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Cars That Could Have Been Great, But Missed

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,881
    The current Maxima is also pretty old now, hasn't been updated much, and is a fleet queen - I bet 2/3 of them or more go to rental buyers. Find a used late model Maxima with no sunroof, probably an old rental. I remember looking at one when I rented last year, the ICE was pretty old school. That doesn't help, when you can get an Altima with nicer toys for similar money.

    Maxima might sell now to bargain seekers who want the engine and maybe better looks or image than an Altima. Every now and then I'll see a blowout deal on them. I think I have read it is due for update/replacement very soon, maybe it'll fit in better now that the Infiniti Q50 (G replacement) is a bit more expensive than before.
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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362
    edited November 2014
    andre1969 said:



    "...the current Altima and Maxima both have a 109.3" wheelbase. I wonder if that's coincidence, or if the two are based on the same platform?"

    Yes, the Altima and Maxima share the same platform, just as the Camry and Avalon do, and the Sonata and Azera, plus the Impala and the XTS. Yet, the Altima is a big seller while the Max languishes.



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  • texasestexases Posts: 5,820
    The Altima has moved so far upmarket, with about the same size and performance as the Maxima, there's not much reason to spend more for the Maxima. No more '4-door sports car'.
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    The Altima sells because it is perceived as a good value.

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  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 43,264
    That would be a good ad for an Encore or Enclave.

    More Bang for Buick.

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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,349
    One of my friends got an Altima as a loaner when his 2006 Xterra recently had to go in for some maintenance and repairs. I rode around it it some. Pretty nice car, on the inside. I'm not too crazy about its exterior style, though, but I could get used to it.

    It seemed pretty quick too, for a 4-cyl. I just looked up a Car and Driver test of a 2013...0-60 in 7.6 seconds. It's amazing how far these cars have come, too. My Mom and stepdad had a 1999 Altima, which felt like a crap-box, although to its credit it went about 330,000 miles before they finally got rid of it. So, it was a good car. It just reeked of that "You may hate it now...just wait til you DRIVE it!" aura.

    I really liked the 2002 Altima when it first came out. Enough that I briefly considered trading my 2000 Intrepid in on one...until I saw how far underwater I was with that car. I didn't like the '07-12 style as much though. My Mom has an '08, and it seemed pretty low inside, and a bit cheaper, somehow. I think the current style is a bit roomier, but I just don't care for its style.
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  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,881
    I don't know if "Bang" is something the typical driver wants associated with their car :)
    stever said:

    That would be a good ad for an Encore or Enclave.

    More Bang for Buick.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362
    edited November 2014
    I always liked the styling of the '84 Fiero. Too bad its out-of-date, unrefined 4-cylinder engine was out of sync with the car's looks. I guess the whole Fiero episode defines the old GM.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/automobiles/fixes-came-too-late.html?hpw&rref=automobiles&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    " but disappointment set in quickly as the Fiero developed a reputation for a stiff ride, lackluster quality, clunky handling and, worse, some engine failures and fires."

    Didn't GM even bother to TEST these things before they built and sold them? GEESH!

    Let's see---if I wanted to build the worst possible sports car for the 1980s, what qualities would I put into it? Why, I"ll imitate a 1954 MG!

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362

    " but disappointment set in quickly as the Fiero developed a reputation for a stiff ride, lackluster quality, clunky handling and, worse, some engine failures and fires."

    Didn't GM even bother to TEST these things before they built and sold them? GEESH!

    Let's see---if I wanted to build the worst possible sports car for the 1980s, what qualities would I put into it? Why, I"ll imitate a 1954 MG!

    Hadn't thought about the 1954 MG in a long time. The MG excelled in looks too, in a retro way. It had a stiff ride and lackluster quality, but didn't it handle okay? I also don't recall that it was plagued by engine fires.

    I drove my brother's manual shift 1984 Fiero numerous times, and it rode okay for a small car of that period. It was also reliable over the several years and ~70,000 miles he owned it, and the engine never caught fire. I think the engines were vulnerable to catching fire if too much oil was poured into the crankcase. The crankcase of the Fiero was smaller than that of other GM cars that used the "Tech-4" engine because the car was so low to the ground. As a result, some grease
    monkeys overfilled the crankcase. Also, because the crankcase had more limited capacity, the engine was more sensitive to running low on oil. As long as you didn't overfill the crankcase or let the oil run low, engine fires weren't a problem.

    Handling was okay, even good, I'd say, as long as you didn't push it real hard. If pushed too hard, the back end could come around. But, isn't that an issue with other mid-engine cars? Let's remember that this was a low priced sporty car, not a high end exotic.

    My main objection to the 4-cylinder Fiero was its coarse, agricultural engine. It just hated to rev. Tech-4, whew, what a misnomer!


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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    A 1954 MG handed okay for a 1954 car, by American standards, but pointing it in a certain direction was no guarantee that you would actually steer that way, especially on a rough road. It's a pretty primitive vehicle, athough way fun.

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  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,867
    edited December 2014
    You could get the later six-cylinder Fieros in the original styling, as opposed to just the Ferrari lookalikes. One rarely saw those it seems.

    A longtime friend of mine had an '85 four-cylinder. His only complaint was that groceries in the 'trunk' were warm by the time he'd get home.

    He did say that the girls liked it. He said he wished he could have picked it up and put it under his arm when he went into a bar. ;)
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    Perfect for pizza delivery!

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,881
    What I remember most about the Fiero is that my little brother (born just a couple years before the Fiero debuted) confused it with "Ferrari" when he was a little kid, and he was disappointed when I told him the truth, and that many of them were saddled with a less than sporty engine.

    I had a remote control Fiero like this:

    image

    It wasn't an expensive toy, but is actually a real good scale model.
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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362
    Shifty, I enjoyed your tribute to your father in Collectible Automobile. It was interesting, well written, and had a lot of feeling. Good job!

    Too bad Packard didn't make it.
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    edited December 2014
    thanks for that!

    Ah, well--- there were lots of very worthy cars that didn't make it. The Auto Biz is cut throat and not always based on the merits of the product. Think of Duesenberg, Peerless, Pierce Arrow--these were magnificent cars.

    Sometimes car companies fail from mismanagement, from economic uncertainties, and in Packard's case, even from internal and external corruption. It was a very ugly and ignoble demise, that's for sure.

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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362
    edited February 22
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    Typical GM product of those times --- underdeveloped when released, letting drivers do their R&D, then finally get the car right, then pull it off the market. Can you say Fiero? Allante? Vega? Pontiac Sky?

    All the '65 Corvair needed to go from good to GREAT was better tires, better shocks, a short-shifter and a turbo that actually turboed. :)

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  • danfrommdanfromm Posts: 11

    Typical GM product of those times --- underdeveloped when released, letting drivers do their R&D, then finally get the car right, then pull it off the market. Can you say Fiero? Allante? Vega? Pontiac Sky?

    All the '65 Corvair needed to go from good to GREAT was better tires, better shocks, a short-shifter and a turbo that actually turboed. :)

    GM never got it right. Poor choice of materials, stupid design details. Three examples:

    Pushrod tube seals. CORSA sold, may still sell, teflon pushrod tube seals that don't harden and leak. To the end GM sold low grade short-lived rubber.

    Exhaust manifold. Log manifold that was pressed against exhaust stubs that were pressed into the head. Asbestos gasket (not a problem, not particularly friable) between log and stub. Problem was, over time and many heat-cool cycles the stubs got loose in the head. Uh-oh.

    Head bolts doubled as rocker studs. Ball-stud rockers, very American. But and however the head bolts also retained metal plates that held the pushrod tubes in place. All this had to be removed to replace pushrod tube seals. Would have been only a nuisance, otherwise ok, if the bolt holes in the block had been helicoiled. They weren't, and after a couple of pushrod tube seal replacements the head bolts turned in the block and couldn't be torqued properly.

    Don't ask how I know all this. As far as I can tell GM still hasn't learned from the Corvair.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    Another near miss---the Dodge Neon. Here was an affordable, basic coupe that could have been a little American GTI or Alfa 101 Veloce or even the American Miata with a chop. Nice looks, very decent handling and braking and the upgraded engine moved along nicely. Problem? Utterly non-existent quality control, bad head gaskets, lousy dealer service, cheapskate updates, no development.

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  • texasestexases Posts: 5,820
    I look at the Neon as a 'new' Vega.
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  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,362
    There's no particular discussion for the following article, but I'll post it below because it'll probably be of interest to some readers...

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20150224/RETAIL03/150229935/buick-cracks-top-10-on-consumer-reports-report-card-acura-mercedes

    Comments?
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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,349

    Typical GM product of those times --- underdeveloped when released, letting drivers do their R&D, then finally get the car right, then pull it off the market. Can you say Fiero? Allante? Vega? Pontiac Sky?

    GM tended to be good at more mainstream products like standard-sized cars pickup trucks. It's when they tried to be cutting edge and daring that they'd tend to go at it haphazardly.

    As for the Neon, one thing they did get right was that finally, FINALLY, someone made what I'd consider to be a useful small car...at least, a useful "modern" small car. Once upon a time, things like Darts and Novas were "small" cars...

    I drove a few, both the first and second-gen Neons, and found them to be decently roomy. They fit me better than any other small car of the time. I actually considered getting a Neon, once, back before they developed their bad reputation. In retrospect, probably a good thing I didn't!

    I've heard that the second-gen Neon isn't *too* bad, but by then, I think they took most of the fun out of driving it. And it just didn't stay competitive and up to date.
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  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,867
    edited February 25
    I still see second-gen Neons almost daily, here in rusty NE OH. I'd say I see them more than any other small car other than possibly Cavaliers--and I'll allow that that might be in part to Cavaliers having been built only forty miles down the road.

    I liked the first-gen Neon coupe for looks, although I've never even ridden in first- or second-gen cars so I'll withhold comment on either.

    I don't think the Corvair was typical of GM for that period--in actuality, it was the first GM to be controversial I think.

    It does seem that the Corvair was no worse than other cars with similar engine/transaxle combinations, but that a book wasn't written about those others.
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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 22,349
    I'd always heard the biggest issue with the Corvair was that you had to keep the tires inflated to 15psi in front, and 26psi in the back. And you had to keep up on it. The car didn't have much tolerance for tire pressures that were too far out of spec. And often, naive owners or careless garage employees would simply inflate all four tires to the same PSI.

    The Volkswagen Bug was also rear-engine and used those swing-axles. However, a Corvair was a lot more powerful than a Bug. Or at least, a Corvair didn't take 30 seconds to hit 60 mph :p And the Corvair had a sportier flair about it that no doubt encouraged more spirited driving. So drivers were probably more likely to push a Corvair to a dangerous threshold than they were a Bug.
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  • danfrommdanfromm Posts: 11
    It does seem that the Corvair was no worse than other cars with similar engine/transaxle combinations, but that a book wasn't written about those others.

    There were two Corvairs, 1960-64 and '65-69. The first was a VW clone with more power, worse weight distribution and a better front suspension. If the rear tires weren't inflated 4-6 PSI more than the fronts they had lethal oversteer. The only car I've driven that was more spin-prone was a '55 1500N Speedster.

    The '65-'69s had what was essentially the Stingray suspension and were the best-handling small cars in mass production of their time. Still badly-made and under-engineered. Typical GM cars of their time and, until well proven otherwise, now too. GM dug itself a very deep hole and has a lot of climbing out to do.
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  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,867
    edited February 25
    Well, they were an inexpensive car to boot, not a Porsche. I could very-much enjoy a '65-69 Monza or Corsa hardtop. I'm actually drawn to the '69 since they were the last. I know there were no Corsas after '66.
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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 46,545
    A 65-69 Corvair has some of the best drum brakes you'll ever experience. The shifter has to go, though, and many Corvair enthusiasts have figured out how to stop the engine oil leaks. You'd think some GM engineer would have actually driven the cars before they sold them and figured this stuff out. When your car's shifter is worse than that on a WW II Army Jeep, you know you have a way to go.

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  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 11,845
    Closing the chapter on the Corvair, opening a new chapter on another GM vehicle that "coulda been" - the Fiero.

    How Pontiac convinced GM brass that a mid-engined 2-seater could be marketed as an "economy" car is a fascinating story that I don't believe hasn't been told.

    Just when GM was getting the issues addressed (adding a V6, updating the styling to make it look better), GM kills it.

    Sigh.

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