Mike Stevens | Aug 7, 2008

Last week I was overjoyed to hear that my 63-year-old mother was finally in the market for a new car. It would her very first, and my secret master plan was to pick out a future classic for her so that when she was ready to sell it I'd have a golden opportunity to buy the mintest little-old-lady car on Earth. That's because she has never been in an accident, trundles down the lane at top speeds easily exceeded by any of the great cats, and would consider herself well-traveled if she put 4500km on the odo in any given year.

With an enormous selection of 2008 models to choose from, what would I recommend? I put the suggestion to the comments after we had (thankfully) nixed the Chrysler PT Cruiser from the list. Not surprisingly, Aussies nominated forbidden Yankee fruit like the upcoming Chevy Camaro or Dodge Challenger. I thought that idea was brilliant, and of course it was something that had crossed my mind more than once.

So I showed my dear old mum some pictures of the neo-muscle cars, including the fantastic Ford Mustang, and asked, "Whaddaya think?" Their rejection, as you can imagine, was swift and brutal; shot down faster than an unidentified plane approaching the White House. Two doors was a dealbreaker. As was the release date (early 2009 for the Camaro) and the pricing (USD40,000 for the Challenger). And I hadn't even mentioned the gas mileage yet, which would be poorer than the 5.6 city/8.1 highway km/l of her current Volvo 940 Estate.

Well, the fuel economy requirement isn't so bad because you can always rely on the Japanese for something reasonably priced that can take a corner and doesn't drink like a parched hippo. Two doors, however, does take cars like the Honda S2000, Nissan 350Z and Mazda MX-5 out of contention.

No matter, how about a nice estate? She has one now, I dig them, and they'll never go out of style since they never came back into it from the first time they went out of style.

But then I discover that Mazda has dropped the sharp-looking 6 Wagon from their 2008 lineup and there are no plans to bring the next-generation wagon Stateside. Subaru has done the same with their gorgeous Legacy/Liberty, proclaiming that all wagons will now be non-gorgeous, quasi-SUV-looking Outbacks.

In fact, not a single company selling cars in the US of A offers a proper, inexpensive, fuel-efficient wagon any more. There's high-dollar Euros and the Dodge Magnum in which you'd have to opt for the V8, but the rest have all gone batty with crossovers. Unbelievable!

Somewhere along the way, I realized just how piss-poor the selection is in 2008. I'm not one of those who believes only certain expensive or flashy cars can become classics, and even I was still finding it difficult to identify one.

corolla

So perhaps it's coming down to choosing a car that will become a classic not for its beauty, performance or rarity, but one that will be emblematic of its times.

This E70 Toyota Corolla is a good example. Back in 1979 when the fourth generation debuted, it was just your average Japanese subcompact. Nothing fancy, no frills, just honest, reliable transportation. There aren't many left because people simply drove them into the ground and never thought they'd be worth keeping.

But look at it today. Everything from its simple lines to chrome bumpers exude retro cool. Even that metallic brown hue makes you want to crank down the windows, crank up Highway to Hell on the stereo, and cruise all day.

In that case, I think I'll recommend a 2008 Toyota Corolla, which will suit my mother's needs perfectly. Or maybe its competitor, a Honda Civic, which recently supplanted the Ford F-150 as the best-selling vehicle in America. It even comes in a hybrid version, and if that doesn't represent the times, I don't know what does.

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