13 November 2012

The Cars of Dorian Gray: Some cars simply don’t age

In the Oscar Wilde novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” as he grows older, Dorian Gray doesn’t age, but his portrait does. There are certain cars that, if well kept, never seem to age and appear absolutely timeless, while their original sales brochures yellow and curl.

Pull up to a country club or a fine restaurant in a 1984 Olds Cutlass Ciera or a tatty 1964 Falcon and the valets will make wise cracks and expect a bad tip. However, there are certain cars that age more gracefully than Sofia Loren. Take one of them anywhere — even if it’s 40 years old — and nobody will bat an eyelash. Here are some of the cars that escaped the age trap without using 55 gallon drums of Oil of Olay.

Jeep Grand Wagoneer

Although the Grand Wagoneer was built from 1964 to 1991, it’s really the last decade that aged so spectacularly well. Big, sturdy, go-anywhere vehicles, they were fully equipped, relatively powerful and endlessly comfortable. You can use one to go to the opera or to tow and launch your ski boat. They are so timeless that there’s even a company that specializes in rebuilding and selling high-quality examples suitable for daily or occasional use.

1973-1989 Mercedes-Benz 350, 450, 380, 500560SL

Few cars are as appropriate in any situation as a two-seat, drop-top Mercedes-Benz SL from the 1970s or ’80s. They’re good-looking cars that are as comfortable in Beverly Hills as they are in the Safeway parking lot. Prices are very reasonable, and with proper service and replacement parts they’ll last absolutely forever, although parts and service can be a little pricey. It’s no matter that the youngest of these cars are 23 years old — they still look terrific.

Porsche 911SC and Carrera

Built from 1978 (SC) until 1989 (Carrera 3.2), there’s rarely been a car that has worn its years so very well. No one thinks twice when you pull up in one of these elegant machines. They still look relatively modern, the fit and finish are superlative, and they offer great performance. What’s more, they were so well-built that there are many examples with original paint, and if properly maintained, they will run forever and accumulate incredibly high mileage.

1970-1974 Mercedes-Benz 220 and 220D

Timeless, a diesel? You bet! Simply styled, beautifully engineered and built, and capable of racking up the mileage, these and later Mercedes diesels may be anything but quick, but they seem to defy snobbish criticism. So, you can tell that one of these sedans is more than a few years old, it doesn’t matter. They’re like a really fine pair of handmade shoes: When the soles or heels wear out, you take them to a really good shoemaker and they’re good for years more. Oh, and did we say that you can put a half-million miles on one without blinking?

1969-1974 BMW 2800CS/3.0CS

Arguably the most beautiful car on the list, the styling alone makes this big BMW coupe one for the ages. That shape is so graceful and perfectly proportioned that it has never gone out of style. If this car has a weakness that hurts its contention for the Dorian Gray award, it’s rust. These cars rust to bits and full body shell restorations can be cripplingly expensive. However, a nice, rust-free example is a car that you can drive to watch the sports car races, use for long-distance touring, or take for that lavish night on the town — and you can bet that the valets will fight for the chance to park it, if only they know how to drive a stick.

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