Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Car Pr0n #90

And with this week, we are out of the 1980s. That's a good thing -- the '80s were, by and large, a vast wasteland for automotive design and technology. When the Mustang GT of the mid-to-late '80s had a whopping 225 horsepower -- and this was considered a lot! -- you know cars in general sucked. Heck, the Chevy Camaro IROC could BARELY outperform the Ford Escort GT...

The 1990s didn't start off much better. However, there was this:

1990 Ford Explorer. The SUV craze began. It took an "everyman" sport utility built on the Ranger frame to really popularize the SUV. Yes, I know, the Jeep Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer had been around for ages. Heck, the Suburban had been around since the 1930s. GMC and Chevy introduced the S-15 Jimmy and S-10 Blazer in 1983. The Toyota 4Runner was introduced in 1984, and the Nissan Pathfinder in 1985.

Other than the Jeeps and the Suburban, though, *all* of these models were two-door versions until 1990. Coincidence? Doubtful. It took Ford coming up with an all-new SUV (replacing the positively dreadful Bronco II) to get everyone on board with 4-door vehicles.

I had a 1985 S-15 Jimmy. In the late 1980s, it was classified as an "Other" in the "Body Type" category. The Ford Explorer literally defined the SUV -- the classification was created when the Explorer came about and the genre exploded.

A number of things happened to make the Explorer so successful. The minivan, for starters, was instrumental in killing the American station wagon. While you were formerly able to get most cars in coupe, sedan, and station wagon form, the evolution of the minivan made the station wagon obsolete.

Secondly, the large car died. In the mid-1980s, the majority of cars were switched to front wheel drive and got smaller, leaving only the Chevy Caprice and the Ford Crown Vic for large cars. As cars got smaller, people started looking for larger vehicles. The Explorer, being built on a truck frame, didn't have to conform to the same standards as a passenger car. It could be bigger, heavier, and get worse fuel economy without ruining the manufacturer's CAFE standards.

Some call it a loophole. Others with a more keen grasp of economics would call it "supply and demand." Whatever you call it, the Explorer literally brought about the SUV craze that dominated the market in the 1990s and 2000s.

Which is rather interesting, considering that it was bland as hell and, for the first years, significantly underpowered...

That is all.


Anonymous said...

Explorers and their automotive followers were cars you could drive gingerly off road. They could go out in a frozen field or an old logging road but you didn't want try and follow C-7 or Scout cross country in one.


Old NFO said...

And you spelled it wrong... Exploder... :-)

Stretch said...

I had a '95 Explorer. Drove it for 12 years.
Traded it in for That Other Brand. Kept that for 4 years.
Got another Explorer in Jan. 2011. A 2010 model. Last year for the truck chassis. I fully expect to be driving her until 2023 or longer.

Kermit said...

So, you're in the market for a used Explorer, then, Jay?