[V8] Roger's Ten Best Cars List #1

Roger Woodbury rmwoodbury at roadrunner.com
Sat Nov 21 09:21:06 PST 2009

I've been giving my list a lot of thought over the past couple of days, and
think I need to add some comments to the definitions before I get very far
into it.  I have also found it to be much more difficult than I thought it
was going to be because so many of the normal selectables are not
particularly good, or not particularly memorable.  Surely many of the cars
that I might have thought should be included are really not the best at
anything, and in the final analysis do not belong on anyone's "best" list.

So the list will include only:

1.  Cars that were built or sold in the USof A.
2.  Cars that were built during my lifetime, which is after 1944. This isn't
much of a stretch as I don't believe that there were any "best" cars built
prior to WWII, and probably not for some time afterward.  In point of fact
most cars built for a decade after WWII ended were merely rehashes of cars
produced up to 1941.  Beginning in 1955 styling began to really change to
something else, and it was around 1955 and afterward that cars regularly
appeared with power steering and automatic transmissions, although there
were very few cars produced during this time that were particularly
memorable.  Now there were cars that had specific features that made them
memorable I suppose, but the cars themselves were not. 
3.  Cars that were usable truly year round in this country.  This does not
mean that the car needs to be a true, "all weather" vehicle, but does mean
that a car without a top, for instance won't be included.
4.  Cars that must be drivable by any licensed driver.  
5.  Cars that are intended for general purpose use.  Specifically built high
performance cars aren't really includable here with one exception as you
will see. 
6.  Cars must be readily serviceable generally throughout the United States
which will let out the exotics such as Ferrari, Aston Martin and the like.  

Now, I am going to make some general comments about what I believe makes for
membership in my ten best list.  Bear in mind, that these are my opinions
based on almost fifty years of driving and owning various cars and trucks
for various purposes.  For most of that time I have fancied myself an
"enthusiast", although I am not a very complete mechanic, nor the most
knowledgable car guy I have ever known.  Indeed, there are those on this
list who know more than I, so I hurry to caveat that this list is mine, and
I have no desire nor intent to convert others to my way of listing.  

I will list these cars in no particular order, since they are of various
types.  I will also be listing these cars over the weekend or several days
because I want to offer explanations as to why I have selected them.
Incidentally, ALL of these cars are box-stock, and in order to be considered
they must be average, vanilla for the make, unmolested or unchanged from
stock, and not be hyped even from the dealer's order book.  If a given car
becomes better when equipped with thus and so, fine and good. But it must be
one of the best in basic form in order to be here at all.

So, here are the first two for chuckles and grins.  By the way, these are
listed in order that I thought of them, and the order in which they are
listed is not a rank.  There is no "best of the bunch" rating, because none
of them are.

1.  1962 Volkswagen Beetle - The 1962 Volkswagen Beetle was merely an
evolutionary step for the Beetle that was actually born of the pen of
Ferdinand Porsche as part of the mass transit/economic development scheme of
Hitler's Germany.  The cars had become more and more common beginning in the
late 1950's particularly in the northeast.  Not surprising because so many
interesting and outstanding automobiles from Europe owe their initial
presence to Max Hoffman, whose center of interest spread outward from New
York.  I selected the 1962 Beetle for a couple of reasons. First of all it
was the first car that my Mother bought as a new car, and thus became the
car that I drove a lot in my last year in high school. But more important is
that it was this year that first saw a fuel gauge in the Beetle.  The Beetle
remained largely unchanged through to the end from this point on, despite
having some cars later equipped with fuel injection and bigger bumpers. The
was also a Super Beetle later on, but I don't include that car with this
one:  this is just the basic Beetle and for many people who wanted one, they
didn't even get to chose the color they were in such demand.

2.  1967 BMW 1600/2 -  This is the only car that prompted me to immediately
run to the nearest BMW dealer to try one out after reading a road test.
This was the first real sport sedan and it was a remarkable advance over the
rest of the cars that could even begin to pretend to be sporty and sedan at
the same time.  It is true that BMW had been producing a larger four door
sedan with very interesting high performance variants for some time, but
this was a different sort of vehicle from the 1800/2000 big body, with its
TI and even TISA variants.  The 1600 was quick and agile, and remarkably
fast for a basic little sedan.  The road testers waxed enthusiastic over the
car and all it took was one short drive to prompt my wife and me (mostly
ME), to trade in her 1964 Mustang convertible (horrid car!) for a black over
gray BMW 1600.  Now, I know there will be howls of indignation that I am
ignoring the BMW 2002, but that was just an outgrowth of the 1600, and
despite the fact that there were significant improvements, the whole thing
started with this one car, and therefore, its significance.  The cars were
remarkably rugged and reliable, although they did require specific service
in order to remain so.  The first cars had six volt ignition systems which
were a real drawback that was rectified with the 2002, but the 2002 was
heavier and despite having more power didn't handle as well as the first and
lightest of the 1600s.  (Again, an import genius move by Max Hoffman, and
without him, BMW might never have come here at all or at least for years

So, that's it for the first two.  I'll post another couple later on, or
perhaps tomorrow.  You'll be surprised: trust me:  very, very surprised.


More information about the V8 mailing list