Lion of the Blogosphere

What does Lisa Birnbach say about preppy cars?

I happen to have a copy of The Official Preppy Handbook, and it seems that preppy cars barely changed at all since the book was written in 1980. That’s 41 years ago!

Lisa Birnbach says the following car makes are preppy:

Land Rover
Toyota Land Cruiser
International Harvester
Woody station wagons
Mercedes Benz
Any English car (today, that would include MINI, although MINI is owned by BMW)

I didn’t especially notice any Toyota Land Cruisers in the preppy town in New England. I think that Toyota lost its preppiness because they have become too common in the United States. Plus now, every European manufacturer sells SUVs, as does Subaru which is more preppy than Toyota.

International Harvester no longer exists, but it was the precursor to the modern SUV craze.

No one makes woody station wagons anymore.

Peugeots are no longer sold in the United States.

Lisa Birnbach says that Volkswagen is preppy because of “reverse snobbery.” There’s also a picture of a Volkswagen Rabbit. The Rabbit was renamed the Golf, and sadly 2021 is the last model year that the Golf will be sold in the United States. Americans hate hate hate hatchbacks. Vintage Rabbits in good condition sell for a lot of money!

For some reason, Lisa Birnbach fails to mention Audi as being a preppy car, but I saw plenty of Audis in the preppy town in New England, and Audi is a luxury Volkswagen, so I think that was an oversight. Unless Audis weren’t preppy in 1980 and have since become preppy, but that seems pretty unlikely.

And I guess that Subarus weren’t preppy in 1980 but they are preppy today, the most preppy Japanese car. Like Volkswagen, Subaru fulfills the role of being a reverse snobbery car. Or maybe Subaru is just popular in New England because of the all-wheel drive.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 12, 2021 at 6:43 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

17 Responses

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  1. Lion, now that you posted here (I will not use Twitter) here’s a 2014 interview with Sam Fussell, son of Paul. Sam went from competitive bodybuilding to living the simple life in Montana. Any thoughts?


    September 12, 2021 at 7:38 PM

  2. When I attended college in New England in the 1990s, the student body was mainly hippies who were the offspring of preppies. They mostly drove vintage cars that their family had purchased a decade or so earlier. The most common cars were 1980s Saab 900s, Volvo station wagons, and Mercedes diesels. Bonus hippy points if the Mercedes was fueled by recycled cooking oil.

    Less common, but still very prep, were VW Rabbits and camper vans, 1960s and 70s Land Rovers, Peugeot 504s, Citroen DSs, and 1970s (2002 model) and 1980s (6 Series) BMWs. Vintage Audis are notoriously unreliable, which is probably why there weren’t many around then. Subaru wagons were just starting to get popular.

    Of course, the least prep car is a pickup truck. I only recall one in the student parking lot. It has a license plate from Texas. That said, it was an early 1990s Toyota, which is probably about as prep as pickups get!

    Lothar of the Hill People

    September 12, 2021 at 8:52 PM

  3. Peugeot’s and Citroen’s former owner PSA was going to re-introduce both brands to the US market, but it then merged with Fiat Chrysler to form the new company Stellantis. With many other brands sold in the US, especially the insanely, off-the-charts profitable Jeep, Stellantis has decided to cancel the Peugeot and Citroen reintroductions. One semi-exception is that Citroen will be providing a small number of its tiny Ami electric vehicles to a carshare company in Washington. Also, as Peugeots are sold in Mexico, from time to time they can be seen on US roads especially in border areas.



    September 12, 2021 at 9:58 PM

  4. Anything that is driven by athletes, entertainers, and rappers is highly unlikely to pass muster as preppy. Same thing goes for high end wristwatches. Rolex watches (especially the blinged out models) are popular with the aforementioned groups, but unless I’m very much mistaken watches like the Cartier tank watch not so much.

    Sgt. Joe Friday

    September 13, 2021 at 11:35 AM

      • A good rule of thumb is that the wealthiest guy in the room is not the best dressed. Being a hippy in the 90’s was as much about being rich (remember the term trustifarian) versus being prep in the 1980’s.

        LOTB, Could you please do a review of the book “Paying for the Party” by Laura T. Hamilton, Elizabeth A. Armstrong. It is a look at college that does not involve the Ivy League but does involve rich people. There is also a follow up called “Parenting to a Degree.” Both cover many of the themes you usually cover but cannot be done on Twitter.


        September 13, 2021 at 5:02 PM

  5. 40 years ago, imports and especially luxury imports were still rare.

    BMW/Mercedes/Audi are not really preppy these days, since yuppies and anyone with money and spendthrift blacks and proles will drive them. They’re the de facto common choice for luxury cars now.

    The Land Cruiser is huge, costs $100K, and one of the few real SUVs still manufactured i.e. huge body, truck like body-on-frame construction, capable of serious overlanding and offroading, terrible fuel economy, etc. Real SUVs like the Land Cruiser have largely been replaced by smaller fake SUVs with unibody construction and crossovers. Vintage Land Cruisers are very fashionable these days, especially the old FJ ones.

    I don’t know if Subaru qualifies as preppy. It’s more associated with outdoorsy types, lefties, hippies, lesbians, hipsters, etc., than with preppies.


    September 13, 2021 at 4:48 PM

  6. Land Rovers are still preppy, but I would say Range Rovers aren’t, as the latter is quite common these days and driven by lots of yuppies, trophy wife types, celebs/athletes/entertainers/rappers, etc.

    Vintage Land Rovers, especially the Land Rover Defender, is preppy these days like vintage Land Cruisers.

    The Toyota Prius may have been preppy 10 years ago.

    VWs are economy cars but they’re priced a bit higher than other economy cars in the US and are expensive to maintain, so they’re a bit less common.


    September 13, 2021 at 4:57 PM

  7. Preppy in no particular order:

    Land Rovers (Indian)
    Audis (German)
    Volvo (Chinese)

    BMWs are to showy, especially the latest ones.


    September 13, 2021 at 9:36 PM

  8. Off topic follow up to a comment in another thread by Latias.

    “Do you have any insight about California and any potential flight from there. Just asking because you talk about New York City.”- Latias


    September 15, 2021 at 6:15 AM

    • The number of non-Hispanic whites living in California is lower in 2021 than in 1990. California also has one of the lowest rates of non-Hispanic white fertility.

      California has gone from a state that Americans wanted to move to in the 1950’s/1960’s to a replace that depends on immigration just to maintain current population.

      The last place a preppy type would live these days in California.


      September 15, 2021 at 11:09 AM

      • ” to a replace…”

        If you were left wing, that would have been an excellent Freudian slip.

        prolier than thou

        September 16, 2021 at 2:14 PM

  9. Caring about what is and is not preppy in 2021 is pathetic.

    Preppy aesthetics are almost completely absent from popular culture.

    The typical preppie “fortune” is nothing compared to Hollywood or tech or finance money.

    Would even 1% of teenagers know what the word “preppy” means?

    Judge Absalom

    September 15, 2021 at 2:58 PM

  10. Audi was an obscure brand back then. VW didn’t develop it into their luxury brand until more recently.


    September 15, 2021 at 4:06 PM

  11. Not the best article out there but i empathize.


    September 15, 2021 at 10:21 PM

  12. “For some reason, Lisa Birnbach fails to mention Audi as being a preppy car, but I saw plenty of Audis in the preppy town in New England, and Audi is a luxury Volkswagen, so I think that was an oversight. Unless Audis weren’t preppy in 1980 and have since become preppy, but that seems pretty unlikely.”

    Audi as a brand did not exist until the late 1960s. In the 1970s Audi just another brand for Vokswagen. In the 1980s Audi had the unintended sudden acceleration incidents which got widespread publicity in the USA and hurt sales. It was not until the 1990s that Audi decided to reposition itself as a luxury brand like Mercedes and BMW. I think that’s when it became preppy.


    September 16, 2021 at 10:15 AM

  13. LOTB,

    You should do a post about how Mississippi has now passed New York state for the highest per capita deaths due to Covid-19. Mississippi has the only governor that can make Kristi Noem look intelligent.
    Of course, the biggest difference is New York was hammered in the first wave and Mississippi was not. So more of the deaths in Mississippi were preventable.


    September 16, 2021 at 4:26 PM

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