Question of the Day: Don't They Build 'Em Like They Used To?

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman

Justin called me grumpy. That would be like the son of a Navy Admiral who’s been a high profile Senator for nearly three decades while marrying a billionaire beer distribution heiress calling the mixed-race son of a single mom from Kansas “elite.” But I digress, I was not so much grumpy as surprised that the new Audi S4 has less power than the new S4. Kinda surprising. That said, I always liked the older S4 with the twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 more than I ever did the newer, heavier V8 powered S4. Sure, a WRX of the time (2002) ran circles around it, but you could slap a Stage IV kit on the old-old S4 and POW! Straight to the moon, officer! However, by all measures (both SAE and my fat butt) the C6 Corvette is the best ‘Vette ever. It just is. Sure you could factor in looks and interior (looks: C3 > C6 — interior: C2 > C6) but Corvette owners don’t factor in looks and/or interior. Meaning we’re not going to either. And if the new Camaro ever shows up, it will be miles better than any of its ancestors. I know this because the 2015 (or is that 2010?) Camaro is based on a shortened version of the Zeta Chassis that underpins my new love, the Pontiac G8 GT. However, however — what about the BMW M5? If you pull the limiter off the new one (E60 M5), it can go over 200 mph and it seats five. 507 hp V10, too. But, compared to the E39 M5, the new M5 is Robocop II. Bigger, louder, more deafening but ultimately not nearly as satisfying or more importantly fun as plain old Robocop. That’s right, I’m calling the E39 M5 Robocop. [Ed – you bet your ass it is]. Newer cars might have better stats, but sometimes they just don’t have the spirit. You?

Join the conversation
4 of 41 comments
  • Martin Schwoerer Martin Schwoerer on Sep 24, 2008

    I think the only ones who are qualified to talk about the elitism thing are people like Lynn Forester de Rothschild. I mean, you have to be really filthy rich to know how hard it it to maintain the common touch. You need expensive image consultants who train you in stuff like bowling, Nascar and whatnot, and you have to take it seriously too. An upstart like Obama -- he's too busy with policy to really concern himself with all that. "They don't make imposters like John Wayne anymore", T-Bone Burnett

  • on Sep 24, 2008

    Mike66Chryslers: Okay, I probably should have left almost out of that sentence. :) As far as utility, the simplicity of the old cars is nothing compared to the electronically controlled modern cars. Anybody who has a true classic (pre-electronic control systems) knows how much maintenance they require to keep on the road. 2,000 mile oil changes, 1,000 miles between lubing, and adjustments to the timing at least once per year, just to name a few maintenance intervals.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Sep 24, 2008

    I too agree that simplicity is a good measure of a better car. There seemed to be a point in the late 80's and early 90s where cars had enough creature comforts but were not yet porky and complicated to maintain. My 1st gen CR-V ('99) still has some of this by accident I think. Honda was going for cheap but what we actually got was a vehicle that is simple but lasts and lasts. No touchscreens, no NAV, no gimmicks. I have been in several cars I thought were MUCH nicer but all seemed to promise massive problems later in their lifespans. For a family hauler it is lightweight (3300 lbs). Seems heavy until I remind myself that our VW Cabrio is only 500 lbs less. I have spent time debating with myself, trying to talk myself out of buying a late 80s or early 90s Mercedes, Audi or BMW. Refinement with durability if the gremlins are conquered. I don't need massive power or speed. I need a touring car. A wagon. Something that can exceed the speed limits a fair bit (and anything recent and German certainly can) and haul the family. Not anything I'd want to drive everyday b/c it would be a waste but something for the weekends. Suv vs minivan vs German wagon... Hmmmm... I once drove cars from the 40s, 60s and 70s as daily drivers. Even into the 1990s. These cars defined basic in my mind. They were easy to maintain (an important measure quality to me) but that was good because they required alot of maintenance relative to a modern car. A vintage VW Beetle I once drove daily required oil changes every 2500 miles, valve adjustments, four wheel brake adjustments, hand brake adjustments, oiling of hinges, timing and points adjustments, carb adjustments, checking of the cables, and checking of the wheel bearings. Now, I got good at this maintenance cycle and found it to go quickly but when it is raining and cold and I don't want to do the work - a modern car is better. On the flip side that old Beetle could easily be fixed with my Swiss Army knife and total cost to operate was very, very low. Also an important measure of a vehicle's value to me. Its a trade off. I am once again considering going back to a VW Beetle for daily transportation. My commute is short and at slow speeds in a small town so safety is not as important as a commute in a big city like Nashville or Knoxville. With my more modern cars I balance the desire to have something new(er) with low miles so I don't have to work hard to maintain it vs what I have which is 11 yrs/155K+ miles old and requires my attention at least once a season to get all the repairs off the list. It's cheap to operate but since I do all of my own work, it means I have to allocate the time and energy in between family, work and play time.

  • Geeber Geeber on Sep 24, 2008

    I learned to drive on my father's 1973 AMC Gremlin. It was certainly simple and easy to fix (which was a good thing, as it need fixing on a regular basis). Do they make them like that anymore? No, and for that we should all be very, very thankful.