The 50 Oldest Car Designs

To answer my question how many car model designs (like this 87 Volvo 240) have gone the distance in lasting 12 years or more, I did some research. The results are in the slide show at the end of this article.

The Beetle had the longest-running # 1 automotive design. But you may not guess what the numbers 2 to 50 are …

If a car’s design is correct from the start, you don’t need to change it for the sake of change, as it will stand the test of time on its own merits.

This topic came to mind when I parked a 1991 Mercedes S-Class I alongside an identical-looking one. Until a glance at the registration sticker in the window confirmed that the other car was actually a ’81 model, I figured it might be the same year as mine. An easy mistake to make because all of the body panels on these two cars are 100% identical and interchangeable. Since the owner of the ’81 380SEL had equipped his car with ’86-style wheels and headlights, he tricked me into seeing his car as ten years newer.

The 1980-1991 S-Class design, the unknown I and I had, worked for a dozen model years without buyers getting tired of it. I recalled the design of another favorite car I’d previously owned (a ’79 Cadillac Sedan de Ville) that had a long sixteen-year model design run. From 1977 to 1992, he only received two minor cosmetic updates. I assumed it had to be some kind of record.

I did some research on the history of the car: I finally found the 15 years of the Cadillac and the dozen of years of the Mercedes didn’t even come close to the longer-lasting vehicle designs. I found just two designs that originated from the last 20 years that made the list, squeaking to the bottom.

Younger generations may find all of this hard to believe, as we’ve gotten used to car manufacturers redesigning most models every five to seven years. The fiercest competition ever has left most automakers living in fear of becoming obsolete. Fear has erased confidence to create original designs with clean, balanced and elegant lines. Puffy and odd looking shapes prevail. No, automotive design is not the art form it once was. Computers have simplified things to a lower common denominator.

Here, I have tried to consider various vehicles sold in markets around the world, because many of them on the list were sold in developing countries long after being offered in the United States or major European countries.

SLIDESHOW. CLICK ON ANY OF THE IMAGES ON THE SLIDE BELOW TO EXPAND TO THE FULL SIZE. USE ARROWS BELOW THE IMAGES TO SCROLL BACKWARDS OR FORWARD.

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