Top 10 worst cars

Carsguide ·

26 August 2010

We've heard recently of Toyotas with sticking accelerators, but what about the "haunted'' Audi 100 that could accelerate when you went to hit the brakes because the accelerator pedal was too close?

Some lemons are so acidic they are downright dangerous, such as the rear-engined 1960s Chevrolet Corvair that required the tyres to be pumped up so high they exploded.

Ford had issues in the late 1980s with the Ford Bronco and Explorer SUVs that did more rolling than the Stones and the Ford Pinto that not only burst into flames on rear impact, but also jammed the doors shut so the occupants were well done.

The capitalist world wasn't alone with its duds. The Trabant gave communism a bad name with its two-stroke smoker. If left alone in a field, livestock would eat its cotton-made body.

Here in Australia we made some of our own lemons and others we imported such as 1970s Lancias and Fiats that arrived pre-rusted.

There have been other cars that exploded, spontaneously combusted, fell apart, leaked oil, overheated or just never worked.

A mechanic friend of mine reeled off some of the biggest mechanical lemons that have made him a wealthy man, such as old Daewoos, the Holden Sunbird, Datsun 180B and the king of them all, early model Kia Carnivals.

Thankfully, standards have improved and there are very few lemons in the market today.

Over the past few years, car recalls in Australia have dropped from 79 in 2005 to 63 last year, with a peak of 91 in 2008. In terms of aesthetics there are still some eyesores (all SsangYongs) and some inane packages (BMW X6).

Here are 10 lemons I have driven:

  1. Datsun 120Y: Why indeed? It was underpowered, thank god, because the brakes were useless and the handling downright dangerous. At least when you crashed it was at slow speed. Unfortunately, it was very reliable, so there are still a few around.
    Leyland P76: It held a 44-gallon drum in the boot and the design reflected such practicality. The Aussie-made gas-guzzler arrived just as the oil crisis hit.
    Morris Marina: It should have come with a cardigan and a death warrant. Mechanically nasty, unsafe and unreliable.
    Ford AU Falcon: Ford spent $600 million to build it and immediately it failed as plain ugly. It also blew head gaskets, radiators and thermostats, yet there are still a lot of AU taxis limping around.
    1960-1990 Jaguars: Some nice models, but you needed two as one was always in the garage. You also needed to be a bank manager as they were expensive to fix. XJ12s were perhaps the worst.
    Holden Camira: Once a Wheels Car of the Year, but prone to rusting and overheating. Chewed oil and should have been booked for underage smoking.
    SAAB 900 Turbo:  One of the early turbocharged cars. Unhappily the turbo unit didn't outlive the tyres. Major engine problems and expensive to fix. Despite being Swedish, they rattled and squeaked.
    Rover Vitesse: Designed around a large-dimension, mid-capacity V8 engine, but they also fitted six-cylinder engines in the UK which were complete duds. They even considered a four-cylinder plant! The electrics were UK Lucas, known for good reason as the Prince of Darkness.
    Mitsubishi Magna: Early models fell apart before they needed their first refuelling. Early carby engines were known to have four-cylinder performance and six-cylinder economy.
    Hummer: America's insensitive answer to the first Gulf War. An itinerant in San Francisco actually spat on one I was driving. Although mechanically sound, a GM PR disaster.

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    Published 26 August 2010