12/2/2010 10:45 PM ET|
10 cars that refuse to die
It's hard to tell which cars are going to have the most endurance when they roll off the line, but these models have proved their mettle.
Cars in general have become more reliable over the years -- and yet, there are always some models that outlast their peers.
Pinpointing exactly how many miles a given model racked up collectively or individually is virtually impossible, but we've identified 10 cars we see as having exceptional -- sometimes surprising -- endurance. Note that we left out trucks: Almost all seem to hold up well.
Olds Cutlass Ciera (GM A-Bodies), 1984-1996
It's the mid-to-late 1980s. GM quality is going up, and its sales are going down.
This version of GM's venerable nameplate, along with its clone the Buick Century, hit the intersection of these two trends: GM made a lot of them, and they lasted. Most of the bugs had been worked out on these models' forebears, the much-ballyhooed (and much-troubled) GM X-Bodies.
That their first owners were seniors who drove them gently and serviced them conscientiously probably helped matters. Note that the Chevy Celebrity and Pontiac 6000, basically the same car, don't enjoy the same endurance.
Geo Prizm, 1989-2002
The what? Here's the story, in short: It's a Toyota Corolla with a different nameplate, and everyone knows those last forever.
Longer version: the Prizm and some other Corollas-by-another-name (The Chevy Nova and the Pontiac Vibe) were built in California in a GM-Toyota joint venture called NUMMI. The odd arrangement let Toyota get around restrictions on Japanese imports, and let GM learn about Toyota's vaunted manufacturing techniques.
The plant closed this year but is expected to reopen in a venture between Toyota and U.S. electric car maker Tesla Motors.
Subaru wagons (all of them), 1990-present
If all of these failed to start tomorrow, thousands of college professors in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest would have to walk to class. Fortunately for higher education, due to these cars' trucklike fortitude (note that Subaru's parent company is Fuji Heavy Industries), that's not likely. The standard all-wheel drive on all models also means they'll get their owners -- often automotive know-nothings -- through nasty weather as well. It also makes them something of a regional taste. You can tell which region they're from by the inevitable school and/or bumper stickers.
Volvos (rear-wheel drive models), Dawn of Man-1996
To some extent, these are the Subaru wagons' spiritual and actual predecessors. Part of what Volvo had going for it was that it basically built one car for 25 years under a variety of nameplates. In its staid Swedish way Volvo eschewed fashion and focused instead on great quality (and safety). Scandinavian origins can also be credited for their rust-resistance.
After duty as family truckster, these cars often devolve to being the kids' college vehicles -- and sleeping quarters at Phish shows.
Ford Crown Victoria / Mercury Marquis, 1992-2007*
If these can handle police pursuit and taxi duty, they can handle you. Even though the civilian versions lack some endurance-building parts like oil coolers and stronger suspensions, the core components of the Great American Sedan are all there: V-8 engine, solid rear axle, body-on-frame construction.
The Chevy Caprice held this niche as well until the mid-1990s when GM decided to turn its production facility over to big SUVs.
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