A quarter of a century can yield an amazing level of improvements to a modern day car — but this isn’t always the case.
Take for example a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air and compare it with the 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Even back in 1983, a 1958 Bel Air could offer the keepers among us the enduring joy of a long-term relationship. That big block Chevy V8, even in the early Reagan era, could give you a fiendish ear-to-ear grin behind the wheel. The Cutlass Ciera on the other hand was a rental car from birth with the vapid empty soul of a parts bin beater. It would take a special masochist of an owner to make that a long-term keeper.
Modern day cars have similar parallels.
On the luxury side, we can compare a 1990 Lexus LS400 with a 2015 Hyundai Genesis. Yes, the Genesis is a tour de force of modern day affordable luxury. Yet, the LS400 could out-diesel a diesel when it comes to longevity. Given the documented wear and tear issues on the Genesis, the Lexus may arguably still be the car worth keeping while the Hyundai, despite its technical achievements, could be a risky proposition.
A 25-year-old keeper in our business is a rare and splendid thing when you think about it. Interior quality in particular has to be mated with an enduring love for the model in question.
Let’s revisit the days of MC Hammer and Metallica to see which cars — then and now — play the right music for you.
The Mazda Miata: a car that needs no introduction unless you happened to own a mint 1973 Fiat 124 Sport Spider in a non-rust climate and have a mechanic on your payroll who speaks Italian cuss words more often than proper English. Unlike the Fiat, thousands of first-generation NA Miatas are still alive and kicking after all these years. But let’s say you have to deal with one unique ingredient in this ‘keeper’ recipe.
Your keeper has to be a daily driver.
Miatas have taut suspensions which are decent for smooth roads, but pothole laced roads are brutal on you and the car as you both get older together. If you’re looking to avoid a few thousand fewer kidney punches in your middle age and beyond, why not opt for a little luxury?
Why not choose this?
Were you expecting that first-generation Lexus? Naahh!!! I have owned several that have all come and gone through my dealership, and they all have one thing in common: They all drive like a softer third-generation Camry; a dead-bone boring supersized Camrys that can easily eat up the highway miles and leave you in a barcalounger of a driver seat.
As an enthusiast, you need fun for your daily drive. A 1990 Mercedes 300 TE wagon is a better rolling embodiment of that need. Even if the roads are a bit icey, the Mercedes was available with optional all-wheel drive. Plus, this trim wagon with optional MB Tex seats offers you classic Mercedes handling with a healthy level of versatility. It comes with optional seating for seven, 3200+ pounds of Germanic gravitas, tons of cargo space with fold down seats, and the coveted Mercedes driving experience that disappeared once Daimler decided to decontent the next generation E-Class into a classic LS400 stupor of boredom.
The W124 is widely seen as the last true hurrah before Mercedes lost their quality-driven ways.
But maybe you want something that combines sport and luxury with a bit more of a personal ‘grand touring’ touch. GT models were all the rage back in 1990, which brings us to car #3.
It took Toyota hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the stamping tools needed to transition luxury coupes from their historical ’80s era, brick-style angles to the elliptical curves that would come to define the 90s-era sports coupe.
The SC300 was it. In fact, it was ‘it’ with a stick. Upon its release, you were given an interior that enveloped you in the best level of luxury of any coupe that wasn’t a glitchy piece of Eurotrash. Or a cheaped out American cruiser whose interior couldn’t come remotely close to that in the SC. Even today, this Lexus can make non-enthusiasts turn heads if you keep it in clean condition.
All three of these cars had time on their side. Somehow I doubt any high end car of today can approach what these cars achieved when it comes to the real-world ownership experience.
Am I wrong? Let me know by picking your top choices for a 25-year-long marriage between man and machine. Let’s say one for the last 25 years in the form of a 1990 model (or before), and one for the next 25 years in model year 2015. You can spend up to $60,000 then, and $80,000 now.
[Photo credit: 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop sedan by sv1ambo [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons; Mercedes-Benz 300TE by IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Lexus LS400 by IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]