By on December 5, 2018

On the Junkyard Find post at the start of this week, conversation turned to vehicle models which resisted change from the designer’s pen (or ruler) and the engineer’s… tools. Today we talk about the good old days, and how sometimes things stay the same.

The very subject of the Junkyard Find is my example for a vehicle resistant to change: the Chevrolet Caprice Classic. Chevrolet’s third Caprice album for the full-size Malaise customer was introduced for the 1977 model year.

Originally a trim of Impala, Caprice gained independence as its own model for 1966 when it became the most expensive full-size Chevrolet. After changes every couple of years, a second generation debuted for the ’71 model year. Again, changes and revisions occurred every couple of years as the design experienced subtle reworking. Time for downsizing.

1977 saw a new, third generation model called Caprice Classic. General Motors spent a lot of money (to the tune of $600 million) developing its new downsized models. The resulting sedans were 10 inches shorter outside, but had more interior room. From here on out, things remained largely unchanged for the Caprice Classic. The three-box design was minimally revised for 1980, and there was a new 4.4-liter V8 as the base engine option (115 hp). Throttle body fuel injection for 1985 was accompanied by minimal visual changes in 1986, as Caprice Classic soldiered on in its third generation. The Eighties drew to a close, and Caprice Classic was still there. It had one final glorious and boxy year in 1990, and was replaced by the divisive whale B-body model for 1991. Caprice Classic was not for turning, or changing.

Your uh, turn. Which vehicles had the fewest changes over the longest period of time?

[Image: GM]

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79 Comments on “QOTD: Change Is a Bad Thing?...”


  • avatar
    ttiguy

    Kind of cheating but the GM and Ford full size vans have been the same forever

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      If I’m not mistaken, the current vans had fairly major changes around 2003 or so, although that’s still 15 years without much besides powertrain tweaks. On the other hand, their predecessor was in production for 25 years or so with minor evolution.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        That was just a refresh, not a full redesign, so the current Express/Savana were introduced in 1995 as 1996 models. They don’t have long to go before eclipsing their predecessors in age.

        The Ford (although only currently produced as a cutaway and stripped chassis) was introduced in 1992. Its had a few refreshes, including a new front cap a few years ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          It looks like there were some chassis/suspension upgrades (enough difference that GM has an altered chassis code – GMT600 to GMT610), but I might be overstating the improvements. They still feel dated, and you’re right that there’s a ton of the original ’96 model on the current ones.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Not that I’m a van aficionado or something, but I believe Ford brought out an all new van a few years back and retired the old one.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The Transit was not all new, it was the existing euro van updated and slightly modified to meet US specs. The E-series was not dropped, just the full body versions were. The plan had been to soldier it on until the end of the 2020 MY but recently Ford has annouced that they will continue it past that date as it is consistently the #3 seller in the overall commercial van market and a significant reason why ford has maintained more than 50% of that market.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          The Transit was a new generation when it was introduced here. In fact, the new generation debuted at the North American International Auto Show.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Yes it was a new generation and it was billed as “all new” in the US since we had not had a Transit (full size) in the US before. However it was not a clean sheet design, a lot was carried over chassis wise including the stupid Giubo equipped driveshaft.

            Now the one currently under development is reported to be a clean sheet design, hopefully going back to real u-joints in the driveshaft.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    From history’s perspective this Chevy may not have appeared to change much, but the 1977 GM full size downsizing was a HUGE change and risk for GM. As for today, I would say the small Nissan pick-up truck featured today has gone the longest without change, then maybe the Jeep Grand Cherokee is really long in the tooth

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I dunno about the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was redesigned in 2011, given an expansive refresh in 2014, and then a subtler one in 2016. But even an eight- or nine-year run isn’t that long, in the grand scheme of things.

      I’d say some of the oldest cars right now are the Toyota Sequoia and Tundra. They haven’t had a complete redesign since 2007-ish.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The WK2 still uses the Daimler era platform dating to 2010, in my opinion that’s long in the tooth, but we’re both wrong VW wins this hands down with the Beetle

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          The current Beetle also dates to 2011

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Do you think it will break the old Beetle record?

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Nope. VW has announced that 2019 will be the last model year for the Beetle, and the 2019 model year will consist of Coupe and Convertible “Final Edition” models.

            I think it makes sense; the car doesn’t have nearly the significance—to the brand or to the public—that it once had.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Well, when I say “in”, I’m referring to the model year, not the calendar year. But you’re right. The current WK2 Grand Cherokee bowed in 2010 as a 2011 model, and was one of the final vehicles developed under the DaimlerChrysler partnership. The outgoing M/GLE-Class and GL/GLS-Class also utilize that platform.

          I myself drive a 2015 Grand Cherokee Overland.

          I think what makes the Grand Cherokee feel old, is, in part, the fact that FCA has shown no concrete plans to redesign it soon. They’ve said the next one will adopt an Alfa Romeo platform, but haven’t said when.

          Still, there are older vehicles out there. Chrysler’s own Dodge Grand Caravan dates back to the 2008 model year, as does the Dodge Challenger. The Dodge Journey is a bit newer, at 2009. Though it didn’t hit our market until 2012 or so, the Fiat 500 was released in 2007 internationally.

          Outside the Chrysler house, the current Lexus GX and 4Runner both hit the market in 2009 as 2010 vehicles, and are behind the curve on technology, relative to both their brands and the market as a whole. And none of the Ford D3/D4-platform vehicles is new at all. The Lincoln MKS was retired after 2016, but the Ford Flex, Lincoln MKT, Ford Taurus, and Ford Explorer hail from 2009, 2010, 2010 and 2011, respectively.

          I agree, the air-cooled Beetle wins, hands down.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Not as long as the Caprice but the Nissan Frontier truck. Still a very competent and affordable midsize truck.

    I always liked this generation of Caprice especially after driving the prior generation. My brother had a 1980 Caprice Classic sedan in black which was a company car. Great running car especially with a 350 4 barrel carburetor. One of my all time favorite sedans.

  • avatar
    RSF

    Chevy C10 from 1973 – 1986! I didn’t think that long of a run would happen again, but the current Dodge Challenger is almost there!

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      I’ll see your 73-86 C10 and raise you the 80-97 F150. Sure, Ford says that’s three generations of truck, but look at those doors and tell me the 8th and 9th gen aren’t just styling updates of the 7th, much like the 81 update in the C10.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Original Volkswagen Beetle, ostensibly in production from 1938-2003:

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

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    The Saab 9-5 was almost unchanged from 1998 through 2009, thanks to GM’s slow starvation of Saab. Body-color grille, 5-speed auto, and powertrain changes in 2002, slight infotainment changes in 2004, switch to GM center stack crap and a really-stretching-things facelift in 2006 were about it, if memory serves.

    Had a 2005. Loved it. Miss it.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Fun fact: since first-generation wagon production continued into early 2010, the 9-5 competed against four generations of Subaru Legacy/Outback in one generation. And since the sedan started production in 1997, it ended up competing against all four generations of Acura TL.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    True the downsized full sized GM cars in 1977 was a big change and risk for GM. I remember at the time there were a few guys at my workplace that rushed out to get the last of the big full size 1976 GM sedans. I did the same thing when the new downsized midsized GM Intermediates for 1978–I bought a new 1977 Monte Carlo in October 1977 (at the time the last of the intermediate GMs were going fast. After driving a couple of 1977 full size GMs I actually preferred then especially when they had a 350 4 barrel. Ford at the time was advertising their LTDs and Grand Marquis as being more car and for less money. Hugh Downs did the advertisement for the LTD. The full size Ford and Mercury was downsize for 1979 and its sales boomed again. Again many people I worked with bought the last of the full sized Fords but the downsize ones were better. Even the company I worked for bought several of the last of the large Galaxies and LTDs.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Jag XJS, major change was fuel injection in 1981 but motor otherwise did not change until 1992.

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

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_V12_engine#5.3-litre_HE

    Oh and a tidbit:

    “The styling was buttresses behind the windows were criticized. German authorities feared these would restrict rearward vision, and refused to give the XJ-S, and the similarly designed Lancia Montecarlo, type approval — necessitating German XJS buyers to obtain road approval for each individual car on registration.”

    Concerned about rear visibility? Wow.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Volvo 164-240 (I’m sure there’s a name to this platform but I’m not a Volvo geek, so if anyone can help).

    I think it ran from 1968-1990?

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Visually, I believe the C3 Corvette went from 69 to 82 or 83. 14 years is a long time.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    Porsche 911. (drops mic)

    honorable mention to the Beetle which continued unchanged production in Mexico and other places into the 80s.

  • avatar
    d4rksabre

    Man, not a day goes by that I don’t miss my ’90 Caprice. I miss cruising.

  • avatar
    gtem

    The obvious ones for me are most Russian cars: 1970 Volga 24 right through the final Chrysler-engined 31105s amazingly maintained the same hardpoints and roofline, perhaps even more “impressive” is keeping 4 wheel drums, a carburetor, and kingpin front suspension(!!) into the early 90s.

    UAZ 469/452 are made to this day with sheetmetal from the late 60s.

    Most Westerners are most familiar with the Fiat 124 derived Ladas, same basic underpinnings from 1970 until 2011. Niva which is still made has the basic guts from the initial 1977 cars. The Samara FWD series ran from the mid 80s through the mid 2010s, the 2110 family went from ’97 until the final Prioras this year.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There was also the Fiat 128 which was what the Yugo was based on.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Throttle body fuel injection for 1985 was accompanied by minimal visual changes in 1986…”

    Cough… V6 only… cough

    I would love to go back in time and bit*h slap the bean counters who held them back on V8 TBI for the B-body until 1989 (and then SBC ONLY.)

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Other GM cars like the compact N and J bodies as well as mid sized A bodies had fuel injection standard yet they languished installing it on G and B bodies.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        MY CHEVY CELEBRITY HAD TBI ON THE IRON DUKE IN 1982!

        MEANWHILE THE PANTHER HAD FUEL INJECTION ACROSS THE BOARD BY 1985!

        (Whew… Sorry that’s one of my triggers as a former G-body owner and a longtime admirer of the B-bodys.)

      • 0 avatar
        dividebytube

        TBI was available with the 4.3L engine in the 1985+ Monte Carlo (g-body).

        If memory serves me they had little tags on the front quarter panels.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’ll chime in that the last three Quadrajet vehicles with which I had any experience (a relative’s ’78 Caprice Classic, friends’ ’85 Buick Estate, and different friends’ nearly identical ’85ish Buick Estate) all ran well. Why, who knows? Sample size, luck, the fact that all three cars were bought new and serviced by decent dealerships/shops?

      That said, I totally agree that it seems insane that GM held back on the TBI on certain engines for so long. Just a bean counter issue? Production capacity? It makes no sense to me either.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I had an 1987 Olds with 307 V8 E-QuadraJet, I hated it. The dedicated carb guys thought it was fine (because they were used to the foibles and failings of carbs) but as a teenager I pined for TBI over the “rebuild every 50,000 miles” EQuadraJet.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I believe my grandmother’s 1985 Buick Riviera had that same 307 Oldsmobile V8 and electronic QuadraJet arrangement. I don’t recall her having any major issues with it, but I bet TBI would’ve been more reliable.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    What about the Avanti? It was made (off and on) from the early ’60s to the 2000’s.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Can’t believe no one’s mentioned the Toyota Century.

    If the Beetle’s the king, the Century has to be the heir apparent. The first gen was produced for 30 years, and the second gen for almost 20.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Y31 Nissan Cedric Sedan would be up there. Introduced in 1987, refreshed once in 1991, then produced until 2015. This one is a ’07:
    http://www.goo-net-exchange.com/usedcars/NISSAN/CEDRIC/700054078930181125002/index.html

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    In the US, Dodge trucks were the same design from 1972-93. Dodge vans went even longer from 1972-2002.

  • avatar
    Audiofyl

    W463 Mercedes Gelandewagen

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Checker Marathon: mid 50s to the early 80s.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    Caprice and Impala(as well as most other cars) changed yearly not “every couple of years”wetther it was the grille or taillights or body panels. unlike today where a car can look the same for it’s entire run.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The source engines have changed over the years, but the basic body and chassis of the Morgan 4 seater has been produced since 1936 and is still in production.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    Minor quibble re: the interior dimensions of the ’77 B-bodies didn’t really have more interior room that the ’76s. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Impala#Sixth_generation_(1977%E2%80%931985). Hip and shoulder room got worse; most other interior dimensions changed very little. That doesn’t change the important point that the ’77s were indeed much better packaged.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    Minor quibble re: the interior dimensions of the ’77 B-bodies didn’t really have more interior room that the ’76s. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Impala#Sixth_generation_(1977%E2%80%931985). Hip and shoulder room got worse; most other interior dimensions changed very little. That doesn’t undermine the important point that the ’77s were much better packaged.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The Citroen 2CV is generally regarded as playing 2nd fiddle to the Beetle, with its 42 year run (48-90). It seemed to be the norm for almost every Citroen model to last 10-20 years until the 90’s.

    The cars I like the most are the ones that maintain the same platform but gain more and more ridiculous facelifts over time to try and stay relevant. Exhibit A here are cars from developing markets like the Proton Saga, which went from 1981 to 2008 with what appears to be yearly body kits applied with glue. The trapezoid-on-wheels FSO Polonez went from 78-02 with minimal changes as well.

  • avatar
    Marko

    The Jeep Grand Wagoneer had powertrain and trim changes but little else from 1963 to 1991.

    The second-generation Nissan Frontier was introduced for 2005 and is still made today with minimal changes.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    There are very few vehicles that might be able to beat the 1947 VW Beetle for the fewest changes over the longest time. Between 1947 through about 1965 there were almost no changes made at all and until the requirement for 5mph bumpers in ’73 almost no visible changes other than the split rear window becoming a broader oval.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    The Type 1, 2CV, and 200-series Volvo all win, above.

    The Mercedes R107 (450/380/560SL) had a good 18 year run with almost no real changes.

    The G class went 28 years on the same body, but realistically had more changes, I think.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Hindustan Ambassador. Produced continuously with only minor changes from 1958 to 2014. Still in use throughout India as taxis. Based on the 1956 Morris Oxford Series III.

  • avatar
    Raúl Migoya

    In the Mexican case the vehicles that had the fewest changes over the longest period of time are, as some have mentioned, the Beetle but also noteworthy cases where the Chevrolet Chevy (Opel Corsa B) 1994-2012; the Nissan Tsuru (Nissan Sentra B13 series) 1991-2017 and the VW Jetta MK4 1999-2015.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The Iranian Paykan (based on the 1966 Hillman Hunter) was in production from 1967 to 2005 – 38 years.

  • avatar
    macnab

    Rear engine Fiat 500, 1957 – 2007

    Fiat’s styling is inspired. The 500 looks like a roomy small car without looking cute.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    Morgan Plus 8 1968-2004

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    Ford C-Series had a nice run, but then again, that is a commercial truck.

    Dodge Power Wagon?

  • avatar

    Lada Classic a.k.a RWD Zhiguli a.k.a. FIAT 124. Since 70s (or 60s if you consider FIAT 124″) to 2010s. May be still is produced.

  • avatar
    snoproblem

    “The three-box design was minimally revised for 1980, and there was a new 4.4-liter V8 as the base engine option (115 hp)”

    115 horsepower? From a V8? That still makes my brain hurt. This must be that ‘malaise era’ thing people write about.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      Both car engines and bags of weed were weaker back then for any given displacement.

      I think we were better off.

      • 0 avatar
        snoproblem

        That’s debatable, but your statement has had a side effect – questioning the torque rating for these engines, which, IMO, is the more important measurement anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          jatz

          “your statement has had a side effect”

          They always warned us about the side effects; we laughed.

          Now we have a generation of stoned, 400 lb. 20-somethings texting 400 hp. SUVs down the road.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          The 1971 Impala with the 350 cid was rated at [email protected] and torque of 165 lb/ft @4000.

          The 1974 Impala with the same engine was rated at 145 [email protected] and 250 lb/ft at 2200.

          the rated HP for both years was 51.2. They just retuned the engine for low end grunt instead of high revving power, to reduce emissions. The later engines had more pulling power, but people really noticed the more leisurely acceleration at speed.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    How long was the pre-MINI Mini in production? As far as I know it was a goodly 40 years.


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