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




Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: Least prepared man in history finishes Baja 1000 in just under 49 hours


    Nader was a prevaricating weasel of the lowest order. Just another publicity seeking media sycophant. Contrary to corporate media and congressional morons the Corvair was a safe automobile when it wasn’t driven in a stunt scene by an addled driver. Naturally, GM executives didn’t have the gonads to defend their product. The flotsam and jetsam continues to rise to the top of auto industry. Imagine what could be produced with real visionaries at the helm.

    Dear Gm
    Make the Opel GT a bit bigger, leave in the sway bars and give it a straight six (maybe source the Pontiac ohc6) . Then you would have something that would chase the 240Z

    This is a really great question – What would we say to auto makers from years past?
    Quite a few head-scratching automotive screwups or design flaws have blighted the automotive landscape – as is evident by the many answers here on this topic.

    My list:
    For Pete’s sake add an overdrive gear on those many 70’s transmissions sitting behind V8 iron. Looking at you TH350!

    Mustang II = Nope!!

    Please eliminate all that waist-high cheap plastic cladding on so many 90’s cars. Here’s looking at you Pontiac!

    Stop designing vehicles with headlight and taillight assemblies that extend half way down the fenders and quarter panels. They look like ridiculous – a total eyesore from an over ambitious designer.
    Looking at you 5th gen Hyundai Elantra – among many others!

    This is just a start, But I guess if I had one more ‘travel back in time’ opportunity I’d pay a visit to the fellow designing the AMC Pacer.

    To all ‘modern’ automakers:

    You might want to rethink the numerous unnecessary items included on the cookie-cutter blobs coming from your production lines in the last twenty years!

    Instead of learning to drive these things (as new younger motorists become of licensing age), eliminate those items that remove responsibility from the driver and instill complacency. When electronic do-dads fail, I think it causes undue stress to those folks who never learned to control the various systems that are important to safe operation.

    Let’s face it . . . if you haven’t learned to modulate your right foot in order to control traction for current road conditions, or to keep your vehicle in the proper lane, or to follow at a reasonable distance from the car in front of you, or to read a road map before starting on your trip, etc., their driving skills will be lacking a proper foundation. And offering another system that combines all these and removes buyers from directing these functions, so they can read a book or snooze, when you should make the driver operate it, using his/her eyesight, hearing, thinking and decision-making abilities, it seems like you are teaching operators to become passive occupants who just turn it on and go.

    And the features that allow the ‘driver’ to communicate with someone outside their vehicle, or to entertain themselves with hundreds of touch-screen functions, while they ought to be concentrating on the driving task, exclusively. I don’t understand why you see the need to build in distractions for the driver. Maybe there should be consequences for car owners/drivers who fail to check their Engine’s oil level, and Tire inflation at regular intervals, instead of relying on a light that tells them to do these things.

    And please hire car designers again; or at least car designers who can come up with front end treatments that don’t just copy the other manufacturer’s ‘fish-mouthed’ vehicles. Perhaps some actual style would be nice to have back again. If you look in your own archives, you’ll see how this was done some fifty or sixty years ago. . . you know, back when you could recognize a specific make and model from a block away, when it didn’t look the same as everybody else’s! This trend of current look-alike ‘styling’ (and I use that word VERY loosely!) appears to show that your offerings have been placed on an oven just long enough to begin melting the exterior shape and then solidify into a droopy ugly half-a$$ed blob. Like DR said, those plastic Headlight and Taillight assemblies are hideous; not to mention very high-priced to replace when broken.

    And if you want to do your part to eliminate a good bit of waste and environmental pillaging, stop making EVs; that is, if you want to be profitable again. Mining for Lithium and Cobalt for Battery production and draining the electrical grid to manufacture and then charge the mandated subsidy-packed vehicles is doing nobody any good. The slight-of-hand farce that purports to reduce atmospheric carbon, by burning more coal and natural gas (for electrical generation} than would otherwise be utilized to produce ICE vehicles, may be fooling some people, but not everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *