BRAND LOYAL

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I like Fords. I’m a history guy and Fords play rather prominently in our nation’s history so I’m drawn to them. We’ve owned scores of them ranging from Model As to a brand new Focus. You name the year and we’ve probably owned at least one.

I like GM. They’ve had some revolutionary models over the generations and some truly beautiful cars. I’m particularly fond of the late 1950s Buicks. And it’s hard to beat a Chevrolet 350 for durability and ease of maintenance.


While most American cars are not quite so patriotically adorned there is something to be said for displacement and a roomy interior

I like Chrysler products. They’ve always been kind of the “weird” little brother in the American Big 3 and I get a kick out of that. Most people who know their car history will say that they “won” the muscle-car war of the 1960s. And there’s something about a 1st-generation Power Wagon that I find so dang charming.

And so it goes for so many other cars I own/have owned that had something about them that I loved. I’m particularly fond of the classic VW Beetle, Mini, ‘60s and early ‘70s Volvos, ‘70s Datsuns. Over the years I have come across all these cars that for one reason or another I have loved. I’ve also made some purchases that I regretted and said, “Never again!” (I still shudder over that BMW 740iL). Which brings me to my point: what’s the deal with brand-loyal car guys?


There are brand loyalists and then there are others who eschew such parochial tendencies in favor of a more Will Rogers like outlook

Whenever I see somebody spout off this nonsense about how Chevrolets/Fords/Toyotas …whatever… are the undisputed best vehicle ever made (and transversely, others are woefully inadequate) I want to reach out and say “Really? So what was it about the Chevette that you find so appealing that it trumps a 1967 Mustang?” Or perhaps, “Oh my yes. I was so happy the day I traded my ’63 VW ragtop to a guy for his Mercury Topaz.” (That never happened by the way. But I was amused that the kid made me the offer.)

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My family has owned somewhere close to a thousand cars. Dad was fickle and was always chasing this or that car only to end up selling it for the next toy later on. When I graduated high school, his then-current collection had around 120 cars and trucks. And while I’ve never risen to the numbers he had, I’m quite sure I’m well above 200 total and my current collection is slowly growing (Unlike Dad, I’m beginning to keep what I buy. Too many regrets over the cars I “never should have sold.”) For a while we also owned a foreign auto-repair shop where I learned quite a bit about which cars cost more to maintain etc. So what has all that taught me? Namely that every brand has had their hits and misses. Only a foolish person clings to a particular moniker and while one company may have had a string of hits in the ‘90s, it could very well be that they’re struggling right now and quality is suffering. Or maybe they’re trying to “appeal to a new market” and the results are horrible (remember when Cadillac tried to crack the European market with that warm-vanilla Catera?)


Is the Miata really from the Land of the Rising Sun or is it the quintessential British sports car?

And it’s amazing how long a reputation can follow a car company. The quality issues of the late ‘70s and ‘80s dogged most American car brands well into the ‘90s (and sometimes still do). For example, I’ve had several conversations with people even in recent years who state they won’t buy an American car because of the perception regarding lifespan. Never mind the fact that since the ‘90s, GM and Ford have been kicking out rigs that will take half-a-million miles…or more…and are generally cheaper to maintain along the way. It works the opposite way too. Volkswagen still rides on their “cheap and reliable” image they earned during their first few decades even though it can be argued that today, well, not so much.

Oh sure, it’s OK to have preferences. These days I’m driving mainly American stuff (except my classic Mini which stays tucked away in the garage because honestly…as much as I love it, I don’t trust it.) My days of mainly European cars are long gone because I find them impossible to work on and extremely expensive to maintain. Same for Japanese cars. Unless it’s an old Datsun 510 or some such, you probably won’t find one gracing my driveway anytime soon. But despite all that I’m not about to take the stance in any debate that “all Audis are junk” or make an across-the-board, broad-brush statement that “Japanese cars are junk.” I’m pretty sure there are some people out there that could quite successfully argue otherwise were I to do so.

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Cold? Possibly, but German marques are well known for their engineering excellence and impeccable build quality

But perhaps I’m just talking to myself. These days I’m trying to help a buddy of mine find a used truck. I look for GM or Chevrolets with the 350, Fords with the 302 or the mighty 300-6. But when I found a lower-mileage Ford and sent him the ad, his first response was, “You and your Fords.” Because I currently own an old Ford truck, apparently I’m now a “Ford guy”. Sighhhh…..

By Ben Compton