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Your opinion on the best (hardiest) makes and years?


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I was musing about the rise and fall of the Chevrolet Vega. I recall no car ever disappearing so quickly and completely from the public view! Then I got to thinking about certain makes and models which seem to have survived in numbers seemingly inconsistent with the numbers produced. I cannot help but believe that such survival speaks to especially good overall quality. Please list cars you think have outdone themselves per the quantity still existing. Seems to me 37/38 Buick, late 20s Chrysler, and early 30s Dodge are examples of such. Your thoughts? Not sure about Model A and T, since it is hard to fathom proportions for cars with such extreme production numbers?. I have a feeling they were excellent cars for the first 20 years or so, but maybe ;not thereafter (tended to be mostly scrapped before reaching old age)?. Maybe they were not worthy of an engine swap at a certain age?

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Survival rate can be tricky, though, on judging how good or bad a car might be.

A lot of cars got put in barns and sheds, and forgotten for years, because they "broke", or were too much trouble to keep running.

A study of survival rates and reasons would be fun.

Take the 36-37 Cord. Made 2500 or so, and there are something like 1500 still around. Does that make sense? Well, car was mechanically difficult to keep on the road, but the reason for survival probably has to do more with styling, and everyone realizing what a "special" car it was. The same years they made 10's of thousands of Oldsmobiles, yet how many do you see? Very few, and survival rate for those two years Olds probably well under that 1500 of the Cord.

I really like my little Model 20 Hupmobile, yet there are hundreds and hundreds of them still in existence. It's a good little car, but underpowered, and with only two forward gears it's miserable in hilly country. I'd be willing to bet the Model 20 Hupp, from 1909-1911, outnumber Model T's from the same years, although the numbers were miniscule compared to T production (Hupp, 1500 in 1909, 5000 in 1910, for example.....) Model T's got used and used.....and used up, and finding an early example is tough...even though they made a lot of them...

Not saying DeSoto's aren't good cars, and don't know the specific reason that they survived as mentioned, but sometimes survival is because a car isn't on the road, not because it's a runner....

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Given the peramiters of lower production and higher survival rates I would think the Mercedes "Heckflosse" or fintail sedans of the 60s in both diesal and gas form were pretty well built. I have recently noticed how these often show up in outstanding original condition on a couple of MB forums I visit often. Usually the interiors are like new, and many times the cars are rock solid and require little to get roadworthy again. While not powerhouses, I think they fit your criteria.

David, agree on your thoughts on the Cords - and it does amaze me how many of those Hupp runabouts are out there, someone local to me has 3 of them, I believe.

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Survival rates definitely hurt more than help. The Continental Mark II is a perfect example. Only 3,000 were produced, but 1800 still exist.

While the Mark II had some quality-control issues it is truly built like a tank.

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Im going to have to say Ford trucks from the 69 to 75.

From what I see, they are the most common vintage vehicle on the road today.

I have to agree, when I was in my teens, my Dad had a 1969 Ford F150 pickup, with a 3 on the tree. I remember I loved to drive it, it was tough, and more than once I drove it hard, shifted it hard and abused it a bit. She kept on running and took the abuse. A great truck as far as I was concerned.

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Any Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth product from the early to mid 60's with the slant six would be a good bet. They were nothing that exciting but those cars were well built, tough and would keep running with little effort. I had one and it couldn't be killed until someone got to it and stripped it for everything it was worth. For all I know the engine and transmission are probably still running in some crook's jalopy.

The same thing is probably true about the cars that were powered by the flathead six that was replaced by the slant six.

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Easily the hardiest mass produced automobile ever built was the Model A Ford, 1928-1931.

Was over built for its time due to the stubbornness of Henry Ford, who refused to give up on the Model T

and rejected most attempts to produce a successor.

Out sold by /Chevrolet every year of it's manufacture, it has been the dominate car in all antique car events

for 50 years. Look around and you'll see 300 Model A's or more for every Chevrolet of the samr vinatage,

and they sold more Chevie's than Model A's. Loved by farmers, kids, ladies, cheapskates and antique car

guys on a budget, nothing else comes close.

In addition to the all steel body in most models, the durable 4 cylinder engine always leaked water pump

grease into the water jacket and the block never rusted out.

I thinks it will be hard to argue with the Model A Ford on this question.

Edited by Paul Dobbin
additional thought (see edit history)
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My father always opined that the flathead 6 Mopars of the late 1940s were the first cars he ever encountered that routinely would do over 100,000 miles with simple maintenance, often well over. His best friend bought a '51 Plymouth from him that he ran up over 250,000 miles on the original drivetrain (although with repairs, of course).

Of the cars of my generation it's hard to top the oft hated Japanese makes from the mid-1970s on, the smaller and simpler the better. If you could keep them from rusting (which gets a lot easier after about 1985), you almost have to look for an excuse to retire one. However even they pale in comparison to the European near-luxury cars of the 1970s and 1980s, especially any rear wheel drive Volvo.

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In 1928 Chevrolet outsold Ford, 1,193,212 to 607,592, probably in part because Ford was a brand new car and had new car wrinkles to iron out. In 1929 Ford outsold Chevy 1,507,123 to 1,328,605 and Chevy had the new 6-cylinder engine competing against a 4-cylinder. In 1930 Ford again outsold Chevy, this time 1,140,710 to 640,980. In 1931 Chevrolet outsold Ford by about 4,000 cars, 619,554 for Chevy, 615,455 for Ford. This gives Chevrolet a total of 3,782,351 cars during the 4 years of the Model A run and Ford totalled 3,870,889 for the four years which gives Ford an edge of 88,538 cars for the 4 years. Edsel was #12 in sales in 1958 and has a reputation of having numerous quality problems but you see them at shows and never see a Buick, Olds, Pontiac, Mercury, Plymouth, Dodge and very few Fords from that year. Ford was the number 1 car in 1957 but for every '57 Ford you see you'll probably see a dozen or more Chevies and not a single Pontiac, Olds or Plymouth. Corvairs didn't sell well but you see one or two at every show you go to. I think some cars like '57 and '58 Packards stayed around simply because they were so butt ugly that they were different. I'm sure '49 to '52 Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos, Chryslers, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, and Mercurys were good cars and sold well but where are they today? Maybe someone should start a new thread about cars that were attactive and dependable and sold well years ago but have disappeared today.

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Survival rates can be a tricky business as mentioned above. There were many nice Oldsmobiles built in relatively large numbers from about 1949 to 1953 but there are very few surviving today as compared to Buicks and Cadillacs even given the much lower Cadillac production numbers. The reason I believe is that these OLdsmobiles wound up being raced to destruction after they passed out of the hands of the original owners. I don't remember too many people racing Cadillacs and Buicks from these years. The Buick Century models from 1955 and 1956 with the nailhead V-8 were a different story compared to the old straight eights; but perhaps the slow-on-the-takeoff straight eights with Dynaflow might explain their relative abundance today.

Just my 2 cents.

Joe, BCA 33493

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I second the vote for a slant six Chrysler product. Best built economy car of its time from the standpoint of quality, longevity and service especially considering the low price. Although quite tinny and not at all luxurious.

Here is one that rather surprised me. Maurice Hendry, an expert on luxury cars of the twenties, thirties and forties, thought well of Packard and Lincoln but stated that for sheer grinding hard work, nothing could outlast a Cadillac.

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About the Vega. They got a bad reputation because of some easily rectified defects that Chevrolet took too long to fix. It was too bad because the fixes were not very difficult or expensive. I know of some later ones that gave excellent service for over 100,000 miles without complaint. I drove one and was very impressed by its smooth quiet comfortable ride. It drove like a big car.

You must remember that they were selling against the Pinto, VW beetle, Plymouth Cricket, AMC Gremlin and in that group they looked pretty good.

Many people shunned Vegas and bought Monzas and were happy with them, even though a Monza was a Vega with a restyled body.

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Chevies vs. Ford Model A, the Chevies didn't survive because of wooden body construction, there's virtually no wood in a Model A. That's one of the main reasons you see 100 model A's for every chevy..

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Chevies vs. Ford Model A, the Chevies didn't survive because of wooden body construction, there's virtually no wood in a Model A. That's one of the main reasons you see 100 model A's for every chevy..

That's the most sensible explanation I've heard yet.

On another example. My father has a 1910 Sears. They built about 3500, and there about 230 known surviving. Built well and very simple.

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About the Vega. They got a bad reputation because of some easily rectified defects that Chevrolet took too long to fix. It was too bad because the fixes were not very difficult or expensive. I know of some later ones that gave excellent service for over 100,000 miles without complaint. I drove one and was very impressed by its smooth quiet comfortable ride. It drove like a big car.

You must remember that they were selling against the Pinto, VW beetle, Plymouth Cricket, AMC Gremlin and in that group they looked pretty good.

Subtract the Cricket, and there isn't one car in that bunch I'd trade for a Vega (except maybe a Pinto that hadn't yet been in for the gas tank recall). Throw in Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Datsun 1200 & 510, Fiat 128, Subaru (not incl. the 360) and a few others (late Renault 10s, etc) and it becomes a torrent of better cars for the money.

Many people shunned Vegas and bought Monzas and were happy with them, even though a Monza was a Vega with a restyled body.

...and usually an "Iron Duke" 151 cu. in. 4 cylinder engine! The later versions of the Pontiac Astre clone of the Vega came with an Iron Duke instead of the aluminum Vega motor, and (minus the identical rust issues) it was twice the car the Vega was.

Edited by Dave@Moon
typo (see edit history)
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This is a very tough topic to define in that hardy durability and survival rate are not really the same thing. As a percentage the Duesenburg survival rate is huge--they were obviously rare when new but easily 60-70% must still be around. And most were not on the road being driven like a Model A, many survived because they were in storage and the owner could not afford to keep them running. Plus they were recognized early as being worthy of preservation, much like other 1930s Classics and 1955-57 TBirds.

Old timers have told me just what Trimacar said about Model As--that though almost as many Chevys were produced after their hard lives in the Depression an all-steel Model A body would easily outlive a wood framed Chevy body. Ironically a similar issue probably is seen in the popular slant six Mopars, Mustangs and Buick/Olds/Pontiacs of the 1960s and 1970s. The mechanicals were excellent but the bodies often rusted to oblivion and resulted in scrapping the car.

I will throw another wrench in the works and point out that as a percentage Fiat and Alfa Spiders and British roadsters probably have a very good survival rate but hardly have a great reputation for durability (misunderstood, of course).

So all that said I would say that as a COMBINATION of quality, hardy durability, good design, and a large number of survivors my nod must go to two big icons--Model As and 1955-57 Chevys (first year teething problems noted). Good topic, Todd C

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I gotta weigh in about the 30's Dodge as originally mentioned. All Dodge's were built with all steel bodies, the 30's cars have full pressure oiling and hydraulic brakes. The flathead 6 built in 1935- 1959 is the same engine.( Someone swapped in a 56 into my 36. ) You can still get parts at NAPA today. The lower rooflines gave a "chopped look" right from the factory. Etc, etc. I know mine will outlast me.

However, the model A has gotta be the all time king. They are still everywhere.:cool:

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Ironically a similar issue probably is seen in the popular slant six Mopars, Mustangs and Buick/Olds/Pontiacs of the 1960s and 1970s. The mechanicals were excellent but the bodies often rusted to oblivion and resulted in scrapping the car.

I think this was more so with the Fords and GMs not so much the Mopars, especially not the "compacts" like the Dart and Valiant. These cars were built like tanks. They seemed to me like they used a heavier gauge steel in the bodies than I saw in other cars of the era. You could probably use a shovel as a patch panel for one these to match the steel. Pounding out dents took quite an effort sometimes. But that's just a former owner's perspective originally from California.

The only issue I saw was the seat fabric was already in threads before the car was even 10 years old. The vinyl otherwise held up well.

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Some years ago, I read an article in a magazine, listing the 10 best products ever produced in America. Along with the Zippo lighter was the AD Chevy pickup. Many of those 65 year old trucks survive. Quite a few of those are still working every day, earning their keep.

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I think this was more so with the Fords and GMs not so much the Mopars, especially not the "compacts" like the Dart and Valiant. These cars were built like tanks. They seemed to me like they used a heavier gauge steel in the bodies than I saw in other cars of the era. You could probably use a shovel as a patch panel for one these to match the steel. Pounding out dents took quite an effort sometimes. But that's just a former owner's perspective originally from California.

The only issue I saw was the seat fabric was already in threads before the car was even 10 years old. The vinyl otherwise held up well.

I think my 76 Olds Omega is one of my cars that really surprised me. It has a 4.1 Chevy six, turbo 350, a GM ten bolt posi. I special ordered it with white vinyl seats and door panels instead of the standard brougham cloth velour seats for durability. At 110,000 mile the engine, trans, rear end have never been out or repaired. Still in it's original paint, engine still in it's original paint. On it's third set of tires, second set of ft. brake pads and second water pump. With oil changes every 2,000 miles, transmission, P/S and rear end fluid changes and wheel bearings repacked every 10,000 miles. Coolant and brake fluid changes every year along with dialectic grease under the module in the distributor. The carburetor has never been apart, Original fuel pump, Original Brake master cylinder, ft brake calipers, rear wheel cylinders ( by flushing the brake system once a year keeping moisture out triples the life of the hydraulic parts in the brake system), and original rear brake shoes. Another key to longevity is letting the car warm up to 118 degrees before driving. In the place of the original coolant temp sensor I use a late 50's early 60's G.M. temp. sender which has a hot and cold switch built into it. When the cold light goes out it's ready to drive. As soon as I got the car home from delivery I used two large spray cans with plastic tubes of silicone spray to spray the insides of the doors, fenders and cowl area, also behind the molding on the front and rear windshields all access holes in the hood and trunk lid. This prevents any rust from forming, just make sure this stuff runs out of every drain hole.

For the most part ALL cars fairly competitive. How they last is mainly due to how their taken care of and knowing the weak points and heading those points off before they happen.

Since this car has been taken off active duty the fluid changes to the engine, trans have now been done on a bi-annual basis-the rest of the maintenance schedule is the same. I might add that all seven of my cars are on this type of schedule. See the car below:

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20832/images/img_0124.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20832/images/img_0125.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20830/images/p1080789.jpg

Edited by helfen (see edit history)
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1949 through 1952 Chevys seemed to be survivors,

and so do the

Early 1960s to mid-1970s Valiant/Plymouth/Dodge/Chrysler models.

My 1960 Valiant V-200 had more than 338,000 miles on it when I bought it, verified by the prior owners hand-written log showing every oil change, fuel fill-up, repair, etc. I drove it another 120,000 miles before selling it to a neighbor who needed a reliable car to drive to work.

Our 1941 and 1954 Cadillacs seem representative of a strong group of survivors per their relatively small production numbers in comparison to lower priced cars. Could it be that owners of luxury cars were able to, or more inclined to provide the extra maintenance which kept them in better condition?

My 1977 Chevy C-10 (Half-Ton) Suburban was bought used from a neighbor with 58,xxx miles and a 305 ci "Target Master" Chevy brand new engine (replaced when a Chevy dealer's mechanic left the oil drain plug loose and cooked the original engine). The replacement engine was re[placed with a 350 ci Target Master at 176,xxx miles when a new fuel pump leaked gasoline into the oil, causing an explosion the next morning after a 60 mile drive. The 350 Turbo-Hydramatic transmission was still in good shape, but was refurbished at this time.

This set-up was amazing, trailering our old cars both open and enclosed all over the country, as well as for business as a travelling sales representative all over the Southeast. Eventually we clocked 1,423,xxx miles before the rust got the better of the '77 Suburban (yes, that was One Million, Four Hundred Twenty-Three Thousand miles, but of course the differential was replaced or rebuilt three times, the tranny was gone through three times, and the engine itself had "only" 1,347,xxx miles before the first retirement. Eventually we decided to recussitate the truck and bought a factory remanufactured 350 ci engine. After some minor rust-repair it was put back on the road. The truck was eventually given to a friend who builds Street Rods, along with TRIMACAR'S former 1978 Suburban which had its original 454 ci Chevy engine and 400 Turbo-Hydramatic -- truly a dynamite combination !!

We have the same 454/400 drive-train combination in the 1986 3/4-ton Suburban, which also came from TRIMACAR back in 2000. It has a bit of rust-through showing in the bottom of the left-side front and rear fenders now, but is still capable of pulling as if there is no tomorrow.

The '86 3/4 -ton 454/400 Suburban might eventually be up for sale since it is now only a novelty in our collection, and the towing is relagated to the 2002 Suburban 2500 series with the 8.1 Liter engine, and to the 2000 Ford Excursion 7.3 Turbo-Diesel 4x4.

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Im going to have to say Ford trucks from the 69 to 75.

From what I see, they are the most common vintage vehicle on the road today.

I'm guessing that you live where they don't use much salt. It was sadly comical it was to see these poor cabs rust out the body mounts to the point where the body fell down on the steering column. There haven't been many of them on the roads of Minnesota for a long while.

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About the Vega. They got a bad reputation because of some easily rectified defects that Chevrolet took too long to fix. It was too bad because the fixes were not very difficult or expensive. I know of some later ones that gave excellent service for over 100,000 miles without complaint. I drove one and was very impressed by its smooth quiet comfortable ride. It drove like a big car.

You must remember that they were selling against the Pinto, VW beetle, Plymouth Cricket, AMC Gremlin and in that group they looked pretty good. Many people shunned Vegas and bought Monzas and were happy with them, even though a Monza was a Vega with a restyled body.

I recall that Vegas had such weak frames that the weight of the engine made them sag. A simple alignment could get mighty expensive when it involved straighting the frame. After the frame straightening, they would vibrate like the dickens for a while until every thing up front finally settled down.

I think that there were some cars that may have stuck around too long. I turned ten in 1960, and I can recall hating Chrysler product styling of the forties. No matter what front end was on the car, and, no matter what sort of tail light arrangement was used, they all looked the same to me. The roads were still full of them and it seemed to me that every model had the same trunk lid and rear fenders. Ironically, I would latter learn to admire Chrysler products greatly.

Minnesota cars don't remain attractive very long with our winters. Rust patches and holes are ugly by anyone's judgement. Much later those '70s Corollas were an example of cars built well enough to still be on the road long after they looked like they shouldn't be. Also those crappy, but relatively indestrucatable Omnis and Horizons. Geez, I can remember people driving them with broken off door handles (both inside and outside), windows that no longer rolled down, or else, where taped up to keep them from falling down. I was glad to finally see them go.

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I recall that Vegas had such weak frames that the weight of the engine made them sag. A simple alignment could get mighty expensive when it involved straighting the frame. After the frame straightening, they would vibrate like the dickens for a while until every thing up front finally settled down.

First of all Vegas do not have a frame, and the uni-body is quite strong enough as the Vega uses the same platform as the Monza which came with a V-8 as a option. There are quite a few people who have installed V-8's-small and big block engines with no problems to the uni-body.

A friend pictured here really liked the body style but wanted to give his car a little more power so.... this car is so sano it looks like the factory built it.... and by the way this car is built to go around corners.

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010264.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010265.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010261.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010263.jpg

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Dodge owners replace ballast resistors. Chev owners replace engines.

Like saying.....Wow, My dad can beat up your dad.

Come on pal let's make everyone feel good.

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I recall that Vegas had such weak frames that the weight of the engine made them sag. A simple alignment could get mighty expensive when it involved straighting the frame. After the frame straightening, they would vibrate like the dickens for a while until every thing up front finally settled down.

First of all Vegas do not have a frame, and the uni-body is quite strong enough as the Vega uses the same platform as the Monza which came with a V-8 as a option. There are quite a few people who have installed V-8's-small and big block engines with no problems to the uni-body.

A friend pictured here really liked the body style but wanted to give his car a little more power so.... this car is so sano it looks like the factory built it.... and by the way this car is built to go around corners.

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010264.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010265.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010261.jpg

http://www.pismoderelicts.com/photogallery/new%20format%20723/images/p1010263.jpg

I should have said crossmembers. Otherwise I stand by my statement. I don't recall it being an issue with Monzas, or, come to think of it, later Vegas. Chevrolet undoubtedly made improvements as they went along. That aluminum engine with the large cast iron cylider head wasn't very well loved. It's been some time but, my recollection is that they were always being compared (unfavorably) to the Pontiac iron duke. I don't recall their weakness right now, but I think that when they failed, they required resleeving at substantial expense. I beleive that they were pretty much considered disposable, like too many other later engines.

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
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Helfen, you have a 36-year old car on it's third set of tires. I hope your name is on it. I would not want to get picked up if I was walking.

That third set is four years old, anyroad I don't pick up strangers so you could just......keep on walking!

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Some years ago, I read an article in a magazine, listing the 10 best products ever produced in America. Along with the Zippo lighter was the AD Chevy pickup. Many of those 65 year old trucks survive. Quite a few of those are still working every day, earning their keep.

Close, Mustang, but the AD's came out in 1947, so the oldest ones are hitting 65 years old just this year. I've got a '48 in my garage.

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