Truly long-term reliability seldom gets mentioned in consumer tests these days, but at the moment, we’re effectively living in an era when decades-old vehicles can still be seen on the road in daily use. As a point of reference, you never saw a 40-year-old car being used as a daily driver in the 1980s, but plenty of cars from the early 1980s—like the Volvo 240 here—can still be seen on the roads every day. So choosing to drive a 40-year-old car is not as impractical an idea as it once way.
Speaking of Volvos, what European car, 40 years or older, would you trust as a daily driver? Are there any that you’ve tried that you could see yourself using every day, even if you drive a modern car now?
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to German cars, as there are still plenty of W123 Mercedes-Benz sedans, coupes, and station wagons on the road, and you’re guaranteed to see one almost daily in most parts of the country if you spend just a couple hours looking in traffic. The R107 SL roadster is in equally generous supply on the two coasts, benefitting from remarkable build quality, while the W116-generation S-Class is also a common sight in some parts of the country.
Plenty of Porsche 924, 928, and 911 models can be seen used as daily drivers, but BMW cars from this time period are a little harder to spot, perhaps with the main exception of the E24 6-Series, which is far older than it looks. Audis of that vintage are mostly absent from the daily-driving scene, but some Volkswagens older than four decades are certainly still used as daily drivers.
When it comes to Swedish cars, we’re similarly spoiled for reliable choices. Not only are Volvo 240s from this time period still plentiful, but Saab 900s are in ample supply as well in many parts of the country. The Volvo 700 series debuted just a year inside the 40-year-mark, so a strict adherence to that parameter would disallow it, but there are still plenty of those on the road as well, at least on the coasts.
The list gets a little thinner when it comes to Italian cars; the only ones that old that we see with any regularity are Alfa Romeo Spiders and Fiat 124 Spiders. But for every miraculously reliable Alfa Spider (such as Autoweek’s Wes Raynal’s Spider), there are dozens that refuse to start even after numerous trips to the local foreign car service shop and hundreds of dollars in new spark plugs.
When it comes to French cars the list grows even thinner. We still see Peugeot 505s in use from time to time, but not their 504 predecessors, while Citroëns and Renaults over the age of 40 are rarities, too.
The list of 40-year-old British cars that can be trusted day in and day out—and that are also cheap enough to be used as daily drivers—isn’t particularly long, either. MGBs from the late 1970s can certainly be made to serve as reliable drivers, but we probably wouldn’t put too many other British cars of the late 1970s into this category, perhaps with the exception of similary sorted Triumph TR7s. When it comes to British 4x4s, our money would probably be on a Series Land Rover—there are plenty of these over the age of 40 still in use.
What would be your pick of a European car 40 years or older that you’d trust as a daily driver? Let us know in the comments below.
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