Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Reader Comment: Which Cars, Makes and Models


 A comment left on the last post:

I notice the different cars on your blog and thought I'd offer my own opinions on makes and models of cars through the years that have been exemplars of the "salt water New England" style:

1955-1972 Chevy Suburban

replaced by Jeep SJ

1950-1978 Ford Country Squire

smaller, sportier station wagons available from Mercedes and Volvo

1941-1977 Chrysler Town and Country

became cheaply built and later, a minivan. Also, see Country Squire

1963-1991 Jeep SJ

discontinued; many in this market went to the XJ

1983-2001 Jeep XJ

Last of Jeep’s versatile, rugged SUVs

1969-1994 Range Rover

unreliable and became vulgar status symbols

1980-2021 Toyota Land Cruiser

discontinued in USA

1966-present Volvo wagon

1975-present Mercedes wagon

1994-present Subaru Outback

1997-present Subaru Forester


Honorable mentions because they have very specific use and not versatile:

1948-2016 Land Rover 90

discontinued

1959-2011 Lincoln Town Car

discontinued; replaced by Suburban and Yukon XLT

2007-present Chevy Suburban

2007-present GMC Yukon XLT

Town Car, Suburban, and Yukon XLT only acceptable if in black with simple trim and only if chauffeured

These vehicles are always in style and get better with age (except the black car service models) provided they are simple, at lower trim levels, broken in, owned outright from new, and without vanity plates and other decorations. Other makes and models are acceptable, but depend on context. Audis and Bimmers for example can be in keeping with the “salt water New England aesthetic” but can also be tacky.

And an addendum: 

I posted that comment and I'd like to add an addendum:

Possible classics in the salt water New England style:

1999-2007 VW Jetta diesel wagon

replaced by Golf wagon; VW diesels discontinued in USA

2008-2020 VW Golf wagon

discontinued in USA. Especially impressive if manual

1989-present Mazda Miata

fun, sporty in tradition of English sports cars-but reliable!

1989-present Toyota 4Runner

great replacement for Jeep XJ

1995-present Lexus LX

older ones are looking good. Replacement for discontinued Land Cruiser?

2002-present Volvo SUV

versatile, sporty Volvos. Nuff said

2019-present Kia Telluride

many of my friends who previously drove classic models now drive these

2020-present Land Rover Defender

too modern looking and unreliable to replace the old 90s with their traditional market?

2022-present Jeep Wagoneer

is Jeep finally getting back on track?

47 comments:

  1. 2022 Jeep Wagoneer...back on track?? Hardly...

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  2. I would also add VW Golf GTI manual.

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    1. In Britain, the Golf GTI was THE 1980s "yuppie" car, the choice of nouveau riche who could not afford a Porsche 911. It also appealed to urban female "Sloane Rangers" who were living in and around Chelsea.

      The British "old money" aristocracy remained loyal to Land Rovers, Jaguars, Rolls Royces and Bentleys. At that time, they would not have been seen dead in VWs, BMWs, Audis or Porsches. IIRC Prince Charles drove an Aston Martin convertible - very classy!

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    2. Funny how times change though. Now Prince Charles drives an Audi A6 Allroad as his "daily" and Prince William has an A6 estate as well. The whole Royal Family drives brand new Land Rovers including Range Rovers and the new Discovery. They also use Audi as they have a VIP arrangement with them.

      The old money car owner in the UK will often be spotted in an old Land Rover or a Subaru Outback/Legacy as there is plenty of room for the dogs. Volvo XC70 is also relatively common for that group. It's often mainly about space and practicality.

      However, as with all things, it's difficult to apply a catch-all rule. I've seen titled individuals drive Golf GTIs [Prince William had a Golf], BMWs and Mercedes. Plenty of them will own something a little more sporty as well such as a Porsche but if motoring isn't their thing then of course it's unlikely they'll have anything beyond a reliable mode of transport.

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    3. One of the true 1980s cars of frugal, old money types - usually owned by the mother then passed on to the kids - was the VW Polo.

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    4. In the US, the GTI and R versions of the Golf seem to attract young guys-the types who drive Japanese cars loaded with aftermarket parts. I can see a base model Golf being in keeping with our style though-a great city car, but unfortunately, the Golf will only be available in the rally car GTI and R models after this year.

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    5. I guess I am definitely not my GTI's demographic 63 yr old granny with two misbehaving Jack Russells and two wonderful grandchildren. Oh well at least we have fun around town. Nothing aftermarket, sedate color.

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  3. I judge cars by how closely they approximate the c.1984 Mercedes 300TD.

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    1. They must have been asleep in 1985, because that year's model leaked like a sieve. The good news was, when we gave it to our son, he couldn't go above 60 mph and we could hear him coming home from three blocks away.

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    2. If I had to pick a perfect car, the old Mercedes turbo diesel wagons would definitely be a contender. The other would be the Land Cruiser. If you see a Land Cruiser or Mercedes wagon, and the owner has had them since new, you know you are dealing with a very impressive person with impeccable taste. They are very expensive, very understated, practical, long lasting and luxurious. This is doubly true of the old turbo diesel wagons.

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    3. I've owned two. I was not the original owner of either. Drove the first one until it was technically an antique car. My current one is 12 years old and going strong. I am optimistic the 300 series will eventually be sold in the USA. Hard to imagine it's not. It might just take a couple of years. GLH

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  4. Interesting that the New England list includes Subaru and Jeep models. Here in the wide open spaces of the West, those are more often seen (by me) than any other brands. Much of their popularity has to do with the availability of trustworthy dealer service. Land Rover dealers are thin on the ground.

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  5. Very different from the common rides in ATX...F-150s, Chevy 1500s, Suburbans and Tahoes, Teslas and more Teslas, and loads of BMW SUVs. There are so many very large trucks and SUVs that my 2008 Mini convertible is easy to lose in a parking lot. No one seems to hang onto cars for long in Austin.

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    1. I'm seeing a lot of the various Rover models in downtown Austin. Amazingly, none have been broken down.

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  6. Replies
    1. We loved how my spouse's former Saab 900 drove and felt, but it was a financial sinkhole. It's the most money I have spent on vehicle repairs in my 30+ years of car ownership - more than double any other car.

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    2. Exactly. That's why it should be on the list.

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    3. I had a used SAAB 900 right after I graduated college (almost 30 years ago!). It was... quirky. At some point before I bought it, someone futzed with the wiring. I had to spend a bit of money so that my brake lights worked when my directional was on. I think the car had 150k+ miles on it when I bought it. I drove it for a couple of years until it died. If I am ever looking for a SECOND car, I'd love another 900. It was a fun car. Or maybe I was more fun back when I owned it.

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    4. I guess if I included the first generation Range Rover, I should have included the Saab 900. These cars were popular with the New England set-and still are, but they really had no staying power. They are money pits and unreliable and I feel that these qualities turned a lot of people off to the manufacturers that produced them. I only ever knew one person in the 90s who had a 900 and it was such a piece of junk that he got frustrated and abandoned it on 95 outside Boston. Unreliability and expensive to service are not qualities in keeping with New England thrift.

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  7. You can't beat the old Land Rover Defender that was made in Solihull, England up to 2016.

    The Defender has been a favourite of the Royal family for decades. Prince Philip design a special version as his funeral hearse. Sadly, the current Defender model is made in Nitra, Slovakia.

    One new model to look out for will be the Ineos Grenadier which looks like a modern version of the old Defender.

    My favourite SWNE cars are the old Rolls Royces, Morgans and Triumph TR6.

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    1. Although I don't recall having seen any here, my all-time favorite cars were Rovers. The queen used to drive one and Princess Grace also had one. I owned both a 2000TC and a 3500 but it's the Series II Land-Rover that I identify with. Haven't seen any of them in ages. Those do not exhaust the list of cars I wished I have owned.

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    2. I drove a my Dad's 1970 Rover 3500S for years and wouldn't give it up. It didn't matter that it was in the shop more times than not. It had some mysterious problem that made it overheat constantly. No one knew if it was the wrong head gasket inserted during manufacture, bad hoses or something else. The red paint developed purple splotches in its first year and it had to be repainted. Never mind all that, after my Dad died, I used it through grad school and wouldn't relinquish it for anything. It drove like a dream, the car handling was superb. After grad school I moved to NYC and my Mom decided to sell it to an enthusiast in NJ.

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    3. The one I had also had a problem overheating sometimes. As you know, the engine compartment was especially cramped, so much so, that the battery was located in the trunk, if I remember correctly. Never cared for the hood scoop styling but it was a fast car. Although I guess it handled okay, personally, I thought the steering was too light and in sharp turns, the rear end behaved a little peculiar. Those were all characteristics shared by the 2000. One of my best friends had one and, in fact, that's how I came to meet him. This all happened over 40 years ago.

      I hate to admit it but I also had a problem with overheating with my Volvo V40 but not until it had over 130,000 miles. It was a pretty fast car, too, by which I mean at high speed, not quick off the mark. Otherwise, it was a very nice car.

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  8. Comparing cars, trucks and specialized vehicles illustrates changes in various fads over extended time period. Having owned American cars since 1950's, Ford, Lincoln, Few Chevy's and 1968 Jaguar XKE,Range Rovers, BMWs and Mercedes the only consistently fine product has been Mercedes starting 1958. The only quality vehicle America makes since the 1950's are trucks and they are profitable for the manufacturers, which is why they are promoted. I find it absurd anyone would drive truck around town because it is the current fad. Having seen this nonsense for decades I always maintained people would drive Ox Carts if they were "In".

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  9. That's quite a list.

    I think Subaru became a lot more popular when they finally fixed their head gasket issues around 2014. They always did all wheel drive well, and they occupy the space the Volvo 240 wagon used to before that brand became much more expensive and less reliable. I also think touring convertibles fit the ethos well - like the late/lamented Lexus SC, we still drive a 2003 Lexus hard top convertible.

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    1. Maybe we have the best of both worlds: Our ‘07 Forester never developed the much talked about gasket problem. Not yet anyway, but it does have 262k miles on it. It’s what our mechanic calls “a moon car.” It’s travelled far enough to cover a trip to the moon... Our Sunday car is a Volvo 960. It’s in excellent condition. It rides real soft and smooth. And it sports both a cd and a cassette player.

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    2. Had zero problems with my old lovable Forester until it was 21 years old and started making a noise. Never had a better car! But it was going to cost more to fix it than it was supposedly worth, so I caved in, shed a few tears and sold it. I got another Forester. Love it, too.

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    3. My wife's 2010 Legacy developed the head gasket problem, twice; each time repairs were in the $3500 range. Subaru picked up all costs both times; I can't say enough for Subaru Motors customer services.. the best! I have been driving Foresters for 16+ years and never had a problem.

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    4. I drove a 2002 Outback for 18 years with about 250,000 miles on it. I replaced it because all of a sudden it started becoming a money pit-the whole suspension was needing to be replaced, and it had an engine knock so it had to go. But I really miss it.

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  10. I drive a Chevrolet Bolt that is a beautiful dark grey color. I plug it in at night and can drive 250 miles or more on a full charge. It is very zippy and quiet, with a nice radio... my favorite vehicle ever besides for my old Volvo wagon. In the past I had a 68 Volvo Estate wagon, a 1972 VW Camper, a late 80s Saab 900 turbo, a 1990s Jeep Cherokee, a Subaru wagon, and a VW Jetta. We currently own a 2005 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that is necessary for our work (it has over 400,000 miles on it!) but we're on the list to get a Ford F150 Lightning all electric pickup as soon as it becomes available. An added bonus is that you can use it as a generator to power your house or job site for up to 3 days if the power goes out. Many of the brands mentioned have electric versions, so things are looking up. The new Jeep Wagoneer has a starting price of $70000!! That is outrageous for that ugly looking pollution spewing thing that depreciates in value the moment you drive it away from the dealership. Why bother with it if you will be mostly driving by yourself? You could buy 5 Chevy Sparks for that price, and probably park 2 inside the Wagoneer, or just get one manual Spark and invest the rest of your money in something that actually appreciates in value. I guess I'm utilitarian when it comes to vehicles. I find a front wheel drive vehicle with good snow tires is fine, and I don't need the 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive usually. If I do, I take the Tacoma.

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    1. Elizabeth... please, does your Chevy Bolt maintain a charge and run for 250+ miles in the winter, when temperatures are in the teens (or below)? Thank you.

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    2. It goes less in colder temps but I don't take longer drives in it for my day to day. On longer trips I plan my charging. Finding quick chargers can be a problem, but more are appearing all the time. There are apps such as plugshare that are a big help. I usually plan a charging stop around a meal and exercise for my dog and myself.

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  11. Were I able to wave my magic wand, I'd drive an older Volvo station wagon from before the body style changed to resemble every other car out there. So, I'll make due with the current 2014 Outback, which does very nicely , thank you. My wife drives a 2015 model.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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  12. Some of the comments here remind me of something I read, probably 50 years ago, in Road & Track magazine. They usually had a number of exotic or high-performance cars on hand that they were reviewing for articles, both short-term and long-term. The writer stated that the ones the staff wanted to take home at night were the cars with the best sound system.

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  13. Kia and Mazda? No. Just flat out no. I do agree with a previous comment that the Saab 900 should be included. I drove the turbo version in college during the late 80’s/ early 90’s and it was such a fun car.

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  14. Jeep Grand Wagoneer, 1960's through 1991.

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    1. Absolutely! That was one of the models in SJ family. It was legendary. But the XJ was a great Jeep too, especially the 3-door version

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  15. Currently have a Volvo S90 with the premium sound system. I really only bought the car because of the fantastic sound system. I drive long distance often and the sound system is a savior. Next car I am going back to a Honda Accord. Sound. Solid. Reliable.

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  16. 2019-present Kia Telluride
    I am glad to see this on the list. I have liked this vehicle but I thought I was a loner outside of the people who drove them.

    Ken

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  17. I got a great deal on my 2017 BMW X1 that feels more like a station wagon. Stable car, low miles, and a comfortable ride. BMW had a hard time selling because the 2018 model had Apple Play. I did not need that. I feel good about my purchase of a decent car with just 16K miles.

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  18. Absolutely agree on the Volvo, Mercedes wagons and Subaru Outback! New England favourites for years.

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  19. If at least a portion of the New England ethos revolves around the "string too short to be saved" spirit of frugality and practicality then surely a Honda Accord of almost any year (we've owned four) should be on this list. We have also owned Volvos (problematic and costly to repair), a VW GTi (fun but not terribly comfortable on drives longer than 3 hours) and count a fair number of luxury car brands among our extended family, almost all of which delivered more perceptual value than the actual, bottom line thing. Or, as our local mechanic put it after a recent, hideously expensive repair for a non-Honda Accord, "Every other car: problems," drawing out the problems with the sigh of a man who sees them every day. "Honda: no problems."

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  20. It is the 50th Anniversary of the Mercedes Benz R107. Over a quarter of a million of them came to North America, so I bet there are still a few of them driving around New England. Mine is a yellow 1979 with a brown interior. I drive it a few times a week around Vancouver.

    David J Cooper

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  21. I live in a very old house in a rural part of the west, but I’m surprised the F-150 isn’t listed. It’s been around forever. I believe it’s still the best selling vehicle in America. I couldn’t live in my rural area without a truck. How do you get firewood, landscaping materials, etc home?

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