Making lists of bad cars is a veritable cottage industry and there are more books, Web sites and newspaper and magazine articles devoted to the subject than you can shake a pencil at.
Given how subjective such list-making is, reading them isn’t particularly meaningful but it can be fun. I was reminded of this when I was dusting bookshelves the other day and ran across these two tomes which I had forgotten I had. Neither of them is worth paying suggested retail but if you find one on a remaindered table you might want to take a look.
Crap Cars by Richard Porter is a simple, 50-car list of his choices for the worst cars ever to be offered on the American market. Porter is a writer for the BBC’s Top Gear and brings to this work the same cranky petulance for which that program is famous. Each entry is given a two page spread with a photograph and a brief outline of the reasons for its inclusion in the book.
Some of the entries are so obvious that they are little more than cheap shots, such as the Yugo GV (#2), the Chevrolet Vega (#6) or the AMC Gremlin (#15). Others are rather surprising, though, such as the 1984 BMW 318i (#49 “. . . any more of a con and they’d put it in jail.”) or the Rolls Royce Camargue (#38 “. . . even the super rich have a sense of humor.”).
Porter boldly adds the VW Beetle to the list at #5 calling it “a dismal Nazi staff car with its engine in the wrong place and a list of in-built faults so long that it could fill every page of this book.” Harsh words but let’s face it, he’s right.
Porter’s observations are frequently sophomoric such as when he asks of the AMC Pacer (#3) “. . . has anyone ever dropped a Pacer into a river? I mean, turtles float, don’t they?” or when he says of the Chrysler K car (#23) “. . . but, then Lassie saved a lot of people too, and she was still technically a bitch.” Even so, you have to admire a writer who is willing to call out the Ferrari 400 (#40) or the Triumph TR7 (#33) for being the bad cars that they were.
The World’s Worst Cars by Craig Cheetham is list of some 150 cars from all over the world, not just the U.S. market and is divided into five categories: Badly Built, Design Disasters, Financial Failures, Misplaced Marques and Motoring Misfits. Cheetham also gives each of his candidates a two page spread with photographs and description and he manages to offer just a bit more objective reasoning for including a car in his book.
He doesn’t get all the details right, though. In his description of the AMC Eagle Wagon, for example, he says that “AMC took the already terrible Gremlin as the basis, and gave it extra bodywork and chunky protective mouldings that made it look even more repulsive.” In fact, as any car buff knows, the Hornet/Concord chassis served as the basis for the Eagle. He also called the Eagle a “spectacular failure” when in fact it was fairly successful and bought AMC at least a few more years of life.
The description of the Ford Maverick is riddled with gaffes. One of the photographs that accompanies the entry is of a Maverick concept car but isn’t identified as such while the other photograph is actually a Mercury Comet that, again, isn’t so identified. He also says that “[m]ost were finished in lurid colours . . . .” I’ve seen lots of Mavericks (and Comets) in my day and can’t recall ever seeing one that I would describe as lurid.
Despite such issues, Cheetham’s book is a lot of fun and includes pictures and descriptions of many cars which never made it to these shores. When was the last time that you saw an Ogle SX1000? A Dacia Duster? A Vanden Plas 1500? A Hindustan Ambassador? A Reliant Scimitar?
Neither of these books should be taken too seriously but if you find one for sale for a couple of bucks it might be worth adding to your library, or keeping in your bathroom.