They say nothing is built to last anymore. Technology moves so fast that anything electronic becomes obsolete within a few years and we are certainly not in an era when furniture gets passed down the generations.
The same goes with vehicles. Once they have clocked 100,000 km, visits to your mechanic are likely to become more frequent and there will be a time when your car will cost so much to keep roadworthy that you will be better off buying a new one. Although some makes are better than others, one car will certainly not last you your whole lifetime.
There are some vehicles that have defied expectations though, largely due to the devotion and care of their owners, and have done at least a million kilometres – that is the equivalent of driving 40 times around the world.
1966 Volvo P1800
This two-door Volvo coupe is a very rare animal. Approaching 5 million kilometres, it has had only one owner since it got off the production line in 1966. While its buyer has several other cars, he is faithful to this one because he simply enjoys the way it runs.
When the P1800 reached its first million kilometres, Volvo celebrated the milestone by giving him another car, a brand new 780 Bertone Coupe. When it reached its second million in 2002, the grand old lady was paraded in Times Square in New York and Volvo gave him another car again, a new C70.
Of course, this longevity has only been possible because of vigilant care. The brakes were replaced about every 150,000 kilometres; the owner had any odd noise, smell or vibration investigated; the oil was changed every 5,000 km and transmission fluid and ignition points were replaced every 40,000 kilometres.
But it isn’t only about tending to mechanical needs. The owner is as attentive in the way he drives the car, keeping to moderate speeds and anticipating stops and hazards that could strain the car.
2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD
With an owner that used to work in the automobile industry, it is perhaps not too surprising that this vehicle would perform well longer. The car has now passed the million-kilometre mark and still purrs like a kitten.
1990 Honda Accord
Bought by its owner second hand with 100,000 km on the odometer, the Accord ticked off a million and a half kilometres a few years ago. Granted, the fact that it was owned by a mechanic cum vehicle inspector probably explains in part why it has lasted so long. But one has to admit that it was a well-built car in the first place: the original fuel pump lasted a million kilometres.
1996 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup
Owned by a delivery man, it is no surprise that the pick up would have to cover serious distances annually. In fact, 650 km a day is a common occurrence.
Its owner picked up this truck in the first place because he expected it to be low maintenance thanks to its mechanical-injector engine and its automatic transmission with a mechanical valve body. And he was correct. When the vehicle logged its millionth kilometre in 2010, the transmission had only had to be replaced a couple of times. Alternators, starter motors, radiators and water pumps also had to be changed but, all on all, this pick-up’s longevity is still incredible.
1989 Saab SPG
In 2006, Peter Gilbert donated his 1989 Saab to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum for a well-earned retirement. During the 17 years he owned it, he drove a million and a half kilometres, wearing out 88 tyres, 3 cylinder head gaskets and one transmission although, amazingly, the engine and turbochargers are the original ones. According to Gilbert, it is all down to sticking to the manufacturer’s service timetable and synthetic oil!
Although the mechanical parts of the car are still in good working order, its body was eventually too damaged by years of harsh winter, which is why he decided to retire it.
1983 Lincoln Town Car
The Lincoln owes its long life to its owner’s very clever strategy: when parts needed to be replaced, he only bought them if they offered lifetime warranties. This way, he only had to exchange them when they next wore out and he could keep its car in tip-top shape without huge expenses. Only the engine and the transmission have needed to be rebuilt.
Some 2 million kilometres later, the car is still going strong and its owner boasts that it actually never broke down thanks to a regular maintenance schedule.
1990 BMW 325i
The BMW is a bit of a special case. Yes, its odometer shows over one and half million kilometres, but not acquired the traditional way.
In 1990, the Mobil Oil company bought the 325i to test its synthetic oil and it was used on roads for 60,000 km before being taken off. It wasn’t the end of its life though. It kept being tested on a treadmill-like dynamometre for four years during which it accumulated its mileage.
Mobil Oil didn’t make it a walk in the park either as the aim was to test the wear and tear of the main components so they put it through its paces running at some 140km/h. Despite all this, when its engine was disassembled and its performance measured, it was comparable to new engines.
1983 Mercedes 240D
Bought with 60,000 kilometres on the clock by its current owner, it passed the million-kilometer mark in 2008, thus earning a badge from Mercedes. According to him, the secret is all in regular maintenance and oil change. The only restoration he did was treating himself to a better driver’s seat, replacing all of the rubber seals in the body and repainting the car.
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