Base models. We don't always see them featured in magazines and photo shoots. What we always see are the top of the line models loaded to the brim with every box ticked in the options chart. Granted, they more desirable for obvious reasons but it's always refreshing, for this writer at least, to go back to the basics.
So, why the sudden appreciation for these fleet specials? Simple. Like the fleet cars in a company, these bottom rung models drive sales. They keep your favorite manufacturer building models that you, dear enthusiast, really want. Dozens or even hundreds of base model Corollas were built and sold for Toyota to make and develop a GT86. These models are the workhorses that bring home the bacon for the companies.
That however, isn't the main point of this little write up. When you stop and think about it, these models become the rarest and hardest to find in the future. When was the last time you saw a Corolla DX (or XL or whatever it is you call it on your side of the world) in decent shape? Hell, when was the last one you saw one moving? Even the surviving top of the line models aren't in good shape anymore. Okay, so the Corolla isn't really desirable no matter what trim you get but seeing a basic Corolla can be nostalgic from time to time.
Go to a classic car show and you'll see almost nothing but top rung models. The models you aspired to as a kid. But what about the car you grew up with? Not everyone grew up in an Impala SS. Most likely, it was an Impala with a 307 or even just a 250. So while something like an SS would produce feelings of desire, your father's good old basic Impala would leave you teary eyed with nostalgia. In the case of our european readers, it was usually a Ford Cortina L or, later on in life, a Ford Sierra L.
Perhaps its my upbringing that's behind the reason for my liking of the base model. Our family never owned a fully specced car. From the moment I had consciousness it was always a base or near basic model. It was with a 1993 Honda Civic LX and a 1989 Toyota Corolla XL which my parents eventually eventually upgraded to an XE. You didn't really mind flogging miles in it and you didn't mind abusing it. Another thing about these fleet specials is it somehow makes you appreciate simplicity. As my dad said, the more gizmos you put in a car, the more things might break. It makes you think, do you really have to raid the options list all the time?
For me, a base model is also a way for me to check out a car in its purest form. No smart dampers. No active suspensions. No gadgets to woo me or distract me from the essence of the car itself. A judge of a good car for me is a good bare bones model. It has nothing to hide and shows you its honest self.
This brings me to the topic of a basic German car. A no frills model with little or no active electronic guidance and stuff that looks cool on paper. Okay, so all of them now have iDrive like knobs and screens now but even those can still be specced up to the max. OK Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, just give me the most basic on board computer you have. I don't mind the scroll wheel anymore because you're making it standard anyway. Just make my suspension as passive as possible. You guys were good at it even before the era of active damping (See: BMW E39).
Nowadays of course, nothing is really that basic. Power windows are a commonplace and electronics are everywhere. In a world where manufacturers load as much gadgets as they can, its time to go back to the basics. Tick as few options as you can. You'll come up with one hell of a package and a car that will truly make you happy. Thank the base model for giving you a good canvas to start on. Thank the millions of fleet spec cars that funded the development of nicer, more exciting models. Thank the base model for giving you fond memories of your childhood and fill you with nostalgia. Now excuse me while I go find a 1993 Honda Civic LX.