April 1, 2002
7:10 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever owned a car that was "Truly unencumbered by the engineering process"? Did you ever have a car that was so bad that thieves wouldn't steal it even if you left the keys in the ignition for them? Check out The Worst Cars of the Millenium survey results at Cartalk. I once owned a Fiat that liked to purge itself of major parts on a weekly basis. They just sort of... fell off while I was driving.
posted by iconomy (22 comments total)
I owned an '84 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that was so easy to break into, if you looked at it crossly the locks would pop open. Would-be thieves broke into the car three different times, and never once stole the car or a thing out of it.

I was almost insulted.

I've owned some bad cars, but I none from the list. Nurture as opposed to nature.
posted by jennyb at 7:13 AM on April 1, 2002

I had an '86 Cutlass Supreme, also. Problem was the rear windows didn't roll down ( they were not broken, it was just designed that way) and the bolt that held the vent window in the rear passenger side door was rusted through. Everytime someone opened it the window fell out. This, by the way, was the very same window that displayed the "rust proofing" sticker.
posted by Localemperor at 7:39 AM on April 1, 2002

The back windows wouldn't roll down in mine either! And the AC was broken, but because it could seat seven, my car was often chosen as the vehicle of conveyance for large groups of people, even if it was summer and we were all likely to die of heat stroke before reaching our destination.

I never understood why there was no provision for the back windows to roll down in that freaking car. Whose idea was that, anyway?

And I won't even bring up the danger of non-rolling down back windows when there's a quesy reveller in the back...
posted by jennyb at 7:51 AM on April 1, 2002

Hah, a web page boss switch! Pure genius. Harkens back to the pre-Windows (and alt-tab) days of games like the old CGA PC port of the Star Wars vector arcade game and its spreadsheet toggle.

It made me smile.
posted by NortonDC at 7:58 AM on April 1, 2002

I do take a little offense at the VW MicroBus being on the list. The criticisms leveled at the car are based on driving units that likely were 20+ years old. Sure they were never fast, but having gotten to do a post-mortem on one that the driver survived a 60+ mph collision, they were remarkably engineered.

Moreover, why isn't the Reliant K even on this list? My grandfather owned one that was the only car that I've ever heard of that leaked antifreeze into the transmission.
posted by shagoth at 8:00 AM on April 1, 2002

I agree, shagoth, the Microbus does seem an odd choice. I have a '78 Campmobile and it has been nothing less than a great vehicle. Sleeps four, I can cook dinner in it or haul 12' lengths of lumber -- inside! With the rear door closed! Okay, it doesn't have heat and can't top 68 mph -- rarely a problem when jammin' some tunes and dancing in the back.

Where is the AMC Pacer on this list? (When it was first introduced, I personally thought it was well ahead of its time.) I'm reminded of it because I just saw one a few days ago in Paris.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:19 AM on April 1, 2002

Speaking of K cars, I'm amazed that they have fan sites.
posted by samsara at 8:21 AM on April 1, 2002

Over the years my folks owned several Fiats, the last of which was a 1976 131 Brava with an automatic transmission and (at least in theory) air conditioning. The heat and a/c were woefully underpowered, and anyone unfortunate enough to be in back should forget either existed. This vehicle was retired shortly after my 10th birthday. I had declared that since it was my birthday (and the middle of winter) I was going to sit in the front seat and my Dad could darn well sit in back. Gee, Dad hadn't beleived me about the heat.
posted by ilsa at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2002

Don't ask me why, but a friend of mine bought a fairy blue 1979 Pinto as his first car (in 1999!!!). He absolutely loved that thing. He put two 10" subwoofers in the back mounted in a homemade cabinet covered in the same ugly blue carpeting as the rest of the car. He then added straight pipes. Imagine, if you will, a thumping Pinto with strait pipes going down the street. I laugh just thinking about it. Needless to say, the car's entire electrical system died after about a year.
posted by pheideaux at 11:17 AM on April 1, 2002

Wow, I'm feeling like sort of the bad car vortex... I owned a 1978 Plymouth Volare wagon (#7), a co-worker sitting right now about three feet from me owned a Chevy Vega (#2) and my girlfriend owned two AMC Gremlins (#4). My Volare was not too bad, actually. True, speed was never an issue with it, and it ate starters like they were Cool Ranch Doritos, but it was dependable, if unstylish, transportation. And yes, it had its own theme song.
posted by schmedeman at 11:37 AM on April 1, 2002

My girlfriend reminds me that she also owned a Chevette (#5), which died after it caught fire. The catalytic converter overheated and ignited the carpet!
posted by schmedeman at 12:11 PM on April 1, 2002

I had a '77 Saab. For about a week.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:29 PM on April 1, 2002

I'm kind of bummed that the Chevy Monza didn't make the list. I had one in high school, and it was a beaut. Leaving aside the sorta Grape-Apeish name (I can visualize, say, "Monza Monkey" competing in the Laff-A-Lympics), its main charms were its tireless venting of antifreeze vapors, its voracious appetite for motor oil, and its eczema-like vinyl roofing material. My idiot friends delighted in pulling off fistfuls of it to expose the rust-addled metal beneath. I eventually ended up selling it to a burnout case who dropped out of school. We got a message three months later from the California Highway Patrol that "our car" had been abandoned somewhere down on I-5. We had to fax them a copy of the bill of sale. Yeah!

I assume it's been cubed by now. RIP, you terrible car, you.
posted by Skot at 12:57 PM on April 1, 2002

For a while there, I was the Job of cars. I had a Renault Encore in the early-/mid-'80s. The first sign of trouble happened about 30 seconds after I drove off the dealer's lot, when the car filled up with clouds of freon. A year or so later, the gearshift came off in my hand as I was driving down the road, and I had to jam it down into the slot to change gears.

Later I had a Volkswagen Golf. The transmission fell out shortly after the warranty ran out. The replacement transmission fell out just after its warranty ran out. And I still had two years of payments.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:22 PM on April 1, 2002

I was once the bemused owner of a Chevette. I was fairly sure that I would die in that car as it had all the structural integrity of a tin can. I glanced off a median at the bank one day, got out to see if there was any damage, and the outer part of the door had peeled back like the top of a sardine can. I realized that if hitting concrete going 5 miles an hour could rip open my door, being hit by another car would be a very bad experience.

My family also owned a Vega when I was a kid, and I can remember losing several paper dolls through the rust holes in the cargo area.
posted by kittyloop at 2:48 PM on April 1, 2002

A Chevy Monza! Someone who I lived with once kept telling me "it's a great car." Why, after all, we'd upgraded from a 17 year old Ford van! Everyone else I met reassured me that his endless tinkering was remarkable-- it was doubtful even 3 other Monzas were still running in all of California. Shortly thereafter this man began to speculate that all possible flying machines were not yet invented, and with the help of the Internet and the UC Berkeley deep storage facility, I dug out some technical materials from the 1920s for him ... One day, the prospect of him throwing tools in the carport until the Monza got back on the road and the mystery invention flew, sailed, or generated wind-powered electricity was simply too much for me. (If you ever spot him tinkering with his new Vixen, give him my regards.)
posted by sheauga at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2002

Renault LeCars only have three lug nuts. WTF?
Missing from this list? Chevy Citations, Pontiac Aztecs, and any Peugeot ever made. My favorite Yugo story involved my grandfather. A few years before he passed away, he was shopping for a new Cadillac. While beholding the beauty of a new Eldorado, his second wife turned to him and said "If you bought a Cadillac, it would last you the rest of your life!"

My grandfather turned to her and muttered "At my age, a Yugo would do that..."
posted by machaus at 8:23 PM on April 1, 2002

machaus - Some high-end dealership once ran a promotion where if you bought their main product (Caddys?) they gave the purchaser a Yugo. It was a disincentive, with fights and threats to keep the Yugo's away from the buyers.

The dealer switched to (then exotic) cell phones, and everyone was much happier.
posted by NortonDC at 3:25 AM on April 2, 2002

Until a couple of years ago, it seemed like almost everyone here drove a Fiat 126, the Model T of modern Poland. It had a 652cc air-cooled two-cylinder ohv engine that developed up to 24 horsepower, and it could hit a top speed of 65 mph if you floored it for about 45 seconds (assuming you could find that much straight, flat road).
posted by pracowity at 4:57 AM on April 2, 2002

I still own and drive around in a 1987 Chevette. Man, getting it at 45 mph is becoming more and more of a challenge everday.
posted by GirlFriday at 5:22 AM on April 2, 2002

I had a '78 Monza. It was actually delivered to the dealer (I special ordered it) with a short in the electrical system that killed all the instrument panel. Took two trips to get it properly diagnosed and repaired. Mine had the V6 engine, which didn't collapse the front suspension like the the V8 did. Of course, it ran like crap, particularly when accelerating. It made left hand turns in traffic a white knuckle experience. And it rusted, not like the Vega it was derived from, but nonetheless with great vigor. Almost as bad as the fog on the inside of the windows from some chemical outgassing from the all-vinyl interior. A prime example of why Detroit's butt was getting kicked by imports.
posted by tommasz at 7:26 AM on April 2, 2002

As the proud owner of a '87 Dodge Aries (K car) I would just like to say that it is the shit. This little car runs fantastically.

It's not the prettiest thing in the world, and has the annoying habit of shedding itself of aesthetic parts (losing trim, hubcaps, and other bits while driving - but none of the important stuff!) but I love it.

Of course, we weren't sure what kind of car it was for the first two weeks we owned it. We were positive it was a Reliant, until someone showed us the Aries decal hidden in the glovebox.
posted by annathea at 1:26 PM on April 2, 2002

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