The Land Rover Defender has changed substantially over the decades too, but it’s visually, conceptually and philosophically close to the original, and the pick-up version even shares a component with the 1948 version.
But the Defender is definitely not the oldest new car on sale today. That accolade belongs to the Morgan 4/4, which was born in 1936. Although many parts of this car have also changed, not least the drivetrain, the whole point of this car is that it is much the same as the 1936 original.
Tantalisingly, the 4/4 has only 22 years to go before it becomes the first car to have remained in production for a century. The 4/4’s Plus four sibling is a little less creaky for being launched as recently as 1938, while the positively youthful Morgan Plus 8 made its debut only 48 years ago in 1968.
Other oldies? There’s the Lotus Elise, which despite its facelift is the much same car underneath, making it 18 years old. It’s ancestor the Caterham Seven dates back to 1973 in brand terms, but the model itself, the Lotus Seven, was born in 1957.
Surprisingly, the conceptually similar Ariel Atom is now a decade behind, and the soon-to-be replaced Mazda MX-5 isn’t far behind at nine. And at the other end of the scale the Bugatti Veyron is ten.
Like sports cars, the four-wheel drive market is a haven for the wrinkling. The Mercedes G-class is now in its 35th year, the Suzuki Jimny has had its 16th anniversary, the about-to-be-replaced Volvo XC90 is 11 and the Mitsubishi Shogun is eight. Which is one year less than the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, whose exquisite styling hides its nine years well.
Also scoring double-digit lives are the Rolls-Royce Phantom and the VW Caravelle. But toughening regulations and the imperative to renew have cleared many of the once-perennial oldies during the first part of this century, the original Mini among them.
So, here’s our table of age. And its tail includes a few mainstream models in urgent need of replacement:
Morgan 4/4 – launched 1936, age 78
Morgan Plus 4 – launched 1938, age 76
Land Rover Defender – launched 1948, age 66
Lotus/Caterham Seven – launched 1957/73, age 57/41
Morgan Plus 8 – launched 1968, age 46
Mercedes G-class – launched 1979, age 35
Lotus Elise – launched 1996, age 18
Suzuki Jimny – launched 1998, age 16
Rolls-Royce Phantom – launched 2003, age 11
Volvo XC90 - launched 2003, age 11
Volkswagen Caravelle - launched 2003, age 11
Ariel Atom – launched 2004, age 10
Aston Martin V8 Vantage – launched 2005, age 9
Fiat Punto – launched 2005, age 9
Mazda MX-5 – launched 2005, age 9
Bugatti Veyron – launched 2005, age 9
Mitsubishi Shogun – launched 2006, age 8
Volvo S80 – launched 2006, age 8
Vauxhall Corsa – launched 2006. age 8
Volkswagen Eos – launched 2006, age 8
Ford Mondeo – launched 2007, age 7
Fiat Bravo – launched 2007, age 7
Fiat 500 – launched 2007, age 7
Skoda Fabia – launched 2007, age 7
Audi A4 – launched 2007, age 7
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