These are the names with the longest history.
Automakers love to lean on their heritage for marketing, resurrecting model names with a long and storied history. Recent examples include the Toyota Supra and Land Rover Defender, which will soon to be joined by the likes of the Ford Bronco and the GMC Hummer.
So which are the oldest in the business? We've concentrated on names that have only had a few years at the most out of production. We recently lost one of the oldest car names that would have made the list in 2019. Morgan retired the 4/4 model name in 2019. If Morgan kept it up, the name would have been 84 years old now. However, the oldest surviving nameplate is even older than that.
The Honda Civic was an instant success due to the oil crisis in the 1970s, and Honda's first car to have success outside of Japan. Its CVCC engine appeared in 1973 and didn't need a catalytic converter or unleaded fuel to meet the EPA's 1975 emissions standards. That gave it a huge jump against the competition and set the Civic up on the world market.
Honda's Civic is now in its tenth generation, and its success is down to its reputation for economy, reliability, and fun driving dynamics. It has become a staple of the compact segment as a commuter car, a family car, and an enthusiast's car. Not only is the aftermarket huge for performance upgrades, but Honda has created two iconic trims for the Civic: tihe Si and Type R.
The first Nissan Z-car showed up in 1969 as a two-door rear-drive sports car with a six-cylinder engine under the hood. The basic recipe has remained the same to this day with a seventh generation just around the corner. Through the decades, four-seater, cabriolet, T-top, and Nismo versions have been available. There was a six-year gap between the legendary Z32 generation 300ZX and the 350Z. The first model was either the Nissan Fairlady Z or Datsun 240Z, depending on what part of the world where it was sold. The original Z car's legacy is in proving to the world that Japanese sports cars had a place in the mainstream.
In 1965, reports started leaking into the automotive press that Chevrolet was preparing to take on the Ford Mustang with its own sporty two-door coupe with four seats and six and eight-cylinder engines. The new car was codenamed Panther but debuted as the Camaro in 1966. The Camaro is currently in its sixth generation but took an eight-year break between generations four and five. The model name has no real definition, but when it was released, Chevy told journalists a Camaro is "a "small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs."
The same year Chevrolet was trying to torment Ford with the Camaro, Toyota was busy putting the Corolla on the road for the first time. Over its generations, the Corolla became the best selling nameplate in the world after overtaking the Volkswagen Beetle. The first four generations from 1966 to 1983 were rear-wheel-drive. The fifth-generation switched to front-wheel-drive except for the AE85 and the more famous AE86 chassis models. Now in its twelfth generation, the Corolla is purely a front-wheel-drive economy car in either hatchback or sedan body styles.
When Ford launched the Mustang in 1964, it only expected to sell 100,000 units per year. Instead, 400,000 vehicles were sold in its first year, and within two years, over a million were on the road. Its success is legendary and contributed to the Mustang having an unbroken production run through its six generations so far. The Mustang's influence has spread far and wide and inspired competition from Chevrolet, Pontiac, AMC, and even Toyota. The Mustang pioneered the pony car segment, and the world is better off for it. Well, as long as we pretend the Mustang II didn't exist.
While Ford was putting the finishing touches to the Mustang in America, Porsche was already building and selling the 911 in Germany. It arrived as a two-door, four-seater performance car with the engine in the back and has just got faster and faster ever since. The 911 has been a constant evolution, building on its predecessor's bones, the Porsche 356. It started with an air-cooled engine that remained in production until 1998 before Porsche switched to water-cooled units. What hasn't changed is Porsche's dedication to the flat-six layout for power.
The Mercedes SL was squarely aimed at American buyers when importer Max Hoffman identified a market for an expensive Grand Prix based car for enthusiasts. The first model was the iconic gullwing doored 300 SL, but the SL is now in its sixth generation as a convertible grand tourer, and America is still the primary market for the SL-Class. Mercedes has never been clear on whether SL stands for Sport Leicht (Sport Light) or Super Leicht (Super Light), but in 2017 Mercedes settled on Super Leicht when documents recovered from its archives cleared the matter up.
Although it beat the Mercedes SL to market in 1953, the first-generation Corvette was a triumph of style over substance. In its first year, three hundred were hand-built, all of them convertibles with a solid rear axle and six-cylinder engines. The second generation appeared in 1963, and the evolution started as it gained independent rear suspension, a coupe body style, and an available 6.49-liter V8 engine. The Corvette has now entered its eighth generation with a monumental shift in design by moving the engine from the front to the middle of the car. Since Morgan retired the 4/4 model in 2019, the Corvette is now the oldest surviving sports car nameplate.
If Jeep had remained a model and not become a brand, it would be on this list. Toyota made a copy of the original military Jeep in 1951, called it the Land Cruiser, and the name still exists today. The Land Cruiser has evolved, though. The 1984 J70 model is still in production, but the version we're most familiar with now is the J200 generation. It's a large, comfortable, and capable V8 powered off-roader renowned for its rugged reliability. The Land Cruiser is Toyota's longest-running nameplate and the second longest-running SUV series.
The oldest surviving nameplate on the road today is the Chevrolet Suburban. It started its life in 1934 as a commercial vehicle and consisted of a station wagon body built on a half-ton truck frame. It was marketed as the Carryall Suburban until the third generation dropped the Carryall part of its name and was the inspiration for the much later Chevrolet HHR model. It wasn't until the fifth generation of the 1960s that the Suburban started to move from looking like a giant station wagon into the SUV we recognize today. The Suburban is currently in its twelfth generation and is based on the Silverado 1500's frame. However, the Suburban swaps the live-axle and leaf-sprung rear end for an independent coil sprung suspension.