A car’s lifecycle is, by design, pretty short. From the manufacturer’s perspective, revamping or redesigning a car keeps customers buying the latest version, which widens the profit margin and puts money in the company coffers. Yet, some cars stick around for years—sometimes decades—past their expiration dates. We’re not talking about Nissan’s 10-year-old Z and GT-R, but rather cars that your parents and grandparents could’ve bought long before you were even born.
While the rest of the automotive world looks to the future and adds technology aimed at reducing driver inputs, improving crash safety, and generally make driving a better experience, there are still automobiles being sold from eras where seatbelts were optional and the Germans were the bad guys. These are the six we find most appealing.
6. Saab 9-3 (16 Years)
We miss Saab. The quirky Swedes were always good at producing esoteric cars that architects loved, a penchant for inflating its history and how its cars were “Born From Jets,” as well as making General Motors’ accountants weep every time it built a new car. As such, we were dismayed when the company went bust in 2012 at the hands of Spyker.
Two years later, however, Saab’s 9-3 was resurrected by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB company as an all-electric vehicle. Though its revival got off on a rocky start—the 9-3 no longer met European NCAP safety standards and could not be sold there—NEVS, with the help of cash from the same Chinese company funding Faraday Future, has made a return and is currently on sale in China.
5. Peugeot 405 (32 Years)
In 1987, Peugeot launched the 405 to compete against the growing market of large, family-oriented, four-door sedans that were in demand in Europe and America. The 405 was styled by Pininfarina and holds the unfortunate title of being the last Peugeot sold in the United States (a distinction that will soon change). While its 1991 departure from the U.S. was lamentable, the 405 thrived elsewhere, its production history becoming a wild, multinational ride that continues to this day.
The Peugeot 405 was originally manufactured in Europe between 1987 and 1997, and it quickly became one of Europe’s best-selling family cars. But the model was killed off when Peugeot introduced the 406. Despite its apparent death, the model soldiered on and saw production in Argentina from 1992 to 2000, Zimbabwe from 1987 to 2002, and Iran and Egypt to this very day. Vive la France!
4. Toyota Land Cruiser 70 (35 Years)
Though Toyotas are known for the frugality and basic economy in the United States, the rest of the world knows that Toyota builds the most rugged and off-road capable machines, bar none. Pickup trucks like the Toyota Hilux and SUVs like the Land Cruiser are used by militaries, game wardens, expedition leaders, and guerilla groups to carry people, gear, and weaponry. Watch any news broadcast covering the conflicts in the Middle East—there's a Toyota somewhere in the shot.
While Toyota has made improvements to these machines and new models exist, some groups still want the simplicity of the old, which is why the Land Cruiser 70 Series is still in production. The 70 Series began its life after replacing the outgoing 40 Series, which itself was produced for 25 years. Currently, the 35-year-old SUV is sold in Australia, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and was offered in Japan until more demanding traction control laws took effect in 2014.
3. Nissan Junior (49 Years)
Ford’s F-150 pickup is one of the most dominant nameplates throughout the automotive world. It’s a sales juggernaut, a titan among its class, and enjoys one of the most loyal followings of any automotive moniker. However, even though F-150 buyers say they enjoy its simplicity, it too has seen refreshes and redesigns. The Nissan Junior, however, hasn’t changed since Richard Nixon swilled bourbon in the Oval Office. How’s that for sales dominance?
The third-generation Nissan Junior was originally developed and put on sale in 1970. And Nissan produced the mid-sized pickup truck until 1982. Yet, while having just released the truck itself, Nissan sold the Junior’s design and engineering schematics to the Iranian company Zamyad, which rebadged it as the Z24. The Iranian’s began production of the Z24 in 1970, just like Nissan. Unlike Nissan, Zamyad’s Z24 production hasn’t stopped and continues to be sold as new in Iran.
2. Lotus 7 (62 Years)
The continuation of the Lotus 7 is a testament to designer Colin Chapman’s vision and his allegiance to engineering lightness. The bare automobile consists of an engine, wheels, and not much else. Originally designed in 1957 by Chapman himself, the Lotus 7 was engineered to produce a car that could be street-legal, as well as raced on weekends by club racers.
When Lotus ended production of the 7 some 16 years later, Caterham bought up the rights and design, and continued to manufacture it as a kit or a completely assembled car. To this day, you can call up Caterham and car that is nearly identical to the one Chapman penned 62 years ago.
1. Morgan 4/4 (83 Years)
Glaciers move faster than the Morgan Motor Company. In fact, while the rest of the automotive industry has progressed from steel to aluminum to carbon fiber chassis, Morgan still produces automobiles with hand-shaped wood frames. And so the company’s small platoon of vehicles has been produced in various evolutions since its founding in 1910. The oldest of the designs, however, is the Morgan 4/4.
Though the Morgan’s 3-Wheeler—a favorite here at The Drive—saw an earlier initial production than the company’s 4/4, the 4/4 has been continuously produced since 1936. Morgan’s 4/4 has seen updates, but the basic design, engineering, and manufacturing haven’t changed since Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan penned the design all those decades ago, making it the oldest car to still see current production.
Mr. Morgan, we tip our hats to your design.