Hooniverse Asks: What's History's Greatest Poor People's Car To Have Been Embraced By The Not So Poor?

Whether it’s the gentrification of a neighborhood down on its luck, or the fancification of what’s generally considered to be “peasant food,” the commandeering of the  simple trappings of life by the well to do has long been an annoying industry.
Cross-class appropriate even occurs in the automotive world. You may not be completely familiar with the history of Ford’s original Fiesta, and if you are not I highly recommend Ate Up With Motor’s comprehensive treatise on the matter. In much fewer words, the Fiesta was a car that was intended by Ford to appeal to car buyers in the southern European nations, where cheap wheels like the Renault 5 and Fiat 127 were popular. It was in fact planned to be such a low margin car that the bean counters almost nixed the entire deal arguing that the Fiesta would never recoup its development costs.
The bean counters were wrong and the Fiesta not only sold in substantial numbers in its intended markets but became one of Ford’s more popular models across the rest of Europe. Sales were so brisk in fact that Ford ended sales of the first generation Fiesta in the U.S. ahead of original schedule to provide more production capacity for their European dealers. Why would people who could potentially afford more buy a Fiesta? Because it was a damn-good little car, with clean Tom Tjaarda styling, an available and willing Kent four under the hood, and a decent amount of luxury accouterments if you had a little more cash available.
That’s just one example of a car for the poors that was appropriated by the rich. Was it however, history’s greatest? What do you think?
Image: RetroAdri

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37 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's History's Greatest Poor People's Car To Have Been Embraced By The Not So Poor?”

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Oh, the rich definitely embraced the Beetle (even if they didn’t know it).

      1. Maymar Avatar

        *Slightly less flippant version

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          “Flippant”‘s the trigger:

          1. Maymar Avatar

            Took me a second to get what you meant – well played.

      2. P161911 Avatar

        I am convinced that there still some KDF parts in the latest 911.

      3. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

        From around ’77 through ’79 — the short period of time when it was the only Beetle version left for sale in North America—Karmann Convertibles were most likely to be bought by Doctor’s daughters and coke dealers’ old ladies. VW was eager to accommodate upmarket buyers with a constant parade of Champagne, Wolfsburg, Triple White, and Epilogue Editions.

      4. September 2017 Calendar Avatar
  1. tonyola Avatar

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e5bd0f1a4c6f635a5e0f827192618ed52858c554a6f2abf756787971bf435862.jpg The original American Austin (1930-1934) was intended to be an ultra economy car for the poor. Instead, what few were sold ended up as playthings for the rich and Hollywood types. The real poor spent their precious dollars on used real cars instead.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Back in its native Britain, the Austin 7 on which it was based was embraced, perhaps not so much by the upper classes who could afford Bentleys, but by those with a smaller budget, but still wanted to go racing in the form of “specials” based on the car. One of the oldest, still running motorsport clubs in the UK, The 750 Motor Club, gets its name from the displacement of the 7s engine.
      A certain Colin Chapman started building 7 based specials himself (not the lotus 7, but before that, though you can see the evolution.
      Some company called Bayerische Motoren Werke AG starting building them under license, apparently some rich(ish) people still like their products. Not sure what happened to them…

  2. Citric Avatar

    As tends to be the case, cute economy cars have the best class mobility. Original Fiat 500, for example.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      This and the related 600 and 850 are the correct answer, because in period, while ordinary Italians were trading up from scooters, the wealthier were having them tuned or rebodied by carrozzeria into everything from Monaco playboy taxis like the Jolly or Abarth specials.

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I hate you for making me say this, but the Prius. Perhaps not quite poor, but definitely working class. It was pretty much the only option for the elite to display their eco-cred until the arrival of the Model S. Rich folks loved the Prius.

  4. 0A5599 Avatar

    Not that I think it’s a great car, but it seems like the majority of Smart cars are purchased by people with two or three commas in their net worth.

    1. Victor Avatar

      But most of us did not waste money making them ugly.

      1. September 2017 Avatar
    2. Papa Van Twee Avatar
      Papa Van Twee

      Sonny! Why so serious?

      1. crank_case Avatar

        He had a dystopian vision of the future where some jumped up Irishman would accidentally co-opt his surname after passing a hearing aid store and become more famous.

  5. Desmo Avatar

    …of course Citroen 2CV.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Sam Walton (founder of Wal-Mart) loved his Ford F-150. A vehicle very likely to be found in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

  7. ptschett Avatar

    R. G. LeTourneau had nearly 300 patents and founded a machinery company that made most of the earthmoving equipment the US used in World War II.
    He loved his VW Beetles, even if they did sometimes get smushed accidentally when he parked them by his company’s machines.

    1. Papa Van Twee Avatar
      Papa Van Twee

      Came to post this (the Bug, not LeTourneau), sad to see it took so long for someone to post it.

      1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

        So long? It was in the very first reply (it’s buried under “see more”, but it’s there)

  8. Mikeado Avatar

    Has to be the original Mini. Has to.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yup. The only answer, at that. From the Carnaby Street elite embracing them during the Sixties, to BMW (literally and physically) expanding on their their upmarket appeal 45-years later.

  9. Alff Avatar

    I don’t know if the Miata is necessarily a “poor person’s car” but it is unquestionably affordable and appeals to autocrossers and budget racers across the economic spectrum. The answer is Miata.

    1. Lokki Avatar

      The answer is always Miata, but to be honest, I haven’t seen -any- person with money driving one.

  10. sunbeammadd Avatar

    The Hillman Imp attracted its share of celebrity owners.

  11. sunbeammadd Avatar

    NSU Prinz. Well, it was embraced by John Glenn at any rate.

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