In this age of ultra-short product lifecycles where a three-model-year run unchanged is an eternity, it’s tough to imagine the same basic design being produced for three separate decades or more.
Here are six cars that all had tortoise-like life spans:
The MG was the sports car North Americans loved first, with U.S. servicemen bringing back rakish MG TCs from the UK. The MGB was the first “modern” sports car from MG that included features like actual roll-up windows and (from 1967 on) a fully synchronized manual transmission. When it was introduced in 1962, few thought that it would be the last MG sold in the U.S. Sadly, that’s how it turned out. After a titanic 18-year run, the B exited the world little changed from the way it entered. The engine and body shell were the same basic units that were being built during the Kennedy administration.
1954-83 Jeep CJ-5
The CJ-5 was actually a variant of the Korean War-era military Jeep. Far more suited to civilian use than the WWII-era Jeep, the CJ-5 was a hot seller for American Motors, which took over Jeep’s parentage from the old Kaiser automotive group. The CJ-5’s short wheelbase gave it a terribly choppy ride and made it rollover-prone in emergencies. Nevertheless, it remained in production for an astonishing 30 years, and there is a fair amount of CJ DNA in today’s Wrangler.
1949-80 Volkswagen Beetle
For a car that was a virtual orphan cast-off at the end of WWII, the Beetle wound up doing OK. The Allied occupying powers didn’t quite know what they should do with the car, which was commissioned by the Nazis to give loyal subjects mobility on the new Autobahn superhighways. They elected to let the post-war Germans keep the funny little car, and the rest is history. Although the last Super Beetle Cabriolets were sold in the U.S. from 1980-81, production of the basic Beetle sedan continued in Mexico until 2006.
1964-89 Porsche 911 (air-cooled)
The 911 celebrated its 50th anniversary recently, but to be fair, we cut this off in 1989, the last year for the original torsion-bar suspension, air-cooled 911. It’s simply amazing how little of the basic car changed over the course of 25 years, from the primitive heating system, to most of the glass, roof and doors, as well as the basic engine design. 911 fans seemed just fine with that as the car outlived its intended successor – the 928.
1968-82 C3 Corvette
Corvettes through their history had been on a somewhat fast and furious development pace ever since Zora Arkus-Duntov decided to show Chevy how to make it into a real V-8-powered sports car in 1955. The second generation, or C2, Corvette (which many argue was the best of the classic Corvettes) was only around from 1963-67. The car that replaced that version, however, hung around for 14 long years. To be fair, these were tough years for GM, which was hammered by imports and two fuel crises. There were several mid-engine design studies that came perilously close to replacing the C3, but it never happened, and the same basic design lasted from LBJ to Reagan.
1960-82 Checker Marathon
One of the few purpose-built taxi cabs ever sold in the U.S., they were infinitely nicer to ride in than the clapped-out Ford Crown Vics that seem to serve as cabs everywhere in the U.S. Similar in roominess to the classic London taxis still in service, with their handy fold-down jump seats, the Marathon also added a useful trunk to the mix. Although the vast majority were used as cabs, ultra-practical eccentrics did from time to time buy Marathons as civilian transportation. Twenty-two years wasn’t long enough.
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca and you can email rsass [at] hagerty [dot] com
Perhaps it might be too early to start thinking of going topless.
Then again, maybe not.
Dreaming about the days when we don’t need to crank the heat to full blast in the house, or bundle up to go outside to shovel snow are warming thoughts. And so is the thought of open air driving. Here are five convertibles under $30K that might help beat the winter blahs and get you thinking about the sun.
Fiat 500C – $16,495
As if the Fiat 500 wasn’t cute enough, there’s also a drop top version to give it even more character. The Pop trim has a starting price of $16,495, whereas the Lounge trim is still starts under $20K at $19,895. Both come with a 1.4L, 4-cylinder MultiAir engine, which produces 101 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque. Okay, I know that’s not an incredible amount of ponies but, hey, we’re all equal is stop-and-go traffic, right?
To catch the attention of fellow commuters, the 500C comes with the option of 3 canvas top colours and 14 different exterior hues.
You can even retract the roof while driving. Push the power-operated canvas roof button once and it will open the top to the midway position at speeds up to 96 km/hr. Push it again, and it retracts behind the rear head restraints at speeds up to 80 km/hr.
VW Beetle Convertible – $29,075
One of the most recognizable vehicles on the road is the VW Beetle. And its convertible version offers a very similar silhouette as its coupe sibling, thus helping it easily be spotted.
The latest generation of German convertible is better than ever. Boasting more trunk room (now rated at 201L as opposed to 141L) than the previous two generations, a more “masculine” look and better driving dynamics.
There are two engines to choose from: a 1.8L, 4-cylidner that produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.0L, 4-cylinder turbocharged (TSI) model with 200 horsepower with the manual transmission (but 210hp with the optional automatic DSG) and 207 lb-ft of torque.
Mazda MX-5 – $29,250
Given the title of the world’s most popular 2-seat sports car, it’s not hard to see why. The front engine, rear-wheel drive Mazda MX-5 is a blast to drive. Ask anyone who has captained it.
Whether taking it out for a spin on the road or the track, this tiny two-door has nothing but good times woven into its sheet metal.
The Mazda MX-5’s manual vinyl top takes only a few seconds to drop down, allowing its driver and passenger to experience a completely new world of topless driving.
Under its pint-size hood is a 2.0L, 4-cylinder engine with an output of 167 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque.
There’s also the option to outfit the MX-5 with various transmissions: a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual, a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, there’s fun to be had by all.
Mustang Convertible – $29,499
Under the hood of this American muscle car, the Ford Mustang’s 3.7L, V6 engine will give you the grunt and glory of 305 horsepower. You’ll also be able to fit four people inside along with 272L of cargo around back.
Despite the healthy dose of ponies under the hood, wrangling this convertible is anything but a chore. With either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, you’d be pleasantly surprised as to how gracious this ‘Stang can be to drive. Then again, if you want to fire this rear-wheel drive vehicle up, you might just giggle in the process.
MINI Convertible – $29,500
There’s something to be said about driving a MINI. It’s unlike any other experience out there. It feels like driving a street-legal go-kart, but without the abrasiveness that go-karts can have. Its pristine handling and fabulous gearbox only enhance the experience. Granted, visibility out the rear with the top up isn’t fabulous, and there isn’t a lot of trunk space (but there still is room for four!), those are secondary details. Take the 121 horsepower MINI Convertible for a spin and fall in love with things that come in small packages.
The Big Four domestic manufacturers believe they have turned the corner… (more…)
*The best and brightest from the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, from American muscled classic like the Corvette and the Mustang to the newest from Toyota, Fiat, KIA, and Mini’s John Cooper Works…
The Beetle was the subject of one of the most influential ad campaigns of the 20th century…
The original air-cooled VW Beetle lasted an incredible 58 years in production, during which time it was fundamentally unchanged.
It’s a record that will likely never be approached, let alone broken. Although nearly everyone of a certain age has at least one Beetle story or fond memory, there are a few things still not generally known about the beloved car.
Here are five noteworthy facts:
1. The original classic Beetle didn’t leave production until 2003, although it was last sold in North America in 1979 (by which time the water-cooled Rabbit had replaced it), the original air-cooled Beetle was produced in Puebla, Mexico, until 2003. It’s essentially identical to the cars produced in Germany for export to the U.S. in the 1970s.
2. The original Beetle was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler. Keen to put ordinary Germans on the newly constructed autobahn superhighways in their own cars, a subsidized savings plan involving a coupon booklet was devised. When a family filled their booklet, they were supposed to get their car. WWII intervened and all pre-war Beetle deliveries were limited to Nazi party officials. Private owners didn’t get their hands on a Beetle until after the war.
3. Germans don’t remember it as fondly as we do because of its connection with the dictator who brought ruin to their country. And it serves as a reminder of the lean times before the West German economic miracle took hold meaning post-war Germans don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings about the Beetle that American ex-hippies do.
4. The Beetle may have been inexpensive, but it was never cheap. Gaps were tight and doors sealed well. Additionally, it was a unibody car with a very flat floor with few openings. All of this meant that the car would actually float for at least several minutes after hitting the water before turning into a small sub!
5. The Beetle was the subject of one of the most influential ad campaigns of the 20th century. Most recently lampooned on the TV show Mad Men, it was among the first national campaigns to utilize irony and self-deprecating wit. A tiny black-and-white photo of a Beetle in a sea of white space with only the headline “Think Small” was the first of the ads introduced in 1959 by the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach. Another ad, featuring the Beetle and one word – “Lemon” – appeared later.
*Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca