My Favorite Kind Of Car: Survivors

Illustration for article titled My Favorite Kind Of Car: Survivors
Photo: Andrew P Collins

I found this dauntless RAV4 in the parking lot of a boneyard over the weekend. Its owner, no doubt, was inside rummaging though other people’s trash for parts to keep it running. I’m not judging–I do the exact same thing. And folks who keep cars alive for cheap will always impress me more than supercar owners or anyone cosplaying Spy Hunter on a “cannonball run.”


I mean, I like riding around in a turbo 911 as much as the next tragically obsessed car nut. But I’ll always be most infatuated by old, un-valuable cars kept on the road exclusively by resource-constrained innovation and sheer force of will.

The longer you look at it, the clearer it becomes that this Toyota has Seen Some Shit. Are there three cars worth of body panels, or just two? (Probably more like four.) Are those Honda CR-V wheels? (Actually they’re from a Pilot, as a reader pointed out.)

And yet the body’s pretty straight, the cloth roof isn’t ripped, and the tires looked viable from where I stood. Hell yeah–this is a car that’s not about to be slain simply because the cost of repairs outweighed the Kelly Blue Book value.

That’s because: If you start with a reliable platform, stay on top of regular maintenance, and are willing to sweat (buy used parts and do your own labor), you’d largely be able to keep repair costs below the car’s “value,” even when the car hits the floor of depreciation.

The lifestyle of ancient car preservation isn’t for everyone. I certainly don’t do all my own car repairs, and not everyone wants to spend weekend days braving tetanus and grease stains at the local yonke to save some coin.

All I’m really trying to say is that modest cars kept from retirement by the sweat of their owners will always have a special place in my heart. Here’s to the survivors; may your timing belts last another 100,000 miles and more.

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles



Here’s my “Survivors”

The first is my 1996 Tacoma 2Wd 4 banger. I bought it brand-new off the back lot as a recently graduated high schooler. Its the basic stripped down model with power nothing. It was all I could afford. As I am a tad OCD about my things I have always taken pretty good care of it. Oil changed every 3,000 miles and even the underside is cleaned a few times a year. Last year I had it repainted as the sun out here finally ruined it. It now has a little over 300,000 miles but you’d never know it. The 2nd is my 1955 Mercury. I’ve owned it for 16 years and bought from the original owner. It now is in a garage which is good to keep it looking decent.