By on May 28, 2014

QOTD - VAZ-1111 Oka DimensionsAs we all know by now, Hindustan Motors has shut down the production line for the venerable Hindustan Ambassador, a car whose production run stretches all the way back to 1954 and the Morris Oxford II… or, depending on how strict your interpretation of the definition of “same car” happens to be— the 1948 Morris Oxford MO. Whether it’s a Type 1 Beetle-beating 66 years or just a merely staggering 60 years, the passing of the Amby means that the acrimonious debate must begin: which current car has been in continuous production, in more or less the same form, for the most years?
Survivors-Lada_Niva-1280pxWhat we’re talking about here isn’t the longest continuous use of a model name (though the Chevy Suburban and Mercedes-Benz SL fanatics make that issue interesting), it’s the longest continuous manufacture of what amounts to the same car. Now, the reason that this discussion can and must turn into a crockery-throwing, ad hominemming brawl is that the definitions are inherently squirmy things that nobody can pin down to anybody’s satisfaction. What distinguishes a car from a truck? What distinguishes a true production car from a low-numbers novelty? How much can a platform change before it’s a different machine? Does an interruption of the assembly line due to war count? What about pirated copies built in a dirt-floored Guangzhou shack? When I wrote the Automotive Survivors series (in which I honored cars built for at least 20 years) for Jalopnik in 2009, I received more hate mail than with any piece of writing I’ve done before or since. “You idiot!” they read, “Don’t you know that the (Volvo 240, Ford Model T, Land Rover, Hundred Flowers BXX-991D) qualifies?”
Survivors-Caterham_Seven-1280pxI’m going to avoid the death threats from the Hundred Flowers BXX-991D Jihad this time, by leaving the question up to you, dear readers. You will go in the comments and posit the cars you think have been built in unchanged-enough-for-the-purposes-of-this-debate form for the longest consecutive streak of years, and then your fellow readers will tell you that you suck, and then you will epoxy down your CAPS LOCK key and the fun will begin.
Survivors-ShanghaiSC760-1280pxI’m going to be like Wotan here, staying above the fray (actually, the real Wotan would start blasting fools left and right, but you get the idea), but I will point you in the direction of some cars I think have a case for the Longest Production crown. The Morgan 4/4 has been built in much the same form and without a break since 1955 (since 1936 if you ignore a couple of breaks). The Lotus Seven goes straight back to 1957, if you count all the many copies in recent decades. If you want to be stricter about definitions and look at cars built in large numbers, the demise of such cars as the Fiat 128 (built until very recently in Egypt), Hillman Hunter/Iran Khodro Paykan (built in Sudan until who-knows-when), and the South African Mk1 Golf (2009) makes for some tough judgment calls. The Lada Niva has been around since 1977, but many will say that it’s actually a truck. The 1986-vintage Kia Pride/Ford FestivaMazda 121 is still being built in Iran as the Saipa 132. The VAZ-1111 goes back to 1988. They’re still building Daihatsu Charades in China, and you could argue that we’re talking about a 1977 car in that case. Vague rumors point to current Chrysler K-car production somewhere in the former Soviet Union. So much to talk about here!

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56 Comments on “Question: If the Hindustan Ambassador Is No More, What Car Takes Over As Current Continuous-Production King?...”


  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    “actually, the real Wotan would start blasting fools left and right, but you get the idea”

    And maybe knock up a mortal or two. Or do Germanic deities do that? Is that more of a Greco-Roman God pastime?

    “The Lada Niva has been around since 1977, but many will say that it’s actually a truck.”

    The Lada Niva isn’t a car. It isn’t a truck. It’s very much an automotive platypus.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The Niva is as much of a truck as a CRV is. Based on the same unibody Fiat 124 underpinnings as all “Classic” Ladas, but with a full time transfer case with a central locking diff and low range.

    Recently it has been announced that they will remain in production clear through 2021! Niva-vodi (“Niva-drivers”) rejoice!

    • 0 avatar
      Acubra

      Except it does not use “Fiat-124 underpinnings”. Engines/gearboxes, parts of trim and electrics – that’s about it. Actually, Niva is the only Soviet-designed vehicle that is really innovative and worth remembering – its multiple shortcomings notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      Victor

      Acubra is right. The Laika/Riva (Fiat 124) and the Niva are very different cars, down to the bones. Surprisingly enough, some glasses and trim pieces are interchangeable with another Fiat, the brazilian 147. But that’s it.

  • avatar
    matador

    I’d say the VW Beetle is now the long-time, mostly unchanged car.

    Stereos have improved, and they’ve been nicer, but still…

    • 0 avatar

      I’d have to say no, actually. Park a ’79 (non-super) Type 1 next to a ’36, and they are vastly different cars. My standard for this is if there are any major parts (hood, doors, etc) that would transfer from the first year to the last year, then it’s the same basic vehicle (i.e. Dodge Ram Van from ’71 through ’03).

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        By that standard a Landrover Defender qualifies since the doors and SWB hardtop/LWB station wagon side panels will interchange between a 1958 Series II and a 2014 Defender as will the pickup truck cabs. While there are some differences in door latch and hinge parts you still have a straight bolt on parts swap between vehicles made 56 years apart. The differentials will also interchange along with various odds and ends.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          And even when the Defender bows out, production of a Defender replica will continue in India for the commercial market. I think our local distributors are looking at bringing this in to satisfy the Defender faithful after the model finally gets canned within the next two or three years.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Does Mahindra still make a modified old CJ as the Indian Chief or whatever they called it?

            Huh, seems they don’t. They still have a CJ knockoff though.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahindra_Thar

      • 0 avatar
        Battles

        That’s a pretty good baseline for this sort of exercise.

    • 0 avatar
      Victor

      It’s been dead for a few years now, though.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    I’d like to take this opportunity to complain about the length of time the Nissan Titan has been unchanged. By North American standards, by light duty truck standards…… it’s been a damn long time.

  • avatar
    heoliverjr

    B13 Nissan Sentra has been around since the early nineties and is still going strong south of the USA borders as the Tsuru in Mexico and as the Sentra in various Central and South American countries. Nowhere near being king but its got 20 years and some change now.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      If you count them being introduced in 1990, they are almost 24 years old, and still being produced.

      So far, the B13 Sentra is the only “Modern” vehicle that is winning, the other vehicles mentioned are much older and rustic.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    I nominate… the Cozy Coupe!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_Coupe

    35 years… and forget Tesla, talk about a disruptive technology! No on-board power source at all! Plastic construction! No know fatalities! Dealerless distribution system! Zero emissions!

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      35 years in name, but only 16 years in design (redesigned ’98)!

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      There have been four generations of Cozy Coupe on two different platforms.

      First there was the original 1979 model which was updated in 1993. The main visual difference between the 1979 and 1993 models is the color of the A-Pillars which was changed from black to yellow in 1993.

      A completely redesigned Cozy Coupe was introduced in 2003. This version was updated in 2009. The main visual difference between the 2003 and 2009 models is the addition of eyes and a mouth on the front of the 2009.

      • 0 avatar
        Glenn Mercer

        Now THIS is truly mastery of “automotive” trivia to an extent I have not seen before! Bravo! (And I mean that seriously, not sarcastically. I am always impressed that no matter how obscure the topic, Someone Out There knows the real answer.)

        Have they considered a diesel version? It could not have a diesel engine the way the current version doesn’t have a gasoline engine.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I fondly remember my old “Mark II” Cozy Coupe, it was unrefined, slow, and lacking in luxury, but incredibly tough and had super low operating costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I remember having a Cozy Coupe. Great visibility and maneuverability, but road noise was really an issue on our gravel roads, the stock wheels were terrible offroad, and my mother would always get so anxious if I went out when it was windy, since that thing was taller than it was wide.
      The doors never sealed properly, either, but I guess that’s to be expected with something that’s practically a roadster.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      http://chrisoncars.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/cheap3.jpg

      I’ll just leave this here…

    • 0 avatar

      Would it have killed them to make a steering linkage? BTW, at Jack’s recommendation, I think I’m going to get my grandson one of these:
      http://www.striderbikes.com/

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    The Jeep CJ 2, 3, and 5 is still made under license in other countries.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Isn’t GM’s ancient W platform still rattling and creaking around out there under some current models? That’s gotta be a candidate.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      IIRC, yes, the W-Impala is still sold to rental fleets.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Gen III update of the W-body was in 2004. One could argue that is largely unchanged but the Impala only ships with a 3.6L V6 under the hood, which isn’t even a distant relative to the 3.1, 3.4 or 3.8 that use to live there (in various iterations).

      So it’s 10 years old.

  • avatar

    Volvo XC90 is the longest-running NON-selling car…
    *ba-dum-cha!*

  • avatar
    Marko

    How about the Saab 9-3 that refuses to die?

  • avatar
    brianyates

    Citroen’s 2CV is up there,with production from 1946 to 1990, it did go through several engine changes from a 375cc to 425cc to the 602cc with twin barrel carburettor on the last ones built,and it was fun to drive.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    You can still buy an original Big Wheel trike for $49.95 from Target online. Unchanged since 1969.

  • avatar
    tenperct

    How about the Ford E-250 – E350 Econoline Van – The Current body dates from about 1980. When will production cease?

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      The current Econoline was updated sometime around 1993, but underneath is still much the same van that debuted in 1975.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      The current styling is based off the 1992 E-Series. These were upgraded in 1997 with the Triton engines, and a new interior. They refreshed them around 2004 or so, with a new grille and interior. Largely, though, they really haven’t changed much since ’92.

      The 1980′s Econolines are entirely different- panel wise.

      As for the the internals, I’ll defer to someone who knows them better.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Nothing chassis wise is shared between the current 92-up Econoline and the Nantucket 75-91 Econolines other than the rear brake shoes, wheel cylinders, hold down and adjusting hardware on the 250 and 350 up to 2005 and the u-joints. Yes they share the same basic architecture with a ladder style frame, leaf sprung driven live rear axle and coil sprung twin I beam front axle.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    F-Super Duty, since ’99 and counting. They should keep it going indefinitely. There no real reason to change.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I would say that the current SuperDuty is much different, and better, than the original SuperDuty of the late 90s. I know everyone misses the 7.3L diesel though.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Have you seen the new 2016 F-650/750? Same cab as the Super Duties, different front end, but even if the Super Duty is all-new for ’16 or ’17 (which it very well may be), those medium-duties could conceivably keep on truckin’ until 2030. Which would make it just over 30 years on the same basic platform.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The 2017 model will at least be the most extensive update to the SuperDuty that Ford has done.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s still the same basic truck since ’99 with a couple updates, and yeah I’ll be keeping my 7.3/manual, long after my 6.0 and 6.4 are gone.

          But the F-650/750 cab will Likely change a year after the pickups change. No reason to have different cab after that.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I would say that the updates have been evolutionary yet significant. My neighbor’s ’99 SuperDuty with the 7.3L is a much different animal than the 2014 SuperDuty with the 6.7L I drove a couple weeks ago.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @DiM
            A new truck? When did you get this one.

            You stated you didn’t won a diesel and you owned two V10 F-650s and two F-150s.

            At the beginning of last year you owned a tow truck company.

            This year you own a fleet of transport trucks.

            Earlier you only own an old F-150.

            Are you exporting to the Spanish market?

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @BAFO – I didn’t say I’d never buy another diesel, just not a ‘new’ diesel. But trucks are just part of the territory in my field. Unavoidable. Business, personal, family. A couple are for parts, others to flip. Some just needed good a home. And I can’t help myself sometimes…

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          They camouflaged the old truck nicely, but it’s still the same at its core.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Is there a source for this? I’m not doubting you, in fact, I want to believe you, I’d just like to see some “official” verification.

          It would just tickle me pink if FoMoCo used the same castings on the Super Duty (but in steel rather than aluminum) as the F-150. I wonder how much it costs Ford to run two distinct lines of full-size trucks. Especially since when you consider the times–in 1997, even to put a different grille/front clip on the new “jellybean” F-150 and call it a Super Duty would’ve gotten them laughed out the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club. But now the F-150 body is suitably butch that Ford could take the same route as what Dodge/Ram and Chevy/GMC have done all the time, and save a little money in the process.

          EDIT: This is in reply to bball40dtw.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Drzhivago138 – Actually Ford might shock us all by reuniting the F-150 and Super Duty bodies, both in aluminum. Except the Super Duty line would help amortize the development costs of the alloy F-150s, almost 2X as fast. The F-series sells far more HD pickups, as a percentage, than GM and Ram. And Ford sells class 4, 5, 6 and 7 MDT trucks, in addition to, where as Ram stops at class 5 and GM stops at class 3 (one tons).

            Obviously, with every pound you save, that’s an extra pound of cargo and equipment you can legally carry. And that becomes more critical with big commercial trucks pushing for max payload. That’s clearly spelled out for each separate class (not individual models/brands like ‘light trucks’) and checked at the scales.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The SuperDuty is not going to an aluminum body. I have no idea if they are using the same castings for the F-150 on the next SuperDuty. I will find out in a couple weeks. The last time I talked to anyone about it was a few months ago. No one wanted to confirm that it is “an all new platform” but I’ve consistantly heard that it will be, “The most significant update since the introduction of the SuperDuty.”

            Derek also has a number of Ford sources. I expect him to annouce correct information before anyone else. Other publications have doubted some of his stories, only to have egg on their face. A good example is a diesel in the F-150. Another site refuted Derek’s post about that happening by asking a named for marketing person at an auto show. That’s no way to get a straight answer.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would think you have to give he nod here to Morgan. If you consider the 4/4, Plus 4, Plus 8, and roadster the body design is/was relatively unchanged since the 50′s. The interior was updated to reflect modern necessities, air bags as an example, bit the bonnet, wings, and doors are virtually identical in both size and manufacturing method.

    The drivetrains evolved as they changed suppliers and or suppliers updated there power train offerings. Rover to BMW and Fords upgrades to there four banger mills.

    Morganeering is the pinnacle of automotive awesomeness!

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      I agree with the Morgan 4/4, which came out before WW2. Same car as today with the ridiculous sliding- pillar front suspension that first crawled out of the nether world in about 1902, and a cart rear axle just like some of today’s pickup trucks suspended on semi-elliptic leaf springs. The 4/4 and its immediate predecessors were clanking down country lanes before Porsche even had the glimmer of an idea about the KdFwagen.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      And Fiat and Triumph engines as well.

      I think the Morgan pretty much has to be the answer to this question.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Panther lives on in my heart.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Mmmmm cream my crusty old buttocks in a Humber Sceptre Hunter.

  • avatar
    Victor

    The Fiat Uno is said to be still being assembled in Pakistan by Raja Motors. That’s a 1983 car.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    There are too many individual standards to achieve anything but flame war on this topic. My own standard is not any unchanged model car, but any vehicle type that is recognized as that type of vehicle throughout it’s manufacture. In that case, a tank, a yellow school bus and a standard Greyhound bus are the top three, with the first modern tank appearing in 1917, by Renault, taking top honors for longevity and the school bus with the least-changed exterior. So… how many here have ridden in all three?

  • avatar
    Ratsnake

    I’m late to the party, but Mercedes Gelandewagen seems like the only competitor to the Land Rover–the question being which set of glacial pace changes resulted in the creation of a “new” model.


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