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Cars That Have Disappointed

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
edited September 2014 in Pontiac
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.
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Comments

  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,700
    Most of the Saturn brand can fall under this.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    one thing that really hurt the Allante was the cheesy, old-fashioned interior. This really turned buyers off, as I recall.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    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: 24,390
    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 Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    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: 24,390
    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: 4,600
    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: 4,600
    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: 10,165
    "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 Indian Land, SCPosts: 3,965
    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??

    2018 VW Passat SE w/tech, 2016 Audi Q5 Premium Plus w/tech, 2006 Acura TL w/nav

  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    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: 52,700
    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 Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    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: 52,700
    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: 1,019
    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.
    2012 Mustang Premium, 2013 Lincoln MKX Elite, 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    No, no, that was "Car FOR a year".
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,345
    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: 13,079
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    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.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    I thought the clear lens taillights of the European STS helped to dress the car up a bit, and distinguish it from the CTS and DTS.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,390
    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.

    Actually, when it first came out in early 1994, the base 132 hp 2.0 in the Neon pretty much blew away the base engines in all the competition. Until the head gasket blew, that is. :blush: Unfortunately though, time marches on, and so does the competition, and when the final 2005 model years Neons were rolling off the assembly line, they still only had 132 hp, plus probably a few hundred lb more weight to lug around.

    Although even today, that's still in range of the base engines of most cars in this class, which put out around 130-140 hp.

    I first drove a Neon right around the time I got hired full-time after graduating college, in early 1994. I was impressed mainly by two things...the performance and the interior room. Finally, a small car that didn't feel like a dog with the base engine, and finally a small car that I could fit comfortably in, AND you could get someone my size to fit behind me. It would definitely blow away the 1994 Civic EX sedan that my friends had at the time.

    But, then the Neon started falling into the same trap as GM's 1980 X-bodies...it showed promise, but the quality wasn't there. And by the time they made them more or less reliable, the competition had moved on. I kinda wish they had kept the Neon around though, and improved upon it, rather than replace it with the Caliber. The Caliber was bigger, heavier, slower, less economical, and felt more cramped inside to me. About the only advantage, I guess, was more cargo area/versatility, since it was a hatchback.

    FWIW, in later years, with the 2nd-gen Neon, they did start offering the turbocharged 2.4, so they did put the performance back. But it probably wasn't as fun to toss around as that hot little 2.0 that the first-gen offered.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    I believe you might be referring to a "lower block seal." The part is only $44, but the labor costs are around $2,300 because the engine must be removed to replace it. The problem could be minor seepage or a major leak. Not impossible, but it could be cost-prohibitive if the car is older and/or high-mileage.
  • texasestexases Posts: 9,445
    I was disappointed by the Pontiac Solstice - not a terrible car, not even bad, but disappointing. They had decades of Miatas to study, and what did they come up with? The original one was overweight/underpowered, with a bad-fitting top that was hard to operate (compared to the Miata). The fix wasn't to lose weight, but to add power. It's just hard to understand when a clean-sheet design misses the target like this.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    When I mentioned Citation "X", I meant "X-11"--duh!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well the Solstice came to the party after the dance was over.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    The Solstice looks nice, though, and had more dealer sales/service availability out in the small towns....until last year (sigh).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    The Solstice had to do what the Miata did in the first place---build a much better Lotus than Lotus.

    I was rooting for the Solstice, although I thought the front end regrettable. It would be nice if Chevy picked it up.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    edited November 2010
    Boy, I agree it'd be great if Chevy picked up the Solstice. Maybe call it a "Monza" or "Spyder".
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    Any news about Chevy picking up the G8 and making it a Caprice?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Seems a shame to waste all that Solstice tooling. The press reviews on the car were pretty favorable weren't they?

    Chevy needs to work on its "rental car" image.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,390
    I was rooting for the Solstice, although I thought the front end regrettable. It would be nice if Chevy picked it up.

    I never cared for the Solstice front-end, either. Not really ugly, but just too cute and "playful", I guess...like a pug puppy that's about ready to pounce. I preferred the Saturn Sky. Its front-end was a lot more cluttered, but I found it attractive.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Another major deficiency of the Solstice and the Sky is that they have no luggage space, or virtually none. There's no space for even a weekend get-away, unless the passenger were willing to suffer with a small folding back between his/her legs and the seat bottom. That's inexcusable, considering that the Miata is smaller than the Solstice/Sky, and does have a small trunk.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    The Solstice looks like something you'd order out of the Good Vibrations catalog, then pop a pair of AA batteries in once it arrived.

    The Sky borrowed its styling from the Opel Speedster, which is probably why it was picked to be the second Opel Speedster and the Daewoo version (if that ever got built).
  • myrafmyraf Posts: 32
    I have a 2006 toyota hybrid highlander that is a few miles out of warranty ,talk about the expensive repairs exceeding vehicle value,my car would be worth 9,000 dlsis it was running ,the hybrid coponen fried and the dealer wants 14,000 dls to fix,i have a 2006 toyota hh sitting in front of my house worth 0,i paid 49,000 dls for this car new ,have been having problems since 5,000 mls and the service manager tells me they weren't meant to go past 100,000 mls,could you believe this,now what do i do,don't buy a hybrid ,they are deasth traps and expensive,very very crazy very expensive to fix,theis hunk of defectivejunk died on the fwy doing 70 mph almost lost my life,because when the hybrid components goes,no warning to light goes on,it just stops ,no power steering no brakes,almost hit a semi truck attempting to get it off the road.pass the word,someone is going to get killed ,toyotaadvertises them to be reliable,yea yea,let them ask me,i saw my lifeflash before my eyes when it died
  • sdasda Indian Land, SCPosts: 3,965
    edited November 2010
    What great promise that had. Unlike other diesels at the time, this one was very easy to live with. No long waits for the glow plugs to warm, no extra levers to push/pull to start, etc. My dad had a 79 Eldorado diesel. Beautiful two tone brown, kind of a copper brown on the sides, and dark metallic brown on upper body, roof, hood, trunk. It was the 125hp engine before it was reduced to 105hp. Really ran strong. Good mpg too. 20 around town, about 30mpg on the road. Dad loved it. Except...he couldn't keep it out of the shop. You could count on the head gaskets failing about every 15000 mi. It used oil like a Vega. Battery replacement was frequent, alternator, starter. Never had trouble with the fuel system like so many people had. From what I've learned since, if GM had done placed an effective water separator in the fuel line, many of the problems that plagued that engine wouldn't have. At 105k, dad gave up and trade it on a Mercury Grand Marquis. He got $1500 trade, $4000 less than had it been a gasoline Eldo. Had I had the resources, I would have bot it and put in a decent Olds 350. Just graduated from college, and no $$.

    2018 VW Passat SE w/tech, 2016 Audi Q5 Premium Plus w/tech, 2006 Acura TL w/nav

  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    edited January 2011
    Not many disappointments, or have the complaints been expressed in other discussions?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,390
    I've heard the Olds 350 Diesel is a great engine to convert to gasoline and to build up. It has a beefier block than the regular gasoline 350, so it lends itself well to hopping up. The problem, is that it simply wasn't beefed-up enough to convert to a Diesel.

    I remember in 8th grade, I was in a carpool with several other families, because I went to a private school and the bus didn't come out our way. One of the other parents had an early 80's LeSabre Estate wagon with the Diesel. At the time she loved it, but this was also in the 1983-84 timeframe, and the car was still fairly new. I remember her saying it would get 30 mpg on the highway.

    IIRC, the 105 hp 1980-85 hp Diesel was a big improvement over the 125 hp version. It still had enough issues to continue the bad reputation, though.

    I wonder if getting 105,000 miles out of one of those Diesels should be considered a badge of honor?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Olds also converted a GM V6 gasoline engine to diesel, and offered it in the Cutlass Ciera. That engine might have also been available in other GM intermediates. I understand it was more reliable than the V8 diesel, but that might not be saying much. I remember asking the owner of one of these V6s, who happened to be refueling next to me, about his experience with that engine, and his response was positive. As I recall, that car had over 60,000 miles on it.

    For any of you who may be interested, there was once a discussion on the Oldsmobile V6 diesel in Edmunds. You may be able to find it in the archives.
  • omarmanomarman Posts: 2,635
    That Eldorado sounds nice. Your dad's '79 was basically the same E body used by the Toronado and Riviera until around 1985. In the 80s I had a girlfriend who drove an all white Toronado with white leather and the gas V8. It wasn't the kind of car which I would have shopped for, but wow, once you spent time with it there was nothing else like it!

    That Olds diesel ruined the rep of so many GM cars across the board - including high profit upscale models. Imagine if the wankel engine had actually found a home at GM in the 70s. Similar brand-crushing results, I suppose!

    I've heard those early Olds 350 D engines shared one particular nasty development with the later improved DX versions: 10 head bolts per side. Whenever GMs Detroit Diesel designed the 6.2 diesel it had something like 17 bolts per side! It has since been replaced in GM civilian trucks, but I've read that engine is still being produced for some military vehicles. But that was a solid, diesel engine design from the start instead of a modified gas engine.

    If only GM had taken that path for it's diesel cars back then.
    A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,390
    I had totally forgotten until just now, but I have an acquaintance who has a bustleback Seville with the Diesel. Hp, you saw his car briefly at the Rockville show, as he was leaving. Probably heard it before you saw it, though!

    My friend loves the thing, and says it's great, but he took it to some place called the "Diesel Doctor", and had a lot of work done on it.

    I always thought it was a shame Olds didn't make a gasoline version of that 4.3/262 V-6, which was their 350 with two cylinders removed. The Olds block was a bit lighter than the Chevy block, and Olds engines tended to have a bit more torque than Chevy engines of similar displacement. Or at least, the 307 had more torque than the 305.

    Those V-6 Diesels also went in the FWD C-bodies, I believe for 1985 only, and there was a year or two, I believe, they offered them in the RWD intermediate G-body. It was really too under-powered to go in the big RWD cars though.
  • wevkwevk Posts: 179
    I recall reading that another source of problems with this engine was sloppy production tolerances. Apparently that's a problem in a high compression diesel.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    edited February 2011
    From most of the comments on the "I spotted A ----" discussion, the Marlin qualifies as a disappointment. But how about the Avanti? It was loved my some, admired by many, and remained in production, in various iterations, long after Studerbaker went under. Yet it never sold well. It wasn't really a success, but was it a disappointment? I think it had some of the qualities of both. Did the Avanti have the potential to save Studebaker, if, say, it had been brilliantly marketed, or did its plastic body and style confine it to a niche market?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I don't think the Avanti could have saved Studebaker. I don't think God could have saved Studebaker.

    The Avanti was expensive, was not by any means accepted as attractive by everyone (more of a case where the auto press liked it more than the public, which happens more often than you'd think) and for the $$$, rather under-equipped compared to its competition.

    Basically the problem with the Avanti was a microcosm of the problem with Studebaker. Unlike Rambler, they simply could not compete on price with the Big Three---not even close. For a lot less money, you could buy a GM every bit as good, or better.

    When the Corvette first came out, it was also low production and a sales failure---but GM had the resources to quickly fashion it into a winner. Studebaker simply did not have the horsepower to correct Avanti's content and marketing problems.

    It's no co-incidence that every attempt to reproduce the car also failed. How many votes does a car need before it accepts the public's results?
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    I've seen some awful interpretations of the Avanti following Studebaker's demise. The worst was an Avanti based on a late GM F-body. Fit and finish was awful and the car's styling was really awkward. It looked as if somebody tried to graft an Avanti front and rear onto a 2000 Camaro.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    edited February 2011
    The first post-Studebaker owner of the Avanti, Nate Altman and his family, built the car for nearly twenty years. The company was sold only after Nate, and later his brother, died. I'm not sure that could be considered a failure. It was a 'kit' car...and sold as such, around 200 a year. I truly cannot remember anything else even remotely like it, business-wise.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Oh yeah, there was the Gatsby, the Tiffany....there were lots of low-production kit cars (or they would build it for you) that dragged on for years and years. But they were always two steps away from the cliff at any given point in time.

    The only real success in reproducing a defunct production car was the various types of AC Cobra kits.

    One reason for that is that they are often better than the original. Can't say that for the various Avanti rebirths.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    I think comparing the Gatsby and Tiffany to the Avanti II is somewhat of a joke. There is no other car that was a regular part of a manufacturer's lineup that was discontinued, then picked up by an independent builder and with the exception of engine and some minor tweaks, were built with the same chassis and interior parts, largely, as the original, for two decades. After that, a revised chassis was used but the styling remained so very close to the original, right up until the 1991. Sales were high enough to enable the manufacturers to add a convertible and four-door sedan. I could only liken this to somebody continuing to build the Corvette or Mustang if Chevy or Ford discontinued it...not a 'boutique' car like a Clenet or whatever.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Sure, most of the AC Cobra builders did that, and in aluminum, too (some of them). In fact, some of the reproductions are so good you have to *really* look at them to spot the fakes.

    I wouldn't diss the Gatsby of Tiffany or Clenet too much, as they will bring double the money of an Avanti II. So their owners do have some bragging rights, even though the cars sort of horrify me.

    The Avanti II was the answer to a question that nobody asked, it seems.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 13,079
    You seem unable to address the fact that for twenty years, the builders subsequent to Studebaker made a profit on the car. This, to me, is utterly amazing...while keeping up with safety standards.
This discussion has been closed.