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What vehicle have you owned that wouldn't die, against all odds?

It’s a lazy Friday here and I have the day off, so I thought I’d start a discussion.

You hear stories all the time of people with a “Honda that ran a million miles”, and Saturn used to have that semi-insipid commercial about the traveling salesman who wore out the driver’s seat in his Saturn.

But you don’t hear about that unlikely Cavalier or Gremlin that just wouldn’t die, despite all the bashing that goes on with various makes.

People bash American cars for being shoddy, but I have a 1994 Chrysler with over a quarter-million miles that shows no sign of giving up any time soon. Right now everything works on it, including the A/C. (sure I’ve had to put money into the car over the years)

So what vehicle have you had that was probably ill-regarded by others, that just wouldn’t die?

1991 Isuzu Trooper.


1961 Ford Galaxy six cylinder. Talk about a tank! Got hit twice by hit & run drivers, put a million miles on it (slight exaggeration), gave it a valve job and put another million miles on it. (slightly more than a slight exaggeration.) That car went through snow like none other I’ve driven.

Good post; it somewhat reminds me of the hammer that never wore out; all it needed was a new head or handle every now and then. Seriously, cars that “last forever” in North America need the following:

  1. Good basic design, including good rust protection, such as Crown Victoria, full size pickups, good Japanese cars

  2. Relatively cheap parts from the manufacturer, after market, or “recyclers”.

  3. Relatively simple design that allows the average mechanic to fix it

  4. Reasonably good day to day reliability, so owners don’t get “fed up” and scrap the vehicle.

High mileage cars I personally encountered were:

  1. Toyota Corolla diesel taxi with 1.4 million kilometers in Asia

  2. A 1980s rear drive Cadillac used for taxi sercvice with just under 1 million miles.

  3. A Toyota Celica from the 80s with 1.2 million miles.

  4. A 1970s Merecedes 200 diesel with 950,000 miles.

The above vehicles all were good simple basic designs, and most had access to parts to keep them running. The most our family has ever put on a car was 320,000 miles on a 1984 Chevrolet Impala 305 V8, which served us from 1983 till 2006.

Other posters no doubt have their own versions of high milers. One type of high miler you probably will not see are Jaguars, Audis, high end Volkswagens and other complex, and expensive to service vehicles.

P.S. If I was shopping for a “last forever” car today, the following candidates would fit the bill:

  1. Toyota Corollas with stickshift and no options

  2. Toyota Yaris with stickshift and no options

  3. Crown Victoria with commercial (taxi) or police equipment

  4. Honda Civic, basic stick with no options

  5. Ford Ranger pickup, stripped

  6. Ford F-150 with base engine, stripped

There are others, of course, but these come to mind.

1995 Escort Gt. It had the Mazda 1.8 and was pretty quick for it’s time. It had about 220k on it when it was totaled. That mileage isn’t especially high, but it was driven like a rental car it’s entire life (I’ve since matured, a little). Nothing aside from normal maintenance was ever done, original clutch and never used any oil. What a good little car that was.

I think it’s well regarded on this forum but a diamond in the rough at the time. We picked up two 86 Chevy Novas (Corollas), one new, one used. The new one “taught” two kids how to drive a standard in highschool, got both through college, was turned over to the youngest who drove it for five more years.

At 16 years old nearly 250K, it was still going strong with no rust and original clutch. I think that was as much to my son’s good driving habits as was to the car. He tired of having to start it every day (carb bowl leaked) and traded it for an Accord with 110K on it. It taught him that a well designed car with good maintenance is just broken in at 100K. He just traded that in last month…upper class neighborhood thing.

He bought a Fusion (Mazda 6); so he’s still into this “international” cooperative approach to good transportation.

I bought a 1968 Chevy Malibu from a family member back in the late 70’s. It was old and beat up then, but I was stuck for a car to get home so I paid $75 for it and headed out. Had the fan belt break and ended up replacing it in the parking lot of a Kmart. Got the rest of the way home and used that car for a daily driver for a year or so. Finally bought a much newer and nicer old Dodge Monaco. Parked the Malibu in the words by my house, but every once in a while, maybe 6 months or so would go by, and I’d have a problem with the Dodge or something and I could go out there and with a pair of jumper cables start the Chevy back up and drive it. I called it The Zombie because I kept bringing it back from the dead to work for me. :wink: That went on for several years. I finally sold it when I moved out of the country and into town. By then it was running on 7 out 8 cylinders and squirrels had chewed through the fuel lines, but the fellow who bought it brought some fuel line with him and we started it up and he drove it off. That would be some time in the mid 80s. I don’t know about mileage, it wasn’t all that much. Couldn’t kill that car, though.

Good list…what I want to add over here, is the Toyota PU, short bed 4 wd with a 4 cyl. diesel. When they get it here, I’m trading in my wife (I mean my wife’s 4 Runner for one).

It is a tie between the 72 f150 and the 71 nova. It was a beat used farm truck when I bought it. The nova was in good shape for an 8 year old car. I thought the move to Florida towing the Nova would kill it, then the move to ND towing the nova would surely kill it, same scene to IL, then back to ND, then Ohio, Then IL, then WI, where in 1990 I traded them both in on a Little truck as I had a long commute and needed the gas mileage. The truck was so rusted I swear it bent in 2 different directions on turns, probably 15 years with no power steering, the worst thing about it was the red ford letters on the tailgate of a tan truck.

I used to drive a 1985 Buick Skyhawk that wouldn’t die. I abused that car, and when I finally got rid of it, it was still running. However, it had fewer miles on it than my current car has now, but most of us didn’t expect to get 200,000 miles out of a car back in 1985.

Here is a list of abusive behavior the car withstood:

-There were dents on both sides where the car had been hit, once while it was parked and once while I drove it in a parking lot.

-One time I locked myself out of the car, so I broke the rear passenger-side window. At first I covered the window with duct tape, but eventually I bought a piece of plexiglass, cut it to the appropriate size, and used a hot glue gun to keep it in place.

-When the electric radiator fan stopped working I wired it to always be on when the car was on. I lived in South Florida at the time, so I didn’t have to worry about winter weather, and the thermostat still worked.

-When the dashboard light and the marker lights (parking lights and tail lights) stopped working, I installed and wired marker lights and a new dashboard light and mounted a switch on the dashboard. (The headlights, brake lights, and turn signals never stopped working).

-The front end was bashed in when a geezer pulled out in front of me. That is when I lost my air conditioning and bent the frame, but the car kept running. I kept driving it after my insurance company totaled it and I bought it back from the insurance company for $50.

When I finally sold that car for $100, it had about 155,000 miles on it and it still had a all the dents and a bent frame. By that time it was a heap, but it was still running.

I don’t expect my Civic to see a million miles. As you can tell by the Skyhawk, I am pretty hard on a car. However, I would like to keep it until it has at least 300,000 miles. At the rate I am driving it now, it will reach 300,000 miles in 2020.

Dagosa; in foreign countries Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi make all sorts of simple rugged vehicles that last a very long time.

The Toyota you are referring to was the standard company vehicle used by an oil company I worked with in Africa. It had a 4 cylinder diesel, standard gear box, A/C, and a crew cab. No other luxury extras.

My current indestructible beater is a 1990 Buick Skylark. The oil pump went out in it three years ago, so I replaced it just to see how much longer the car would last. It used a little more oil than usual after that happened, but it still runs great to this day for my 80+ mile commute round trip. The car gets 28mpg and uses about a quart of oil every 800-1000 miles. I keep driving it because it is a smooth, comfortable, reliable car that does pretty good on gas, and has only cost me about $20 a month to keep on the road the last six years.

67 Valiant $200 drove for 10 years made it into a pickup (yute) drove for another 6

I’ve had some that ran a few hundred thou before my needs changed.
I had a 1979 Toyota pickup that was still running strong 10++ years after I bought it…but the frame rotted out.

My best was my '89 Toyota pickup. It went 338,000 miles with no major powertrain repairs and was still running well when it got totalled by an errant Hyundae.

Truth is, in over 40 years of owning cars the only powertrain problem I’ve ever had was with my '72 Vega. Everything on the Vega broke. The engine, the head, the cooling system, the heater core, the tranny, the idle stop solenoid bracket, the driver’s door hinges, and on and on. I got rid of it after only 4 years of ownership when the rear axle lsid right out of the housing.

'87 Accord. Those cars are strong.

My old 87 Mercury Sable. After it became relegated to being a daily beater/parts hauler I became bored, VERY bored, with that car and despised it.

Several times around the 350,000 to 400,000 miles mark I actually tried to blow that car up on purpose while in a foul mood. Stomped to the floor, revs to the point of floating valves, downshifting the transmission at high RPMS, etc.; nothing worked.
It kept on going like the Energizer bunny.

I sold it at 420,000 miles and the only reason I got rid of it was because a storm threw a tree branch at it and cracked the windshield. The windshield (an easy fix) was just the excuse I needed to shed this thing.

That’s remarkable, OK.

Three years ago I was assigned a one year old Taurus with 35,000 miles on it. The seats were aleady sagging, it had rattles in it and the body seemed very loose. I guess Ford lost interest in the car and milked it as a rental vehicle, while cutting back on quality.


I had a '62 Falcon back in 1974. It had a 2 speed automatic, I believe. Well, it only made one shift as you accelerated up to speed, anyway. Then I lost 2nd! Me and my friends were gonna go down to the Jersey Shore. It was a Friday night. They all cried since now we
couldn’t go. I said the Hl we can’t! If it blows we’ll just hitch-hike home, right?

We left Pennsy around 3:00AM after some party. I maintained 60 all the way down to Holgate, near Seaside Heights–in 1st gear! Then I drove it back & forth to work for a while. Then I lent it to my brother to take it to college in Boston. He lent it to some girl he knew and it finally died on the Mass Pike west of Boston. True story!

I had a good run with a 1987 Chevy Chevette. Although the body integrity was not good, it never left me stranded. At 99,000 miles, it got T-boned, HARD (in the passenger side). I spent $400 to have the frame pulled out and a salvage yard door put on, but I couldn’t get the alignment right. I ended up selling it for $250 to some guy who said he worked at a Chevy dealership and could work on it after hours at the shop. This was in May 1995.

About a year and a half later, I get a call from the State Police; they found “my” Chevette parked illegally with stolen tags on it. Whoever I sold it to never re-titled the vehicle. The unnerving part was, the police told me that if someone used this vehicle to commit a crime, the police would come looking for ME, since the VIN was still titled to me. All I had for evidence was a handwritten, unnotarized bill of sale!

Fast forward to 2003. I had a 30 day Carfax subscription which allowed me to look up as many VIN’s as I wanted. (I don’t know if they still sell them that way.) Just for fun, I keyed in the Chevette’s VIN and discovered that it WAS retitled in 1998, so it was still on the road 3 years later. Rather remarkable considering it was using a quart of oil with every tank of gas at the time I sold it. It also had an odometer rollback, because it was titled as having 89,000 miles on it, and it had 101,000 miles on it when I sold it.

P.S. I still see a Chevette on the road once and a while, usually with “Historic” tags on it. Doesn’t that make you feel old, when you see a car you once owned on the road as an antique? When I was a kid, the cars with “Historic” tags were the 50’s “tailfin” cars. Now I’m seeing 80’s vintage “boxy” cars with “Historic” tags, and they just don’t look like old cars to me.