I try to be a positive person when it comes to the automobile. But, sometimes, you end up getting a heap of scrap. What can an automotive person do after experiencing a piece of…garbage?
We drove them once in our lives. Vehicles that gave us fits, drain our pocketbooks and put us in arrears with our creditors. These were vehicles where even the dealer you bought it from would refuse to take back – even under a Lemon Law.
Trust me, I feel your pain. I had my share of automobile nightmares. Maybe I had more than the usual motorist – if not the same. In my time, I’ve experienced suicidal radiators, suicidal valve heads, suicidal gaskets, suicidal power steering pumps, over-torqued wheel bolts – and so forth.
And, one wonders why I do not own a vehicle.
So, how do I do a Five Favorites based on the worst automobile experiences I had in my driving life? Would I even dare call them “Five Favorites?” Regardless, here’s five of the not so great vehicles that I had the misfortune of driving…
1981 CADILLAC FLEETWOOD BROUGHAM: If you’ve driven one of these along California Highway 1 north of Tomales Bay, you swore you’d either end up in the ocean, on the side of the mountain, as an integral part of a logging truck…or broken down. Cornering a big Cadillac is suggesting to its soft steering box to actually turn somewhere. The ride was floaty, but bumps reveal its true nature. Then, there’s the V8-6-4 – a technological marvel that I have ever experienced. Remember the computer that sat in the lowest part of the center stack? Paying attention to it as it scrolled through the instant MPGs would be akin to playing PacMan. Or, Pong. Needless to say, it was a terrible piece of engineering that was years away from being even reliable. The antithesis of one of these barges – the CTS-V, thank you!
2008 CHEVROLET AVEO: How bad is the Aveo? This was the only car I rented – and return the same day. It was that bad. Um, well…where do I start? Frankly, it’s not all General Motors’ fault. They bought Daewoo and had been in transition to integrate the Korean automaker into the company. This was before bankruptcy, mind you. I knew this was going to be a fun experience the moment my head smacked the driver’s side assist handle. It’s not the fact that it pitched from side-to-side, but rather they installed swinging assist grips above the driver! Everything else was elementary: The quality was bland, the audio system tinny, the motor a bit weak, the gearbox was meh…the use of chrome excessive. We thought we had Daewoo licked from our conscious by then…that would be too easy to even consider, I’m afraid.
1985 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF: Don’t get me wrong…this was heaps of fun. Fun can only go as far as how the thing was built. This was built at Volkswagen’s first USA plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. Not exactly Wolfsburg, but the assumption was that they should have been made as well as they were in (West) Germany. The culprit of my VW Fail: The key. I could blame the rental car agency for the bad replacement key, but how could any company allow one key to be missing without the backup available? Once the terribly copied key melted and bent, the Gold was rendered useless. Back at the rental counter, I traded in the Golf for a Toyota Corolla. I won’t get into what happened with the Corolla and why I ended up with a Chrysler LeBaron instead…
1985 CHEVROLET SPRINT PLUS: Until the 1990s, I hated radiators and cooling systems. They would always fail on me. There’s not enough burned fingers from hot caps to gallons of water from the garden house to remind me of my absolute disgust with cooling systems. This came to a roost when I bought a car for the interim in the post-Acura Integra world of Concord, California. I screwed myself a few times that a lesson was never learned until it ran out of chances. I bought this Sprint Plus, the Suzuki-built 5-door subcompact for Chevrolet, because it looked like fun – and drove like it. Little did I know of the gremlin lurking behind the grille. Why did they take my basketcase 1985 Audi 5000S in trade for this supposedly clean little thingy? It had a bad radiator. How did I know? The temp gauge remained in red and steam showed up at every stop. It took a little Sprint Plus to end my run of car ownership. However, it ended all automotive-related stupidity in one fell swoop…for the most part.
1974 FORD MUSTANG II: My brother was the first to own this thing. It became a hand-me-down…my second car I ever owned. Owning one is a must for any enthusiast, because you have to own an extremely terrible car to appreciate the better vehicles around you. For starters, the automatic transmission was on recall even before they were mated to the Cologne V6 on this over-styled Pinto. The V6 itself may be partly to blame since it eventually seized a bank of valves and a series of gaskets pertaining to the worst hack job from a gas station mechanic. Nonetheless, I blame Ford for thinking that a German V6 would work with a horribly built slushbox in the first place. I could go on and talk about the color scheme of this particular embarrassment in my motoring life: A lime green paint with an avocado vinyl roof. Since opera windows were a year away, they put on these ugly vinyl-covered panels on the C-pillars (you probably guessed – this was the Ghia hardtop model). Inside were the same two colors in a two-tone vinyl motif. Did we lose the lottery by choosing this thing – despite it serving some purpose before it simply limped out of my life.