Introduction
  • Image Credit: Various

Introduction

"This is not your father's Oldsmobile." A simple tagline, introduced in the 1980s, that's outlived not only its usefulness, but Olds itself. When the creative was originally developed at Leo Burnett, nobody could know that the phrase would enter the popular lexicon as it has.

Nearly twenty-five years later, we thought it would be fun to take a look at some vehicles that embody the spirit of the campaign, models that entirely new and re-imagined yet still carry their old-fashioned name. But we also picked a few more models that are the same as they ever were.
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Mini Cooper
  • Image Credit: MINI

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Mini Cooper

Oh sure, the Mini is still small and front-wheel-drive, but it's throwback look is the only part of the modern Mini that's at all like the original. The styling is now driven more by whimsy than the utilitarian ideals of original designer Alec Issigonis. Where the original was a practical car that used its space efficiently, the new Mini has been successfully recast as a performance hatchback. And my, has it grown! To get a proper perspective on how much larger the new car is, consider that the original Mini's tiny 10-inch wheels have been upgraded to 16- or 17-inch rims. Plus it's all finished to a high quality level, far more luxurious than the medieval tweed of the old days. Several flavors of Mini are now available. The Clubman is a bit larger, a maxi Mini, if you will. Convertible Minis marry the car's entertaining handling with open-air ambiance. Performance nuts are attracted to the hotted-up Cooper S versions that are powered by 1.6-liter turbocharged powertrains.
Your Father's Oldsmobile: Dodge Challenger
  • Image Credit: Chrysler

Your Father's Oldsmobile: Dodge Challenger

There's an entire crop of neo-ponycars, including the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. While there's a level of retro baked into each, the Challenger is the most nostalgic of the bunch, with the look and feel of the old days. From the blocky body and retro trim, to the rumbling Hemi V8, it's an extremely convincing time machine. If Pops was hot to prowl the street in a brand-new Challenger back in 1970, he can have his chance once again. One turn of the key, and all of a sudden, Nixon's still president, Archie Bunker's on TV and the Pentagon Papers are fresh in the news. As delightful as the nostalgia may be when you slip into the tuck-and-roll style seats and mash the pedal to the floor, the Challenger is still best on straightaways. Cornering will remind you that this is a big, heavy car, larger than the E-Body it pays homage to, with more than 4,000 pounds of mass. While it's relatively well behaved, the suspension has a tendency to float at speed and the heavyweight handling leaves the Challenger behind its reborn contemporaries. The big footprint does give you a large trunk, a comfortable back seat and makes for a nice highway cruiser.
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Buick Regal
  • Image Credit: GM

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Buick Regal

The Buick Regal was introduced in 1973 as a part of the "personal luxury car" movement that gave muscle car buyers something to move on to as the fuel crisis and emissions regulations killed the big-engined behemoths of the late 1960s. Eventually, the Regal morphed into a four-door sedan of utmost banality before shuffling off the stage in 2004. Now, the Regal name is back, and the car speaks with a German lilt. Lifted from General Motors' Opel division, the new 2011 Regal is a version of the Opel Insignia, with the suspension tuning and handling prowess that is a trademark of European-born cars. While still a front-driver, the Regal is hoping to create a performance sedan image. Powered by a sophisticated four-cylinder engine, the base Regal may not be all that, but a turbocharged Regal GS is coming in Spring 2011.
Your Father's Oldsmobile:
 Chevy Suburban
  • Image Credit: GM

Your Father's Oldsmobile:
 Chevy Suburban

There's 75 years of tradition behind the Suburban, with no other nameplate in continuous production for as long as GM's super-sized SUV. The concept has changed little over the years, adding merely extra acreage and amenities. Nominally a station wagon, but one set atop a full-size, heavy-duty truck chassis, the Suburban has three rows of seats, big cargo capacity and shrugs off towing with ease. Four-wheel-drive and brawny power from the revered small-block V8 is something you can't find in any station wagon, and that's the Suburban's raison d'etre. While the Suburban was once a fairly utilitarian beast, today you'll be coddled by some serious luxury inside. There's leather seats and multi-zone climate control, and options like a Bluetooth phone connection and navigation system would be more alien than a flying saucer to the 1930s-era originators of Chevy's big ute. Yet at the end of the day, these modern trappings don't obscure the fact that the Suburban may have become modernized but it certainly hasn't changed.
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Ford Mustang
  • Image Credit: Ford

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Ford Mustang

"Wait," you're saying, "The current Mustang is the epitome of throwbacks." Not so much. While it did kick off a wave of retro ponycars when it debuted in 2005, today's Mustang is as modern as it gets. There are, of course, nods to the past. The styling, updated for 2010, still pays homage to the early cars. For 2011 the "5.0" badge is back on the flanks. And the chassis, of course, still uses a solid rear axle, even if it is the best-controlled solid rear axle ever fitted into a production car. But underhood, the 2011 Mustang's two all-new engines are things to behold. The 5.0-liter V8 is an absolute animal that makes any other "5.0" seem antiquated -- 412 horsepower will do that. Perhaps the even bigger story is that the V6 Mustang - a "secretary's car" in former generations - now has 305 horsepower, making that pejorative description as much a thing of the past as secretaries themselves. The best thing about the new Mustang however, is something that has rang true since it debuted back in '64: It's a performance bargain.
Your Father's Oldsmobile: Toyota Corolla
  • Image Credit: Toyota

Your Father's Oldsmobile: Toyota Corolla

It's another long-serving nameplate that's been around since forever, and darned if Toyota doesn't keep moving them off lots. Part of the sales allure is undoubtedly the Corolla's reputation for providing solid, reliable transportation that's both efficient and affordable. Note that "fun-to-drive" was not in the descriptors, as nothing says, "I'm really not a car person" quite like a Corolla. That's not an insult, as a wide swath of the populace wants a car that just plain works and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. The Corolla is the very picture of competence, and with its base 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower four cylinder, it returns 30 miles per gallon combined. We'll see whether Toyota's recall woes have any effect on the Corolla, but we doubt Toyota will stray too far from its plain-Jane philosophy.
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Image Credit: Toyota

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Toyota Land Cruiser

There are at least two generations now that don't remember when the Toyota Land Cruiser was a Jeep Wrangler-style off roader. What's changed from the elemental BJ and FJ Land Cruisers is that today there's plenty of luxurious space inside to take passengers and cargo across hill and dale and ravine and stream. Or to the mall. While today's Land Cruiser is still a four-wheel-drive SUV, with capable, go-anywhere underpinnings, it's been decades since it was merely utilitarian. Its 381-horsepower V8 is more powerful than an entire passel of the originals. With standard leather upholstery and a hefty option package that adds navigation and entertainment options unheard of back in the day, as the Land Cruiser has matured, it's turned into perhaps the only true competitor to the Range Rover, packing a better price and legendary reliability.
Your Father's Oldsmobile: Jeep Wrangler
  • Image Credit: Chrysler

Your Father's Oldsmobile: Jeep Wrangler

Marty McFly could take his time machine anywhere in the last 70 years to test drive Jeeps, and he'd find that a 2011 Wrangler is pretty good at delivering the same experience as the original World War II Jeep. Some changes have been wrought upon this venerable model throughout the years, but there's a certain soul at the heart of every Jeep that hasn't changed since they helped bring victory for the Allies. Parking an original next to the current "JK" Wrangler will reveal the two ends of Jeep's evolution. There have been CJs, YJs and TJs in between, each an incremental improvement on the same basic theme. Size is way up from the original and leaf springs have given way to coils, but that same bouncy, tenacious, terrain-conquering quality carries on. Today's Wrangler has roll bars and doors with roll-up windows, but it still makes a great open-air beach cruiser just as well as it did at Normandy. The Wrangler is simply ready for anything, just like always.
Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Porsche 911
  • Image Credit: Porsche

Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: Porsche 911

As much of a throwback as the Porsche 911 seems on surface, what with its humpback shape and rump-mounted engine, it's nothing like the model's originator. The 911 may cut a similar line as its forerunners, but anyone who tells you it hasn't changed is blowing smoke. With the modern, 997-series 911, Porsche has kept the body shape remarkably similar but replaced everything else. The 911 is no longer air-cooled, for one, though it still uses a flat-six engine. The chassis layout follows the original's general plan, but it's lower, longer, wider and heavier than the original. The tail wagging, off-throttle oversteer that has scared many a novice driver has been all but eliminated by electronic stability control. Power is way up from the carbureted early cars, too: 530 horsepower snarls out of the 911 Turbo S and tortures the pavement through four-wheel-drive. But even the base 345-horsepower 911 Carrera is an amazing sports car, as the 911 has always punched above its weight class when it comes to performance, giving heartburn to cars with much bigger numbers on their spec sheets.
Your Father's Oldsmobile: Porsche 911
  • Image Credit: Porsche

Your Father's Oldsmobile: Porsche 911

"Beatlemania" took hold in 1964, and it was also the year that the legendary Porsche 911 came to market. As revolutionary as the mop tops were to music, the 911 had a similar effect on sports cars. While the Beatles couldn't make it past 1970, the 911 was just getting warmed up at that point. For 46 years you have been able to go down to your friendly local Porsche dealer and buy a 911. In each and every car, including the one you buy today, the engine will be in the back, the body will have a turtle-like profile, and -- most importantly -- you will command respect as a car person. Build quality has always been exceptional, and the flat-six engine has always had a snarling wail that's prompted plenty of ink to be spilled in describing it. In all honesty, the 911 embodies the phrase, "the more things change, the more they stay the same," like no other. This is the one car that you'll never have to make apologetic excuses for being "like my Dad's" when driving it.


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