[V8] The Ten Best Cars: The end of Roger's list
rmwoodbury at roadrunner.com
Sat Nov 28 14:44:06 PST 2009
Well, I have written about what I think are the ten best cars ever built, at
least since I was born back around the dawn of time. I have managed to do
this without anyone sending me a virus that poisoned my computer, my wife's
computer and the household water supply, so I think I will finish off the
list with the last two.
As I have already said, I have wrestled with this list a whole lot, and only
this afternoon did I actually finalize the list after doing a lot more
reading and some rudimentary market research just to be sure. It hasn't
been easy, because I didn't want to appear to be awfully prejudiced, but
the, in actuality, I am. So here are the last two and my reasoning.
I have wanted awfully much to include vehicles in this list that were not
only what I considered to be the best ones, but I had hoped that those
vehicles would turn out to be significant vehicles in the development of the
automobile since 1944 when I was initially hatched.
I considered a whole lot of cars not on this list. I really wanted to
include the 1960 Chrysler in some variant with its enormous hemispherical
combustion chambers and for the time, VERY advanced electroluminescent
instrument panel, or perhaps the Edsel which was the first car to depart
from the sameold, sameold automatic gear shifter on a stick, but in the end,
these weren't significant, just a bit different, and not even thinking fond
thoughts of Sky King's Chrysler pilarless station wagon and his smashingly
gorgeous daughter Penny, could make me change my mind. (If you understand
or remember THAT reference, then you are indeed an old fudd....).
I thought about the Ford Ranch Wagon that became the personae of the station
wagon in the fifties and a whole lot of other cars that fitted the overall
"rules" that I established that my list had to fit into. And speaking of
the Ranch Wagon I really wanted to include one such vehicle in the list
because over time, they have proven to be an enormously successful vehicle
in concept in this country, and only in the past fifteen years have they
really ceded their position to the minivan.
And I thought long and hard about maybe including a Dodge Caravan in this
list because it certainly has been significant in reshaping a lot of the
landscape of the motorvehicle, and I also thought about the SUV, and
seriously considered a Ford Bronco or Chevy Blazer as being in the list
because the Bronco was really first and both Chevy's and Ford's early cars
have proven to be rugged, reliable and dependable vehicles over time. I
personally have owned a 1996 Bronco which I bought from a guy who was upside
down in it. It was one of the last produced and in outstanding condition. I
sold it after five months at a small profit: it was OK, but not great at
I also traded some OMC stern drive parts for an ex-California Dodge
Ramcharger that had had a Chrysler 440 cu in V8 installed and had a very
intertaining computer controlled fuel injection system. I had to have the
body redone on that, and changed the horrid seats for some fairly cheap but
effective buckets. The thing was LOUD, let me tell you, and I was afraid to
really let it out, but I suspect if someone in back of me annoyed me enough,
I could have put it into four wheel drive and driven backwards over whatever
was there, shifted into drive and drove forward to finish the cretin off if
I had wanted to. I ended up selling that car at auction for about $1500
more than I had in it. The experience was interesting and made me wonder
what a Ramcharger would be like with a real HEMI instead of the 440 Wedge.
In the end I decided that I needed a station wagon in the list because I
believe that at the end of the day, the station wagon will outlast the SUV
or the crossover for general purpose utility simply because when gasoline
gets to $4 per gallon again (and I believe it will), any common use vehicle
that doesn't reliably deliver at least 30 miles per gallon will be out. And
it is a stretch for a heavy SUV or crossover will be able to do that in the
real world and provide the sort of performance that modern driving demands.
So I have decided that my station wagon for inclusion in this group is:
1989-91 Audi 200 Quattro Avant. -- Now, if I wrestled with this selection
at all to begin with, chosing WHICH wagon to include was enormously
difficult. There are many choices which I could have made, but I finally
realized that it is this one that does everything so well that it needed to
be on my list. Oh, I know that there are those who would argue for a Subaru
Outback or Forrester, or a Volvo 240, or a Chevy Caprice or Ford Country
Squire, and all of them have their plusses, AND minuses.
But the Audi Avant is the only one that has Quattro all wheel drive, and
when I remembered the massive ice storm that we had here in eastern Maine
around ten years ago, the choice became obvious. At the time of the ice
storm, my daily driver was a 1989 200 Avant Quattro that I had bought from
the big Audi dealer in Minneapolis. That car was a one owner sold by them
originally, and serviced perfectly. I bought it in 1996 when it had 61,000
miles from new: the people who had bought the car originally had inherited
a lot of money and had moved to Florida. When that happened the Audi Avant
became their summer car in Minnesota and sat in a garage all winter.
All during the ice storm I drove 40 miles per twice each day to keep rock
salt on the walkways of my commercial building and to make sure that the
heat and lights were still on. The 200 Avant, with ten to fifteen bags of
rock salt in the rear, was solid on the road and went through five inches of
ice and slush as though the road was dry. I chose to drive it instead of my
four wheel drive truck because the Audi was so much better in bad weather
than the truck with the front axle engaged, plus it used less than one half
To be sure, the Audi 200 requires specific service and must have that
service when it needs it. An American station wagon is probably more
durable in the short term, but of the four Audi wagons that I have owned,
all have had well in excess of 130,000 miles when I last drove them, and
considering the ooverall cost per mile and the nature of the service that
they have provided for me, nothing else will equal it.
Parenthetically, I have also owned in my past a Volvo wagon...that one was a
124S bought new in 1972, and it was a wonderful car for the first 50,000
miles. Now what was acceptable in 1972 is different than what is acceptable
now: that car had manual steering and was, well, slow, especially with the
air conditioning on. But it was pretty good, and comfortable for traveling,
and until the fuel injectors and transmission showed signs that they were
not in it for the long haul, I was enthusiastic. But I really felt that
Volvos were supposed to be reliable for more than 60,000 miles without major
overhaul, and in 1972 they were not.
Finally, the last but not least in my list is the 1990-94 Audi V8 Quattro.
I know that I am preaching to the choir here, but in truth, these cars
really are remarkable, and all the more so because they were not a
commercial success. Now, nice ones are just more and more rare, and soon
they will undoubtedly be nonexistent. But all things considered, these are
truly remarkable vehicles in comparison to their competitors of the time,
and even in comparison with cars of this class today: new cars get better
fuel mileage, have more power, have many more air bags and other safety
features, and so on and so forth, but the Audi V8 Quattro was designed in
the 1980's to compete with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes, and none of those cars
would do what the V8 can do, day in and day out. The Mercedes and big Lexus
was arguably more roomy, I suppose and the top end BMW was probably faster
and might have handled a bit better. But when the weather turns ugly, ALL
of those other cars will be hiding in the garage.
There is nothing cheap here. Parts are expensive and when parts are
available from Audi, the price automatically gets jacked up through the
roof. But this is not just a bigger Audi 90: this was a car that was
specifically designed and produced to make a statement by Audi, and all
three of them have done that remarkably well. The newer S8 and A8 may be
better in a lot of ways, and the new A6 is remarkable in many ways as well,
but the V8 did it first, and comparatively is simple compared to the
electronic marvels that the modern automobile has become.
For a daily driver there is nothing else that I can imagine wanting.
Thanks to all for reading my diatribe!
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