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Cars That Have Disappointed

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
edited October 2010 in Chevrolet
The list is long, and includes the Vega and Aztek from GM, the Edsel and recent two-seater Thunderbird from Ford, the Airflow and Aspen/Volare from Chrysler, and the Pacer and Alliance from AMC. Every manufacturer has had models that have fallen far short of their promise. Many came close to being big hits, but had one or two fatal flaws. For example, if the Vega had only had better rust proofing and a well developed engine, it probably would have given Toyota, Datsun and Honda a good fight.

Here's your chance to add to this short list of examples, or to elaborate on my examples.


  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Most of the Saturn brand can fall under this.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,071
    I'd like to add the Cadillac Allante. The last year - the 1993 model - is the one to own as it came with a respectable 4.6 Northstar V-8. The remainder came with an underpowered 4.5 V-8 and a manual top is inexcusable at this price point. Too bad, because the Allante was an attractive car.
  • one thing that really hurt the Allante was the cheesy, old-fashioned interior. This really turned buyers off, as I recall.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    edited October 2010
    The Allante is indeed attractive. Insofar as the 4.5 engine, it's my understanding that it was much improved over the 4.1, on which it was based. Reliability and power were both up. While I agree that the 4.5 wasn't the engine the Allante deserved, I wouldn't call it underpowered for its day. I say this because, unlike the Corvette, the Allante was a luxury cruiser. The 4.9 would have been better, but, yeah, the Northstar was well suited to the Allante's purpose and image.

    I never drove a Cadillac with the 4.1, but I did drive an Eldorado with the 4.5 and a DeVille with the 4.9. I thought the DeVille was quite quick for a '90s car.

    Similarly to the Allante, the 4 cylinder Pontiac Fiero excelled in the looks department, in my opinion, but the agricultural Iron Duke didn't fulfill the mission.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,594
    I think if the quality had been there, these cars could have been something really good. They seemed like the right car at the right time...fairly roomy interior in a small-ish package, decent fuel economy, and their light weight let them get better performance out of 4- and small V-6 engines than the old-school intermediates were getting out of bigger V-6 and V-8 engines. And the Buick/Olds/Pontiac versions, if you picked the top trim level, were downright luxurious inside.

    Unfortunately, they were rushed into production, debuting in April of 1979, and would quickly become the most recalled car in history, displacing the 1976 Aspen/Volare, which previously held that title.

    In later years, they did improve them, and by 1983 the 4-cyl models were rated "Average" by Consumer Reports....about the best a domestic brand could hope for in those days. But, it was too late, the damage had been done, and before two long, the names Citation, Phoenix, and Omega would be retired in shame. Only the Buick Skylark seemed to escape the bad rap that the X-body endured. It sold fairly well right through the end in 1985, when about 90,000 were sold, and the name was used well into the 1990's

    I think these cars really hit GM where it mattered too...the bread and butter of the market. Nobody expected GM to make a good small car, and in that respect, buyers were rarely disappointed. But, in the past, GM had always done pretty well with intermediates and old-skool compacts. The old Chevy II/Nova had always been a reasonably good car, as was the Chevelle/Malibu. And in 1980, a LOT of people bought Citations...something like 800,000, and Chevy outsold Ford by something like 2:1 in that model year.

    Alas, 800,000+ is a lot of people to piss off, and needless to say, GM did that to most of them.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,071
    I had a 1994 Cadillac DeVille with the 4.9 V-8 which was rated at 200 hp. Though that seems very modest by today's standards, the car was hardly a slouch. It would do 100 mph effortlessly and could get away from you on the turnpike if you weren't paying attention to the speedo as it rode so smoothly.

    I drove a 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with the 4.1 and it was a dog! Zero-to-sixty could be measured with a calendar. I think I could've travelled faster walking briskly alongside the car rather than driving it!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,594
    I never drove a Cadillac with the 4.1, but I did drive an Eldorado with the 4.5 and a DeVille with the 4.9. I thought the DeVille was quite quick for a '90s car.

    I test drove an early 80's Coupe DeVille with the 4.1 years ago, when I was looking at used cars. I never took it out on the highway though, or got into a situation where I had to floor it, so I didn't get to experience the full disappointment in all its glory. In stop and go traffic, it was fine.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    edited October 2010
    Well put. Excellent designs, poor execution. The Citation and its siblings were terrible missteps for GM.

    Similar comments could be applied to the VW Dasher and Renault Medallion. Remember those?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,120
    I think with the 4.1 the poor durability was the biggest disappointment. Sure, it was somewhat weak on power, but, then, it was designed for downsized FWD applications, where power expectations were relatively modest in the mid '80s. The goal was much improved fuel economy, with adequate power.
  • berriberri Posts: 4,007
    "Well put. Excellent designs, poor execution. The Citation and its siblings were terrible missteps for GM."

    I dunno, it was better than a K car I suppose, but when I got a Toyota or Datsun/Nissan rental back then I think the only real advantage the Chevy had was interior space. Maybe it road a bit smoother, but I didn't think it drove as well overall. Frankly, I thought the J cars (Cavalier) were even worse. If they had more consistent quality I think I would go with the A Cars like Celebrity or Ciera for GM back then despite the pig iron duke.
  • sdasda Posts: 308
    I had a 1982 Buick Skylark with 2.8V6. Very pleasant car, comfortable, quiet, decent power, great a/c. Didn't rattle or squeak. It was a 100K car. At 99K the trans no longer was 'locking up', the a/c leaked freon, the rack and pinion had horrible morning sickness---it was really stiff until you forced the steering wheel back and forth and then the power steering would resume, struts/shocks were gone, etc. Still the paint, interior looked great.

    However, my vote goes to my 98 Cadillac Catera. Again beautiful car, drove, rode great, beautiful interior, neat features, solid germanic feel. But it ate tires, brakes, went thru multiple heater valves, stuttering engine, check engine light triggered at least monthly. Dealer was very sympathetic. Seemed like I had a loaner atleast every other month. After 1 year and 13 unscheduled dealer visits I sold it. Then I bought a new VW VR6. What was I thinking??
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,071
    edited October 2010
    My local mechanic was just talking about a lady who brings a Catera in all the time. He says it's a nightmare to work on account of all the Opel pieces. My wife wanted a Catera in Wedgewood Blue, but I nixed that because the Catera would sour her on Cadillac and probably make her think I was nuts for having two myself. Cadillac had a long, hard road to bring a decent small car to market. This is my baseball analogy:

    Cimmaron: STRIKE ONE!
    Catera: STRIKE TWO!
    1st Gen CTS: Double
    2nd Gen CTS: HOME RUN!!!
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Speaking of Caddy, I saw an oddity for sale. 07 STS-V, claims to have every option and an original sticker over 100K. Ad reads "low miles", but doesn't give a number. Dealer wants 31K for it, which is depreciation much worse than even a German car. Probably a fairly cool machine.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,071
    Trouble with the new STS is that it looks too similar to the CTS and costs at least half again as much. I would've purchased a new STS instead of a DTS if they had kept the car similar in size to my 2002 Seville STS. I imagine that STS-V is a brutally fast car! I believe both the DTS and STS will be replaced by the XTS in a few years.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,923
    Yeah, it's a bland looking thing, and even like the car I saw in black with chrome wheels, doesn't really excite. Maybe not bad to drive though, one could probably even get the price down a little more...lots of bang for Camcord money.
  • toomanyfumestoomanyfumes S.E. Wisconsin Posts: 892
    My dad bought a new Renault Alliance in around 1984. Car of the year and it was built in Kenosha near where we lived and where my uncle's worked.

    After about a year the tranny was slipping, the rear brakes were shot and it was traded on a Plymouth Turismo.

    On a side note, the Kenosha AMC plant became a Chrysler engine plant when they bought AMC, it shut down this week ending a long period of Auto manufacturing in Wisconsin. (Two GM plants, one in Janesville and one in Oak Creek closed in the last few years.
  • No, no, that was "Car FOR a year".
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    edited October 2010
    The early Northstars would eventually develop an near impossible to fix oil leak. The dealers called it " The Northstar Leak". In order to fix this the engine had to be pulled and disassembled to the tune of around 4500.00.

    Fixing this leak would often exceed the value of the car.

    Cadillac mechanics just HATED Allantes and would almost refuse to work on them.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,361
    edited October 2010
    In my GM-buying lifetime, I'd say the two cars that had such great promise (and reviews) when new, but didn't have the quality to back it up, were the Vega and the X-cars. I liked them both as new cars. I would have liked an '80 Citation X Club Coupe when I graduated college that year, but glad I didn't get one. Five years later, after it had been announced the Citation would be discontinued, I entertained the thought of buying a new "X" model, as it was quite a bit cheaper than a similarly-equipped Celebrity Eurosport. Afraid of the resale hit (back then I tended to trade every three years), I instead ordered a Eurosport coupe with the 2.8 MFI V6 and attempted to spec it out like the highly-acclaimed 6000 STE.
  • My favorite disappointment is the Dodge Neon. I thought maybe we would finally once again have in America an inexpensive, fun to drive, quick, cute little sport sedan like the Alfa Sprint Type 101 of old, or the original CRX.

    But noooooo......Chrysler yanked out the optional higher HP engine, and managed to turn a promise into a head-gasket-blowing, wheezy little Nothing of an automobile.
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