Featured Articles

From What You’ve Owned, Build The Worst Car

Posted in Bizarre, FAIL / Funny, Featured by Kurt Ernst | January 23rd, 2011 | 10 Responses |

It's alive! A VW Polo Harlequin Image: Thomas Doerfer

Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”, and that quote may have been penned with the automobile in mind (assuming Shakespeare had been able to envision the horseless carriage). Even the worst of our cars, like the worst of our girlfriends, had their own unique charms and sins that you were willing to forgive. If you’re currently stuck with a lemon, you may know exactly what I’m talking about; if it’s been a while since you’ve had AAA on speed dial, time may have dulled your senses. Take yourself back, then, because here’s what I want to know: what were the worst components of the cars you’ve owned?

I’ll kick it off by reciting my own “worst of” list, from the cars that have called my garage home. Like Frankenstein’s monster, this creature would be an abomination of nature, and something that should never exist in a a world populated by sane and God-fearing citizens:

Engine: The 1.7 liter, inline four from my 1977 VW Scirocco was the spawn of Satan. Granted, the car was tired when I bought it, having racked up over 100k miles. Still, by the time I got rid of it, the car was a rolling crack habit. Each week generally started with “what can I sell to keep the car running”, and I never traveled anywhere without tools. When things went wrong, they always went wrong at the worst possible time, like when the Bosch mechanical fuel injection defecated the sleeping surface in hundred degree temperatures. On the outskirts of Gary, Indiana. Then there was the trip where it died on the high plains of eastern Colorado, miles from civilization and years before cell phones became standard issue. I learned about suffering by replacing it’s water pump in an apartment parking lot, on the coldest day of a Colorado winter. When I sold it, I honestly wondered if the car would hunt me down, just to finish what it had started.

Tires: In 1990, I got a brand new Ford Taurus as a company car. Sure, it was big and ugly, but it was a car that someone else was paying for, so why would I complain? Standard issue tires for the 1990 Taurus were Goodyear Invicta radials, and I can honestly say that they were the worst tires ever built. They hydroplaned in any amount of accumulated water, gave no traction whatsoever in snow and ice and had braking distances typically associated with opening the door and dragging your feet. I gave serious consideration to changing the tires on my own dime, in the interest of self preservation, but opted to drive my own car for all but company business instead. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, or as a free car.

Windshield: The windshield on my FJ Cruiser is a stone magnet, and one of the standard questions on owners forums is “how many windshields have you been through”? Since the FJ windshield has roughly the surface area of Kansas, coupled with a near vertical rake, it’s not hard to understand why they get damaged. Still, I wish Toyota would have specified something a bit more durable than the Christmas ornament glass used in the FJ. If I ever hit the lottery, my first purchase will be the bulletproof windshield from an armored car.

Paint: My 2006 Acura TSX has paint with all the durability of hardened cheese rind. Stare at it long enough, and it will chip. Sneeze near it and it will chip. Write about how soft it is, and it will chip. The good news is that it’s also susceptible to staining unless you instantly wipe away any contaminants; at least the stains cover up the chips fairly well.

Brakes: Not to pick on any particular vehicle, but my 1990 Ford Taurus would again get the nod for having the worst brakes (which is a great combination with the worst tires). When driving down mountain passes (since I lived in Colorado back then), I would have to pry the wheel covers off to allow the brakes to cool. Since the transmission options were either “D” or 2, there was no usable gear for descending a mountain, which required regular and generous application of the brakes. It was particularly fun with four passengers plus luggage, as you actually had some doubt as to whether or not the brakes would last to the bottom of the hill.

Clutch: The 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX had a clutch made from paper mache. Since it also had lightswitch power when the turbo spooled up, fragging the stock clutch was more a question of “when” than “if”.

Suspension: The stock suspension on my 1997 Ford Ranger pickup couldn’t even be adjusted to meet factory camber specs at the first tire change. Aftermarket parts did the trick (and it’s too long ago to remember what I swapped out), but you shouldn’t have to re-design an automaker’s suspension at 20,000 miles.

I can’t recall ever owning a truly ugly car, or one with a painfully bad interior, so I’m at a loss in those categories. It’s worth noting that automakers have made some serious improvements since the cars I reference were built; Acura, for example, has figured out the whole water-based-paint thing and now has outstanding paint quality and durability. Ford now tests their vehicles beyond anything that’s reasonable or sane, so I would have no issues with driving a modern Taurus from Boulder to Durango, even with passengers and luggage. In fact, cars today are so good that I really wonder what kind of character-building stories they’ll be able to generate. Sure, looking for a pay phone in downtown Gary, Indiana, really sucked at the time, but I can laugh about it now.

How about you? What’s your automotive abomination?

Our Best Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 Responses

  1. BigRuss says:

    Engine: 305ci in a 79 camaro
    Tires: stock ones on my 97 Grand Prix GTP
    Windshield: 2005 Scion Xb
    Paint: 2010 Ram 1500
    Clutch: 05 scion xb
    Suspension: 81 C10 long bed…..

  2. Brett says:

    Engine power: The 22r from my 1982 Toyota 4×4. All the power of an electric can opener
    Engine reliability: 1990 BMW 535i.
    Suspension: 1996 Mazda B3000 and 1998 Mercury Mountaineer. One bounced for three days after you hit a speed bump and the other didn’t bounce at all, ever.
    Transmission: B3000. Like stirring a bucket of rocks
    Brakes: 1990 Jeep Wrangler. No power assist
    Steering: 1990 Wrangler. No power assist and 32-inch tires :)
    Styling: 1992 Toyota Tercel. Kinda cute in a really embarrassing way.

    • Ken says:

      Interesting comment about the transmission…. I had a friend years ago who had one of these B3000 trucks….after a trip to Jiffy Lube where they put the standard lubricant in the transmission he said the same thing….. Turns out… Mazda required a synthetic lubricant and Jiffy Lube ended up buying him a new transmission…..

  3. BobK says:

    I was going to make a list, but kept circling back to an 87 Jeep Wrangler. Engine, tranny (sourced from Puegeot), suspension, steering, you name it, all the worst. Fun to drive with the top down though.

  4. Adam says:

    Paint: ’94 Honda Accord

    I was driving my mother to and from an auto shop because she was getting work done on her Magnum after my sister scraped it up. It was raining and we were driving down a ~50mph street here in Atlanta. By the time we get to a stop light, the clear-ish paint-clearcoat is peeling off and sliding up the winshield getting thrown about by the wipers.

    My mother looks at me and says “Is that your paint?”

    I wimper “yes…”

    hysterical laughter ensues.

    That coupled with the fact that every time anyone walked past the thing they had the insatiable urge to pick at the paint.

    New ’05 Civic is vastly different and I’ve got no complaints.

  5. Djrosa says:

    2007 Ford focus Ghia Flexifuel
    the fusebox has such a stupid placement so when you have to change a fuse you need to be bended like a damn fishhook to reach it in the passanger footwell. the engine have less power than my electric toothbrush and still use up fuel faster than a jetfighter. brakes locks up without any warning i had better feel in the brakes of my 1992 audi 80 that didnt have abs.

  6. Randy says:

    Paint: The illustrious 1994 Dodge Shadow ES. The Tealish colored paint on that car peeled off since the day my mother drove it home new in 94, and still chips away to this day at its resting place – the grandmothers. The nail polish my mother used to fix what she thought at first to be a minor problem, still holds on the car, CHRYSLER :)

    Electrical: 2000 Nissan Quest Sports Edition. Dear Ford, Create anymore CHEAP vehicle’s and I may have to sue. For a vehicle that was built in 2000, why is the radio, speakers, and ever other fuse failing. Age maybe, but hopefully this wont be a true costly problem! Thanks, at least the air compressor lasted “much longer then expected”. And the damn thing never did Rust. :) Sadly i think the van has to go. Ill probably buy a Jeep or Buick. Not looking at Used Fords, even if they have changed, I know what will happen in 10 years or less, especially if I buy used!

  7. inthebuff says:

    We foolishly bought a 1982 AMC Spirt when we got out of the military. It was the worst car of all time. The only way it could have been worse if it was a Yugo.

    The only thing that worked well was the radio.

    1999 Dodge Dakota was so underpowered it was ridiculous. 175HP out that V6. And the Dakota was Dodge’s smallest truck but it was full size.

  8. ryanstoy says:

    Engine: ’03 Subaru Outback Sedan. The engine was great, except the time – with well under 100K on it – it over heated in the middle of winter and cracked the small block. Why?
    Transmission: ’86 Ford Escort, manual. I learned to drive in this car, which was a while ago, but I remember shifting was heavy and rough.
    Suspension: ’00 Toyota Sienna XLE. Bought it used with less than 100K and within a year or so the front suspension started shaking. No matter how many trips to the garage, and we tried several, or new tires, it never was right. If it didn’t shake, it pulled, and it creaked around moderate corners and it would always eventually stop pulling and go back to shaking.

  9. Regina says:

    I have no words to describe the car in this picture, speechless…..