safer, better product which costs you money and takes you places.
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That’s the lie of the “modern classic” – such a vehicle simply doesn’t exist. Sure you could argue that the Shelby ‘Stang would be worth keeping around, and it’d be easier to do than anything Teutonic, but what about trying to fix one when it’s thirty years old? Where will you take the ECU for re-soldering? Who’ll still have the diagnostic equipment?

In twenty years time, the pool of heritage vehicles will have contracted somewhat, owing to the relentless erosion of time and chance. Some fossils will be damaged irreparably; still others will be cobbled together to form a more-perfect skeleton. More and more will show up in Murilee columns.

And, perhaps, the pool of people who actually care about this sort of thing will have shrunk as well. The Forever Car might be safely in the hands of a new owners, or it may sit, unloved, as part of an estate sale while a bemused lawyer tries to figure out who’d want this leaky, dusty, decrepit, out-dated old thing.
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But I don’t think so. I think any car that’s special in some way and can be resuscitated will still be found out on the highways while there’s gas to burn and places to go. Not locked up tight in some climate-controlled museum, but out on the road, subject to the risks of collision, weather and mechanical failure.

I think, forty years down the road, long after the internal combustion engine has become the equivalent of the cigarette, decades after Akira Nakai’s violent murder at the hands of a mysterious, shaggy assailant, we’ll find a white, basket handle 911 parked on the side of the road. As centipede-chains of whirring electro-pods pass, filled with people doing every damn thing but driving, a stranger will stop and do a double take. “I haven’t seen one of these forever!”

And then, one hopes, there’ll be the sort of exchange that always happens around an interesting old car: Is this yours? How long have you had it? Where’d you get it? What do you think it’s worth?

The last question may give pause because, of course, it has no real answer.

Note: The pictures accompanying this article were taken in Salt Lake City, which I passed through on the way to Aspen CO (where the beer flows like wine, etc.). I then ran into the group of touring Bentleys two blocks from my house in Vancouver a week later, which rates as co-incidence almost too absurd to be true.

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92 Comments on “The End of the Forever Car...”


  • avatar
    philipbarrett

    So let me pose one of my favorite automotive questions to this thread.

    I’m 50 years old, let’s say I want to buy a new car today that will be my last car purchase ever (I’m assuming an early demise is not in my future). What would it be?

    The list of vehicles that could be still driving and functioning fine in 40 years time seems very short.

    • 0 avatar

      The old-reliable answer is “a diesel Mercedes” but I’m not sure how the new ones hold up over time. Anyone?

      • 0 avatar
        smallenginesmakemesad

        My Dad is 66. He changes his cars extremely rarely. He just traded the Toyota Cressida that he bought in 1990 for a new diesel C Class. He expects that car to outlast him.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Volvo 240, stick if possible. The auto trans will do 200 though, so if you find one with low miles (around 100ish) spend the 2gs and get the trans rebuilt proactively. 240s can be had fairly loaded with pw/pl, hand crank moonroofs, cloth or leather heated seats, heated mirrors and A/C can be converted to R134. The 200 and 700 series Volvos also have a great aftermarket I found out. Failing a 240, the 740 is a fine choice but its interior bits are not as durable (drive-train is identical post 1986).

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      I think the list is non-existent. The problem is that you will need to have not only the ECU (which may be durable) but all of the sensors that tell the ECU what is going on in the engine, O2 sensors, MAF sensors, camshaft position sensors and so on. These are parts that are idiosyncratic to your engine and which would not be easy to fabricate once the supply of OEM parts (or their clones) dries up.

      Even today’s common-rail diesels have significant electronic engine management controls, unlike the storied Mercedes diesels of the 1980s and the various new industrial and marine diesels still being sold today. The longevity of the CRD has yet to be established.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Maybe in the event of an apocalypse, those items might be hard to source or fabricate. Should society remain intact, there will be support for those parts as long as there is demand, which for popular models will be a long long time. Considering how generic most of those parts are between makes and models, it’s not very far fetched.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Not disagreeing at all. The more immediate danger I feel is that you will probably have no gas. Each time there is a hurricane the power goes off and we are helpless. Our infrastructure is hopelessly bound to power and the energy sector needs it to do anything.

        Mother earth does show how to convert an old truck to wood burning gas or how to make alcohol. I think an apocalypse is going to be a real downer.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “Mother earth does show how to convert an old truck to wood burning gas”.

          I have a set of detailed plans for this. In college, we made a working example that ran on a stand too.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        You can still get all the sensors and whatnot for the very earliest Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injections systems (admittedly they can be quite expensive). Why do you think this will not be the case 40 years from now?

        You can keep any car as long as you want. The trick is keeping it from getting used up in the meantime. Good cars don’t rust anymore, which is a HUGE help. Rust is the #2 killer of cars, after lack of caring.

        As for the aforementioned 550i – as I have said on here many times, if you can afford to buy that car new, you can afford to fix anything that breaks on it. If you could only afford to buy it used and well-depreciated, then you couldn’t afford it in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        There’s a possibility of standardization. After all, we’re at OBDII. It’s not farfetched to design ECUs that are standardized across variants and makes, with nothing but a reflash needed to make them work with other models (heck, I think this is being done or has been done already).

        Many sensors are bought from the same suppliers, simply with different calibrations. MAF sensors for a number of different makes and models can be swapped over, though they won’t work properly due to different calibrations.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      Ford Ranger (RIP)
      ……
      ……
      ……
      Trek Bicycle?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I have a 2006 Trek bicycle. The front wheel, rear derailleur, seat post, handle bars, and fork are original. Everything else has been replaced at least once. The frame positively came apart.

        • 0 avatar
          The Soul of Wit

          I have a Schwinn World Traveler that I bought in 1980. Other than the tires and the tubes, it is all original.

          • 0 avatar
            philipbarrett

            Just picked up my early 90′s all steel Kona mountain bike after it’s 2nd complete rebuild. Had a fantastic ride around the lake on it yesterday evening. Grip Shifts and all, it’ll still be here in 50 years.

        • 0 avatar

          I have a 1972 Peugeot bicycle which I rode across the country. But I haven’t used it much in years (the ’98 recumbent BikeE is my primary two wheeler these days. My brother has a 1965 Peugeot bike which he doesn’t use at all anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      My 1985 Mustang SVO was already having parts problems when I sold it in 1992. Today there is a active community and new parts are being remade. So I’m confident that any new car you buy today 20 years later there will be a few folks to help you keep it on the road. Just get something that you will want to drive forever.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      A basic 2013 4.3L Silverado or Sierra will probably last forever.

      Roll-up windows, minimum electronics, old 4-speed auto, steel wheels, iron-block OHV engine with over 30 year of development behind it, and tons of part interchangeability with other popular vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      I will assume that your selection will not be driven in corrosive winter conditions. Nothing will survive that for forty years. Otherwise, I think you have two categories to choose from.

      One category consists of cars that will retain a loyal owner base over many decades. The best example of this may be Porsche but parts availability is not a problem for Corvairs, Mustangs, Corvettes and various 1960s English sports cars. If the supply of OEM parts is exhausted, there are good (or better) quality reproductions.

      The other category consists of models made in huge quantities. Sheer volume means that parts for them will be available for a very long time.

    • 0 avatar
      Type57SC

      miata, corolla, logan, nano.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m in my 30s, bit I’ve given this question some thought.

      I’d look for a repairable car with a big “rolling junkyard” and a decent enthusiast/hacker community.

      If you don’t care about fuel efficiency or parkability, and you stay on top of rust, you could probably drive an F-150 for 30 years.

      A Jeep Wrangler also seems to meet these requirements.

      My requirement for longevity isn’t quite that long, so I’m driving a 9 year old Sienna. Big rolling junkyard, repairable, and I can hire expertise when a job is too big to do in my driveway. I probably won’t drive it for 30-50 years, but with 9 years and 100k on the clock its way less than half used up.

      P.S. I really like the idea of buying a used Wrangler a couple of years before he’s ready to start driving and fixing it up together (maybe by installing a junkyard Tesla AWD drivetrain?). Even though the car won’t last his lifetime, the skills will. I loved wrenching with my dad, and it turns out I learned more than either of us thought while we were keeping his cars on the road. This plan might actually work… He seems to like Jeeps, and he “helped” me put a trailer hitch on the Sienna this weekend. Not bad, for a kid who’s 3 years old! :-)

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Someone that bought a Mustang 40 years ago, can easily find what he needs to keep it going today. Ask me why I know. First, stick to the classics and definitely RWD.

      If you had to convert a 73 Mustang with an all 2013 Mustang drivetrain, you could. The same will likely be true of a 2053 Mustang. Other than future IRS, I guess.. What a about a Camaro? Or a pickup? Raptor?

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    I’m hopeful that 3d printing, cheap embedded computing, and internet archival piracy and emulation will lead to just about any modern car to be repaired 50 years from now. Print up the mechanical part you need. This assumes that we’ll be able to 3d print in metal as well as plastics. Download the code for the computer bits from a grey market car hobbyist web site, and use whatever the Raspberry Pi has evolved into to emulate the electronic parts, much like you can emulate thousands of proprietary electronic arcade machines from the 70s onward using the MAME emulator. I just hope the car guys can do the same for proprietary ECUs and control systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      That’s a really neat idea – sort of like how old console enthusiasts are capable of bringing an NES back from the dead.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m with you. Support your local Fab lab. Kids with robot lasers will probably be the car hackers of tomorrow. And if anyone can print a MG generator that doesn’t suck, it’s gonna be one of the kids who hangs out there.

      Now that I’ve finished grad school (while working full time!), I plan to spend a lot more time there!

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      Regulations be willing, too many people stand to lose too much money if home-manufacturing really takes-off.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Very nice piece. The proof of this is that in Castro’s Cuba, 50s era Detroit iron continues to be serviceable for locals’ transportation needs. One can’t imagine any car built today being kept on the road 50 years from now in a Third World country . . . or probably not in any country.

    The dividing line seems to be the electronics. If a part is made of metal, it can be fabricated and duplicated endlessly. A proprietary digital electronic circuit can not be, without all of the design documents.

    A VW Beetle is definitely a “forever car.” Fundamentally, the air-cooled 911 is its upscale cousin.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      The aircooled VW bug is a forever car for sure. As long as the heater channels and rockers are rust free, pretty much everything else on the car can be fixed repeatedly.

      • 0 avatar
        hutch1200

        ’79 CJ7. I replaced the rusty body w/a Kevlar/glass unit in the 90s. Now the frame is rusted, and got an aftermarket that was spot on. Rebuilt a 360 from a Wagoneer. Put a new Painless(tm) wiring harness in it and deleted all electronics. I did stock up on bits for the new HEI ignition that allowed the removal of the crummy ECM, coil, resistor etc. Yes, it’s Washingtons hatchet. But w/a huge enine bay, some guys are putting 4BT diesels in them. Is this a comfortable/safe/economical to operate unit? NO! Apocolypse approved, yes!
        Parts support out the whazzoo too.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The Forever Car is what you make it. As for diagnostics and replacement parts for today’s vehicles, we’ll do what our fathers and grandfathers did with the advent of such technological wonders as forced induction, power steering, air conditioning, electronic, ignition and fuel injection. We will adapt. Why surely in the future where will you source a distributor curving machine? Such things are only available at the dealer or in an engineering lab!

    If there is a demand, a demand that we drive, there will be someone in the market to satisfy it. There are plenty of people and businesses who rebuilt electronic modules, and there are plenty of aftermarket companies that make software to read, diagnose and modify module programming. These are growing industries that aren’t going away. As long as there are enthusiasts who have the cars and want to keep them going, there will be support. And if there isn’t, we will make it.

    My forever car could very well be a 6.4L 300C SRT8. I’m not the least bit concerned.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I don’t have a desire for old stuff. I’m of the opinion that the best stuff is available tomorrow. I grew up in the age of mechanical watches, vinyl records, and Apple II, and I would gladly take a quartz watch, iPod, and iPad over yesterday’s tech.

      Except for maybe a pair of Mirage M1Si bipolar loudspeakers. And Winamp. And my Shogun Warrior Raydeen toy…

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Will it really be that difficult to get parts? If I had a late 70s Porsche 924 today (a car that is 35 years old), I imagine that I could still get an ECU for it somewhere. And a wiring harness. And seals.

    I can see it only getting better in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I HAVE a 924 today and I can assure everything is readily available for it, at a price, of course. Similarly, everything is available for my Triumph Spitfire.

      I have no doubt that should I keep it 30 years, I will have no particular problem keeping my ’11 BMW on the road, assuming BMW is still around. I will admit that I got out of Peugeots 15 years ago because parts for them were getting very, very scarce, but that is a bit of a special case. Peugeot hardly sold any in this country, and all of the RWD Peugeots in Europe ended up in Africa, along with all of the parts. BMWs might as well be Chevies by comparison. Ultimately popularity IS a huge part of it. A 2011 BMW shouldn’t be a problem 40 years from now, but I bet a Fisker Karma will be.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Interesting article .

    Three years ago I bought what I hope to be my last truck ~ a clapped out , badly rusted 1969 Chevy C/10 base model pickup truck .

    It now runs well and I’m working on the rust repairs .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    philipbarrett

    Remember, I said “new today.” I have no doubt that a maintained 240D will outlast me but MB won’t sell you one.

    Don’t be so confident on spares and parts. Prior to the ECU there wasn’t anything on a car that couldn’t be fabricated given enough talent & money. Nowadays, once that chipset is out of production it’s not coming back however many old car fans are clamoring for a replacement part. Ramping up a silicon fabrication line or re-coding for a modern processor is not something typically within the reach of the entusiast.

    • 0 avatar
      The Soul of Wit

      Sounds like buying certain lots of “surplus” sensors and ECU’s and boards for certain desirable models might be a potential future money maker. The question is which models, and which parts?

      On the other hand, we are basing our presumptions on existing tech. Will future iterations of the new-fangled 3-d printers be capable of “printing”, on-demand, complex parts such as ECU boards?

      I wouldn’t bet against it…..

      With respect to the thread question, I’d think a new Miata might be capable of making it 50 years….if that just means keeping the body and running gear and transplanting the power source….it is as close to a simple car as there is on the market today….

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Ever increasing homogenous production has and will be a saviour for the ever increasing complexity of modern cars. For example, many manufacturers use the same engine controller modules across their whole product line, with the difference being in the configuration. As long as the aftermarket programmers figure out which bits to flip, the hardware will largely be there.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Re: the new Miata. It might make it 40 years but a 70, , 80, or 90 year old owner might find it harder to get into and out of and less comfortable over time, so not sure that’s a practical choice. I say this as a Miata owner since 1996 and observing the effect of my own aging on the the comfort and practicality of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      There are enough aftermarket fuel injection ECUs that I just don’t see this as an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’m of the opinion that if they could produce it in the past, they can produce it in the future, if there’s a market for it. I have no doubt that any mainstream car will have a source for an ECU solution long into the future. It’s not nearly as “high tech” as people make it out to be. They’re not magic boxes, and the people who developed them know how to build more. And even if that weren’t the case, there are already numerous standalone fuel and ignition systems available today. Swapping out the OEM ECU for something like an AEM or Megasquirt is already very common among the Miata tuning community, although in this case it’s not because of the unavailability of the OEM computer; it’s because a $600 Megasquirt can run the car better than the original, and can be tuned for whatever parameters you want. It allows for OEM or different sensor inputs, as well as mapping the spark and fuel tables to whatever you want, or run in closed-loop operation with an oxygen sensor.

      If that’s available now at such a reasonable price with the limited market that’s interested in it, just think of what’ll happen if people need to start looking for a source to replace their dead ECU.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m a computerman. I have the ability to fabricate an ECU, if you’re willing to pay the prevailing wage in my industry for the amount of time it takes to build the ECU. My career has been going well, though, so it’ll cost ya.

      But there are a couple of open source ECU projects out there that you could probably adapt to a particular car. Also, the small block Chevy people seem to have a lot of commercial options.

      Lastly, when you can’t find an ECU, putting in a 30 years newer and more refined engine might not be a bad idea.

      The unspoken truth about the ECU is that its there to replace mechanical complexity with lightweight electronics, ASSUMING that the mechanical and ECU engines have the same features. Those old engines that Everyone looks at through roles colored glasses can’t keep up with modern engines by any objective measure that I can think of (other than exhaust note, and that one is mostly subjective).

      I’m going to stick with newish cars for the safety and efficiency benefits, but I wish I could own a “forever” car. I want a unicorn pony and immortality, too. ;-)

  • avatar
    Windy

    I own my own forever auto ( note the avoidance of the word car)
    My Dad bought it the year I was born in 1948 and when I was 12 it had been disassembled and many parts were in (thank god labeled ) boxes as the family friend mechanic who was doing the rebuild work with my very thumb fingered Dad had moved away … But I had helped with the disassembly and discovered that I had the mechanical aptitude that my Dad lacked…..
    Dad told me that if I could get it past inspection I would own it and I took my drivers test in it on my 16th birthday.

    But it is somewhat simpler and plainer than those in this post. I fully restored it to as new condition reversing some of the modifications needed in the early 60s to get it reg. things like turn indicators and a tail light on the other side of the rear.

    Now only driven in parades and to car shows etc. perhaps 3000 miles a year at most… I would not part with it for any money as when I sit in it and drive it memories of picnics and fishing and hunting with my Mom and Dad come flooding back and a tear comes to my eye as I remember them.

    What is it?
    Willys CJ 2A jeep

    Your point about use in modern traffic is very apt I have to plan trips to avoid roads with speed limits above 45 which I can maintain with out over stressing the old girl. Down hill with a tail wind and the windshield folded flat and hunched down behind the wheel in my youth I once got it to 63 mph….. Today I shudder to think about the distance that it would have taken to stop from that speed in an emergency .

    Thanks for the memories that my old auto with a ‘soul’ gives me when ever I look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Jeep Cj. There’s a real forever car!

    • 0 avatar
      hutch1200

      Amen! On the side of your trans or transfer case is a PTO cover. You may want to explore (Ebay) units available for yours. You can run post hole diggers (well drilling?), snow blowers, winches, gen-sets etc..But you already knew that, no? Se my post above. Hey, wars were won w/these suckers!
      Cheers to you, Sir.

      • 0 avatar
        Windy

        yup. I have been looking for the generator set that was also advertised as an arc welder when it was sold back then.

        I saw a nicely restored CJ 6 of about 1960 vintage at a recent gathering. the welded in about a 2 1/2 foot extension behind the front seats and called it good they made the insert body panels a design feature making no effort to hide the seam. My dad had one of these while the CJ 2A was being rebuilt by me and it was a good tow vehicle for his boat, T he one at the show had been rest O moded with a MB diesel engine and modern brakes and it looked like a very nice job.it was the first CJ=6 I have seen in many years

  • avatar
    rolladan

    I notice most of the worry is about ecu not being available later but couldn’t you do standalone? You can run your own sensors and everything…

    • 0 avatar
      philipbarrett

      How are your coding skills?

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Standalone computers are already available that are ready to go, complete with programs you run on your computer to input sensor ranges, number of cylinders, injector sizes, spark tables, and everything else it needs to know in order to run just about any Otto cycle engine. No coding required, and with the internet, info is just a forum search away. This info already run rampant for Miatas, and they’re actually derided for being well behind the curve in the ECU tuning world.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Yes, this right here.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Exactly, JuniperBug (and Jellodyne and CoreyDL and others) has this right here. Do you really think it’s going to be that hard to replicate a relatively unsophisticated computer chip in the future? If anything, it’s getting easier and easier to fabricate parts on a one-off basis.

          The aftermarket will find parts if the will is there, just as it always has. No car runs forever without the will to keep it running.

          That said, let’s not forget the lesson that Mr. Kreindler learned driving that CRX.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Agreed. You can probably reuse most of the sensors.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Anything can be fixed, replaced, or fabricated. It’s just a matter of it’s worth doing.

    A circuit board can be duplicated in a basement. Most sensors aren’t anything really that special; they’re pretty uniform on make model (and most are actually really simply made if you know what you’re talking about).

    Still, I like old and mechanical.

    • 0 avatar
      philipbarrett

      A processor chip cannot.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Even if the OEM processor becomes toast, and there are no replacements to be found anywhere, there are aftermarket solutions. For example stand-alone engine managment systems in a box like MegaSquirt which can be adapted to work on just about any engine.

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        If the processor is old enough (I would say about 30 years or so), you can replace it with a FPGA. It won’t be pin compatible (the old chip is likely through hole, don’t even think of a modern FPGA in such a package), but you can emulate the entire processor that way. You might even manage the same with a semi-modern microcontroller (getting cycle-accurate with a modern CPU is next to impossible depending how strict you are).

        Or you could ignore the whole thing and use a newer processor. Unless the war on general purprose computing is won, but then you probably won’t be allowed to drive a car either.

        Most of the chips in a car are ROM (hopefully not EPROM or EEPROM, or it *will* need replacement in a decade or so), the rest of the chips were mindboggling basic until recently. Now they are only surprisingly primitive.

        Note: you only care about strictly emulating the processor if you know all the code in the ROMS. It is fairly easy to encrypt the data going in (and of course allows car makers to help control the aftermarket), even if such systems are often hillariously botched. If you can’t get the ROM, it should still be fairly easy to put a signal generator on all the inputs to an ECU and measure all the possible outputs. Flash is dirt cheap now and putting the whole array regardless of how it was initially generated would be trivial.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        “A processor chip cannot”

        A processor chip can be upgraded.

        There are a lot of really good microcontrollers (a type of processor that is unusually well suited to interfacing to the real world) that are available for hobbyist use. There are even better ones suitable for industrial use. They’re all off the shelf and can likely be wired up to a car without too much trouble.

        The hard part is programming them. That’s time consuming work. It can go a lot quicker if there’s a lot of knowledge about the sensors, engine, and electrical system already out there. I’m pretty sure I could do it, if I had an engine that I loved…. It might take a year of tinkering to get it right, though.

        The question is: which engine is worth that kind of trouble? And why not just drop in a more interesting engine when you get to that point? Surely any forever car needs to be modifiable in order to adapt to the requirements of the time…

  • avatar
    Zackman

    A last 2013 W-body Impala.

    (running away and ducking as fast as I can… )

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      You may not be that far off. If you can keep the rust away, every other part for that car has been around forever, and the engine has been around and will be around for quite a while.

      Probably won’t grab 6 figures at Barret Jackson ever, but it could probably out last both of us.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @ Zackman…..Yup you nailed it. I seemed to recall your in Ohio? Rust is the four letter word. Rust proof- rust proof, then rust proof again. You have to do it every yaer.

      I find Krown the best. I don’t know if you have it in the USA. Find a similar product. Your Impala will last forever.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I don’t think we have to pass off all current cars as consumer goods. The Internet will be the method of keeping these things on the road, for those who desire to do so. A 70 year old Camry (in the future) could have the same appeal as the 130 year old Rolls, dependent upon the owner and their connection to it. You’ll be able to find parts from some obscure source online, reprogram the ECU with your phone, and diagnose problems from your iPad. The change will just be from Haynes-manual shop talk, to forum-board website exchange. It’ll still be possible. There’s an interest group for nearly every mass-produced car out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’d say the Camry’s appeal would be more like the Model A in 70 years.

      The guy who lives across the street is a Model A enthusiast. I appreciate the history and the hard work, but I don’t see why he bothered to restore it. He did a nice job, though!

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    ECUs can be ‘cheated’ by simply replacing at least some sensors with resistors. Code can be read and modified as well to be blind to some of the inputs. So what you’ll have as a result is some wierd morphed version of what the original was. You can see this today with almost any early FI fox body 5.0L Mustangs.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Frankly, I don’t think virtually any modern car will last 25 yrs (or more). I have a 2012 GTI and there are just too many fragile plastic parts on it. Plastic clutch cylinders, plastic throw out bearing, even plastic internal engine parts such as the balance shafts. Throw in VW’s infamous guarantee-to-fall-apart plastic interiors and you have a recipe for self-destruction. And lets don’t even get started on the electrical components…

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    I’m confused- you worry about the ECU going out, but doesn’t the Porsche 911 have ECU controlled fuel injection from 1975 and on?

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    To all those worried that all those magic computer bits will leave cars mechanically-intact but immobile in the future, I remind you how everyone cried and screamed in the 1980s when fuel injection became commonplace. Everyone was sure that the tuning industry would be killed, because no one would have the tech or financial resources to fiddle with them. Cars would be scrapped after the warranty was up, mechanics would be out of work because those electronic gubbins just wouldn’t be serviceable!

    What happened? Cars run better – and are more durable – than ever. The industry evolved and adapted, and new businesses sprung up that could tune, service and replace these electronic systems. Fuel injection ECUs find themselves in little scooters in Southeast Asia and other developing countries, and it’s both affordable even for them, and more reliable than carburators were. I’ve gone for a ride on a “road” outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, that was actually classified as a river bed by Google Maps, and came across villagers living in the forest, no electricity or plumbing, and they were haring around offroad on well-worn 50cc Honda scooters equipped with fuel injection.

    Just because you don’t understand how to build a particular technology, doesn’t mean that no one else does. I’m sure that people thought it was the end of the world when the vacuum-advance distributor was invented, too. The sky still isn’t falling.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    As cars become more like computers, the common computer parts will be more interchangeable, I guess. Car companies and their suppliers are already buying chips from only a few suppliers like Renesas or Nvidia. Few companies have the expertise or can ship in the kind of volumes you need to do chips profitably. I’ll venture that the stuff we’ll soon be driving will have so much interchageability that “forever” might not be beyond future hobbyists. (Of course nothing is going to stop Porsche from ripping their own customers’ guts out.)

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    I thought more about this, and I think the answer may be Tesla or Nissan Leaf. Or that Audi E-Tron from the Iron Man 3 movie, which no doubt had a lightweight ARC reactor instead of a battery pack.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I don’t think you could be much more wrong. The batteries are known to have finite lives, and it is unlikely that the second replacement for a Tesla Model S will make much sense when the car is either hopelessly obsolete because electric cars are successfully forced upon us and they improve drastically or hopelessly obsolete because we go back to a market economy. On top of that, it has all of the complexity of the most disposable luxury cars in areas of feature creep, steering, and suspension. All it avoids is a ZF 8-speed fragile-matic, seeing as engines are pretty much serviceable at this point. The Leafs will wither just because of battery cost and obsolescence.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    I’m thinking the Dodge Cummins and Ford Powerstroke 7.3 liter diesel trucks. The engines are bulletproof, and the trucks themselves enjoy plenty of aftermarket support.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    How about a Ford 150 or a Chevvy Silverado? Lotta earlier versions still around after 300,000 miles.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    If I had to get one and keep it running it would probably be a 2F powered FJ60 unless I had access to one of the diesel powered ones the rest of the world got or a Chevy or GMC work truck with a TBI 305 or 350.

    Also, with regard to the fancy electronics, I know that there are very few sensors that will actually strand most cars of this era and yes, the ECU’s are incredibly simple and the aftermarket is getting better and better. No one is going to have any issue keeping anything from the pre electronic throttle era running. Certainly easier than a smog era carb I would think.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Doesn’t Mercedes promise to keep all parts for all cars? If that’s the case then you can buy a Mercedes and keep it. Probably cheaper not to though. Wonder how much the lighted emblem will be to replace 50 years from now.

    I bet if you buy something today that is worth keeping, or has an enthusiastic community there will be parts for it. If you buy a Wrangler today someone will make a kit so you can drop a flux capacitor in it 50 years from now to keep it going. Might not be able to keep it original but will still be drivable.

  • avatar
    Les

    I have no doubt that cars like the Mercedes/McLaren SLR, the Ford GT, the Bugatti Veyron and even the afor-mentioned Shelby will live on for 40 years or more… in climate-controlled storage units to be taken out every so often to go across an auction-block while speculators ply their trades..

    Will a contemporary V-6 Mustang parked in a barn where the weather and the rats can get at it have the tarp flipped back twenty years hence by a guy that’s gonna go, “Awesome, this’ll be perfect for my Laguna Seca tribute.”

    ….probably not.

  • avatar
    smallenginesmakemesad

    Holden has just released the VF Commodore. It’s a really good car and good value as well. Unfortunately it will be the last Australian RWD sedan – ending a tradition going back over 60 years.
    Based on experience of Holden model cycles, I know there will be a VF Series 2 in a couple of years time where they will put everything they know into the car – to go out on a high.
    I am already planning to buy a 6.0L V8 6-speed manual Commodore wagon when the series 2 comes out – and I will drive that thing until there are no more fossil fuels left to feed it.

  • avatar
    Yoss

    I have faith in the aftermarket’s capacity to emulate complicated electronic components. However, I do worry somewhat that regulations might get more strict regarding vehicle modifications. Just because you can make it run doesn’t mean the DMV will let you tag it.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      Most states allow “classic” cars an exemption to smog rules. Even California has it set at 35 years(I think) If not move here to Texas as we are have more liberal rules in that regard. But better have your AC in good shape!

  • avatar
    alanp

    This is assuming we are even allowed to drive today’s cars in 20 years when autonomous vehicles communicate with each other (and big brother) and manually driven vehicles are not allowed on the main (or maybe any) public roads.


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