My worst cars

I’ve had a lot of cars in my driving career.  Mostly German Sports Sedans which were mostly all very good.  Some American Cars, Some Japanese cars Some favorites, some I still and always will miss… and some real dogs.  This post is about those dogs.   My Bottom Three.

First of the Worst Cars:

An early 80's Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta.  Mine was bright yellow.  It wanted to be sporty, like a VW GTI.  And admittedly it was fairly sporty as long as you never went over 60 MPH.  It’s ride could dislocated your kidneys, while at the same time having a remarkable lithe way of leaning away from the curves.   But it was quick so it was still kind of fun.  And then it caught fire.  When the first Batman Movie came out, the Premiere Viewing, I took a girl with me to the movie and about 15 minutes into it, a Fireman came in and asked me if I owned a yellow burning Ford Fiesta.  I don’t remember taking that girl out for a second go.  Don’t even remember who that was.  But I do remember having to get that car towed home.  And telling Father why the Ford was scorched.

Late 70's Dodge Colt

To replace my Fried Fiesta, Granny and Poppa let me have their old Dodge Colt.  It had no style.  It had no speed.  It had no sport.  And it also caught fire.  I was coming home from some church activity with a friend and all the sudden we saw flames through the air vents.  We got out and popped the hood and found the tiny motor was on fire.  My buddy’s name was Orrin.  Now, Orrin and I had picked up a couple Big Gulps from the local 7-11.  We were standing there, sipping our Coke’s looking at the fire.  Then we just dumped the Coke’s on the engine and the fire was put out.  We got back in, and the car started and we drove home.

The Audi Fox

Both the America Cars previously mentioned were had back while I was in Roanoke.  This Audi was one I had in Tacoma Washington.  It was small and very heavy for it’s size and powered by little 4 cylinder engine with less horsepower than a donkey.   I seem to remember having three or four of these, but one in particular was Bottom Three material.    I had raced it much more than I should and had blown one cylinder and I had lost compression in another cylinder.  It didn’t sound good.  I remember sitting at a red light when a couple very cute girls in a topless Jeep pulled up, all pretty and smiles and waving at me… me grinning back like an idiot… and then one of them said “Your car sounds like my Dad’s Lawn Mower.”  Then the girls laughed and drove off.  I took my driver’s test in this car.  (Yes, I was driving before I had a License)  With the blown engine.  Part the DMV’s route was up a hill.  My car didn’t have the power to climb that hill even in first gear.    So when I slowed to a stop I apologized and said I had to take an alternate route.  The Tester just smiled and nodded and let me do my thing.   I was thinking I had failed the test so I thought “Screw it” and I let the car roll back a bit and flipped a Rockford Files, ending up in the correct lane in the correct direction and I went around the hill and back to the DMV.  The Tester passed me and loved the way I handled the car.  She actually gave me a hug.   My friends would laugh themselves blue in the face at my little Fox, but it never left me stranded. And it didn’t catch fire.

25 thoughts on “My worst cars”

  1. bottom 3…hmmm…lets see….

    95 Potiac Grand Am…started falling apart almost the minute I drove it NEW off the lot

    78 Pontiac LeMans (I think thats was what it was…another Pontiac regardless) never met a stop light it liked, would shudder and shimmy to a stop with new brake pads and them make up for it by having a 0-60 time measurable by a sun dial….

    76 AMC Pacer…given to me for free by my great aunt…ran like a champ on a straight 6 but was ugly as sin…once made the mistake of trying to start a conversation in it with a girl in the next lane at a stop light…her and her friend just broke up laughing…

  2. 65 VW Squareback. On cold mornings, I’d reach back, lift the rear seat, and shake the hell out of the battery. Then it’d start. I kept a pair of pliers in the back, by the engine compartment, both to reclamp the one wire that kept coming loose and killing the engine, and to take the clamps off either side of the inline fuel filter so that I could blow it out when it got clogged. It eventually got to the point where it was leaking oil faster than I could keep up with it, and seized.

    86 Mercury Topaz. Caught fire. Made of plastic. Fragile plastic. Mere words cannot describe the craptasticness of this car.

  3. First car was a 77 RX7. It was my dream car for 6 months then was destroyed when it burst into flames one morning.

    Second car was a 78 Dodge Aspen Grand Wagon I got for $300. Slant six (but it only ran on three) no passenger window, bullet holes in the back, bald tires, and it leaked about a quart of oil a day. It ran for over a year without maintenance until the brakes failed at an intersection. After being parked all winter it still started for the guy I donated it to.

    Aside for a year spent with a Subaru outback, I have never owned a 4 cylinder car.

  4. ’68 Ford Fairlane, 2 dr. – copper color
    A/C stopped working, unless you got out in the heat and manually tweaked the electronic clutch.
    Every 10 minutes. Eventually, the hood hinges locked (Ford hood-hinge disease)

    ’70 Plymouth Duster, 2 dr – pale yellow, dark green interior. just got old and failed.

    ’77 VW Rabbit – Dark Brown 4 dr – biscuit inside. Ran great, but nickeled and dimed me to death.
    brakes failed because the brake line rested under the carpet, under your feet, and wore through.
    Finally, just wouldn’t run or stay in tune.

  5. Mine:
    ’80 Chevy Monza “Iron Duke” 4 cylinder. Gutless wonder. Firs major downtime was a broken camshaft. Ongoing problem of clutch cable pulling through the firewall. Final nail in the coffin was something getting sucked into the intake.

    ’88 GMC S15/ 2.8 nightmare from hell. Pressure plate blew at 98k, bottom end let go a 125k. New engine lasted to 225K then intake manifold gaskets let go. As much as I had sentimental attachment to the truck finally put to pasture after the last major let down.

    ’83 F250. Pure beast with a 460/C6.TTB front end was a never ending money pit.

    1. I had an 81 or 82 F250 with the 460. I don’t think I ever got it over 10 MPG. Dual gas tanks with 44 gallons total capacity meant you could still go a fair distance, but it sure hurt to fill up.

  6. Of the dozen or so cars I’ve laid hands on it’s always been the Fords that have treated me poorly. Had an Escort GT that seized up randomly, a Ranger with chronic electrical problems, two Sables/Taurus’ with bad heads AND bad trannys, and a 79 Mustang Cobra. Although that later wasn’t really a Ford issue so much as a bad luck issue. My neighbor stole it the night he skipped out on rent.

    As for the best… hard to say. But I think I’d have to go with the 86 Nissan Hardbody pickup I once had. I routinely did some sick stuff with that truck. Up until I managed to break it in half one night.

  7. I must be fortunate. I’ve only driven a handful of cars EVER.

    I took my road test in my dads 1991 Chevy Lumina-which was a BEAST for power, handling, and everything else.

    I drove a 1994 Isuzu Trooper for a coon’s age…and that farker is STILL running strong despite my antics (such as 40mph down a tank trail @ Ft. Hood Tx, with the 4 wheel engaged). My buds and I call it “The Super Trooper”. (it’s on its 3rd tranny for the record)

    I drove a 2003 Crown Vic for a while…till I hit an ice patch on the highway and spun out. USAA totaled the car. I’d hit the Jersey barricade twice (by the end) and the steel rail once. DAMNIT did I love that car…

    My summer drive is a 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V Collector’s Series. Best tank of go-juice I ever got outta that monster was 15 HIGHWAY on PREMIUM, but I have yet to drive a vehicle as comfortable, relaxing, and grand as that yacht. The family calls it “Abe”.

    I might not have driven the beaters you have Mr. Ogre…but I dare to compare that what I have it better! (no offense intended)

    1. I’ll second what you said about Troopers. Drove a 92 for years and never quite managed to kill it. The odometer died around 250k but I put at least another 10k on it before I gave it away (still running, mind you).

    2. Most of my cars haven’t been beaters. BMW 325i, Thunderbird Super Coupe, VW GTI, Audi’s that I’ve lost track of, Ford Contour SVT. (Same engine in my little Contour as my brother has in his new and much larger and heavier Taurus) Toyota Supra…. that was an amazing car… Fast as hell. Turbo boost that hit you like a baseball bat in the spine. I have beaters that I love… My Ford Bronco, my Chevy Scottsdale 2500… There was even that Subaru that I loved until I hated it. Amazing engine and handling… but then the transmission went all screwy and sold it so someone else could make use of the engine. Then there was that Mustang I got… I think I only had it for a day before I traded it in… on that Subaru. I wanted all wheel drive. Ah… I’ve had some great cars. But this post is about the worst. I don’t care if you brag up how great your cars were. Feh… you missed the point entirely. And a Chevy Lumina? Handling and Power? Sir, the Lumina’s had neither and their doors shut with the same vault like qualities of a rusty old tool box. The engine, for it’s Liter Size was grossly under powered and it had understeer like a river barge. Granted it was faster than it’s father car, the Chevy Beretta, and it illustrated the good looks of Chevy’ cab forward design. It’s not a bad car… it just wasn’t a good car by any metric.

      1. Alright! Here’s a beater for you…

        When I got this truck, it PISSED tranny fluid AND oil. The oil leak wasn’t as bad as the tranny though-the tranny literally dumped it as fast as you could fill it. While working on this truck I replaced:

        -the flywheel alone w/ no help
        -the batteries (not a typo) despite grounding myself out out paralyzing my arm for over 3 hours
        -I replaced LITERALLY ALL the gaskets in that engine
        -redid the ignition/glow plug system w/ out any help

        This is just a PARTIAL LIST of the month plus work I ended up doing to get my HUMVEE to START when I first got it…

        So-with respect-I HAVE driven beaters; just not in the “civvy world”.

  8. Chrysler products, I’m just totally snake bit when it comes to them. New, used, I get the lemon every time. GM started out OK but then…My best luck has been with the Japanese lines, preference given to Toyota, Subaru started out OK but then they got too complex and upmarket. The peak torque came at too high a rev and I couldn’t get used to the shift points on top of that. But my all time nightmare was a Dodge Shadow. Despite warranty work, it became a money pit primarily because you couldn’t get the head or oil gaskets to stay sealed.

  9. I had a Pontiac Fiero and the engine also caught fire…twice. The first time was like your “Big Gulp” situation, friend had a large drink and dumped it on there…the second ended in a raging inferno on the side of I-75 on my way back from college. That car was fun to drive, but the most unreliable piece of junk I ever owned. Wife’s Pontiac Sunbird was not much better, but at least it never spontaneously combusted.

  10. Should I make this confession here, on a public forum read by people I both like and respect?

    Ok. I had a Vega. There, I said it.

  11. ’89 Bonneville SSE assembled from pieces of three Pontiacs and a Buick.put 60k miles on it until one of the doors wouldn’t SHUT and it started taking the battery down. When it wouldn’t start at -24(f) one morning around Christmas, I let it sit and borrowed a pickup. Easter Sunday I pretty much had to move it since the only ice left in the parking lot was under my car. It was still flooded from Christmas and fired up in the nastiest cloud of half-burned hydrocarbons ever seen from something other than an air-cooled radial. Drove it straight back to the junkyard it came out of. 🙂

  12. The Audi and the VW twin Fox were assembeled in Brazil (check the VIN). The only cars harder to sell (as a Car Salesman) were the Mistsubishi Precis which were Hyundais. Lots of them ended up at Ft Lewis or McChord.

  13. One Fox I had was purchased from an Air Force Colonel from McChord. It had the sticker on the front that got me salutes when I drove onto the base. I was 16 and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.

  14. I can only think of 2 dogs right off the top of my head.

    1- 1978 BMW 316. This was actually my first car that I bought before I had a drivers license and this was when I was stationed in Bitburg, Germany. Power nothing and it drove like a friggin’ Sherman tank. Not much power and she really started to fall apart on me in less than 3 years. Somehow all but 1 screw fell off the header manifold and you could hear her comming from a long ways away…and I bet flames were shooting out underneath the hood. One day after some drinking she got a new paint job. I have no idea how it passed the tüv inspection the last time.


  15. 76 Ford F-250 Supercab longbed. Fun when it ran, had a 460 and would peg out the speedometer (100mph). This was my ride in high school in the late 80’s. However, it often died. Many different issues. Worst was one summer day when it died in the morning, had to get it towed, got it fixed (alternator), then it died again (can’t remember) and had to be towed a second time in the same day. Yep. Best story was when it broke down way out in an isolated area and I was hoofing it the several miles to the nearest phone. Along comes a truck and the driver asks if I needed a ride into town. Yep, thanks mister! A couple of miles down the road I notice that the guy had a hook for a right hand. Something like this: Perfect story, the only time I go hitchhiking and the guy has a fricking hook!

  16. 2- Suberau Domingo micro van. I bought this little orange van that looked like something a Libyan terrorist would drive when I moved to Misawa Air Base up in northern Japan. Manual transmission and it had a choke on it…I can’t remember the last time I seen a vehicle (other than a motorcycle) that had a choke, but I needed it in the winter to get “the pumpkin” started. Things went downhill when she went sideways into a benjo ditch that was covered in snow shortly followed when my buddy snapped one of the 3 spark plugs off in the engine. She didn’t have enough power to climb a low grade hill and shortly thereafter I turned her into the auto hobby shop to get scrapped. Another short story was that her starter went to crap an I remember taking a Japanese girl on a date and “parked”, but when things finished up the van wouldn’t even turn over so I had to get out in the rain and get under it and beat on the starter with a hammer to finally get her to start. I was a bit embarassed but I did go on a few more dates.

  17. Ive been lucky with cars, but hands down was that 96 Nissan hardbody. It wasnt so bad, but nickel and dimed me to death. 96 needs an emmission test in NC, and the check engine light never failed to light before the test. EGR after EGR, after stuck valves, after broken valve seats, after another EGR or two. Traded it on a 94 Cherokee and havent looked back since. I can also throw in my Mom’s circa 80’s Chrysler Kcars even if they werent mine. Stranded me on a few dates back in that long ago decade. Should have just drove my old Scout truck. Never failed me

  18. Missed the Ford Pinto and also the Chevy Vega.
    My foreman I worked with in the mill bought a Pinto when they first came out.
    Fred parked the car near our back loading dock, Smiley our paint-shop lead painter snuck outside, drove a wooden stake in the ground and hitched Fred’s “Pinto” up to the post.
    Fred failed to see the humor in the deal but we were rolling on the floor.

  19. THe AUDI FOX was running on THREE cyl. when you were given it.That is WHY you were given it-with the vain hope you couldn’t get in trouble with said car.WE,your parents were,sadly,wrong.The McChord AFB full bird Col.gate pass opened up a world of adventure to you and friends.

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