Off-duty: The worst cars ever

MSN recently posted the 10 worst cars ever. They were:

  • 1971 Chevy Vega
  • 1978 Ford Pinto
  • 1960 Chevrolet Corvair
  • 1978 Fiat Strada
  • 1974 Chevy Vega
  • 1973 Triumph Stag
  • The Yugo Koral
  • 1984 Pontiac Fiero
  • The Trubant
  • 1974 Mazda RX2

They also threw in the 2002 Plymouth Prowler to show that it wasn’t only back then that manufacturers made ugly cars. The Prowler looked too goofy to pass as a hot rod. That front end didn’t sell as well as they hoped and, besides, how do you sell a car as a hot rod when it has only 250 hp?

My first car was pretty cool: a 1968 Austin Healey Sprite. It was fun in the summer, but small. Then it didn’t matter.

The worst car I had was a 1960 Ford Falcon. I bought it in San Diego when I was in the Navy. It was bright orange, jacked up in the back and with chrome reverse wheels on it.

The floorboard was sort of there and sort of not there, with plywood covering a big hole. It was great for long trips when you didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom.

The accelerator stuck on occasion, but once you got used to it you could slip your foot under the pedal and un-stick it without too much panic. Passengers riding in the car for the first time were taken back when I’d suddenly curse and start kicking the pedal with my feet as I slid down in the seat, all the while approaching a dangerous intersection where the light had just turned red. After one ride, most of my friends opted for a bus pass.

I took the car up to Beverly Hills just because I’d never been there. I didn’t see too much of Beverly Hills, but I met a few Beverly Hills cops who weren’t too happy to see me and my jacked-up Orange Flame (yes, I named it, too) cruising about.

The Ford Fairmont, Plymouth Volare and Pontiac Le Mans

The worst detective car I ever drove was the Ford Fairmont. It was hideous. It was ugly and had the appeal of toad. It had no power. I would have to find entrance ramps that sloped down to the freeway just to get enough speed to merge.

Probably the worst patrol car I spent time in was the Plymouth Volare. It was ugly and small. In Fulton County, we had the Volare for a patrol car with its old-style bubble-gum-machine blue light on top. It was like driving around with a big fez on your head.

The best patrol car I drove was a 1976 Pontiac Le Mans. It had a 400 hp engine and an air scoop for increased air flow and extra coolness. That car would fly. It was long and sleek.

That car was so fast that once, during a chase, I found myself passing the car I was chasing, which was kind of awkward now that I think about it. (I’ll never forget the look on that guy’s face as I passed him and yelled “Boo-Yah!)

Forty years ago when a manufacturer made an ugly car, well, they had to take the hit. Now an ugly car can be “green.” If it looks like a boiled egg on wheels, but gets 50 miles to the gallon, well, it’s cost-effective and we applaud you.

Behind your back though, we’ll still call it ugly.

27 comments Add your comment

Chuck

April 13th, 2010
3:19 pm

Thanks Lt. Steve. Always enjoy you stories…

RebeccaJ

April 13th, 2010
3:39 pm

OMG, my husband had a Vega and he totally agrees with this list. Called it the worst care EVAH.

Linda

April 13th, 2010
3:39 pm

My uncle had a Ford Falcon I think a 65 he got after returning from an army run in Germany. He kept that car well into the 90’s. It was a good car. It brought back memories of my favorite uncle when I read about your Orange Flame!!! I think they left out one of the worst and ugliest cars ever on the list which is the AM Pacer. My good friend had one and it was UGLYYYYYYYY!
As always I enjoy this section!!!!!

GRITSiAM

April 13th, 2010
4:58 pm

Thanks for the laughs Lt.

StJ

April 14th, 2010
12:04 am

No Crap-ler K-car?? How did that not make the list? Or the Gremlin?

These “cube” cars are butt-ugly, too, and everybody’s making one. I think they’re having a contest to see who can make the most people puke.

Look before I leap

April 14th, 2010
6:42 am

We were stationed on Guam in the early 60’s. My dad bought a 60 Ford Falcon – black. Damn thing rusted through in the floor boards in a few places. Once in while while cruising down the highway we’d pick up a piece of road gravel which would then richochet throughout the car. Fun times for all!

Van Jones

April 14th, 2010
8:05 am

“(I’ll never forget the look on that guy’s face as I passed him and yelled “Boo-Yah!)” + coffee = sprayed mess on my desk. Thanks for the early morning laughing fit!

Holly

April 14th, 2010
9:59 am

Echoing what Van Jones said. You have such a wicked turn of phrase, Lt. Steve. Booyah to you and keep up the good work (and great writing).

starlifter

April 14th, 2010
10:17 am

The Vega may have been one of the worst cars, I remember my friends vega with a 350 conversion. it could have ran that 1976 Pontiac Le Mans down no problem, but still can’t out run the Motorola.

silent jay

April 14th, 2010
11:15 am

Worst cruiser? 86 Chevy Celebrity.

The old Pontiacs roared, but the 96 Caprice with LT-1 Corvette exhaust screamed.

s

April 14th, 2010
11:51 am

They left off one of the worst – the Renault Le Crap (oops – Le Car)!!!

ATC

April 14th, 2010
5:30 pm

The comments have become much more civil. I surely do appreciate that.

Lt. Steve

April 14th, 2010
7:14 pm

Comments more civil? What’s wrong with you guys? I expect cheap shots. Makes me feel at home.

Patrick

April 15th, 2010
8:18 am

I had a Ford Fairmont once. Never really drove it, since it had all sorts of engine problems and couldn’t really get it going. Gas had gummed up the works. Had a Mercury Grand Marquis before that. Drank power steering fluid like it was water. Of the two, I preferred the Marquis. Also had a 1976 Olds Ninety-Eight Regency. Now THAT was a car. Was red on the outside, red interior, faux wood trim, power windows, power doorlocks, power seats, but the radio didn’t work. Antenna broke off in car wash, due to some idiot (read: parents) forgot to lower it. Never did get around to replacing it. Only major problem: needed new radiator. Had run hot on me twice. Wrecked it 3 months after having new radiator put in.

Due to it having been red inside and out, and as luxurious as it was, I called it The Big Red Boat.

Mary K Blachard

April 15th, 2010
9:53 am

When I married in 1969 we bought a 1965 Pontianc Bonneville 2 + 2 (Midnight Blue color) four in the floor – was a SWEEEET car. I beat a corvette at a red light not knowing my husband was 2 cars back. He didn’t understand my excitement only the 300 miles I took off the tires when the light changed. The smoke was unbelievable (from both of us). Loved that car!!!!!

Elmo C. Grogan

April 15th, 2010
12:37 pm

My Dad hated the fleet of 60’s era Plymouths the FBI had; if you were over 6′ they had no headroom. Driving in this, the City Too Busy To Fix Potholes, that can be a problem.

B

April 15th, 2010
3:33 pm

My dad actually had 2 1960 Corvairs… one a manual and one an automatic transmission. They’re both buried (literally) just off HWY 138 north of Conyers.

Old School

April 15th, 2010
3:53 pm

80s era Chevrolet Citation. Hideousness on wheels. Ours (special ordered) came with millions of tiny bubbles in the paint. After the dealership repainted it, I discovered that it wanted to go forward when I put it in reverse. Kinda got the idea that even an Edsel would have been a better choice and traded it for a Plymouth Grand Voyager that I happily drove until I just plain wanted something different.
But my favorite cars are my ‘72 Super Beetle and ‘75 Super Beetle convertible. Sweet rides!

reader

April 15th, 2010
6:05 pm

I took drivers ed. in the summer of 1980 – the car was a Chevrolet Citation. Rust. I don’t think I’ve seen that car in any other color. My first car, spring of 1981, was a 1969 Chevy Nova – leaky vinyl roof, green and (real) rust, holes in the floor board. It was free and it got me where I had to go, for 3 years. Then I bought a 4 speed manual shift that I did not know how to drive. My friend had a Datsun B210. She lost the heel of her shoe thru the hole in the floor near the clutch pedal. We had to break the other heel off the other shoe, otherwise the night would have been over. Fun memories. My brother had a convertible light blue Falcon. He was pulled over once and got every ticket imaginable. The cop even got on the ground and looked underneath it. Geez…

Ernie

April 16th, 2010
9:06 am

This article causes a whole series of flashbacks…Two of my favorite cars I had – 1. 63 Impala 2-dr hard top – not the SS, but is was a mover. 2. 73 Delta 88 – I called it “the bus”, because we could haul quite a few people to-from the bar. The wife had a Vega when we met. I don’t ever remember it moving, though. When we got married, it stayed with her folks.

Van Jones

April 16th, 2010
10:47 am

Flashback is right. In high school I took a lot of dates out in our family’s 1978 Olds Cutlass something station wagon. Otherwise known as the shaggin’ wagon. Or, if it were just the guys it was the super-turbo-drag-wag.
Steve, I’ll try to think of something derogatory to write to make you feel more at home…

Jeffrey Amos

April 16th, 2010
12:31 pm

You drilled it on the Fairmont, I had an 81 that was the worst piece of $^&* I ever drove, it left me on the side of the road countless times. When I finally scrapped it I paid the guy at the crusher $5 to let me press the button to sent ot to its just reward!

Lee

April 18th, 2010
7:50 am

Speaking of cars….

My dad had a 50’s era GMC pickup. It slung a rod driving to work one day right in front of a Chevrolet dealership. He coasted in and traded it for a new 65 Chevy pickup. Only person I ever knew who actually got one over on a car salesman.

I still have that 65. One of my retirement projects will be to do a frame off restoration.

Billy Peeler

April 18th, 2010
6:27 pm

I had a friend with a 1960 Corvair, and it was a fine little car. It was certainly not a powerful car, especially for one coming along during the “Muscle Car” era…but it was a fun car to drive, and got great gas mileage. Nader was right about it being dangerous, but so was every small car during that era. And I had a ‘78 Pinto, and it was also a good car. Not powerful, but just good, dependable transportation.
The Vega, or course, is famous for being one of the worst cars ever…thanks to their 40,000 mile “throwaway” engines.
You SURE you were shouting “Boo-Yah” in the late 1970’s? Stewart Scott didn’t popularize that phrase till he got on ESPN in the early 90’s. A police officer wouldn’t fudge the truth just for a good story, now, would he?

Bobby dee

April 18th, 2010
8:44 pm

I worked at GM dealership in rural California. The ‘68 Olds Toronado the CHP had were awesome. I had a chance to “Road Test” two of them that we repaired. Suweeet!
.. I had a friend in the ’80s that owned several Vegas. He claimed they were good cars if you took care of them. Then he told me it was necessary to check the oil & water everyday even if you did not drive them.

Walter Davis

April 18th, 2010
9:00 pm

Two words about the AMC Gremlin: back seat. Even my children had to sit sideways to fit. But my ‘62 Ford Falcon rocked! Big old bad-a$$ large bore 4 cylinder cooked. AM radio w/ under dash FM converter and 8 track player for entertainment. Oh, and my CB radio.

Delbert D.

April 19th, 2010
11:43 am

In college in 1965 I had a ‘58 Simca with a hole in the floor, a yellow towel for a gas cap (couldn’t find a metric-thread gas cap), and a gear shift that would fall out of the gear box once a week (I used a smaller US bolt in a metric hole). It took about an hour to fish around for the bolt in the gearbox each time. I drove it home 50 miles from Atlanta one Friday, and the gears started failing one at a time. When 1st gear finally siezed 10 miles from home, we had to get my roommate’s father’s truck and literally knock it off the road with repeated ramming from behind.