It's the end of the world as we know it, at least if you buy into interpretations of a Mayan prophecy.
December 21 has arrived. Better start packing. Should impending doom not take the entire planet out at once, you'll probably want to be prepared for zombie hordes, gas and parts shortages, looting and the sort of general mayhem that Will Smith has endured more than once on the big screen. Unlike the Fresh Prince, we wouldn't pick a Ford Shelby GT500. Not that a GT500 wouldn't be lots of fun for tearing around deserted towns, but it doesn't quite seem as practical or durable in person as it does on screen. Anyway, we won't be burdened by a product placement contract with Ford.
After much discussion, we've selected a handful of cars - in no particular order - that should help you make it beyond today. Get shopping!
Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux. Ubiquitous in those places on earth where you need to be immunized just to breathe the air, Toyota trucks are synonymous with durability. Granted, they tend to rust away in climates where they sprinkle salt on the roads, so this choice might be very regional. Still, Land Cruisers and their somewhat related Hilux pickup cousins come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be found pretty much anywhere.
Our pick would be an '80s wagon, known to Cruiser faithful as FJ60 and FJ62, since they have more space inside for provisions than the earlier FJ40s, but they're not as complex as the later luxo-models. If you're anywhere other than North America, one powered by the robust H-series diesel engines won't move you quickly, but it probably won't break down. And when you can't find diesel fuel, a Cruiser will probably run on urine. Just saying.
Mercedes-Benz w123. Mercedes-Benz diesels go forever - just look through your local classifieds, where you'll see these boxy sedans and wagons listed as "Low 350,000 miles! Just broken in!"¯ Long the choice of taxi drivers in Europe, the w123 (that's Mercedes-Benz speak) was built for about a decade in mass quantities. They're hard to find in Europe since most of them have made their way to Africa and the Middle East, where they are still used as taxis. But this one's a score for North America, where these tank-like sedans and wagons are plentiful - so much so that, if you're hankering for a win at a post-apocalypse concours d'elegance, you can easily find mint condition one owner examples.
We'd shop for a comparatively rare wagon variant first, although the simplicity of the OM616 non-turbo diesel engine found in the 240D models might win out. We would also spend our last few pre-apocalypse hours converting ours to run on vegetable oil - maybe we can work out a deal with the zombies who took over the neighborhood Carl's Jr.
Isuzu VehiCROSS. Small, nimble, decent enough off road and relatively fast, the VehiCROSS was among the first gas-powered vehicles ever equipped with fuel-saving and performance-enhancing direct injection. It is also about the most bizarre-looking modern car this side of a Ssangyong (don't look that one up), so it will probably help scare off post-apocalyptic monsters.
And that's important, since rear visibility is pretty much nonexistent. Just under 5,000 VehiCROSSes made their way to North America, meaning they're fairly rare. And a few of them have already been chewed up for use in painfully bad science fiction movies like Vin Diesel's Babylon A.D., so you'd better get shopping if you want one. Then again, with the world ending, you don't really need to worry about haggling to get a good price.
Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. You've probably noticed a theme with our list - we're picking cars that are durable, practical and usefully capable in extreme situations.
The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione is definitely none of those things.
It's also expensive, but those greenbacks in your wallet aren't going to go very far during the apocalypse. So we figure that if we're all going to meet our maker, so to speak, we might as well do it in style. There aren't many cars draped in sexier sheetmetal than the 8C, although its rarity means you won't find one easily. We'll go for a hardtop model since the forecast calls for nuclear rain.
Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. When we reviewed the high-performance version of the Gelandewagen last year, we said it looked like the "box it came in."¯ In this case, that's a good thing. Designed for military use, the G-Wagen has been in production for more than 30 years in both civilian and armed forces configurations. To keep with the times, the G-Wagen was updated for 2013.
As a result, there are plenty of models to choose from, all of which feel as well fortified as Fort Knox on bingo night. The pick of the litter here is an early gray market model with a diesel engine, although the AMG variant might win us over just because of its absurdity. Who doesn't need a 500 horsepower supercharged V8 to ride out impending doom?
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Ford's big bruiser is an obvious choice for our list, although its wide track and hefty dimensions might make it a hindrance anywhere but the wide-open roads of North America. But for those of us with plenty of roaming room, the Raptor is about as good as they get. Gobs of suspension travel, big tires, extra running lights and the option of a bright orange paint job mean we're as safe as we can be.
Our selection is a CrewCab with Ford's delicious 6.2-liter V8. Way more powerful than the old 5.4, the 6.2 growls like a muscle car. The only downside? It guzzles fuel like it's 1969. Better stock up on some auxiliary tanks, which will fit nicely in the cargo bed.
Amphicar. Designed to be both a boat and a car in one, the German Amphicar was not especially good at either task, although Amphicars did survive testing in Alaska on the Yukon River when they were first introduced. But nothing else is as immediately ready to outrun zombies as the Amphicar - assuming, of course, that zombies can't figure out how to use floaties.
The Amphicar club estimates that there are 700 still remaining of the original 4,000, so they're not especially common. And, since they were designed for dunking, they are especially prone to rusting into nothingness. We suggest stocking up on another car on our list before you set off to find an Amphicar, but one of these might make a good backup.
Hummer H1. Think of the H1 as the Hoosier State's amped-up version of the Mercedes G-Wagen. Built in South Bend, Indiana, primarily for military users, it found a small niche among those with deep pockets who wanted something laughably poorly suited for urban use. In this post-apocalyptic world, we aren't going to be focused on ride quality and interior materials, so the H1 earns extra brownie points with its 16 inches of ground clearance, its ability to ford 30 inch deep streams and, on military models, its built-in machine guns. Those might come in handy.
We'll make our way over to the nearest military base to barter our way into the motor pool. If we get there early enough, we might find an AN/TWQ-1 Avenger, which can fire Stinger missiles. Those should protect us from pretty much anything.
Volvo 200-Series. Although not known for their sportiness, these bricks defined Volvo for a generation - back when safety trumped style as a marketing tool. Volvo proved the 200's durability early on in 1980, when two Canadians drove a Halifax-built 245DL around the world in just 74 days - an entire month faster than the previous record. The 200-series even met the high standards (yeah, right) of Eastern Block leaders who used extended-wheelbase models as limousines in the late 1970s.
We'll go for the relative luxury - and the simplified nameplates - of the later 240 wagons. Head to your nearest Trader Joe's to make a deal with the owner of the prettiest 240 wagon in the parking lot. Just remove that Dartmouth sticker unless you can sing "Men of Dartmouth"¯ without skipping a beat.
Panther-platform Ford. If Ford wasn't still cranking out these six-seat four-door sedans in Ontario as recently as a year ago, we'd call them a relic of a bygone era. Trusted by geriatrics, professional drivers, taxi drivers, police officials and unofficial police officers all across North America, the Panther platform is renowned for its durability. Hear that axle and gearbox whine? Don't worry - they come that way from the factory. You should be concerned if it is Lexus-quiet.
There are two paths we could take when shopping for a Panther: A police Ford Crown Victoria has already been tested in the line of duty, but the allure of a low mile Mercury Grand Marquis from Florida might win us over. If you choose a Grand Marquis, look for one that has averaged less than 2,000 miles a year, since anything over that suggests that visiting grandkids have had their way with it.
This is an update of an article Leftlane published about 18 months ago.
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