Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

A Different Experience -- American Cars

There often are posts here and on other sites that criticize American cars, car companies, customer service, etc. I’m not posting to refute anyone else’s experience; I respect everyone’s thoughts and opinions. I would just like to ask if anyone else out there has or has had the opposite experience: good, solid dependable American cars – cars you admire and take pride in and love to drive, great service, etc. If so, please share your experiences if you wish. I just want people to know that there are proud GM, Ford, and Chrysler owners in our country. Not here to bash any other choices, but I really appreciate and value the American cars and the ownership/service experiences I have had and continue to have over the last 30 years. Thanks for letting me share!

Everything is relative, oldsfan. The nicest car I ever had overall was a 1980 Oldmobile Delta 88 Royal with the 350 V8. Very smooth and confortable on a long trip. It was dark blue with a light blue vinyl top. I only had it 4 years when the company took it away and gave me a new Caprice.

The entire 70,000 miles I had it, only an ignition tuneup and the usual oil changes were performed. All the rest was original, and the car still ran great when I parted with it.

The president of the company, who had a cabin on the West coast, took it as his local runabout to use when he flew out there. He just put new tires on it and did the brakes.

I just saw an article in the local newspaer on long car life and a gentleman posed with the same car with 500,000 miles on it and the only non-wear repoair he made was rebuiding the differential.

Other good American cars I had were a 1984 Caprice V8, which accumulated over 320,000 miles before the family parted with it (it’s still running), and a 1966 Chevelle Malibu V8 which, infortunately, was totalled in an accident at 99,000 miles.

1994 Chrysler LHS–240,000 miles and still going. My current daily driver. Has had a tranny rebuild and tie rod ends. Original alternator lasted 210,000 miles. Had to put a radiator in it a year ago. Still on the original starter and exhaust system. (and I live in the rust belt) Engine is still smooth and quiet–of course I do use Mobil-1 in it.

1980 Chrysler New Yorker–bought it off the father of a coworker for a song. Drove it for five years and had very little trouble. It was rusty and the tranny was going when I got rid of it. Had about 180,000 miles as I recall.

1970 Chevelle Malibu with a 307 and a Powerglide. Had 183,000 miles when I sold it in 1991. It’s probably still running.

I think the Chevy Caprice would be at the top of the list. Nearly indestructible, as evidenced by their use as cop cars and taxi’s. Their parts are reasonable and easy to find anywhere. Break down needing a water pump in a small rural town, and most likely you’ll be in luck. Try that with a Lexus or Mercedes.

My daughter needed a cheap car while in college. She bought an 1991 Caprice ex-patrol car with 170k miles at auction for $350. Together we did regular maintenance, and replaced a few wear items. The car lasted for another 110k miles and eight years.

But GM made this car so ugly that for the most part no one but police and taxi’s companies would buy them. So GM killed the Caprice.

American car companies are quite capable of building quality cars that get good mileage at a compatible price. But a LOT needs to change in how they do business for them to stay viable, especially in todays market.

To each his own. I guess it depends on how we define “American Cars.”

So far I’ve owned 13 “foreign” vehicles and 6 “American” vehicles, and I’ve had good and bad experiences with both. I used quotes because some of the “foreign” cars were made in America and some of the “American” cars were made outside the USA. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I owned two 1963 Dodge Darts (not at the same time) with the slant six and push-button transmission. One was a 2-door GT and the other a sedan. They were both exceptionally reliable and generally pleasant to drive. The sedan was my main transportation in the mid-1980’s.

I had a 1979 Mercury Marquis and later a 1985 Ford LTD Crown Victoria (basically the same vehicle except the '85 had throttle body fuel injection and an overdrive automatic). I never had any major problems with either one and I have to say, the AC on those cars is the best I’ve ever experienced.

I have had Ford Rangers as company vehicles since Ford started making them, and only one was ever a problem. It came with a bad clutch from the factory, which was replaced under warranty. Other than that the Rangers have been trouble-free, low-maintenance vehicles.

The closest I’ve ever come to owning a GM product was a 1991 Pontiac LeMans, but that was built by Daewoo in Korea, so I guess it doesn’t count. Good car, though. Gave me no trouble and was very inexpensive to own and maintain.

I can honestly say there is very little in the GM stable that interests me right now. Maybe a Saturn or two, and perhaps the new Malibu (which is basically an Opel), but that’s about it.

Same with Ford. I liked the Focus until they dropped the 5-door and wagon models. The Fusion might be nice, though. If I were in the market I’d at least have to drive one.

I wouldn’t go near a Dodge or Chrysler dealer if you paid me. I can’t think of a single vehicle they make that I’d even bother to consider. Too bad, because in their glory days they made some wonderful vehicles.

I currently own an Acura and a Subaru (both built in the USA), and I have no plans to replace either one any time soon.

I still own a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass that I bought new in 1978. It has 240,000 miles. I did have a transmission rebuild, but no major engine work. I’ve had a couple of alternators and several heater blower motors. The engine is the 260 cubic inch V-8. I don’t drive the car much these days, but it does still run well and doesn’t use oil. The body is beginning to rust and I have had to patch the floor pans. This car has the 4-4-2 trim package. Its been all over the nation. My son took it to college when the car was only14 years old. When he had to drive a long distance on an Appalachian studies program, I put him in a newer car. I’ve had people tell me that this model is a collector’s item, so I’ve asked them to show me the cash. The car is now in semi-retirement.

I repeatedly see quibbling here on Car Talk regarding the definition of an American or more accurately, a U.S. car. I suggest that it be purely defined as a car that has been designed and assembled in the US with a majority of parts made in the United States with the anticipated profit awarded to a company with the majority of stockholders located in the US.

There are many variations on this so describing a car as a US car or a foreign car is simplistic. Possibly a scale can be devised to cover all variations so buyers can decide to what degree they want employ US citizens when considering their car purchases.

I’ve had good luck with Fords.

My first vehicle was a 1974 Ford F100 2WD. It still runs great. It has over 274k on the body, transmission, suspension, etc. I got it when I turned 16, (my parents didn’t believe in buying their kid a car that was newer than the kid was. So my first car was a few years older than me. It had three on the tree, manual steering and brakes, lap belts, no AC, no radio, a bad clutch, and a tired 2V 302. Even my dad thought that it was too gutless, so we scrounged the junkyards and found a 4V 390 FE engine. We rebuilt it, and for s**ts and giggles decided a 4.11 rearend gear would be fun. A new coat of paint, new upholstery, a new radio w/makeshift coffee can speakers, new tires, and a new clutch, and it was back on the road. The only real downside is that we used the original radiator which was overmatched in trying to keep the big 390 cool in the summer. And the lack of AC was brutal as well. However aside from the occasional overheating, it never let me down. I learned some valuable lessions in car control during the blizzard of 96 as well. My dad still has the truck and uses it to tow a small boat and to haul stuff around in.

My 2nd vehicle was a 1992 Ford T-Bird SC. While my parents didn’t think I needed a nice car to drive back and forth to school in. My grandmother did. Upon visiting my grandparents one July (about a two hour drive) they were shocked and appalled that I showed up an hour late and sweating profusely. My grandmother asked why I didn’t turn on the AC. I explained my truck didn’t have it, she asked why I was running an hour late. I told her that it overheated once and I had to wait for it too cool down. Upon closer inspection of the F-100 she deemed it unsafe and said that she does not approve of her oldest grandson driving it. So she called my mother and told explained her concern. Of course my parents basically said that I was lucky to even have a vehicle to drive (which was true) and that they would not be buying another car anytime soon. So Granny decided to go over their heads and told me to pick out a newer car. It just so happened that a guy down the street was selling a 92 T-Bird SC for fair price. And for my 18th birthday my grandmother bought it for me. My parents weren’t thrilled, but went along with it. Needless to say the T-Bird was an order of magnitude nicer than the old F-100. I enjoyed it immensely. My grandmother was a saint.

When my little brother turned 16 my parents informed me that I was going to have to give up the T-Bird and buy myself another vehicle because since I didn’t pay a red cent for the T-Bird, they were going to give it to my brother when he turned 16. I was 22 at the time and was finishing up college, and had been working part time at a body shop. I had about 13k saved up, because I knew this was going to happen. The T-Bird has about 172k on it at this point (it had about 50k on it when we got it). I decided that I wanted a full-sized truck. I looked around and found a 1995 Bronco on a lot that was priced well. I bought it for $12k, well below book value at the time. It had 42k on it. I drive that for a few years and really racked up some miles on it. Right now it has about 192k on the clock, and aside from a transmission rebuild, it’s been perfectly reliable.

A couple years ago I decided that I wanted something sportier. So I bought myself a 2003 Mustang GT. I bought it with about 34k on the clock, it now has about 89k. I’ve also modified it with a Kenne Bell blower, forged rods/crank/pistons. Eibach springs, yellow Konis, Brembo brakes, an off-road H pipe, single chamber mufflers,4.10 gears, 31 spline axles, and some other goodies.

Right now I’m interested in buying a 2011 Mustang GT should the rumors about new line of Boss engines be true.

The first cars that I drove were my father’s '63 Plymouth and his '66 Ford Galaxie. Both cars were very reliable, with no significant issues over their life spans.

The first car that I owned was a '71 Charger. It was delivered with a hole (large enough to put your fist through) in the fiberglass HVAC ducting underneath the dashboard. The dealer patched it with some black goop, and while that did the job, it sure looked crappy, but I was too naive to protest this cheap-out repair job. The car was comfortable, but the A/C was marginal on really hot days, the brakes were terrible, and the best gas mileage that the 318 V-8 ever produced (on a long trip) was 17 mpg. The typical mpg on that car was 12-13 mpg.

My second car was a '74 Volvo, which was the absolute worst car that I ever owned. Rather than going through the litany of problems with that car again, suffice it to say that there was almost nothing on that car that didn’t need to be repaired or replaced in the 76,000 miles that I suffered with it.

My third car was an '81 Chevy Citation. And, as flawed as it was, it was a superior car to that crappy Volvo. Since I had purchased an extended warranty for it, I did not pay for the multiple repairs to the transmission, front end, and the e-brake.

I replaced the Citation with an '86 Taurus. Except for the very expensive replacement of the heater core after about 5 years, it was an essentially trouble-free car.

After the Taurus, I bought a '92 Honda Accord. It was a very nice car–except for its tendency to ping on regular gas in the summer. Despite several attempts–under warranty–the dealership was never able to resolve the summer pinging problem, which in retrospect was probably a bad EGR valve. Since there was no Lemon Law at the time, I just paid for premium gas in the summer.

After the Accord, I bought a '97 Subaru Outback. It was such a good car that I replaced it with an '02 Outback, and my brother is still driving the '97 Outback, with only two repairs in its 160k lifespan so far (alternator–replaced as a goodwill free repair at about 100k, and a lower control arm replaced at about 155k).

So–the only REALLY terrible car that I ever owned was made overseas–in Sweden. All of my other cars were made in the US, with the best of the lot having been made in US factories owned and run by a Japanese company. So–I guess that you can say that my satisfaction with “American” cars far exceeds my satisfaction with foreign cars.

Consumer Reports recently published a chart showing which cars had the most US content, or, more accurately, North American content. It was very interesting.

If I remember correctly, the Crown Vic had the highest NA content of any vehicle currently in production. The Crown Vic is built in Canada.

There were NO vehicles with 100% US content, or even 100% NA content.

1980 Chevy Citation, 1986 Ford LTD Wagon, 88 89 and 96 Chevy full size vans, 89 Ford Escort, 92 Ford Taurus, 97 Chevy Lumina, 97 Pontiac Bonneville. All of these cars made it to 250k or more miles with nothing more than things like alternators and radiators etc. The 89 Chevy van, with a 350, is up to 340k miles and has never had a part other than belts tires and brakes replaced, not even exhaust or suspension! American cars can do just fine.

the 2 Chevys I owned gave me pretty good service.
91 Corsica and 65 Malibu. Didn’t own the Corsica very long, maybe a year before I traded it in, but it was pretty reliable. The Chevelle I pretty much replaced everything around the engine and transmission(body parts), which were still going strong after 42 years when I sold it last year.

All of my famliy members and myself drive domestics for the most part and every one of these cars have given great service.

The problem with the constant domestic bashing is that it can be biased or misguided.
Someone makes a complaint about Domestic Car A being a lemon because of (fill in the blank) but will simply not apply that same logic to Other Brand Car B.
There’s a million examples of this that could be provided.

While I won’t go into the details at the moment, I’ m sitting at the PC right now and missing the Super Bowl because I’m totally ticked off due to a car discussion spat with not one, but all of my family members that erupted right after kickoff.
I’ll post some general information about this if anyone wants to hear it. It’s a great example of skewed thinking.

Your reason for being on the intenet instead of watching the Superbowl is better than mine. I’m ticked off because the Colts aren’t in it. I do agree that people will label a car a “lemon” for some of the craziest reasons. I really don’t know how a “lemon” is defined. I’ve had great service from the domestic cars that I’ve owned including a 1947 Pontiac that I bought for $75 to go to graduate school. It had a cracked block around one of the valve seats–fixed it with K-W seal. It had a noisy cluster gear that really made it howl in low gear–shifted to second gear as quickly as possible. It had all kinds of things wrong with it, but it got me where I needed to go. I wouldn’t label it as a lemon.

I once had a 1985 Buick Skyhawk (a clone of the Chevy Cavalier) that would not die. I really abused that thing and I kept going. It was still running when I sold it in 1995. Unfortunately, the Cavalier didn’t evolve over the years as its competitors evolved, and they finally stopped making it.

Go for it OK, this should make interesting reading.

You missed a very good game :slight_smile:

I was a Chevy fan for years. Loved the Chevy’s of the 60’s and early 70’s.

My first distaste came with the Vega. I still bought GM/Chevy products until 84. But that was enough. I just had too many problems in too short of time to keep buying them. They were just no where near the quality of the GM of the 60’s or even the early 70’s.

Service has more to do with the dealership and NOT the manufacturer. I’ve had good service with GM, Nissan and Toyota dealers. I’ve also had bad experience with GM, Nissan and Toyota dealers.

I repeatedly see quibbling here on Car Talk regarding the definition of an American or more accurately, a U.S. car. I suggest that it be purely defined as a car that has been designed and assembled in the US with a majority of parts made in the United States with the anticipated profit awarded to a company with the majority of stockholders located in the US.

That’s a very very narrow view of what an American car is. You’ve basically eliminated about half of all GM and Fords.

My all time favorite car (and still is) was the '57 Chev BelAir 2dr hrdtp.

My first "domestic’ car was a 1961 Chev 4dr. (can’t remember the model)

The 2nd was a 1963 Pontiac Stratochief. Yeah, I never had a lot of $ some times.
Stick a new 1972 Toyota Corolla here. (Found it too small for my 6’3" frame though it took 2 years of saving gas money to figure that out, chuckle)

3rd GM was a 1974 Chev Impala Custom. By far the best car and ride I’ve ever owned. Bought that sucker new right off the showroom floor.

4th was a new '76 Dodge Asspen (on sale)(mis-spelled on purpose). What a tin-can but good 'ol slant six. I bought this one for a winter beater after I realized what Ontario’s road salt was doing to vehicles.

5th was a used '79 Olds Salon. This was the one that had the quick sloped back something like the 'ol '48 Mercury.

Next came a used 1978 GMC Jimmy 4x4. This one burned a hole in my wallet via the gas stations.

The 8th one was a new 1988 Chev Corsica 2.0L. After 11 faithful and no major repair years I retired it when the floor rotted through.

Bought a 1994 Plymouth Voyager from the son-in-law for a bag of peanuts and after the tranny went, so did the van.

Bought the '00 Olds Silhoette in Sept/'03 and still have it. Needs a few small repairs but still runs good. Fixing the needed repairs and am giving it to the grandson (16 yrs old) after his licence graduates up to where he can drive it on his own.

Also have an ‘02 Chev Tahoe (for pulling our 21’ travel trailer). These two sit parked in between trips. (Too hard on fuel)

My last purchase is a 2004 Toyota Matrix XR 1.8 L and I love it as much as the wife, does. Heh heh