I’ve always been more interested in the bottom end of the car market than in the upper ends. I’m not exactly sure why; perhaps it’s the same deep-seated insecurity and lack of self-esteem that makes me pick plastic cups over real glasses, because deep down maybe I’m not so sure I deserve to drink from glass, like a king or something? I’ll let my team of therapists figure that one out, but in the meantime we may as well compare the budget car options from 1967 to what cheapskates can buy today. I was a little surprised by the results, if I’m honest.
I had assumed that, once the currency was converted from 1967 dollars to modern dollars, we’d see a much greater disparity between how much cars cost then and now, specifically, I assumed that entry-level cars were cheaper then.
While this does turn out to be true a bit, it’s by no means to the degree I would have guessed, and, when you factor in how dramatically better modern cars are when it comes to power, safety, convenience, comfort, economy, pretty much everything, the low end of the modern car market doesn’t seem so bad.
Unless you factor in intangible things like charm, which I do. In that case we live in the fucking dark ages, and 1967 seems like a beautiful dream. It’s no secret that I’d sacrifice each and every advantage of a modern car to daily drive anything from the 1967 list, but, it should be remembered, I’m kind of an idiot.
Oh, and these are all imports, too, but that actually squares up pretty well withe the cheapest cars available in the U.S. market today, which are mostly Nissans, Toyotas, Kias, Hyundais, and even the American cars, like the Chevy Spark, are actually Korean.
The cheapest car you can buy in the U.S. market today seems to be the Nissan Versa S sedan, at $14,730. This car isn’t one of my favorites, but let’s use it as a baseline to see how the low end from 1967 stacks up:
• Ford Consul Cortina 4-door: $1,966 then, $15,139.85 now
• Opel Kadett 37 4-door Deluxe $1,936 then, $14,908.82 now
• MG 1100 2-door: $1,898 then, $14,616.19 now
• Fiat 124 4-door: $1,838 then, $14,154.14 now
• Simca 1000 GLS: $1,787 then, $13,761.40 now
• Toyota Corona 4-door: $1,760 then, $13,553.48 now
• Volkswagen Beetle Deluxe: $1,717 then, $13,222.34 now
• Renault 10 4-door: $1,699 then, $13,083.72 now
• Datsun PL410 4-door, $1,666 then, $12,829 now
• Ford Anglia 2-door: $1,632 then, $12,567 now
• Fiat 1100 R 4-door: $1,599 then $12,313.64 now
• Fiat 600D: $1,267 then $9,756.96 now
So, yeah, you could get a viable, brand-new car for under the equivalent of ten grand back in 1967, but that meant a very small car making 29 horsepower and the safety in a wreck was comparable to falling off a third-story balcony holding a wicker basket of knives at your chest.
Personally, I’d pick a 29 HP charming little Italian deathtrap over a soul-crushing Versa in one of my likely-to-be-endangered heartbeats, no question.
But that doesn’t change the facts: yes, you could get cheaper cars in the past, but modern low-end cars, when you consider how good they are overall, are really impressive for the money you pay.
I do think we can do even better, though, and I bet a sub-$10,000 viable new car that is not a deathtrap is possible. The problem is, a car like that is almost impossible for carmakers to make profitable, so, sadly, I’m not going to hold my breath.