Certain trends have existed consistently throughout the history of the automotive industry. One particular constant is the life expectancy of regular models. For example, we can be sure that the average Volkswagen Golf will continue in its current form for approximately six years, with a minor facelift at the mid-point. For various reasons though, some models valiantly live on for decades longer than the average market equivalent. Europeans have historically done a stellar job of producing timeless designs which conquered the globe. Below, we explore a selection of five lengthy European design classics.
5 – Renault 12 – 1969-2006
French design around this time was clearly superior to modern day offerings, as the Peugeot 504 proved. Produced in Europe until 1983 and as late as 1993 for the pick-up, the 504 became an accidental world budget legend in developing nations. In the African continent, the rugged Peugeot created a reputation for providing adequate tooling for the perfect bush taxi, with production lasting until 2007 in Kenya and 2005 in Nigeria. The latest known production of the 504 chassis belonged to the Chinese market, where the pick-up variant was available until 2009 thanks to the production facilities with the Guangzhou Peugeot Automobile Company. Conclusively, the Peugeot 504 trumps the Renault 12 with an impressive 41 years in production.
3 – Fiat 124 – 1966-2012
Fiat’s infamous 124 was certainly a game changer, as the title of 1967 European Car of the Year demonstrated. But how did this Fiat saloon manage to shift 20 million units throughout the years? The key was in global production and licensing products to foreign manufacturers. The Fiat 124 was also known worldwide as the Seat 124 (Spain), Murat 124 (Turkey), Fiat-Kia 124 (Korea), Premier 118NE (India) and most importantly the VAZ-2100 series in Russia. The latter, also known as the Lada Riva in many foreign markets, was produced as a budget vehicle in many worldwide markets, and was only discontinued in Russia in 2012, to be replaced by the Putin endorsed Lada Granta. The mighty Italian design solidified its place in motoring history with a staggering 46 years on the market.
2- Morris Oxford – 1956-Present
Definitely an unlikely survivor on the global stage, the Morris Oxford name originally hit the British market in 1913. The relevant design in this context though was the MkIII from 1956, which is still produced to this day as India’s Hindustan Ambassador. The King of Indian roads had experienced minimal technical evolution, until diesel engines were developed to combat the challenging terms of the 2011 BS IV Emission Standards legislation. Basic technology, low prices and simplistic maintenance has entrenched the Morris Oxford’s design as the definitive taxi for India, where sales have remained strong throughout its lengthy existence. In total, the Morris Oxford’s spiritual existence has secured 58 years of solid production, and counting.
1- Volkswagen Type 2 – 1949-2013
Mention influential Volkswagens to anyone, and the Type 2 will be sure to feature in the conversation. Many affectionate nicknames worldwide, including: The Camper, Bus, Transporter, Microbus and the hippie van, solidified the van’s reputation and iconic image for many generations. Whether providing a nomadic home for hippies during the 60’s, basic transport in Brazil in the current decade or ambulances in 1950’s Germany, the Volkswagen Type 2 is one of the most superb examples of timeless design. Production unfortunately ceased in Brazil last year, where the Type 2 was produced with a contemporary water-cooled engine. After a staggering 64 years in production, the Type 2 has cemented its rightful legacy in worldwide car and pop culture.