Our Two Cents: What we’d say to automakers, if we could time-travel

Bradley E. Clift for The Washington Post/Getty Images

I was introduced to the butterfly effect by Ray Bradbury’s book A Sound of Thunder, and it forever altered the way I considered historical moments. Or any moment in time, as the butterfly effect could make a serious impact on our lives as automotive enthusiasts, too. What if Henry Ford never bullied his son Edsel? What if Porsche killed the 911 when they introduced the 928? In this episode of Our Two Cents, I asked the staff here at Hagerty Media to consider such scenarios.

There are lot of these butterfly effects in automotive history, and one of the more forgettable examples is the time Infiniti made the Mercedes GLA into a QX30 crossover utility. Will someone on our team warn Infiniti not to make this Mercedes? Or will they warn Mercedes not to make this Infiniti? Probably not, so let’s see what they come up with.

Killing street cars/mass transit?

ucla.edu/Los Angeles Times Photographic Collection

For the record, this is a terribly complex issue and the automakers were only one part of the equation. But that doesn’t take away from the following message:

Dear automakers,

Please go back in time and don’t buy all the public transportation companies in our big cities (buses, trollies, trains, etc.). And then definitely don’t intentionally make them awful so people were forced to buy cars!

Ben Woodworth

That wretched diesel!


Dear GM,

Do not, under any circumstances, make a diesel engine based on a gas engine.

I owned a thoroughly used 1981 Olds Cutlass with the infamous 5.7-liter diesel, and there is a reason I got it so inexpensively: It sucked. It seems like my experience and that of countless Americans effectively killed any chance diesel power in passenger cars had here.

Greg Ingold

Swing out on the swing axle

Chevrolet Corvair torture test rear side suspension articulation
Richard Pardon

“Chevrolet, please save yourself the trouble and design the first generation Corvair with four-wheel independent suspension. No swing axle, no camber compensating spring. Feel free to leave the rest alone but the headache you will create with putting that swing axle design in will be significant and you would be best served by avoiding it all together. Please. You have a winner on your hands once that change is in place. No swing axles. Let that lawyer target the VW Beetle or something else. I know, that makes no sense now, but soon enough you’ll see–and I hope you believe me now because it only gets worse on the path you’re on.” — Kyle Smith

Ferrari vs. Nobody

24 hours Le Mans 1966 ford ferrari rivalry
GP Library/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Dear Enzo,

Maybe don’t be a jerk to Ford.

Stefan Lombard

Cross out this Murano

2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

I would advise Nissan’s decision-makers to ignore whoever came up with the idea of a Murano CrossCabriolet. — Alex Sobran

Just because it’s good for General Motors…

Ralph Nader Corvair
Bradley E. Clift for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Dear GM of the 1960s:

Don’t mess with Ralph Nader, and don’t resist making cars safer.

Joe DeMatio

EV1: the butterfly we stepped on

1999 GM EV1 1000th vehicle plant workers

Hello General Motors,

I have come to the fourteenth floor to keep the EV1 program around so Tesla will never come to life. This a long play, and I know how much you guys hate experimenting here, but your failed partnership with Fiat is gonna cost you dearly just a few years from now. Have a look at Tesla’s stock 20 years from now: this can be you! And it is the right long play for your business.

Sajeev Mehta

More electricity, less fire

2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV charging connection


Fireproof the Bolt.

Grace Houghton

LS everything, sooner?

Brandan Gillogly

I’d take an iron LQ4 head back in time to 1954 and hand it to Ed Cole, save everyone a whole lot of work. — Brandan Gillogly

The Aztek, for a new reason


I was working at Car and Driver when the Pontiac Aztek was unveiled in 1999. I had an early look at it, and told a friend who was a Pontiac exec that it was a genuine stretch, and for goodness sakes not to show it in yellow with the little blackwall tires at the unveiling. They did, of course; it was pretty much a laughing stock for its entire model run, or at least until they removed all the plastic cladding, which made a huge difference. I wrote then that I at least respected the fact that Pontiac took a chance, but I knew when I first saw it that it was in for a tough reception. — Steven Cole Smith




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    Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy. But even here there are a few things that are a bit off.

    The EV1 program may have been stopped as it was planned but the work never stopped.

    The EVI was never going to be a long term production car it was more like the Chrysler Turbine cars. It was to show the public what could be done and see their reaction. It was not a great car and it needed work. It was not cheap and parts were going to be costly.

    The work lived on as the Volt and other GM EV products. Nothing was lost or wasted, Stop listening to Mike Moore.

    GM still would never had been Tesla as they will never get the artificial stock prices they are having. Even then Tesla struggles to get new product out due to little cash flow.

    The Aztek was not about the kind of vehicle it was the problem was the styling. It failed in the style not function area.

    Where I would go with this was like in the case of John Delorean. Let him do with Pontiac all he wanted to do. DOHC V8 engines. Fuel injection, 4 wheel disc brakes, Radial tires. Composite headlamps independent rear suspensions. Electronic ignitions and that was not all. Imagine Pontiac showing these items in the 60’s long before the market got to them.

    I worked in vehicle engineering when the EV1 was killed. The people with all of the knowledge were mercilessly absorbed into the engineering staff. If they had taken that knowledge and gone the next step GM would have been a decade ahead of Tesla. All of the engineers that I worked with were appalled.

    Speaking of John D., I’d go back and tell him, “Hey, don’t do the coke deal, JD, it ain’t gonna work out well for ya.”

    How about, for the love of anything and everything holy with Ma Mopar, tell the stockholders to not chose Eaton, at least choose Lutz instead to become head honcho? Maybe it all would’ve worked out for the better.

    You would think that Iacocca, having been the recipient of a similar ‘anyone but’ campaign would have shown better sense.

    Whoever is actually to blame… let Nash-Studebaker-Hudson-Packard-Kaiser etc. happen rather than the partial mergers and dying off in steps that happened.

    The big 4 would have been interesting to see into the 70s, and if that extra edge of scale would have allowed AMC to remain separate into the 80s and beyond.

    I would have loved to have seen Packard remain a luxury car in the 80’s and 90’s. It would have been interesting to see what they may have done.

    But when they became an average car built on a Stude it just killed them. Many forget Packard once competed with Rolls.

    The plan was Nash, Hudson and Packard. If they had added Willys/Jeep they would have been able to help update Jeep’s dated engines and limited stamping capabilities for an updated truck/utility line with entry level Ramblers available across the board and luxurious Packards at the top end. A 4th big automaker for certain.

    Don’t start making everything an SUV just because a lot of people like them

    Just because the first few examples of smaller, lighter, better handling American cars got some bad press doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea

    That is just it with the cost today of development to meet all the government regulations for emissions and crash they have. Automakers can no longer cater to the fringe products in very low numbers and easily survive.

    Killing cars island auto divisions is not what they wanted to do but what many had to do.

    They only have a set amount of money and it has to be focused only on what brings the most income.

    It is no longer good enough to make money you have to make the most return on product investment.

    Contrary to Sean Fains claims the automakers are not super rich companies. They are large and have to spend a lot of money to just open the doors.

    Too many think that they can just build what ever they like and few companies can still do that.

    God forbid if China starts to dump low priced cheap cars here. It will kill the other companies. Yes many may not like them but many will be force to buy them.

    Everyone complains about Walmart yet nearly everyone shops there.

    All the European and Asian manufacturers selling vehicles in the US offer a sedan in their line-ups. Ford offers none. I keep wondering why Lincoln stopped making the Continental but makes a Lincoln sedan in China. Why not import it? GM only offers a Cadillac sedan. Chrysler and Dodge are eliminating their sedans in 2024. Not everyone wants an SUV or two or a non-American sedan.

    Face it. Honda and Toyota make the very competent, reliable and enjoyable sedans that GM, Ford and Fiat could never get right.

    Yes indeed, more manual transmission availability would be nice – but the ‘shift’ these days seems to be one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone!

    Ford, at least, did get it “right.” The latest Fusion model(s) are fine sedans. My two Focus(es) have been the same (my 2005 ST was still running like a top with 248K miles on it when I had to drive it to the auto salvage yard due to 15 years of NH winters and all the road salt it encountered).

    Absolutely correct. The Malaise Era production was a game-changer for the industry and I am not sure that the Big 3 have even learned their lesson.

    Like everything else, a budget of “modest amount” for “innovating” – that is, building “interesting” cars for actual consumption is doable AND defendable in any economic argument. Not many higher ups appear to be either car people OR economically oriented. Corvette would not have every appeared had today’s attitude been there in the 50’s.

    Building cars is one thing, supporting them through dealer infrastructure and beyond is another story. As a young engineer I learned the meaning of “total lifecycle cost” and THAT being the real cost of anything-from birth to disposal. This is something the government never thinks about:-(

    I don’t shop at Walmart! Ever since Sam Walton was caught putting Made In America stickers on imported products back in the 80’s! Very greedy family! They could pay their employees $25 an hour(almost a living wage) and the would still be Billionaires!

    Suv’s (actually lifted minivans) SUCK! Stop it! The driving public looks like a bunch of idiots! AWD, humongous wheels, high center of gravity, weight, lack of aerodynamics, etc. we’re going backwards!

    Fully agree Dennis. Looking forward, can you imagine a time where there will ever be an SUV collector car? Doubtful.

    There already are. Older Suburbans, Broncos, Blazers, even Travelalls are becoming collectible, with various rates of price rise.

    Of course those are REAL SUV’s not the tall mini-van without the sliding door crossovers they refer to as SUV’s today.

    Agreed, they look like a bunch of idiots; only getting one cause everyone else is getting one. I call them bandwagons cause everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Herd mentality like the minivan craze yrs ago.

    I get the 5.7 Diesel. Diesel-powered cars have never been popular in the US, and Volkswagen and a few others offering Diesels pretty much filled the need. Why build a Diesel from the ground up if you don’t know if it is going to go anywhere? Start with the modified gas motor, run it up the flagpole, and if the consumer salutes, go back to the drawing board. The consumer didn’t salute… they made the right call

    Actually I agree the diesel was a limited market. But the Olds diesel generslly killed any real chance of Diesels becoming more common.

    The fuel pumps and oil leaks were an issue. Also GM sold many to the wrong people. The Olds Diesels we worked on that drove around town leaked every where. Also they had many issues. The ones driven in the highway worked well. The harder they were driven the better.

    But due to the failure rate it killed the diesels to the general public. They were not the Benz 300D.

    But in the long run. The Government is systematically killing them now. They are becoming more difficult to build and sell. So it may just as well have not been.

    They leaked everywhere because they had excess blowby. They were very well received here in Michigan, home of Oldsmobile and they seemed pretty good when new but their many problems drove everyone away from them.

    Hey GM (in 1950’s). DO NOT send your Motoroma Cars to the crusher.
    Hey Chrysler (in the 60’s) DO NOT send your Turbine Cars to the crusher.
    Save the crushers for the ugly Aztec – and the Ford Taurus whose transmissions lasted just 60K

    And do not make the Vega’s cylinder walls aluminum. Make them wet sleaves or press in sleaves but not aluminum because aluminum cylinder walls defy common sense.

    Many manufacturers used, and are still using, aluminum bores without liners including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Ferrari. The 390 aluminum used has a high silicon content which lines the cylinder after an etching and honing process. When I replaced the head gasket on my 1971 Vega at almost 50,000 miles (yes the cast iron cylinder head was a problem) I was very surprised that the cylinders showed absolutely no wear at all, the honing pattern was beautiful and looked untouched.

    Perhaps the bigger problem was process related due to the volume of these being built.

    Also GM on the non A/C Vega please use a radiator at least as large as the heater core. Probably biggest reason for early Vega engine issues. Overheating a silicon impregnated cylinder wall not a good idea.

    This is what I believe caused the oil consumption problems common in the Vega. The aluminum block warped if it got hot enough and with that tiny radiator, they got hot easily. The aluminum cylinder technology is fine and was licensed to Mercedes and others.

    And PLEASE use steel cylinder liners in the block!

    Oh, and some rust proofing in the body shell would be lovely.

    American attitudes against Diesel engines (and it is an upper case D as it is a proper noun, named for Rudolph Diesel) baffles me. We insist on big trucks being diesel but dislike everything else. I have both the Ford F150 and F250/350 Super Duty with Diesels and they are fantastic. What could be even better is my F150 Lightning EV with a small Diesel as hybrid plant to charge or propel. That would be top drawer. Ford says it will not sell and they must be right because the canned the F150 Diesel, not because it was not great, but because it would not sell. As Mr. Gump sez, “stupid is as stupid does.”

    Hey Ford,

    Rethink that Mustang II idea. And while I have your attention, in about 15 years, throw away any plans for a FWD replacement for the Mustang.

    I thought that too. Why did they not keep the C2 into 1969? Then introduce the C3 for 1970. then they would have had a 123 punch with the redesigned Firebird and Camaro.

    Dear GM stop cancelling cars as soon as you finally got them sorted out, corvair and fiero come to mind. Also do not elevate Roger Smith. Make your cheap cars durable and dependable that is how you build brand loyalty.

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