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Class Leaders For their Time

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
edited April 2010 in General
Definitions can vary widely, but my definition of a class leader is a model that, while not best in every area, stands out from its competitors from an overall perspective of performance, driving dynamics, styling, quality, reliability and value. They may even be below average in one category, if they excell in the others. A few of many examples, in automotive history, would be the Models T and A Fords, the Buick Century of the '30s and mid-'50s, the '49 Ford and Mercury, '49 Chevy, Olds and Cadillac, the Hudson Hornet of the late '40s through about '51, the '53 Studebaker, the VW Beetle, the '55 Chevy, '55 Chrysler New Yorker and 300, the late '50s - early '60s Rambler, the '65 Mustang, the down sized '77 GM large bodies, the Camrys and Accords of the '80s - mid '90s, the '88 - around '96 Maxima, the '99 - '08 Acura TL, the second and third generation Preludes, and first through third generation Integras, the '86 - late '80s Mercedes E-Class, the various BMW 2002 and various 3-Series. I'll stop there, acknowledging that I probably missed a lot of great examples.

You may agree or disagree with my definition and examples of class-leading. Please share your knowledge and opinions.
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Comments

  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,128
    1980s-90s Dodge Caravans. Did what VW couldn't with their Bus and created a new class of vehicle.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    edited April 2010
    Very true.

    How about the '84-96 Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer of the '90s, then? They were far from perfect vehicles, but were real trend setters, nevertheless. Millions loved their attributes, and overlooked or put up with their shortcomings.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,128
    Ya, with a nod just to Jeep in general for their civilian Jeeps (since I owned a CJ-5 and a Voyager, maybe my choices are a bit egocentric :shades: )

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  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,357
    Just off the top of my head...
    240Z
    Second Generation GM F Body
    1973 Monte Carlo S
    First Generation GTI
    First-Third Generation RX-7
    1984 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
    E30 M3
    Miata
    Lancer Evolution

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    edited April 2010
    I will add to that 1902 Mercedes Simplex, 1912 Cadillac, MB W126 and W140, MB R107 and R129 (probably have to consider W123 for its durability and versatility as well), 1930s Ford V8s
  • delthekingdeltheking Posts: 1,152
    How about the 1989 Lexus LS game changer !!
    Dodge minivans.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    I don't know if the LS led its class - purely a derivative product from a design standpoint...but is low maintenance quality certainly changed the luxoboat world indeed.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    Add the 1934 Citroen Traction Avant (CV 11 and 15) and 1955 DS. These were really advanced designs in their day. Also, the Chrysler (and DeSoto) Airflows of the '30s. While these cars flopped in the marketplace, they did influence automotive designs, and drew unprecedented attention to aerodynamics in passenger cars.

    Must include the original Mini. It featured phenomenal space efficiency, with its then new combination of FWD and transversely mounted engine. It made rear mounted engines obsolete.

    How about the pre-war Fiat Topolino, and its post-war successor, the Fiat 500? Might as well add the Fiat 600, which set a new standard for space efficiency by packing as much interior room as the Beetle in a car that was considerably smaller. These Fiats put Italy on wheels. Of course, while not a car, the Vespa made motorized personal transportation available to people of very modest means. Further, these Fiats and the Vespa enjoyed good export sales.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    Good call on the Citroens and the Airflow...they certainly left a mark.

    I think the 300SL gullwing with its tubular frame and direct injection also set a new standard.

    Something like a 1929 Buick also has significance, for being among the first to carry the ideal of intentional styling and color choices, and putting forward the idea of yearly styling changes simply for the sake of being new.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,357
    edited April 2010
    The LS was a car for people who wanted a Mercedes that drove like a '60s Cadillac.

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    And strangely enough, many people wanted that. A new mixture of vehicle traits that ended up being a home run.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,357
    Exactly. I'd die of boredom if I had to drive one, but some people DO want to be completely isolated from the driving experience...

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    ...it's hard to beat this:

    image
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    As the boomers age, L has pretty much a captive market too, as the older the customer gets, the more he will be likely to want the isolation.

    And the younger spoiled housewives with their fanatical love of the RX will keep things moving along too. Lexus was either insanely lucky or amazingly brilliant.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    At introduction, compared to the rest of the automotive world, that car was so far ahead of the competition that I don't know if a similar gap has existed in modern history.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    edited April 2010
    Yes, no doubt about it. I was stunned (in a positive way) when I first saw that big MB at the Chicago Auto Show. Like you, I admired the domestic luxury brands, but my thought when I looked at that MB was "Wow, how are Cadillac and Lincoln ever going to compete with that?!"
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    Guess the poorer boomers will have to settle for the pseudo-Lexus Avalon - retro ads and all.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    I have a copy of what I think was the first US road test of the W126, a loaded 380SEL tested by R&T, January 1981. They were amazed by it, summing it up with "In fact, the Mercedes 380SEL is so good that it's difficult to draw comparisons between it and other luxury sedans, domestic or imported. Quite simply, Mercedes' new S-class is a class unto itself."

    Of course, it should have been good...MSRP on their test unit was 45K!
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    I am sure they will be quite happy..."baby Lexus" etc names will be given to it.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    I call my Grand Marquis a "poor man's Town Car."
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    edited April 2010
    When it wasn't exactly cheap when new. And a loaded Avalon is well into the mid 30s, higher still with tax here...makes buying new a tough call.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,328
    We had a Town car as a loaner from the dealership year ago. I called it overdone Crown Vic.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    I can certainly believe those R & T comments concerning the 380 SEL.

    I guess I'd forgotten that the MSRP also put it in a price class by itself in the U.S., somewhere between the domestic luxury cars and, say, the Rolls. Of course, the Rolls was no match for the SEL from a design and performance standpoint, price notwithstanding. The only areas where the RR may have trumped the SEL was in exclusivity and, to some wealthy, but automotively challenged types, prestige.

    The most direct competitor to the SEL in the U.S. may have been the large Jag sedan, but only to the uninformed.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    edited April 2010
    I have the article sitting beside me...the cars they compare it to were the (base prices) 30K BMW 733i and the 25K XJ6. The BMW was the closest thing, the domestics had nothing even in the same galaxy. A period Rolls then seems like an early 1960s car with a new body...I think they cost about 75K in those days.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    Yeah, of course, BMW. Detroit's engines and suspensions were woefully outclassed by the two leading German luxury brands. About the most you could say for the domestics was that they were competitive in transmissions, and ahead of the Germans in A/Cs. Maybe Cadillacs and Lincolns were more reliable in terms of electronics, but I don't have any numbers to support that perception.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    I am sure the domestics had less troublesome electronics, due to simplicity if anything. We all know how the Germans like to be complex simply for the sake of complexity. However I don't think the period Germans were bad in that regard, so it was likely never a real issue.

    The Jag on the other hand...
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    ...were eyeing up a 1982 Rolls-Royce Camargue at Carlisle this past Saturday. I peeked under the hood to to see that complex hydraulic system engineered by Citroen of all people. I pity the fool who takes that white elephant home. Both the Germans and domestics had it over Rolls-Royce for reliability and simplicity.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    I think it's been a long time since RR was ever a class leader, other than maybe plushness and status.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    They sure as heck aren't a style leader! That Phantom looks like it was styled in the Kenworth design studios! Funny that there are so many more plebian makes that are far more attractive than RR
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,563
    Those cars are all about "because I can afford it". It's that point where money and taste diverge. Old ones were better in that regard, they at least had some class. I don't see the Phantom as particularly classy.
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