Worst. Cars. Ever.

WorstCar
The folks at Car Talk have been discussing some of the worst cars they've owned in their history all this week. We thought we'd join them with a run down of our staff's least fondly remembered cars that they've kept in their own garages.

Kelsey Mays
Industry Editor
1989 Toyota Van

My parents bought Toyota's people-mover in 1990, an era when the automaker built cars with names like Van and Pickup. The rear-wheel-drive minivan had every bad styling cue from the 1980s, and it didn't drive any better than it looked. Toyota put a gutless four-cylinder beneath the front seats, and the carpeted partition ahead of the second row would heat up as road trips wore on. The drum brakes took forever to slow you down, so you had to brake early and pray the Van would stop in time — because the hood-free design meant your knees were the crumple zone. Ours came optioned to the hilt with swiveling captain's chairs, dual sunroofs and a console refrigerator, but it drove like a nightmare. We sold it to a guy who planned to drive cross-country and said the refrigerator would be a good place for his "stash." You could probably find it at a police auction today.

Kristin Varela
Senior Family Editor
1985 GMC Jimmy

It was red with a rusted white stripe down the side — a gift for my 16th birthday. I felt totally cool, especially with the huge mobile phone that my dad installed for use in emergencies only. When driving it home from college one weekend, the alternator went out on it, causing the car to die completely on the side of the highway and rendering the "for-emergencies-only" mobile phone useless. I was 17 and had no idea what to do, but figured if I waited long enough, a police officer would eventually see me on the side of the highway with the hood propped open, and stop to help. After four hours, nobody had stopped to help — not even the two highway patrol officers that drove right past me. Finally, I managed to flag down a tow truck and got him to drive me to the mechanic's shop that my father used. First, however, he said we needed to take a detour through the shadiest part of the city to pick up some money he was owed because he wasn't really a tow truck driver, but was just filling in for his friend. As I started to panic, imagining all of the horrible scenarios that could possibly happen, he turned to me and asked, "Do I scare you?" Hell yeah, you scare me! Now take me to the mechanic! I'm still here today to share the story, so it must've ended all right. Needless to say, I lost all confidence in that car and sold it as quickly as possible thereafter.

Mark Williams
Editor, PickupTrucks.com
1979(?) Mercury Bobcat

Just about the time I was deep into high school, my dad bought my mom a birthday present — my family's first "luxury" car ... a new (1979?) Mercury Bobcat. It had a lot of chrome, a "powerful" V-6 engine and a two-tone paint job. Unfortunately, it was a glorified Ford Pinto. To this day, I'm still not sure if my mom was insulted or happy to get it, but she drove it and never complained. However, when the chrome started peeling off from wind-shear, the rear hatch seals decomposed (well within the first year) and a simple tuneup cost about $125 (something about the need to loosen the engine mounts to change the spark plugs), the shine quickly faded from the little kitty. The car was subjected to quite a bit of "accidental" damage from Mom until it finally looked so bad that it was passed down to my sister ("No, thank you," I said, "I'll stick with my '66 Beetle"). I did like that the rear seats folded completely flat, but that's a story for another time.

David Thomas
Managing Editor
1989 Ford Probe

My worst car was definitely my first car. Believe it or not, I was ecstatic to get a 1989 Ford Probe in high school because it meant I could take advantage of the senior schedules and hit the beach before 3 p.m. on a school day. This was a big deal in Florida. The problem was the Probe spent too much time in the senior parking lot with the hood up and me trying to figure out what was wrong with the starter — even after it had been replaced ... twice. It also had a sunroof that you could remove entirely but that took about three hours to put back on. Oh, and while brown is the new trendy color in the automotive landscape, the "mocha" color of my Probe was best described as "poop" brown, but "poop" wasn't the word my friends used.

Patrick Olsen
Editor-in-Chief
1974 Buick Century

While I was in high school, my parents bought a '74 Buick Century. It was a good car, and my mom went out of her way to get a spiffy metallic paint job for it. But then my sister was rear-ended in it at a high speed (she was OK, thankfully), but the car was declared "totaled" by the insurance company. My dad stepped up and fought to get the car back, along with the insurance check. And that's when I got to drive it. It had numerous problems: The trunk that was permanently semi-open (still crinkled from the crash), and my friends would often throw out their lunch bags into it when I wasn't looking, creating a god-awful smell. It took about a quart of oil a week in the engine, and when I'd get on the freeway to go to school, it would hit 55 mph, but then drop back to 45, by which time I was ready to get off the freeway anyway. My friends referred to it as "The Heap."

Dave Gronlund
Multimedia intern
1989 Ford Tempo

The Tempo was a hand-me-down from my older brother. It had cabbie-style seat beads, the turn signal was duct-taped on, the windows and doors all got stuck, the dashboard lights stopped working completely, the muffler fell off several times and I'm pretty sure the thing would explode if it went over 60 mph. Needless to say, I got very good at estimating my speed at night, and I avoided all the tollways and highways I could. On the plus side, it had an awesome sound system: A Sony Discman with 30-second Electronic Skip Protection with cassette-player adapter, taped to the dash.

Jennifer Geiger
News Editor
1985 Volkswagen Scirocco

My college boyfriend (now husband) had it all: He was funny, smart and good-looking with a great family. There was just one problem: his car. His 1985 Volkswagen Scirocco was a death trap in every sense of the word. It would routinely try to kill us: One night, the dome light spontaneously started on fire. Every once in a while, the driver's seat adjuster would break, sending the seat to a full recline out of the blue; we wedged a broom stick between the seat back and the backseat to hold it up. The sunroof also leaked mysterious gunk every time it was opened. After we'd had enough, we gave the car to a friend (you couldn't actually ask for money for the thing) and it was totaled in an accident. Our friend walked away without a scratch. I was happy to see the car go, though I grudgingly gave the little tank a bit of respect for not actually killing anyone.

Robby DeGraff
Assistant Editor
1995 Ford Windstar LX

This is the brief story of a green 1995 Ford Windstar LX that was known by my family and friends as "Godzilla." My siblings and I seemed to think of the Windstar as a giant science experiment: finding out how long melted chocolate could stay gooped together in the cupholders, how disgusting a spilled McDonald's Shamrock Shake would smell over time, and where we could hide Lego pieces in the van's many storage cubbies. Was it reliable? Sure, if you consider the fact that the head-gasket blew at 80,000 miles, along with the various transmission and overheating issues. For a beginning driver, Godzilla was great at conquering Wisconsin winters, hauling all my friends around, playing music through an aftermarket CD player and being super comfortable. I remember taking duct tape and trying to cover up all the rust near the rear fender. Surprisingly, the duct tape matched the van's two-tone lower silver accents well. Wherever you may be Godzilla, I hope you still continue to terrorize the roads (and your owners). I miss you, buddy.

By David Thomas | September 14, 2012 | Comments (24)
Tags: In The News

Comments 

Jason

Every vehicle mentioned, except the Bobcat and that year of Buick Century I have driven.

Trust me I understand everything you guys are talking about. My first was an 85' GMC 3500 dually. It as amazing..at drinking every ounce of gas I could find as quickly as possible. But, like a rock.

My following 93 Escort. It was the fun of my life, but I could join your given stories. What would our loves of the automotive world not be without our memories, good and bad right?
--Jas

Brent

It seems nobody on this site has ever had a truly horrible car, just old, used cars with a few glitches (and fires...) If you want a really horrible car, try Nissan/Infinity products. With those, you can have issues with a brand new car (in my experience it started as I was driving off of the lot!) I've had many problems with the electrics (I got flashed on my way home as the lights blew out) and I find the sensor that tells the car to break-down every time my phone is out of range (thank God for reliable cars like 1986 Buick Regals, and '73 Ford Torinos that offer you either a jump, or a lift into town!) Also, I've had to replace almost every part in the car from the mirror that blew off, to the door that fell apart, and very few bits of a Nissan are really warranted, even in the first month. All in all, if you want a truly horrible car, that really will try to kill you repeatedly, and built by a company that has repeatedly proven they want their customers dead, look no further than my 2011 Nissan Sentra SE!

the original skinner

Seems to me that most young people were ungrateful for having a car. Any older car is going to have issues.

TOS,
I can see how you'd think that, but obviously there were great times to be had in the cars, they just weren't the best cars we've ever owned.

Brent sounds like TruAgape123 on YouTube, trolling on Nissan and Infiniti cars, talking about poor reliability and Renault, sure sounds like a personal crusade. The experience noted here is based on the cars that were owned, and the issues/problems that were encountered.
I've personally have issues with Toyota and Honda vehicles, while the only Nissan I owned was quite reliable. It never burned oil, and I racked up over 150,000 miles before I sold it. Suffice it to say, all the automakers mentioned in this article (once still in existence) make reliable cars today. I'm kinda surprised that no one hit on Hyundai or Kia.

sheth

i dont think ive had a horrible car. even my first car was decent, if a little unrefined by todays standards. 92 legacy with a whopping 130hp and 4 speed auto.

Douglas Beaton

These cars really don't seem to be the worst, well except for the Bobcat which is the Mecury version of the Pinto. Though My Dad bought one of the all worst. A 1976 Lancia Beta II. Rust, electrical nightmare! I believe even Top Gear BBC can agree! Lancia bought back all of their cars because of corrosion problems as well as other problems.

Jorge

Quick count:
1 Toyota product
2 GM products
4 Ford products
1 VW product

boeing727boy

My friend's 82 Ford Fairmont. Nuf said!

Brady Holt

Brent,

There is no 2011 Sentra SE. Your choices are S, SR, SL, and SE-R. If you want people to believe you have your facts right that all Nissans are horrible, you'd inspire more confidence if you even had your facts right about what kind of car you yourself drive.

Robert F

Love my Hyundia Elantra 2007 was a good year it runs like a topp .except it gets a sent even if you look at it wrong

Anthony

Yugo was the worst. Not safe, horrible engineering and unappealing.

Alan

1975 Austin Marina! I paid $1,000 for it in 1980 and it had only done about 10,000 miles.
I quickly learned that this was about the maximum life expectancy for this car.
The wafer-thin printed circuit "boards" behind the dashboard smoked and burned out every few weeks, taking out the headlamps at the same time.
It cost me about $10 for the part and I had to replace it repeatedly.
The starter motor would get stuck frequently, resolved by a sharp impact from a hammer that I kept in the trunk for this purpose.
The car broke down so many times, it ran more miles in it's life behind a tow vehicle than under it's own power.
I eventually sold it for $1,200 and bought a used Datsun which ran and ran and ran and ran like a top for almost forever.
Next worst, a 1982 Holden Commodore when I was in Australia, that leaked more fuel into the engine compartment than it consumed,
followed by a 1986 Pontiac 6000 that disintegrated into more than 6,000 pieces, and finally a 2005 Toyota Avalon which was probably the most problematic piece of garbage Toyota has ever produced.
The best, most reliable cars I've had have been Nissans.

Tom Coleman

I've had two:
1960 Chevrolet Corvair 700
It had neither cooling or heat for that matter; not even a radio! For fun my brothers used to bounce the front to see how high the wheels would come off the ground. Good news is that I never had to change the oil since it spewed all over the engine compartment and all I had to do with add a quart every 300 miles.

At one time I did like my 1982 Chevy Chevette because I put a lot more into it after I bought. Unfortunately my 45 pound Chow puppy put a lot more. My 4 year old son and I brought him home from the vet after having him neutered. it was sleeting so hard that he didn't want to "go' outside so we drove the two-mile trip home. A distinct medicinal odor laced with urine soon emanated from the hatchback area, and I glanced back to see the dog relieving himself on the carpet. The stench was so strong that my son was soon upchucking in the front seat. I had to drive with both windows down, with the sleet blowing in and the dog's head hanging out behind my seat. The odor remained a year later when I traded the car in for an older Volvo.

2sk21

My 1995 Ford Taurus had a defective speedometer. Above baout 40 MPH, the needle used to swing around randomly. After I had the speedometer replaced, the replacement came down with the same problem after a year. Also lost all coolant due to defective hoses.

TomO

I have just one word for you: YUGO !!! LOL

Hal Holman

My "worst car" was also my best. I traded a vehicle I got from my father at age 16 for a '55 Chevy that my brother had. I drove that Chevy all over and when I moved to Las Vegas, NV, it went with me. I got a job at the Atomic Energy test site 70 miles out of town. On the first trip there, I broke down...overheating, I think. I hitched a ride on into work but when I came back in the later afternoon, the Chevy was gone. I checked with the Nevada State Highway Patrol (NHP), but they said they didn't have it. I moved on. About 15 years later, I got a letter from the NHP saying they had the car. They'd copied the VIN down wrong and had only just found their error. Did I want the vehicle? I'd need to pay 15 years of storage fees. I replied that the insurance company had paid me years ago and that they could have the vehicle.

D. Jensen

1959 Pan Ford Zephyr... I had to pay the junk man to take it... The drivers door lock failed on the highway and I had to wire it back together to get home.. The heater would only work if the weather was warm enough. the turn signals caused the headlight to blink, it would drop out of gear under load and anything more than a 3percent grade caused it to slow down and struggle....

Wow.

2010 Toyota Prius.

Rattliest car I've ever owned (and I've owned Subarus!). Spouse and I joke about the Phantom of the Dashboard. It rattles in about 4 different spots at different times. Door panels rattle when the windows are down.

Worst of all, it runs like crap in the winter what with its lugging motor and constant sensor problems. It's the first Japanese vehicle that I've ever owned for which I feel compelled to buy the extended warranty.

Jeff S

Mine was a 1985 Mercury Lynx which my brother gave me. It looked good but the 4 speed manual transmission went out on my wife in the middle of the country. The wiring harness had some bad wires and my mechanic could not get a new one from Ford even though the car was 8 years old so I had to pay him to splice wires together which would have been about the cost of a new one. The heads were going and the car would not restart when it was warm unless I held the gas pedal down and crossed my fingers to hope it would start. I would not sell it to anyone but I got $700 trade in for a new Ford Escort wagon. The Michelin tires were fairly new on the Lynx when I traded it and the tires were worth more than the car. My mechanic referred to it as the "Escort Want To Be". The only Mercury I ever owned and the worst car I ever owned.

boeing727boy

My 1995 Toyota Forerunner. At 300 miles, the engine seized due to a failed oil pump. At 50k, anything that had the word clutch in it failed, fan clutch, transmission clutch, brake clutch. The brake clutch was replaced several times. Finally 2000, I traded it at 88k miles. Some sort of bolt broke in the engine and it wouldn't accelerate more than 45 mph. The bolt was less than a dollar, the labor was several k. Bought a Jeep and never looked back...Still have the Jeep.

Lukasz

My worst 1st car had to be my 2005 Dodge Neon my parents give me, it was our 3rd car. When I got it had 30,000mile I had to change everything in it except the engine and trans..lol I sold it over the Summer, and bought myself a real car a 2003 Mitsubishi Galnat GTZ v6 in silver with 30,000 miles for $6,200

jstant01

My first car was a 1985 Chevy Cavalier that I bought at a garage sale for $50. It had originally been an automatic, but after the transmission when out, the guy I bought it from changed it to a stick. Problem was, the "early 80's electronics" still thought it was an auto, so it never idled or ran correctly. The bonus was that when the starter went out, I could get the car going by pushing it to edge of a hill and popping the clutch! It actually was fairly reliable overall, but looked terrible. It had different color doors and a mismatched hood. Never had many mechanical issues. Well, I mean it rarely left me stranded, anyhow.

Worst car? A 1973 Ford Gran Torinio (sorry about that, Brent) with a 302cid. that couldn't even pull itself out of my back yard when we tried to hook a boat to it for sale. Oh, it wasn't the boat holding it back--though at first that's what we thought--but even after the boat was disconnected again, I floored the throttle and it just sat there at a fast idle. My mother had to get behind the wheel (she wouldn't believe it couldn't -- rather, wouldn't -- accelerate while my dad and I got behind it and pushed just to get it rolling. Once it had even an inch of forward motion, the transmission took hold and it crawled out of the yard--still at full throttle. Ended up dropping a 351cid Windsor under the hood and from that moment on, nothing ATTACHED to the engine would last longer than a few months, though the engine itself was solid as a rock.

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