Cars You Bought and Wished You Hadn't

This is kind of going off of the other cars you almost bought thread. I’ll start.

Sometime in 1987 or 1988, can’t remember exactly when, In a fit of temporary insanity, I bought, at the behest of my wife, a 1978 Mercury Zephyr from a neighbor. That thing turned out to be the biggest piece of junk I’ve ever had the misfortune to own. What a turd that car turned out to be. I have no idea what I was thinking.It seemed like every other week, I had to work on it. (AGAIN!!!) Finally, after about a year, I sold it. So, who did I sell it to? (Second biggest mistake, after buying it.) My brother. Guess who got to work on it? Yep. Me.

FInally, after the third starter, and second alternator, I told him I was done. He was on his own. He sold it a month later. About two months after that, I was talking to him after dinner, and he told me that the guy he sold it to called him up and told him it needed brake lines, and since I knew the car, whould I be interested in working on it? My brother, thank goodness, didn’t even bother calling to ask me. He told the guy “I’m pretty certain he never wants to ever lay eyes on that car again!”

Oh, and my name for the car? Lazurus.

The only car I’ve owned that I can say I honestly loathe was one I owned many decades ago; a 1958 Thunderbird. The car seemed cool at first; not so cool after a week or so.

The thing was a tank in spite of that alleged 300 Horsepower 352 4-Barrel in it. I was driving down the road one day, felt a thump, and the back end sagged. Looking underneath I discovered the rear axle housing had broken clean into just to the left of the ring gear.
The only thing holding it all together was the C-clip on the axle and the leaf springs.

Hashing it over a few minutes, I drove the thing home like that; slow speed on the side streets and losing gear oil. Adios (to clean the phrase up a bit…) excrement sponge.

I had two, a 1972 Impala with a 350 that gave me 12 mpg, before and after a tune up. It had only 36000 miles on it and it was slow, terrible in the snow, so heavy and limp it was hard to change a tire on and the differential went out at 50000 in rural Maine. The transmission went the next year.
If it snowed heavily you had to remove the air cleaner and stick a screwdriver down the carb to stop the choke from closing.

I later had a 1998 Olds Intrigue that would randomly shut off the engine because the battery ground cable grounded into the fender right into the battery. A ground cable to the block fixed that. Then it would shut itself off if I took a curve at too high a speed and plastered all the oil against the side of the pan because it had an engine shutdown feature if it thought you were out of oil.

Theose were the only two GM cars I ever owned or ever will own. I kicked myself for not learning my lesson from the first one. Never could find a comfortable seating position in either one.

That’s funny Oldtimer. Because one of the best cars I ever owned was a 1968 Impala 2 door, 305 3 on the tree. No power anything. Manual brakes, manual steering. The previous owner had even installed a manual choke. It had the deluxe white interior, and a vynal roof. One of the most reliable cars I ever owned. Would always start, no matter the weather. You could almost get inside the engine compartment and stand next to the engine when you worked on it.

A '95 Saturn. It was my wife’s idea.
However, Karma had a way of looking out for me. In the divorce, she got the new Saturn complete with payments, problems, and short lifespan, and I got the '89 Toyota pickup… which lasted beautifully until I gave it to my daughter many years later.

A 1957 Plymouth I bought in college with only 54,000 miles on it. The windshield leaked, the wiper motor burned out, the engine used oil, and the body rusted so fast that the front seat fell through the floor. And I only weighed 140 lbs at that time!

Both front torsion bars snapped (at different times) when the car WAS PARKED!!! Upon graduation I gave it to my kid brother who just started teacher’s college. He managed to keep it running for another year or so.

I got an 88 Cutlass for free that I wish I had turned down. It had a five speed that would not start unless you pushed the clutch pedal all the way to the floor. I had to put it in neutral and push the switch on the floor with my foot. It was the only vehicle I had that didn’t burn oil but I junked it anyway.

Buying a new '74 Volvo was the only mistake that I ever made when purchasing a car, but it was one HUGE mistake. What a dog…in every respect.

Edited to add:
Actually, the car had excellent brakes, good rust-proofing, and was undoubtedly safer for its passengers than almost all other cars of that era. However, the engine, the transmission, and the entire electrical system were poorly-engineered, badly built pieces of crap.

91 VW gti, 93 VW jetta and 2002 VW pass at all bought new and all major lemons. I no longer buy Volkswagens and have never had anymore car troubles.

1973 (I think) Toyota Corolla, bought new. By the time I dumped it after only 30k miles, it had:
Rused through from the inside, ie I could see rust bulges in the paint.
Was on it’s second differential and that was bad.
Lost compression in one cylinder
Alternator was partially burned out, and only charged very slow. Could not drive at night with the radio on!
And probably other items I have forgotten about.


steveng: funny, after the Corolla I mentioned above, I started buying VWs. A Dasher, 2 Jettas, a Passat, and was fairly happy with all of them.


1981 Pontiac Firebird, bought used. The electrical system was possessed. When I got it, the tachometer didn’t work. I rooted around and found the electrical connector on the back of it was unplugged. When I plugged it back in, the tach now worked, but all the gauges would “boogie” every time the music on the stereo had a bass beat. Oh, now I know why they unplugged it. (and I just had a mediocre stereo, not the thumping systems you hear today) I eventually corrected this when I added another ground wire to the whole dash cluster. The car would also burn out a brake or tail light religiously once a month. I was using the rear defroster and there was a sudden “pop” and it no longer worked. It wasn’t the switch either. I never bothered to track down the problem.

Other problems: The turn signal stalk fell off. The rear leaf springs sagged. The sway bar cracked in half. Twice. The driver’s door sagged on its hinges. The trunk developed a leak. The master cylinder failed. A window crank stripped out. A brake caliper seized up, which I noticed when the car began shaking (not much pull surprisingly), and the rotor was glowing orange hot. Oh, and if it was a warm day and the car sat in the sun, it would randomly let out a screaming kind of sigh–I assume this was related to the gas tank vent. Or maybe it was indeed possessed. True, I didn’t treat my cars all that well back then, other than changing fluids, but this was such a shoddily built POS.

Oh, and did I mention that the HVAC blower failed and to access it you had to either remove the right front fender or cut a hole in the wheel well. (GM helpfully provided an outline in the fender liner of where you needed to cut.)

To give it some credit, despite the “Metric 200” transmission, I never had a trans problem, and it never failed to start. The A/C was also very good on that car, and it handled decently, though it was pretty terrible in snow.

Worst car I ever bought was a 1983 Pontiac Firebird (the Turdbird) SE. Ordered from a dealer with the WS6 suspension, big tires, 4 wheel disk brakes, a 5 speed behind a high output (130 hp!!) 2.8 liter V6. Our first brand new car just out of college working for GM (employee discount!!). When it ran, the car was terrific. Quick enough for the insurance premiums of a 23 year old and handled better than anything around. It was poorly built with trash in the paint, the radio quit, all the belts just shredded themselves, it rattled, it leaked oil, coolant, transmission fluid, the mirrors vibrated and it tore through window seals.

Oh, and when backing up you could get the axle into resonance so it jumped off the pavement (really, I can’t make up something that silly) All in all about 14 trips to the dealer for warranty. The last of which was a blown short block with a hole in one piston 6 days before the 2 year engine warranty expired. The inside of the engine was immaculately clean. The car was down for 6 weeks for that one. The biggest POS, the worst dealer ever. Traded it for a Ford 20 months after buying it. All before Lemon Laws came into effect.

The Turdbird even topped a 1971 SAAB we bought for $100 with 127,000 miles. That car was the second worst car we ever owned. It had a British Leyland inline 4 engine that used and leaked oil like the Exxon Valdez. It seemed like whenever it snowed, the car was down for service waiting for parts. At least this car had an excuse for the issues it had!

Late 70’s VW Rabbit. It was definitely the most trouble prone of any vehicle I’ve owned, but I haven’t owned very many vehicles. It wasn’t a horrible car, except for the troubles explained below, it was pretty fun to drive. It just required more repair time than I expected.

The problem area for this era of VW Rabbit was the fuel system. The fuel injection wasn’t electronic, it was mechanical, they called it CIS == continuous injection system. This might seem clever, but it turned out it wasn’t a good idea.

The reason is for it to vary the rail fuel pressure over the needed pressure range, it required minute channels for the gas to flow, in order to properly meter out small amounts of gas at idle etc. These tiny fuel passages were very sensitive to any debris at all in the gasoline, particularly sand, and would clog up quite frequently, and the car would suddenly lose power or stop altogether. It also seemed to affect the fuel pump, the clogging would cause an overcurrent condition, which would eventually damage the electrical system that provided power to the pump.

Electronic fuel injection doesn’t need these tiny fuel passages. With electronic fuel injection the rail fuel pressure is more or less constant, and the injectors, since they are pulsed with a solenoid valve, are either fully on or fully off.

OK,didnt know a Ford 9 in had a c clip.on my old trucks with a 9 in rear,the bearing held the axle in believe or not,maybe the Tbird had a different set up?
Anyway worst POS I ever owned was a brand new 2000 Ford Focus,a close runner up was the 95 Honda Passport(bought new also) Kevin

My disaster was a 1955 Pontiac that I bought to replace my 1947 Pontiac back in 1962. The engine had been overhauled by the Rambler dealer. From the first day, I had trouble with the valve train. The stud mounted rocker arms would not get oil and then chirp. I had the studs pulled out and cleaned and the passages in the head cleaned out to no avail. I had the lifters replaced. The Pontiac had a manual transmission and the bearings in the transmission had to be replaced.
I was an almost broke graduate student when I bought that 1955 Pontiac. 1955 was the first year for a V-8 in the Pontiac. I probably should have avoided that year. This Pontiac was the bottom of the line and did not have the optional oil filter. Now why GM made an oil filter an option on an overhead valve V-8 with hydraulic lifters is beyond me. My guess is that the dealer’s mechanic did not clean out all the sludge when the engine was overhauled. The overhaul probably consisted of replacing the rings and grinding the valves. My parents had purchased a new Rambler from the dealer and that Rambler was totaled in an accident. They were going to replace the Rambler and trade in a 1954 Buick. However, the dealer allowed them more for the 1955 Pontiac I was driving. Therefore, I traded cars with my dad and the dealer got that Pontiac back.
I did learn to do research on a car. An overhaul, I learned, means different things. An oil filtger is a necessity on cars that have hydraulic lifters and use detergent oil. The first year of a new engine is often not a good idea to buy. I did get an oil filter assembly at a salvage yard and installed it on the Pontiac. Another thing I learned is to purchase a car with the more popular options. Few 1955 Pontiacs had a standard transmission and the linkage did not allow the transmission to be shifted easily. Most Pontiacs from 1948 were equipped with the Hydramatic automatic transmission. The three speed manual was a relic from the 1940s.

@VDCdriver we bought a 1973 Volvo in 1986 from my grandparents who were tired of sourcing parts long distance since the Volvo dealer network in Hawaii at the time was on dealer on another Island. We got the car for free and paid for the $600 roughly to ship the car to Seattle. For the 2 years we owned it we had to take it in at least every 2 moths spending a couple hundred at a time to fix whatever went wrong this time. Grandpa did send a note ahead of the car detailing all it’s little faults and engineering fixes so we knew it wasn’t a perfect creampuff but the care and feeding costs were too much. Of course the 1988 Grand Voyager we bought new as a replacement didn’t turn out so well either.

@kmccune: Was your Passport also a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo? My gf had one (a 1998) that really went the distance. When she finally got rid of it, it had a rusted out frame, the speedometer no longer worked, the fuel gauge hadn’t worked in years, yet it still ran great and the 4WD worked just fine. No transmission problems either, and this thing had a GM-built transmission. She also ran it low on oil quite a few times, though she did change the oil pretty religiously. (I don’t think she ever ran it low enough for the oil light to come on) I’m guessing it probably had about 280K miles on it when she got rid of it, but it’s hard to tell since the odometer quit working too. The powertrain never had anything but routine maintenance on it.

Perhaps this supports my theory that different people have different luck with different brands. Or maybe she just got a good one.

1986 Chrysler Le Baron. My wife saw the car on a dealer’s lot and fell in love with it. It was 2 years old and had less than 5K on the clock. It broke down twice on the 15 mile drive home. The dealer finally gave her the purchase price back and she used that and a little financing to buy a brand new Jeep Cherokee. It turned out to be a great vehicle which my wife drove for several trouble-free years.

@Oblivion,sure was,took it to the Isuzu dealer to get the spark plug tubes repaired under(Hondas secret warranty)turns out the The Rodeos had a better warranty then the Passports also wife went crazy and bought a 99 Honda passport(high mileage used,another piece of crap)It always stank of mildew,think it had been in a flood-very rusty underneath too,told wife to never buy another car from that shyster-Kevin
PS we have never had any trouble with,pure Hondas,but I have to agree with your thoery