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If it ain’t broke, don’t redesign it

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

This week Jeep released pictures of its all-knew (kind of) Jeep Wrangler, and unsurprisingly, it stays close to the iconic shape that's been gracing American roads since the 1940s.

A late-model Jeep next to its '40s-era ancestor

A late-model Jeep next to its '40s ancestor

I don't think this is a bad thing. There are a few cars and trucks out there with designs that persist in pretty much the exact same form for years and even decades and still sell well. The Jeep Wrangler is one of these, as are the Mini, the Lincoln Town Car and the Range Rover. The Porsche 911 is another, and to a lesser extent, so is the BMW 3 series.

Manufacturers update the insides of such cars with contemporary technology, but leave the exterior and its role in their vehicle lineup unchanged.

These cars kind of remind me of dragonflies or horseshoe crabs -- species so well-evolved to their little niche that they've survived for millenia. Like those animals, these cars perform really well in their respective roles: the Jeep is among the best off-road vehicles in the world, the Mini Cooper still has plenty of zip since its reintroduction in 2001 and the Porsche 911 is still one of the top performance cars in its class.

The 2011 Jeep Wrangler was unveiled this week

The 2011 Jeep Wrangler was unveiled this week

Besides iconic style, these cars also have the virtue of holding their resale value very well. Because they won't look that different from future models and they tend to be among the more reliable vehicles out there, they can command better prices on the used market.

I find these vehicles kind of comforting. In a rapidly changing world, they stay essentially the same, exuding class and competence through the years. Not quite sure you can say the same about the horseshoe crab.

What do you think? Would you buy one of these rolling anachronisms, or do you prefer something with a more contemporary look?

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