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50 Worst Cars of All Time

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
Okay, here's a great way to spend lots of your time, rather than wasting it on family or work--have a look at the "Worst Cars of All Time" according to Time Magazine:

50 Worst Cars Ever

You can skip the early cars if you want by clicking on the various "eras" up above the article. I mostly explored the 60s thru 90s.

I have to say that there wasn't one car on their list that I would adamantly defend at the price of my credentials. I mean, there were a couple where I would "quibble" or would say something like "yes awful but historically worthy" but generally whoever wrote the article was pretty astute, IMHO.


  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    Off the top of my head, about the only car on there I'd defend would be the '71 Imperial. The writer was whining about a stupid-huge 440 V-8. But c'mon, when you're moving roughly 5,000 lb of car, would you want anything LESS?!

    Now Chrysler was starting to cheap out with these cars. For 1969-73, they basically took the Newport/New Yorker body and slapped an extra 3 inches of wheelbase on. All of that was ahead of the firewall, giving the car a longer hood and fenders, but no more interior room. But that's really no different than say, a Cadillac Deville versus a Buick Electra or Olds 98. Longer car, but no bigger inside, all of the extra wheelbase in some useless area.

    By that time though, big Mopars in general were starting to get sort of a generic look about them. You could get hidden headlights on the New Yorker, and I think they were standard on the 300. They may have been an option on the Windsor as well. You could also get them on the Plymouths, and Dodges some years. So all those clean, hidden-headlight front-ends did start looking alike, and the sides of the cars were sort of featureless. It really was getting hard to tell them apart. Even if they actually shared very little sheetmetal, the differences just weren't enough to notice.

    Still, it's not a car I'm going to defend to the death or anything. And I'm not gonna lose any sleep over the fact that it made some hack's top 50 worst cars list.

    I'm actually surprised the 1976 Volare and Aspen didn't make the list. They were a good idea, but the quality was horrible for the first year and a half. They were generally regarded as inferior to the Dart/Valiant that they replaced, but that's pretty much how the 70's worked with domestic cars...the new ones usually sucked worse than the ones they replaced!

    Ditto the 1980 GM X-cars. They were a good idea at the time, just executed poorly. And by the time the quality was improved, it was too late.

    I think I might quibble with the Cadillac V-8-6-4 from 1981. It was temperamental, but supposedly all you had to do was pull a wire or two and make it run on all 8 cylinders all the time, and it was a decent engine. If you want to pick on Cadillacs from that era, go for something with the little aluminum 4.1 V-8, or anything with a Diesel!

    One question about the Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow...weren't those just body-on-frame cars with radical bodies? The article's description of "aerodynamic singlet-style fuselage, steel-spaceframe construction" makes them sound unitized. Did these things really have a habit of, literally, dropping the engine?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 48,082
    The SUV criticism there was pretty amusing.
    I suppose a case can be made for all of his picks too, even though historical significance can forgive some faults.

    A good quote from the H2 blurb: "It all contributed to GM's emerging image as the Dick Cheney of car companies." ....indeed
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    If you view a '71 Imperial in real life, it is rather absurd--it is so huge, and yet has so much wasted space. It's a poster child for everything bad in automotive design. You know how it is, there is big, then there is bigger and then suddenly you cross a little line and go into parody. The Imperial just pushed the "full-size" envelope too far.

    Maybe the writer had the benefit of hindsight, since these clumbersome Chrysler cars were the cause of their near-demise a few years later.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    If you view a '71 Imperial in real life, it is rather absurd--it is so huge, and yet has so much wasted space. It's a poster child for everything bad in automotive design. You know how it is, there is big, then there is bigger and then suddenly you cross a little line and go into parody. The Imperial just pushed the "full-size" envelope too far.

    But is a '71 Imperial any worse than its peers of the time? For example, a 1971 Lincoln or Cadillac? If nothing else, I think the Imperials were rather tastefully styled, although I'll agree that good style and good design don't always go hand-in-hand.

    Maybe the writer had the benefit of hindsight, since these clumbersome Chrysler cars were the cause of their near-demise a few years later.

    Actually, when that style came out for 1969, the Imperial was pretty popular. But Chrysler always did have trouble making the Imperial stand out from lesser Chryslers. And sharing the same bodies as they did in 1969-73 certainly didn't help. Other than the 3" longer wheelbase and hood, I don't think the car really gave you anything that you couldn't get on a New Yorker. It would get even worse for 1974, when the cars not only shared the same bodies, but the same wheelbase. The only difference by this time was that Imperials had hidden headlights and New Yorkers didn't. No longer was size used to differentiate the cars. The Imperial went away after 1975, but for '76-78 was replaced by the New Yorker Brougham, a car that was practically identical.

    If anything, it was probably the fuel crisis that killed the first Imperial. 1974 was a horrible time to introduce an all-new full-sized car...especially one that looked more massive than the one it replaced, even if it really wasn't. All big cars did bad in 1974, and it was only inevitable that the weakest would get culled first.

    FWIW, I was actually shocked when I found out how big a '69-73 Imperial really is. Something like 230-233", depending on the year (although most of that extra length was because of those big black rubber blocks they put on the cars...something that makes the cars longer, without making them LOOK longer. I mean, a car that's 230" of all car is going to look bigger than a car that gets puffed up to 230" by way of protruding bumpers or tacked-on bumper guards. I always thought the Imperial did a good job of hiding its size. Maybe the coupes are a bit extreme, because of the smallish passenger cabin and correspondingly longer rear deck, but I thought the sedans looked great.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    Did I miss the Vega? Gotta be worse than many on the list...
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I don't think these deserve to be on this list while the Vega should have definitely been on it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    The author seems to be leaning toward the cars' effect on automotive history. In that sense the Vega was rather meaningless, while the Airflow practically sunk Chrysler, And of course, the Corvair changed the entire process of government intervention into car safety. Our first true postwar "death trap"----AWWWWWWW :P

    As for the Model T, it did linger on way too long and gave Chevrolet the edge it needed to dominate Ford for most of the time after all (with some exceptions).

    So maybe history's his angle, I dunno.

    But then, why is the Yugo on there? Well, it did start a whole decade of Yugo jokes--maybe that's it!
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    "The author seems to be leaning toward the cars' effect on automotive history. In that sense the Vega was rather meaningless"

    OK (maybe) - but why the Chevette instead of the Vega? I'd claim the Vega did way more to convince folks that GM could not build a quality compact car, and that ToyHonDatsun were more deserving of their hard-earned $$$.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    The Chevette was really the most dismal, cheap, nasty little thing you could imagine. I mean, you hopped out of that into a Japanese car while comparative shopping and it was....well....shocking...appalling....

    At least a Vega, when new, gave you a nice ride, rather attractive looks, and the promise of something better. The Chevette was enough to make you take anti-depressants after your first test drive.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    No argument about a Chevette's cheapness, but I don't think a 'Honey Bee' was too great, either -

    And my problem with the Vega is that it incorporated the worst element of GM - release an apparently OK car with hidden major defect(s) resulting from incomplete development time. At least the Chevette was an 'honestly' cheap car, you knew what you were getting
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    the Chevette WAS a Japanese car! It was also a Korean car, and a European car. (Isuzu I-mark, Daewoo Maepsy, and Opel Kadette)

    What was the original source material for that design? The Opel?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yeah but the Chevette wasn't fit for Calcutta much less California. This was a new level of pathetic marketing.

    To give you an idea. You got in and felt the back of your seat cave in a few inches. As you started the car, it vibrated so badly at idle that your mirrors buzzed. You placed it in gear and it went in with a THUMP. Starting out, the engine noise was deafening. As you hit a bump, the hood would oilcan up and down. The wipers sounds like little sirens and the switchgear would probably break off in a few weeks. ONce it rained, and water got in, the cardboard door panels would melt, but the rubber mats on the floor held lots of water.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    Sure, but beside that it was OK :P
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    That's true. Aside from major deficiencies in build quality, paint, drivetrain, upholstery, suspension, body integrity and reliability, the car wasn't too bad at all. I mean, let's be fair. :P
  • berriberri Posts: 10,140
    The Oldsmobile Diesel still makes people reluctant to consider a diesel car and probably also badly hurt Oldsmobile's reputation! It used to be GM's engineering and innovation leader before that.

    Some of these 50 were more marketing flops than bad cars. I think most everything built in the 73/74 time period was shaky and every manufacturer has had their lemons. GM probably pushed a lot of new ideas too fast, but people forget their successes. The quick downsizing of their full size cars in 77 after the Arab oil embargo a few years earlier resulted in some very good products. The X car may have had its share of issues, but the subsequent A cars it spawned like the Ciera really moved Americans to become receptive to larger, fuel efficient FWD vehicles and likely paved the path to today's enormously popular Camry and Accord. Believe it or not, Chrysler used to be a leader in quality and engineering, but lost its way sometime back in the 70's and never seemed to get it back. It did have some subsequent styling victories though. Ford is more of a follower. It had the Taurus and developed some new market niches like Explorer and the personal luxury Thunderbird segment, but mostly it just seemed to copy GM. Early Toyota's and Honda's weren't all that good and tended to be rust buckets. I've always felt that European cars tended to be over-priced and overrated, but some of them were a lot of fun to drive.
  • blnewtoblnewto Posts: 146
    Love the Aztek section from the link, It's almost as if GM was informed that there was a comprehensive list coming out for the 50 worst cars, and they needed one more to make the list complete, so please put all your "worst ideas and engineers on the project and let's get this done" :) Here's the excerpt:
    I was in the audience at the Detroit auto show the day GM unveiled the Pontiac Aztek and I will never forget the gasp that audience made. Holy hell! This car could not have been more instantly hated if it had a Swastika tattoo on its forehead. In later interviews with GM designers — who, for decency's sake, will remain unnamed — it emerged that the Aztek design had been fiddled with, fussed over, cost-shaved and otherwise compromised until the tough, cool-looking concept had been reduced to a bulky, plastic-clad mess. A classic case of losing the plot. The Aztek violates one of the principal rules of car design: We like cars that look like us. With its multiple eyes and supernumerary nostrils, the Aztek looks deformed and scary, something that dogs bark at and cathedrals employ to ring bells (cf., Fiat Multipla). The shame is, under all that ugliness, there was a useful, competent crossover.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 20,569
    He says it was included because of it's extreme crudeness but it was made for rugged use on on unpaved rural paths (I wouldn't call them roads, they weren't roads as we know them) and could go almost anywhere..
    For a a 1908 design it was fairly sophisticated sturdy and well thought out.
    Jay Leno says his is practical and comfortable on any road where traffic flows at less than 50MPH. Only someone with no appreciation of automobile would include the fable T on a list of Worst cars, what a bonehead. :mad:

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 20,569
    What was the original source material for that design? The Opel?

    Actually it originated as a Chevy in Brazil (1974). By the time I got to Rio in '76 they were as popular as Beetles. Opel's version used the "Kadette" name.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • fintailfintail Posts: 48,082
    I think Model T's can be pretty fun old heaps. Now and then I think it would be cool to pick up a later brass example, they are still slowly depreciating from their highs 25-30 years ago.

    That and the Airflow could be deleted from the list, certainly.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    My brother emailed me that link this morning. He thought the '66 Peel Trident was a hoot.

    Now the '61 Amphicar? One of the worse? Nah...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    The catch phrase on the Amphicar when it came out was "It's a bad car and a worse boat".

    Model Ts are very cool, but it takes some practice to learn to drive one---they are pretty weird. I always wanted to build a Model T Speedster. You can modernize them with electric starter, weather equipment and I think even a water pump (it didn't have one).
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,552
    is that for what a cheap reputation it got, there was a dress-up trim package for it that would actually put many modern subcompacts to shame! Now, considering that most modern subcompacts are just acres of hard, gray or putty plastic with fabrics that are about the texture of patio furniture from Walmart, that's really not hard to do.

    I've seen a few Chevettes at classic car shows (shudder the thought) that have been nicely preserved. The dress-up package gave it some fairly decent cloth seats, carpeting in the hatch area and lower door panels, and vinyl trim on the upper doors, rather than hard plastic. And it was available in a few different colors, like red, blue, etc.

    Now, would it be durable for the long term, compared to today's cars? Probably not, because hard plastic will wear better, and the fabrics they use for seats are probably treated, and simply more durable. But, when taken care of, it presents itself better IMO. Plus there are just other details, such as how exposed metal, when painted and shiny, looks nicer than hard plastic, even if it's more dangerous. And all that chrome-dipped plastic looks nice...until it starts to peel off! And colors like gray and putty just tend to make a cheap interior look cheaper, whereas the right shade of blue, red, etc can hid the fact that it's cheap.

    Now, that being said, if forced to choose, I'd still take any modern subcompact over a Chevette! And probably most of the competition from its era! But still, seeing that package with the dressed up interior did give me a newfound respect for the little piece of... car!
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    A guy at my high school had a Pontiac T100. He would get furious when I called it a Chevette. He insisted it was a Pontiac sports car. It did have stripes after all...
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    "We build excitement, Pontiac T1000!" :surprise: :sick:
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    And twenty years later, they are still pulling this crap. Hard to imagine why GM is going under.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Andre, you cannot put lipstick on a pig as _____ once said. Beware of defending this car, you are consorting with evil. :P
  • fintailfintail Posts: 48,082
    I still see a beater Chevette now and then...I remember lots of them around in the 90s...they may have been crap from pretty much every angle, but it seems some people were able to keep them going.

    On that note, I can't recall the last time I saw an early Tempo or Celebrity etc.
  • au1994au1994 GAPosts: 1,638
    My high school used T000's as the drivers ed cars. They certainly did not have to worry about any of use getting a speeding ticket.

    2019 Subaru Crosstrek Limited Venetian Red over Black
    2017 BMW X1 Jet Black over Mocha

  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    I had a 1974 Honda Civic at college, while my friend had a 76 Chevette. Both were new cars, presents from benevolent parents (who in my case were short-stopping the purchase of a previously owned and repeatedly wrecked Spitfire).

    His car seemed bigger than we'd take his car more often... but the Civic was a much more refined product. We all called the Chevette (since it was red) the Russian Industrial Product, or the RIP (or the R-I-P). It wouldn't move away from the curb on an uphill grade with 4 people in it (automatic); we had to get out and move it to level ground. It roared, it shook, but it was cockroach-tough. It would run, no matter what we broke or tore. and Mario was trying to kill it out of hate.. None of us knew exactly what to think of the Civic. Most people didn't even know Honda made cars in those days. It was seen as something of a joke, in those years. A girl friend's brother smilingly told me that my Civic's tires were exactly the same size as those on a forklift where he was working that summer. He had a Chevelle. It would be several years before Hondas were viewed with any respect. Size, not quality was the issue. American cars were junk, and Japanese cars were better- That seemed to be common knowledge. However, it branded you as wierd to own a Japanese car - sort of like announcing at Christmas dinner that you're a vegetarian. People tolerate you and recognize that you have (in your own mind) good reasons for what you've done, but you're clearly not a normal guy and you shouldn't be dating my sister, Bud.

    Still, the Civic was reliable, comparatively quiet, and -other than being more humbling to own than a Chevette, it was great. It used no gas at all, even during the horror-days of $1.00 a gallon gas. I drove it as fast as it would go, but usually alone since friends used to American mammoths found it too small for comfort. (Certainly my driving skills and speed were not a factor ;) ). Looking up at Semi tires was.

    But, back to the Chevette. We all felt that the Chevette was a disgrace to Chevy. Recall that it was during our high school years that the greats of the Muscle Car Era were on the scene. The Road Runners, the Chevelles, the Camaros, the Cuda's. When one saw a Chevette painted in the same red as a 69 Camaro, it made the strongest of American men want to cry. :lemon:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    In San Francisco there was this old guy down the block who owned a Chevette. He also had to avoid certain steep streets because the car wouldn't make it unless he charged it.

    The starter kept failing so he had a remote starter button hooked up to house wiring between the seats--self-same seatbacks being propped up with a 2 X 4 by the way.

    It did run every day though.
This discussion has been closed.