Since the birth of the motor car was still 200 years in the future, Sir Isaac Newton was spared the frustration of owning a lemon when he published his Laws of Motion in 1686. But Newton’s Third Law—“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”—certainly applies to car purchases … figuratively speaking, anyway.
We asked our Facebook audience, “What’s the worst car you’ve ever owned?” It seems that for every 300,000-mile hero car there’s an equal and opposite “POS,” as the kids say. And no one was spared. We stopped counting when the number of manufacturers named eclipsed two dozen. You complained about Chevettes, Probes, Pintos, LeBarons, LeCars, Diplomats, and Apollos … and oh so many more.
Like Tom Sauer’s 2002 Cadillac STS. “Worst car I ever owned,” he wrote. “I drove it off the dealer lot only to have the dash light up like a Christmas tree before the car died two blocks away. They fixed that issue. Then the transmission went out a half-mile from the dealer, and it was towed back. It had 30 service tickets in 25 days and less than 10 miles on the clock. It was the only car I have ever owned that I never brought home.” On the bright side, Cadillac bought the car back and gave Tom a $5,000 credit … towards another Cadillac. At least that one, he said, was reliable.
Then there’s Sam Marston’s Chevrolet Vega. “Absolutely the worst car Chevrolet ever made! I bought it new and it began to rust within six months. The motor starting missing within the first year. The warranty fixed the rust twice, but it continued to rust until the window in the hatchback fell into the car. The engine continued until I sold it for $500. And I traded an MGBGT for it! What was I thinking?”
Chris Clark knows your pain, Sam. He bought a 1974 deTomaso Pantera with high hopes, but .... “Horrible electrical system, worst air conditioning system, awful handling. I never knew when it would start or when the windows would go up and down or when the headlights would come up or when the air conditioning would work. Worst part of the story: I traded in a 1964 (Shelby) 289 Cobra for it.”
Ed Kubiszak’s worst car was a 1985 Oldsmobile Delta 88 diesel known as the “crop duster.” It managed only 103 horsepower, which is probably why Ed’s father gave it to him when he turned 16. “That quashed my need for speed for a while,” Ed wrote. “My neighbor’s lawn tractor could take me off the line.”
Kenny Beveridge doesn’t have fond memories of his Ford Aerostar, either. “You were lucky to get six months between tranny rebuilds. It was so bad that over 20 years ago, Ford had completely expended its supply of many of the parts needed to fix them. After I unloaded that pile, I got a recall notice for the ignition switch. It was the one single part that never gave me any trouble, and Ford decided to recall the thing to replace it.”
Rudy Prutzer is still upset about the 1974 Mercury Capri that he bought new. “My rear side window fell out going around a corner, the clutch was always creaky, and I went through three voltage regulators and one distributor. Worst part of the story: I traded in a 1968 Chevy Camaro RS/SS (L78 M21 3.73 12-bolt), and the dealer gave me $1,200 for it. It was in the middle of the gas crisis. Please someone, punch me in the face.”
Steven Wilson probably wanted to punch something every time he drove his 1972 Chevy K/5 Blazer. The truck was “held together by Bondo. Both floor pans were so bad that you could stand on the ground while you were inside it. The supports were gone … the body was caving in at the doors, and the doors wouldn’t open because of it.”
Neelie Neirbo put a lot of thought into answering the question. Then again, maybe she didn’t have to. Neelie reeled off no fewer than NINE “worst cars,” most of which were acquired by her father through classified ads much like this: “Good winter car. $500. Runs Good.” Among Neelie’s choices: “The Flying Coffin,” which referred to both a green Ford wagon and Plymouth woody … a 3-cylinder coupe that her dad “claimed was loud not because of a bad muffler but because it was powered by a small airplane engine (possibly an Irish version of the truth)” … a Volvo Sport that “reached its top speed only while being towed” … and “a Chevy Nova that dropped its clutch cable at any sign of acceleration.”
Dawn Campbell’s Ford Granada “had more rust than sheet metal, started with a screwdriver, and the driver’s seat was a milk crate. There were socks on the wipers, it had a rag for a gas cap, and it smoked like Ron White.” Sounds oddly familiar to the car we included with our original post, the 1975 Chrysler New Yorker—aka the Shitmobile— from the television comedy Trailer Park Boys. Many of you recognized it and applauded, but Christopher Wright still felt the need to defend its honor. “Please do not knock on the Shitmobile. That car has been all over Canada and Sunnyvale Trailer Park.”
John Ro’s late-1960s Chevy Impala was so awful that a police officer took pity on him. “The left side was so smashed that I had to crawl out of the window to get out. I got pulled over because the cop couldn’t believe it was legal. After he checked me out and handed back my paper work, he asked, ‘What did you pay for it?’ I told him, ‘25 bucks.’ He said, ‘You got f****d,’ and walked away.”
In the same vein, Shane Burrows wrote that he got the short end of a 2-for-1 deal that included a Honda Civic. “It came into my life with my first wife. I was happy to see both exit two years later.”
For many of you, buyer’s remorse could be summed up in a single sentence. Eric Emshey’s 1977 Plymouth burned so much oil that it “could have been a James Bond car for all the smoke screening it did.” Ken Harris’ worst car was a 1971 Nova that he “drove a total of about 250 feet.” And how bad was Nathan Calvert’s Mazda GLC? “I’ve seen Yugos in better shape.”
On the bright side, at least two of you managed to turn your lemons into lemonade. Bert Booher paid $50 for a baby blue 1968 Volkswagen Squareback that had “a leaky exhaust, three weak cylinders (and one dead), no heat or air-conditioning, and it burned two quarts of oil for every tank of gas. I worked at a service station (back when we had those), and I used to save the ‘best’ oil we drained from other folks’ cars to use in mine.” After the VW was T-boned by a pickup, Bert sold it … for the same $50 that he bought it for.
And although Maurice Moragne’s 1973 Plymouth Duster was the worst car he ever owned, it served a greater purpose. “That car was a work in progress … always. It was a gift from my grandfather in 1982. He taught me a lot about life, and owning this car was a valuable lesson.”