The ‘Base Models Only’ Facebook group has become one of my favorite reads on the mighty social media platform lately. It’s chock-full of cars in their most basic, devoid-of-options specs, both new and old, and it is truly a fun browse for enthusiasts. It’s not just low-cost, either, there’s a variety of types and badges.
At the common level, there are ultra-basic Mercedes, Toyotas, Subarus, Fords, and every other daily driver you see on the road. And I don’t mean for basic people, like yours truly. Though, ironically, both my Mazda 2 and Land Rover Discovery are base models. I’m referring to true automotive simplicity. Furthermore, the group even highlights supercars that are ordered as simple as possible. These are often referred to as “strippers” due to being completely stripped of options and extra niceties.
By the same token, it’s also funny to see how brand’s cover up the fact that certain options aren’t tacked on. This is usually accomplished by sticking on a hideous plastic panel and calling it good. That’s actually fine in my book, and I’m sure those who are happy to save the scratch don’t care.
The discussions within the group aren’t just an exercise in “how low can you go,” though, they’re also a window into other nations’ car markets. Some new-car buyers seriously don’t care about anything besides having reliable transportation that will provide decades of faithful service. There are also plenty of highlighted cars that we never got, nor will ever get, here in the USA. My colleague Kevin Williams discusses cars like these in some of his pieces.
There’s a chance that some of these extra-simple examples are fun to drive, too. Because there’s far less to them, they’re very lightweight, which is always ideal for cornering fun. I’d happily wheel a seventh-gen, Pakistan-spec Civic like the above. It’s likely more svelte than any example we got, as it doesn’t even have airbags, so it’d respond quite happily to some sticky tires and track-centric brake pads.
Regarding Benz you see here, you might ask: What gives Mercedes? Why can’t Americans get an ultra-base E class with a manual transmission? Or rather, why did we never get one? It’s not that automakers choose to only offer us a ton of options that inflate the price, it’s more that American car buyers tend to demand as many features as we can get, especially on the luxury side of things. It’s kind of a bummer that the US new car market is a battle of which brand has the most/best base options. Anyone who is perfectly OK with (or even prefers) a simple crystal screen stereo display, instead of a massive infotainment screen with all of its accompanying software, has to buy used in this day and age, or else tear apart a brand-new vehicle to insert older technology.
Though, in some models’ case, the level of spec is congruent to the amount of standard safety equipment. I’m glad we get (and have gotten for some time) a lot of standard safety equipment compared to some other markets, and as my editor Tony Markovich points out, infotainment screens are necessary for government-mandated backup cameras on all new cars.
The group is definitely worth joining, check it out!