The Curbside Classicos Of Tulum, Mexico – Old, New And Just Different

There are three Tulums in Mexico. The superb Mayan ruins are the only ones that are on the coast, overlooking the turquoise Caribbean. To the south, the Zona Hotelera is famous for its eco-chic small hotels and guest houses. Puebla Tulum is the actual town, where the folks that make the beds and cook the meals for the tourists live.  And as appealing as the first two are, I’m always drawn to the gritty back streets of Mexican towns for the local architecture, cheap but good food, and of course, the cars. And not just old ones, as the carscape of Mexico is a tasty salsa of the familiar and the unusual.

Even though a I showed you a VW in the top shot, I’m going to be doing a separate post about Mexican VWs, so it’s the only one you’re going to see here. How about a Mercury Topaz in a wonderful shade of deep blue? Did they sell Mercuries in Mexico? Hmm.

The do sell SEATs in Mexico, although they’re none too common. Here’s a Córdoba, based on the VW Polo platform, but with a hefty trunk. The Córdoba was phased out in Europe a few years back, but is still being produced in Mexico for the domestic market.

This Nissan van looks a bit elderly, similar to the ones sold briefly in the US back in the eighties. But with these kinds of vehicles, as well as many Mexican ones, it can be hard to place the date as they were often produced in or for second and third world countries well beyond their primary careers.

American cars were once predominant in Mexico, but have increasingly faded to the fringes of the market. Here’s one of several Cavaliers, along with a VW Pointer. But the Pointer in Mexico is not the Ford Escort-based Brazilian VW (yes, it gets confusing in Latin America), but a VW Gol badged with the Pointer name. Or is this not a Pointer? I’m already confused.

The Hyundai Atos (also called Atoz), and its current successor, the I10, are very popular in Mexico. Rightfully so, as they’re among the cheapest cars available, yet quite roomy. These little tall-boy hatchbacks have a surprising amount of interior room, and along with the similar-format Daewoo Matiz/Chevrolet Spark are the legitimate successors to the VW Beetle in terms of a functional basic transport.

The VW Caribe is of course a Mexican Golf/Rabbit, built from 1977 through 1987.

For all the houses and hotels along the beach at least, potable water is either harvested rainwater or trucked in; most commonly a combination of the two. Here’s the fleet that does the delivering, with the one in the center being the most interesting.

It’s a Dina, but most us know it is the classic International Loadstar. Dina built these with its own rather crude fiberglass one-piece front end. Like so many older Mexican trucks, it has a smoky diesel engine with a distinctive hoary sound.

An elderly VW Type 181 (“Thing”) that looks like its not in front line duty anymore.

Although the Ford Transit vans are coming to the US to replace the Econoline, we’ll only be getting the RWD versions. The rest of the world has a choice of RWD or FWD, and the dead rear beam axle on this one makes it clear this one is FWD. Lower floor height, I assume.

Nowadays, “Chevy” in Mexico mostly means re-badged Opels and Daewoos. This common sedan is based on the Opel Corsa.

This “Chrysler” was the only one of its kind I saw. And this dog was quite atypical too, quite unlike most Mexican street dogs.

The hatch version of the Corsa-based Chevy. The bowtie has replaced the Opel lightning bolt in its circular badge.

Another aging Americano.

These double-cab Rangers are quite popular here, as are other brands. Doesn’t leave much cargo room, but that’s a cute little topper on it.

That’s a mighty fine stone arch gracing this Chebbie truck.

In 2012, the VW Jetta has finally overtaken the evergreen Nissan Tsuru (it gets its own CC this week) as the best selling car in Mexico. But it must be more popular in the big cities, as this one was the only one I saw on my stroll, a GLI no less. Not a common sight, at least not in these parts. But the Mk4 is still being built as the VW Classico, which is what I got for my rental car. It wasn’t exactly fresh, with over 100k km on the odo, but still rolled along quite happily at 150 km/h on the toll road from Valladolid to Cancun. The $18 toll is obviously way too steep for most folks, as the road was virtually deserted except for a couple of guys on bicycles riding the wrong direction in the left lane(!)

Here’s the second generation Daewoo Matiz, badged as a Chevy. The all-new version, as now sold in the US, is also quite common already.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of a Ramcharger version of one of these Dodges. Just like the old two-door big SUVs of yore, but based on this generation Dodge.

A late-version Ford Tempo.

This is the more typical “pickup”; just don’t ask which brand. Generic. Chevy, quite likely.

This Ford is the long wheelbase version. Odd to think that this global phenomena started in the US with the designed-for-America VW Rabbit (Caddy) pickup.

If the earlier VW wasn’t a Pointer, this one is.

But the Pointer has now been replaced with the new Gol, eliminating at least some of the confusion.

Peugeot still has a presence in Mexico, albeit it a rather modest one.

A cheerfully-painted bronco II. It’s parked in front of a construction site where some ritzy new building is going in. Since the beach area of Tulum is very pricy, Tulum Puebla is starting to get more attention now.

Renault Kangoo on the roll.

A nicely color-coordinated old Suburban. Gas is not cheap in Mexico, so these big tanks are expensive to feed.

Bimbo, Mexico’s version of Wonder Bread and Hostess. This Fiat Ducato will be sold soon in the US as a Ram. The Euro-van invasion is underway.

Cars in Mexico are either white, or very colorful, like this old Cherokee.

Hardly a typical sight, and out of commission, form the looks of it. Behind it is a Ford Ikon, a sedan version of the older-gen Fiesta.

A Nissan Urvan.

No comment needed.

The repair shops are typically modest in scale. This one specializes in bikes.

This very elderly Nissan had just pulled in, so it’s still in service. I also spotted a gen1 510 out in the country.

Another Atos with a couple of bigger vans, which puts it in perspective. I haven’t seen an early version of a Windstar in a while back home. Maybe the Mexicans have learned how to keep them going, despite the overwhelming odds. Rarely has a vehicle had both an engine and transmission so utterly guaranteed to grenade.

This is hardly a comprehensive review of the cars of Mexico; just the results of a short stroll. Seeing as I was on vacation with extended family, I didn’t stop for a number of interesting cars along the road. But there will be some more posts this week on a few individual cars that caught my interest. Hasta luego.