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The All-Time Worst Cars in Creation


Minyanville looks at lemons through the ages.

Nothing beats the memory of your first clunker.

Vega, Corvair, Renault - each has a special place in the heart of one sucker or another.

As for the designers? Hell is too good for them.

As a supplement to the release of J.D. Power & Associates' annual ranking of cars sold in the United States, Minyanville presents a list of The All-Time Worst Cars in All Creation.

The AMC Pacer: Bizarre by any standard, starting with one door that's bigger than the other.

The early models had all the grace of a slightly squashed shoebox on wheels; later models looked like a bubble with dazzling overhead supports. Not your average chickmobile.

Fiat Strada: Fiat is actually an acronym meaning Fix It Again, Tony. The manufacturer sent service bulletins to dealers about this clunker even before it went on sale.

It was prone to rust in the floor, wheel arches, suspension and engine mounts. Other than that, the upgrade engine in this saucy baby cranked out an amazing 75 horsepower. (The standard engine produced 60.)

Ford (F) Bronco: O.J. Simpson took his Bronco on a wild tour of the LA freeways prior to his arrest on suspicion of murdering his wife - and he's damned lucky the thing didn't roll over. The SUV looked rugged enough, but often had trouble climbing hills. Other than that, the faulty ignition system drove owners nuts.

Ford Edsel: Ford introduced this land ark just as drivers were beginning to fall in love with sports cars - and the styling was a bit much for 1958. Production ceased by 1960. Still, the market research checked out and Ford gave customers what they said they wanted; as things turned out, that wasn't necessarily what they were willing to pay for. Oops.

Ford Pinto: A truly hideous-looking car offered in a variety of putrid colors - but that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was the gas tank design: This little debutante had a nasty habit of exploding if rear-ended at anything above parking-lot speed. But the Pinto did show there was a market for compacts - which Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) proved by stealing Detroit's lunch in the 1970s.

Oldsmobile Delta 88: Ah, this car said America: Solid and stolid with a trunk big enough to kidnap a family of 4. So far, so good.

But General Motors (GM) flubbed on what it called the "variable displacement" engine, designed to operate on 4, 6 or 8 cylinders depending on road conditions. (Some owners solved this nettlesome problem by clipping wires to shut down 2 or more cylinders.) The car also came with a diesel engine that smoked, sounded like an egg beater in a bowl of marbles and had trouble with the basics - you know, like moving the car forward.

Mazda RX-2: The rotary engine was a nifty idea, but it had only one problem - it didn't work. The engine seals quickly wore out, creating fuel leaks that sometimes led to fires. Other than that, the gas mileage was El Stinko and smog emissions were high for a small car. It also looked like that sniveling kid in algebra class you always wanted to whack with your book.

Yugo: Clearly, competition is tough for The Worst Car in Creation, but the Yugo easily trumps the others for unadulterated incompetence and unintentional hilarity.

Think of the Yugo as the Babe Ruth of terrible cars.

Back in what was then called Yugoslavia, the car was called the Zastava Koral. The name was shortened to Yugo for foreign suckers.

For reasons that still baffle social psychologists, imports to the US began in 1985. It sold new for about $3,900, with sales peaking at 45,000 a year. Imports ceased in 1991.

The subcompact car was based on the Fiat 127 and 128 - not a good move it you intend to build a car for the ages, or even just something with 4 wheels and an engine. You might say the only thing wrong with the Yugo was everything.

Callers to "Click and Clack," the Tappet Brothers' radio show on NPR, summed up the Yugo experience like this:

"The Yugo's first stop after the showroom was the service department: 'Fill 'er up and replace the engine!'"

Another caller said, "I once test drove a Yugo, during which the radio fell out, the gear shift knob came off in my hand, and I saw daylight through the strip around the windshield."

Amazingly, the Yugo came with a heated rear window. Callers said this came in handy when pushing the car in winter.

The entry level Yugo sold in the US was billed as the GV - as in "great value."

Who knew that the Yugoslavs had a wicked sense of humor?
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