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Quintessential Mid 90's Loser Cars

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
edited March 2014 in Geo
OK, here's a strange request from an old college friend who's a writer. He's working on a script and he called me to try and come up with a car from the mid 90's that just the mere mention of brings to mind thoughts like "loser, you're still driving THAT?" etc. Not necessarily an ugly car, but one that if you were, say, instant messaging with someone you were trying to impress, and they asked, "What do you drive?" and you said X, they would immediately sign off.

I figure more than a few people here will have a few nominees :P
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Comments

  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,188
    Metro and Aspire are obvious choices. The period Excel models don't exactly bring up visions of success either, along with the Daewoo line (late 90s I know) - especially the Lanos - both of which are virtually extinct today.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Are we talking cars made in the mid-90s or ones that would be around then?

    Heck, you still get a Yugo in that time frame.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,403
    Cars that were made in the mid 90's... something you would ridicule someone for driving TODAY :P

    And he's looking for something that instantly brings an image to the mind of the general population, not just an "enthusiast"
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    OK. That's what I thought but I was holding out for that Yugo....

    Give me a bit here...
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • la_writerla_writer Member Posts: 2
    And to clarify the question even more, or more likely, just add to the obfuscation, think of what would be the mid 90s version of the AMC Pacer or Gremlin. Cars which just by name immediately evoke an image and an eye roll, especially if it was being driven today.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    Yeah, my first thought was of an AMC Pacer, but of course it wasn't a 90s car.

    Anyone remember the VERY cheap and quick-to-fall-apart Mercury Capri convertible?

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    They were actually pretty well-received at first, and popular for awhile, but the early ones were very troublesome. They tended to shed their paint pretty quickly, especially in that bluish-purple color that seemed all the rage.

    In later years, I started to associate the Neon with financial catastrophe, mainly because I knew a few people who fell on money problems, and it seemed like they'd always end up wtih a Neon! And, I gotta admit, at one point when I was still under water from a bad marriage, one night my '68 Dart died on me while on a pizza delivery run, and I got so fed up with it I asked my grandmother that night if she'd co-sign for me on a loan for a new Neon!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    ...but I'm thinking of the Honda Passport which was really an Isuzu Rodeo in disguise and the Mazda Navajo which was really a Ford Explorer in diguise. I don't know if they're losers but they are pretenders.

    How about that weird space ship-looking Mercury Cougar? I'd throw in the Ford Probe which was an effeminate alternative to the Mustang.

    One I definitely nominate is the Cadillac Catera. Bland design that looks like a Lumina, questionable reliability, and a super-stupid marketing campaign.

    I didn't care much for those "two-door Lumina" Monte Carlos of the time.

    Don't know if I call them losers, but Infiniti had a pretty confused identity back then while Lexus whipped its butt. J30, M30, G20?
  • larsblarsb Member Posts: 8,204
    The Metro LSI was a dog back in the day, but you have one now, getting 40+ MPG, you look less like a Loozar and more like a smart dude.

    :)
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    I remember an attractive but stuck-up rich girl who would exclaim, "I don't date peons in Neons!" I'm not sure the Neon was a loser car, but it had the perception of being a car driven by losers, at least around here. Insecure males who drove these cars would, and still, highly modify them to try to shed that "loser" image. I believe there was at least one factory Neon that delivered decent performance. It might've been one of the later models.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    The Metro LSI was a dog back in the day, but you have one now, getting 40+ MPG, you look less like a Loozar and more like a smart dude.

    Too bad I didn't know that my credit was whack...cuz now I'm drivin' off the lot in this cheap sub-com-pact!

    Sorry, but I think Freecreditreport.com took away whatever little bit of dignity the Metro might have ever had.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    I was shopping for a new car, which one's me,
    A cool convertible or an SUV?
    Too bad I didn't know my credit was whack,
    So I'm driving off the lot in a used subcompact!
    F-R-E-E, that spells "free"
    Credit Report dot com, baby!
    Saw their ads on my TV -
    Thought about goin', but was too lazy!
    So instead of rollin' fly and lookin' phat,
    My legs are stickin' to the vinyl and my posse's getting laughed at!
    F-R-E-E, that spells "free"
    Credit Report dot com, baby!
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    I think Dwights character on that show give the 90's TransAm a negative image.
  • tjc78tjc78 South JerseyMember Posts: 12,003
    Gotta say those two would be at the top of my list! They were available until 95.

    2020 Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum / 2019 Volvo S60 T6 Inscription

  • jwilliams2jwilliams2 Member Posts: 910
    A Neon, a Geo, a Cavalier, or a Tempo. Anything Korean. You might also consider a Camero or Firebird, (especially if you still sport that mullet).
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    Oh yeah, definitely a Tempo. My stepdad bought a 1984, the first model year, and I thought it was a loser car even then!
  • emmanuelchokeemmanuelchoke Member Posts: 97
    Conan used to mock the Taurus SHO, even did a segment on it.

    The Tercel might fall into this catagory though. An awkward name to boot.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    ROTFLMAO!

    You sure got that right about the Metro. Of course, it didn't exactly have cachet to being with! :-P

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,726
    Did they still sell the Tempo in the 90s? When did it get replaced by the Contour?

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,188
    The Tempo sedan soldiered on until MY 1994, IIRC...but I think the coupe died off a few years earlier.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    The Tempo's last year was 1994, and I think the Contour came out in 1995. For being a small-ish car, the Tempo wasn't even very economical. The 1994 with a 2.3 4-cyl and automatic was rated at 22/27. Now it was just a 3-speed automatic, but still, that's pathetic! My 2000 Intrepid is rated at 20/29! The 5-speed Tempo was rated at 24/33, which I guess isn't too bad for the time.

    In the later years, you could get a 3.0 V-6 in the Tempo. I think it was just the 140 hp pushrod "Vulcan" from the Taurus (and Ranger?), but I guess in something like a Tempo it was pretty quick. And they offered it with a stick, where it was rated at 21/28. Automatic was 20/23, again, stuck with a 3-speed. Oddly, in a bigger, heavier Taurus it was rated 20/29, but the Taurus had a 4-speed automatic.

    I wonder what would be considered a bigger embarrassment to drive nowadays...a Corsica or a Tempo? I traditionally tend to prefer GM over Ford, but this one's a hard call!
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    So far I'm with you on the Tempo, the Geo Metro and teh Cavalier. Certainly anything Korean at that point.

    By the mid-90s you were just starting into that point where it was difficult to buy an awful car but folks here are certainly proving it wasn't quite there yet.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    The Tempo may be our winner.... they were pretty pathetic

    image

    BUT:
    Another contender, in my mind, would be the Saturn SL-1- a geeky sort of loser. Particularly if the guy keeps talking about how wonderful it is and how friendly those Saturn people are! Maybe even goes to the Saturn Family picnic....alone, and likes to bang on the plastic doors to show people how tough they are.

    image
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,188
    I think a hubcapped Tempo coupe would even take honors from the sedan...but that would be an 80s car.

    Early Saturns and often their owners are especially geeky. Cars for people who hate cars, as I have always said.

    I think another part of all this is condition - one of these cars that the owner neglects is a lot more loserfied than a nice example. A hubcapless trashed Neon or Geo is hard to beat when it comes to a bad image.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Who could fail to admire the man who shows up in a Buick Skylark!

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    And I was never quite sure what to think of somebody who was single who drove one of the "Dustbusters"!

    image

    However, it's too bad that he can't driver a car that's about 10 or 12 years old.... because then he could drive the Ultimate IMHO Loser Car -

    The AMC Rambler Matador Barcelona!

    image

    Boss, my eyes! my eyes!
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,188
    George Costanza drove one of those Skylarks...enough said :shades:
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    My neighbor has one of those dustbuster vans to this day. In fact she's on her second.

    In her defense her ex bought the first one and she just kept driving it until it died at which point her ex's dad and stepmother gave her the second one. Any prort in a storm I guess.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • toomanyfumestoomanyfumes S.E. Wisconsin Member Posts: 1,019
    My sister-in-law had one of those crappy Pontiac LeMans. Weren't those made by Daewoo or something? That had to help GM's reputation. :lemon:
    2012 Mustang Premium, 2013 Lincoln MKX Elite, 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    Oh lord, I forgot all about those little LeManses! Yeah, they were made by Daewoo. As the owner of a '76 LeMans, and someone who has wanted a '76-77 since he was a little kid, I actually find those little Daewoo things to be offensive! :mad:

    If they'd called it something else, I probably wouldnt've have even given the car a second thought. But dragging a time-honored name through the mud like that, is just too much!
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Yeah, the least they could have done would have been to call it a Tempest....
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    From all I've read, the Maserati Buturbo was one of the most troublesome cars you could buy in its day. It was produced from '81-'94, although I don't know when they stopped selling them in the U.S.

    The Quattroporte, a very impressive looking car, gave the Biturbo a good run for the money on reliability. The third generation of that model was introduced in '95.
  • tjc78tjc78 South JerseyMember Posts: 12,003
    Just saw an Olds Acheiva on the way in this morning... that would qualify!

    image

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  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    image

    I used to drive by a house on my way to work that had one of these in the driveway.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Member Posts: 4,600
    In case they haven't been mentioned, the Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, produced through '94. These badge-engineered hatchback twins were based on a shortened K-car platform. They had rather odd looking proportions (stubby looking), which gave them somewhat of a loser look. Inside, they were cheap looking. with tight back seat legroom. This was a result of redicing the wheelbase of the original (Aries/Reliant) K-car, which itself was rather tight on back seat legroom.

    Mechanically, they weren't terrible, just very basic and probably a little below average on reliability and durability. One area of vulnerability was head gaskets, which sometimes or often (not sure which is more accurate) failed prematurely.

    Finally, the shift linkage on the 5-speed manual transmission had a really flimsy, imprecise, unsatisfying feel to it.

    To summarize, the Shadow and Sundance were period K-car derivatives that sold in decent numbers and delivered satisfactory service to many motorists with modest expectations.

    The Ford Tempo was mentioned in this discussion, but whatever was said about the Tempo also applied to its badge-engineered Mercury counterpart, the Topaz.
  • tjc78tjc78 South JerseyMember Posts: 12,003
    Is that an Escort EXP?

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  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    We may have a new winner in that Escort EXP. Lord.

    As for the @#^@#%$^ Daewoo LeMans....

    I'd been out of the country for some years and was back in the states on a business trip. Got to the rental counter about 11 pm, and the girl at the desk, told me, "We have a brand new Pontiac LeMans for you this evening, sir". I had no idea about the Woo-Mans and so, remembering the 60's and 70's said, "Oh good!".

    I think the withering look that she gave me had "Looooooooser!" written all over it.
    I like to think I redeemed myself in her eyes -a little at least- when I came back in and told her that there weren't any LeMans in the lot - just some tiny little economy cars. She had to come out and show me the car. Then I got in and the headlight knob came off in my hands. I hated GM very much at that moment.

    LeMans! That @#%@# car was more of a shopping cart than a LeMans racer. GM insulted us all. :mad:

    Real LeMans:

    image

    Cheap Korean Imitation LeMans

    image
  • anythngbutgmanythngbutgm Member Posts: 4,277
    Love that old beast, that is my favorite year.

    My neighbor had one of the POS Daewoo versions in a hatchback. That thing was retired around 40k because it was that bad. :sick:

    The Aveo isn't much better IMO and probably just as safe. Wonder how the Cruze, Allure or Spark are going to fare. Daewoo finest.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    Heck, my '76 wasn't exactly the high point in LeMans heritage, but it's downright exotic compared to that little Daewoo thingie.
    image
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAMember Posts: 15,306
    ...but I'd say the Chevrolet (nee Isuzu) Spectrum qualifies as a quintessential loser car:

    image
  • roadburnerroadburner Member Posts: 14,593
    My mom had a 1984 Topaz; what a pitiful excuse for a car...

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJMember Posts: 10,379
    Topaz - the upmarket Tempo. :sick:

    lemko has a real winner (loser) with that Spectrum! Looks like just the ticket!
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • stephen987stephen987 Member Posts: 1,994
    I'll second the votes of those who mentioned the '92 Buick Skylark--with styling Car and Driver mocked as "teenage mutant ninja transvestite"--and the Neon.

    But does anyone remember. . .

    Chevy Corsica? (Can't believe no one has mentioned it yet!)
    image

    Dodge Dynasty?
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    (House drives one of those, when he's not on his motorcycle)

    Olds Cutlass Ciera?
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    Chevy Celebrity--especially in "Eurosport" trim?
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    Suzuki Sidekick?
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    Suzuki X90?
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  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    For some reason I have a perverse sort of respect for the Cutlass Ciera. I liked them the best of GM's FWD A-bodies. The Celebrity just seemed too cheap, while I didn't like the 6000's dash display or the "6-headlight" look of the sportier models. I didn't like the dash of the Century either, and when they went to that slight shark-nose with the composite headlights, it just looked dowdy. But for some reason, the Ciera never bothered me. I always thought its looks were pleasant, although far from exciting. And the interior, while not exactly the Ritz Carlton, didn't seem too cheap, either.

    Corsica was pretty miserable though, IMO. The gov't agency I work for used to have a few of them, but I think they're retired now. We also had an (under)Achieva...picked up 5 of them for $65K total back around 1997 or so. I think it's gone now as well. We recently got a Ford Fusion though, and I heard rumors of a Malibu. I drove the Achieva a couple times, and I think I had to drive the Corsica once.

    For some odd reason, the Die-Nasty appeals to me a bit, although I actually prefer the New Yorker, which looks like a pint-sized, and oddly less-aerodynamic-looking version of 79...
    image
    Dunno if I'd actually seek out a Die-Nasty or one of these little NYers, but I guess if I had a great-great aunt who passed away and willed it to me, I wouldn't turn it down.
  • tjc78tjc78 South JerseyMember Posts: 12,003
    I think the Celebrity was gone by 89. So maybe that could be one for 80s loser cars... we could do a whole website on that!

    The Dynasty reminds me of my pick for the Dodge Spirit / Plymouth Acclaim. However, that Suzuki X90 thing is just awful! As for the Ciera... I'm with Andre on this one, they aren't too bad.

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  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 24,491
    Yeah, I think the Celebrity was dropped after 1989, to make way for the Lumina. For some reason I'm thinking the 6000 held on through 1990 though, but I could be wrong there.

    Speaking of Luminas, dunno if I'd call them loser cars, but I never liked 'em. The styling just looked too disjointed, and the interiors just seemed crappy. The coupe doesn't look bad, though. Actually, maybe that's why the styling of the sedan looks so awkward...it's almost as if they designed the coupe first, and then did the sedan as an afterthought. That might make sense too, since the Grand Prix/Cutlass Supreme/Regal came out in 1988, as a coupe only, and then the sedans were sort of haphazzardly thrown together for 1990, same year the Lumina came out.

    For some reason though, the Acclaim/Spirit don't bother me too much. I wouldn't be ashamed to drive one, I guess. I mean, I wouldn't drive one to work and expect everyone to come out and see Andre's latest old car. I guess they're just sort of nondescript, IMO. One of my relatives, who had a 1986 Dodge 600, traded that car for either an Acclaim or Spirit, but she didn't have it long, and then traded it for a Crown Vic.
  • stephen987stephen987 Member Posts: 1,994
    I agree that the GM A-body cars (Ciera, Century, Celebrity, 6000) weren't that bad--when they were introduced (1982 IIRC) they were decent. But I think what makes them "loser cars" is the increasingly awful grafted-on styling intended to make them look "fresh" in the '90s. The rounded "helmet head" roofline on the Ciera and Century sedans, and the aforementioned "shark nose" on the Century didn't make them look any fresher--instead they just made it more obvious how many times that particular plate of leftovers had been reheated.

    image
  • stephen987stephen987 Member Posts: 1,994
    Sorry about the oversize pic--it messes up the width of the page, so I can't get to the edit button to remove or resize it.
  • tjc78tjc78 South JerseyMember Posts: 12,003
    For some reason though, the Acclaim/Spirit don't bother me too much

    I guess my point with those two are that by the mid 90s they were already old designs, blah and poor performers. I still a fair amount of them especially base model 4cyls. I guess that Mopar 2.5 was a good little motor. Most of the upscale ones with the Mitsu 3.0 are blowing smoke everywhere when I see them.

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  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 53,188
    I was also thinking a Ford Festiva might fit into this category....but for some reason I don't loathe them too much...back when they were recent I knew a girl who had one - and a few of us guys actually picked it up and moved it as a prank - so I guess I have a sentimental memory. I also see several of them still around, so they seem to have been durable enough.
  • tazerelitazereli Member Posts: 241
    My wife had one of those rolling turds when we first got married. God what a piece. My poor wife handed her parents her summer job money to get a car when she went back to school in 1995. That was what they gave her. she was hoping for a civic or corolla but since her family drove GM's (dad had a Cutlass ciera and mom had a Geo storm) she ended up with a 1990 Pontiac lemons. At that point a Sunbird would have been a better choice. That car made my 1984 Subaru wagon look worlds ahead in refinement and quality. Needless to say the pontiac stayed put on any trip further than 50 miles from home due to its horrendous mechanical issues. even when we went to visit her parents in Harrisburg from Lancaster we took my car. we ended up buying a civic for her in 1998 and left that sad little car for the wrecking yard.
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