Your Choice of Best and Worst cars by Decade

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Chuck, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    The Edsel reminded me of Time's article of the best and worst cars - let's make our own picks for these decades:
    • 2000s
    • 1990's
    • 1980's
    • 1970's
    • 1960's
    • 1950's
    • etc
    Figure for this decade, membes would vote the Prius the best. Don't know if the H2 is the actual worst, but most hated.
  2. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    -- Best - George Romney's Ramblers. In the era where innovation was defined by "new sweep spear ornamentation and higher compression V8", the Rambler could carry the same six people in a smaller and more economical car. Safer (with unit body), and cheaper to buy and repair, the Rambler was one of the few cars that sold well in the recession of the late 50s. Building on that success, Rambler tried to advance in the 1960s with some really bad ideas (style over substance, poorly developed aluminum engines, to name two), and they lost their original mission along the way.
    -- Worst - Renault Dauphine. Imported in the late 1950s on the coattails of the Beetle, the Dauphine was comically underpowered (26hp, I think), and rear engined (for poor handling if you ever got up to speed). To save weight, they evidently left out any trace of rustproofing, and the cars would have significant rust on them by the time they reached our shores. Tow truck drivers of the day would refuse to tow them because when lifted from the front, the car would bend in half due to the extensive rust on the underbody bracing.

    -- Best - Plymouth Valiant/Dodge Dart. Crude, unrefined, and indestructible (not counting oxidation). More fuel efficient than Ford or GM compacts of the time, sold like hotcakes. Provided efficient reliable transportation for small families for the entire decade.
    -- Worst - Chevrolet Corvair. A combination of Ed Cole's determination to force a rear engine car into showrooms, and corporate accountants shaving tenths of a penny out of the car. They had to try to make an offbeat one-off little car cost-competitive with the Falcon/Valiant, which cost almost nothing to build because they weren't much more than motorized stagecoaches. The Corvair had something for everyone - A suspension design and chassis balance that offered oversteer and increased risk of rollover, a heater that forced exhaust gases into the passenger area, a small auxilliary gas-fired heater (1960 only) in the front trunk that heated the car by bursting into flames, and a four foot long iron bar used as a steering column to direct collision forces from the steering gear (inches behind the front bumper) directly into the driver's sternum. To balance the car, they actually added iron weights in the front fender liners. Now there's a cost effective solution...

    -- Best - Honda Civic. In 1970, a Honda was an enclosed motorcycle known only to some people in a few west coast cities. By 1979, the 1973 Civic had grown a notch in size and became the commuter of choice for what seemed like 3/4 of the college kids in the US. The Accord launched five years after the original Civic and redefined the compact car segment. The reputation Honda has today owes its foundation to these Civics and Accords.
    -- Worst - Oldsmobile Diesel. Could have revolutionized diesel power here, but cost cutting led to these cars having the opposite effect of giving almost all automotive diesels a bad name for the next two decades.

    -- Best - Chrysler K-car. From humble and frumpy beginnings, Lee Iacocca gave us sports cars, convertibles, minivans, and even an Imperial. They had their faults (you get three free head gaskets in the glove box so you always have spares), but they replaced a lot of very large cars and people were able to get respectable fuel economy out of them.
    -- Worst - Yugo. Half the price of any other new car, and only 1/4 as good. Not very efficient for its size and powertrain, and so CR recommended getting a used Civic or Corolla instead of a new Yugo. I think we can all agree with CR on that one.

    -- Best - Toyota Camry. Not a memorable car, but a good car. Earns the "Best" title because it was in the 1990s when the Camry graduated from "big Corolla" to family car that was competitive with the domestic midsize sedans and sold in serious volume. Until dethroned by the push for FSP alternatives late in the decade, the Camry was so ubiquitous that you wouldn't want one in silver or gold because it would take you 20 minutes of trying your key in each of the 75 identical cars in the mall lot to figure out which one was yours.
    -- Worst - Ford Explorer / Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie). These two FSP offerings sold in the largest volume, so they earn the tie score. Together, they reveal a market of people who were duped into thinking they needed four wheel drive for "all weather traction" (in spite of the fact that most drivers had no idea how to engage the 4wd), a large cargo area for soccer cleats and perhaps a bag of lawn fertilizer, and a rugged "go anywhere" appearance that you definitely need to take your 2.3 children over one mile of buttery smooth level roads to the elementary school.

    -- Best - Toyota Prius (as mentioned in the OP). Reason - Lowest purchase price in the context of the technology available at that price point. Among the most efficient, good resale value, good durability. If Toyota cut corners on the Prius, it would have destroyed the hybrid market for 20 years, just as GM did 30 years ago with their diesel.
    -- Worst - Yes, the Hummer H2/H3. Reason - Highest possible price you can charge for Chevrolet pickup trucks. They have even less passenger and cargo room than their Chevy cousins, they are much heavier, have the largest available engines, and of course, fuel economy that is about 2/3 of the Chevy truck. Yes, they have greater off-road capability. And that is where they belong - off road. Every time you see one parked outside of Starbucks, it looks as ridiculous as an Insight-I would look driving over dunes at the beach.

    There are lots of others I can think of, but this is a good starting point for further discussions and debates. :)
  3. St. Mushroom

    St. Mushroom doesn't wash his car.

    Haha, I aced my driver's test in an '82 K-car. It sure was a car!
  4. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    1961 Rambler stationwagon with the aluminum head 6 cylinder. The headgasket leaked/head warped about twice a year-every 3000 miles. I was about 10 yo,and it was just about the only time I heard my father mf anything-as it steamed down the road.

    It did have comfortable front seats that you could flop back to nap; he put up with it for 4 years-about 6-7 head gaskets/ head millings.He loved the seats, hated the motor. He finally bought a 1965 Fury 3 SW-lasted 151,000 miles with two teenage sons who regularly gunned it up to an indicated 111 mph-318 V-8-very reliable car.
  5. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    Exactly what I was saying about the aluminum engines and other new ideas they had that they didn't have the money to get nailed down properly.
    The 1950s were not bad for Ramblers. Bulky iron straight six engines, Borg-Warner transmissions, torque tube drivetrain, worm&roller steering, and even wipers that ran off engine vacuum. They'd rust out before they died. The early 287 and 327 Hudson-designed V8s were relatively efficient designs for the day, and known for durability. The Ramblers of the 1960s became the Classic and Ambassador and then the Rebel, looking more like Chrysler compacts and gaining weight, size, and engine displacement. They hoped to regain their original solid/sturdy/practical image with the Hornet, but its form-over-function design left it cramped and overweight. Once you lose the magic, it's hard to get it back. Rarely is a sequel better than the original.

    The 1960s was a bad time for aluminum engines, whether it was as AMC or Chrysler sixes or the GM Buick V8s or even the Corvair pancake-from-hell. Gasket technology couldn't keep up with the additional expansion of heat/cold cycles in aluminum blocks and/or heads. Modern aluminum engines have, for the most part, solved the gasket problem, but it still shows up from time to time in high-mileage engines from all manufacturers.

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