The latest Land Rover Defender is a 2011 masterpiece of wavy, hand beaten and riveted aluminum panels, faithful, at least in spirit, to its 1946 vintage. Even if aluminum scraps from captured enemy planes of World War 2 stopped supplying its sheet metal. The Landie's cognoscenti, though, will tell you that the only thing the Defender has in common with the 1946 model is the rear folding step board.
Replace with the same
With the march of time and technology, there are other motor vehicle makers who don't think it worthy to keep in lock step with everyone else. And why not? After all, their loyal clientele love the "old" price and the model's "focused" role. They're happy to motor along with a proven quantity, even if it looks like what they used to own, several replacement units before.
The Grandaddy of the locals is the Mitsubishi L300 Cab-chassis Versa van and passenger van. This is the ultimate throwback in time. Driving it is like the 80's all over again. The dashboard is from the cleanly austere "box type" rear wheel drive Lancer of the 80s. The steering wheel angle is parallel to the road, just like a truck's. The column mounted gear lever shift from 2nd to 3rd needs some practice to get it snatch free. The clutch is a step down affair. For a long time the 16 passenger van version had the best seat packaging and folding arrangement ever. Its twin sliding doors was a long held USP. The overhead secondary air con evaporator was proudly made in the PH. Made in Cainta, Rizal, the national fleet of in-town delivery vans consists mostly of L300 Versa Vans. The latest version of the L300 is the Delica D5, a very high tech van that is, so far, sold exclusively in Japan.
Made in India for a longer period of its lifespan than in Japan, the Suzuki Alto shows that good engineering can stand the test of time. It is the most numerous model on Indian roads, and since 1984, it is still the best selling car in India by far. Its thrifty 3-cylinder engine is as appropriate for the times as it was twenty seven years ago. Even with current emission control compliance, the lightweight Alto, air con on full blast mode, is still fun to drive. The trendy Celerio, the Alto's younger sister that sells alongside it, does not deviate much from the purity of the Alto's core.
Not to be mistaken for the bull nosed Nissan Urvan Estate E25, the E24 Nissan Urvan was a late bloomer, having discovered its place in the sun when Universal Motors marketed it as an enterprise vehicle. Being a "Ur-van, Ur-business" proposition, the Urvan gained traction from door-to-door post deliveries, caterers, shuttles, GT express, school buses and DMIA-Manila airport limos. Proudly made in Santa Rosa, Laguna, the Urvan dates back to 1986 but is not lacking in 21st century creature comforts. It will take a while before ASEAN gets the its replacement, the latest Nissan NV200 van. And it will even take longer to homologate if the Euro 5 turbo diesel engine is to be sourced from Renault.
Quite common in the days of the US Bases, Ford's keen pricing of the V-8 powered Ford E-150s have awakened savvy buyers to the merits of power to weight ratio of low revving American V-8's and passenger/liter/km consumption. Made in the USA and as large as a living room, its space, quiet and comfort is matchless; the perfect foil for relaxed cruising to relaxing destinations. Made in North America, it conforms to the latest crash safety, roll over safety and fuel efficiency electronic programs to keep the Feds happy. The E-150's replacement, the Ford Transit, will conform to Ford's One world policy of making one model for the entire global market. It is already in production in Vietnam and China.
Won't or can't fixit?
Ain't broke, won't fix it ? For something like 30 years, the Japan made Nissan Patrol Safari was an acquired and expensive taste: you either wanted it or didn't care for it. Its undeniable toughness has looks that intimidate, hence very visible use by government big shots. Though most popular in turbo diesel guise, the now discontinued 4.8-liter petrol V-6 was a wolf in sheep's clothing. With that state of the art 24 valve engine, the petrol Safari could show far younger crossover SUVs a clean and rapidly disappearing pair of taillights at the stop lights. The Safari is on its way to meet the same fate as the cult classic and evergreen Mitsubishi Pajero, circa 1981. It soldiers on, refusing to fade away even as the new hyper luxury 2010 Patrol Royale arrives to slot above it.
A long long time ago
The Nineties was almost 20 years ago and 20 years is a long time to develop loyalties. And for vehicles to hang on to current production. Though Toyota and Isuzu have respectively replaced the 4th generation Hi-Ace van and TFR-Fuego pick up series at the turn of the Century, those who miss their workmanlike abilities and demeanor can still get a taste of motoring in the nineties. For a while, GL and Grandia versions of the Hi-Ace were available from RHD conversions of Japanese Domestic Market models imported through Subic and Port Irene. Now that this has stopped, Foton of China, along with its China rivals, provide a convincing redux.
Coming into prominence as the winning model for the PCSO ambulance re-fleet, the Foton View betters the 1989 Hi-Ace by offering improved front crash safety buffers, a longer wheelbase, better fabrics and a better styled high roof 16 passenger version. The View comes with a 5-speed manual mated to China's national-fit turbo diesel engine, based on Isuzu JV technology.
Isuzu's TFR-Fuego pick up lives on in China with various nameplates and modified grilles. The most popular being the Foton Blizzard which comes with better fabrics and instrumentation than the what the '97 Fuego ever had. The Blizzard's Isuzu based turbo diesel engine develops more power and speed than any variant the Fuego ever had in the 90s.
Classic means passe?
With today's quick changes in technology, ten years is a long time for a generation of motor vehicles. Still, there are designs that can stand the test of time with minimal upgrading to meet advancing emissions and crash safety standards. This is why the Nissan Sentra "Classic" from 2000, a current taxi favorite, is still assembled by Yulon in Santa Rosa.
Cede to the Mx
A little younger and far more sophisticated than the Sentra Classic is Mitsubishi's Lancer GLS. Its the Cedia body, the outline of the cult classic EVO's up to version XI. It slots below the Galant Fortis, a 2-liter only compact marketed and assembled locally as the Lancer GT. The GLS was ahead of its time in 2003, as not many newer compact cars can boast of the GLS's 6-speed CVT automatic and fully independent rear suspension.
Ford, the ASEAN believer
Ford Santa Rosa's export push has produced a lot of models for ASEAN. Even if the Mazda Tribute, circa 2001, has bowed out, the continuously updated Ford Escape is still a bargain with its modern fully independent suspension platform. You also won't find the Escape's spark igniters even in many current 2011 models. The ASEAN Escape is not the same as the North American model which will be replaced with a derivative of the Kuga, a compact SUV based on the latest 2012 Ford Focus.
Though the Mazda3 has had a complete model cycle change in the developed country markets, the Santa Rosa made Mazda3'a smooth Activematic transmissions, stylish Zoom zoom interiors and fully independent suspension all around keeps it competitive today. Having been in circulation since 2005, it is not as big as today's compact class.
So being around for a long time is not always synonymous with deliberately planned obsolescence; i.e. change for change's sake. The IMV trio from Toyota - Fortuner, Hi-Lux and the Santa Rosa made Innova - all sales successes, have been around since 2005. Ditto for Isuzu's D-MAX, from 2003 and its Alterra derivative from 2005. Even older are the Cainta made Mitsubishi Adventure and the Santa Rosa made Isuzu Crosswind, both born in the early 21st century. Upgrades in modern comfort conveniences and emissions/efficiency engineering are stock and trade as the market continues thrive by serving all needs by all means.