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Worst vehicle you've ever driven?

For those of us w/ too much time on our hands, thought I’d start a “worst car” thread. So, list 'em, subject to just two qualifications:

1. It must have been used as a passenger vehicle at some point.

2. You have to have driven it at least once. (So you can give a ride report!)

My nomination: 1975(or so) Jeep CJ5 RHD (AKA Postal Jeep)

What qualifies it?

1. Exceedingly narrow track makes it pone to tipping.

2. Sliding driver’s side door is fun, but make it one of the few vehicles you can actually run yourself over in (fall out the open door while driving…yes, it’s happened).

3. Transmission tended to slip out of park, causing postal managers to give repeated safety talks on the importance of “curbing one’s wheels” (the e-brakes were usually pretty weakly set, also).

4. In combination with 1, lack of aerodynamics made highway use very interesting (or so I’ve been told…never got one >40MPH.)

5. Rear brakes would lock up way too easily if no load in back…the situation most “converted to passenger use” jeeps would see.

6. Right-hand drive (though not a real big deal once you got used to it…bet it’d make a drive thru interesting!)

7. As supplied to the USPS, not any good in the snow!

8. By the time a second seat was stuck in and they were sold as passenger vehicles (how it meets qualifications as a technicality), it’d been “ridden hard…” for a good two decades plus!

At least they were cheap, second-hand. In the university section of town, some of the ironically hip would buy them on a “so bad it’s good” basis, much like the Trabants in post-communist Germany, or so I’ve heard. (Also, I’d imagine they wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to work on…)

Corvair Greenbriar. I worked for a guy who used it as a delivery truck. I’ve never seen such a long shift lever. It must have been 4-feet long if the rod were straightened out. Finding the right gear was always an adventure. And the drive train was in such bad shape that it shook if you got it up to about 40 MPH. After getting out of that thing, my Corvair Monza seemed like a sports car.

Mine was a Jeepster, vintage 1968-1970 not sure of exact year. The motor was a Buick V6 block that Jeep (I think they were part of American Motors back then) must have bought from GM, and I’m not sure where the carb and other stuff on it came from.

The ignition system was terrible and the car would simply not run whenever it was even mildly damp. It was only a couple of years old at the time. One very dark night I looked at the motor as it was running in the dark. It was a veritable light show in there. Sparks arching everywhere, wires aglow, and I just cannot describe the action around the distributor cap - it was psychodelic and I wasn’t on anything! The worst event occurred at night on the Ohio Turnpike. It was a raw December night and it started to rain, and the wind was gusting like 40 to 60 mph. Of course the rain killed the motor and it died right on an overpass with very little shoulder. The car shook as the trucks went past. I got some dry rags and opened the hood which promptly blew back and slammed into the windshield. Allowing the rain direct access to the motor which started steaming. The once dry rags were completely useless. I ended up walking down the embankment at the end of the overpass and found a mall to get warm and dry out for a while. We didn’t get it running again until the next morning when the rain stopped.

Also the transfer case would bind up even if I was driving in 2WD with the transfer case disengaged. Even those hubs that you had to manually engage and disengage didn’t help the binding. This was a complete waste of a car.

There was two cars like that in my life.

  1. 1960 Ford Fairlane 500. Big, heavy and it drove just like that.

  2. A Chevrolet APV that I had to drive for 4 years. It was a company car assigned to me. Every 30 days I took it into the shop for either a water, radiator fan, alternator replacement, or transmission problem. I was at times scared to drive it because of the handling problems, never did like it in the rain and here we get a lot of that.

This is not my worst car, actually one of my favorites - a '67 Mustang 289 2 bbl 3 speed stick. It had the tiniest brass fuel filter that screwed into the front of the carb. It clogged up quickly like every 5,000 miles so I always had a new fuel filter handy. When the car would not go up past 4,000 rpm it was time to change it.

I also ended up carrying an extra starting motor in the trunk with the necessary tools to make a quick change at all times. I could change out the starter in the Jamesway (Ithaca NY equivalent of K-Mart in 1968) parking lot if need be. I’d take the old one in for the trade in and buy a new one to keep in the trunk. I think it was about $30 a pop. Ah the good ole days a new when you could fix a car without a scan tool.

Regarding new cars it would have to be the mid/late 70s Honda Civics. Tin cans that would wander all over the road with any crosswind stronger than about 10 MPH.

Used car category is a tossup but some of them include:
Honda 600 - woefully underpowered, see above.
Renault LeCar - an utter tin can with no redeeming qualities at all.
Subaru FF1 - underpowered, tinny, and the front drum brakes were a pain to service as they used inboard brakes mounted on the transaxle.

front drum brakes were a pain to service as they used inboard brakes mounted on the transaxle

I still have periodic night terrors because of those styled brakes.

Audi 100 LS,inboard brakes what a horror.But the worst was a Ford Merkur (Europe model) or a 2CV I can’t remember if that was Puegot or Citroen (they were called “two horses” in translation. Someone must have a Trabi report,I never drove one.

Suprisingly the little Fiats were not so bad

Thank goodness we didn’t see many of the FF1s. Flat rate paid 8 hours for a front brake job and it had to be done through a fist sized hole or two.
Probably would have been much easier just to pull the transaxle and do the brakes on a bench.

If you’re familiar with the old domestic cars with a dozen springs and levers on each brake assembly just consider what an aggravation it was removing and installing all of this garbage mostly by feel.

Did you ever have to work or drive a Fiat 850? That was a POS!!!

I had a 850.I even did a rebuild,never put a great number of miles on it,it was a basket case when I got it.

Yes, the Postal Jeep is a death trap for sure. But its 232 Rambler motor and TorqueFlight transmission usually got you home or back to the Post office…

I once owned, for a short while, a Fiat 850 Spyder. My wife would drive this car to town. She seldom made it home without assistance…Keeping the ignition system, the cooling system and the fuel delivery system all operating at the same time was almost impossible…A positive note however, I managed to sell the car for more than I paid for it…

'77 Datsun pickup. Just wretched.

In high school, 1966, on friend had a Renault Dauphen, and another friend bought a new Simca also from France. They both survived the cars but the cars didn’t last long!

Someone mentioned the Audi 100 with inboard brakes that didn’t stop. Lots of other problems too.

I bought a new Renault 18i (1980ish) that was junk from the word “go”. A bunch of parts were simply left off to be discovered by the new owner and then put on by the AMC dealer. There was no compressor on the AC for instance! Traded it in after 2 years because it would run intermittently, never figured out why so we just got it out of our lives.

74 Pinto, I don’t need to list why, all of America knows.

1975 Ford Pinto that my Dad traded his 1966 Chevy Impala SS for, nuff said.

Ed B.

Probably the worst car I ever drove was an American Motors Matador that I rented in Boulder Colorado ~1973. Had about 10,000 miles on it. I jumped in, the A/C didn’t work. No problem, tried to crank down the window and the handle broke off in my hand. It went downhill from there.

Passenger side door would not open from inside or outside. I nearly had to push it back in to the rental lot after a three day rental. To many other problems to list.

Second worst was a mid-60s Jeep that belonged to a relief agency in Guatemala in 1977. English translation of its pet name around he office - the “Red Surprise”. The frame and body seemed to move completely independently of each other, and the steering gear box had a mind of its own.

The only redeeming quality of both these cars was the knowledge that all parts falling off both these cars were of the finest American craftsmanship.

I owned a '71 Vega which was actually pretty good to me, but I sold it at 40k miles.

Dodge Caliber.

I had one as a rental for a week. Visibility out of the thing was HORRIBLE in any direction. It was frightening to drive in traffic. I don’t see how they’ve managed to sell even a single one.

I’ve owned and driven quite a few “beaters” in my time. I’d gladly drive any of them before I’d get back into a Caliber.

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way. We Had The “Will” Part.

Disclaimer: I am not condemning all Ford Econoline vans of years past. I think they were a good vehicle for people needing a van.

With that said, I recall one winter as a teenager when we were sitting around and got the urge to make our annual 1,300 mile journey to the Rockies to ski. These trips came on rather suddenly and often utilized whatever transportation was available.

Friends each had Econolines (carpeted cargo bays from floor to ceiling). We took them both because one owner wanted to be able to “bail out” of the trip to make it home in time to keep his job when the “called in sick” thing ran out.

It was below zero for 1,300 miles. One van had NO heat. One van had seized steering.

Rules soon developed for passengers. When passengers in the “no heat” van could demonstrate physical shaking and teeth chattering, they exchanged vans with the “seized steering” folks. Drivers would rotate, also, based on fatigue as we drove straight through. The “seized van” driver had to let the van pull to the fog line and then give the steering wheel a couple of bumps until the van tracked left to the center line. Then the driver would give a couple bumps until the van tracked toward the fog line, again. This would continue for 1,300 miles and at times got annoying, but way better than freezing to death.

I won’t even mention the brakes on the back of the green van that had a problem coming down the mountains, except to say that once some of the shoes and springs and things were removed, the horrendous noise stopped.

Sometimes my Vail dreams are shattered by van nightmares.

Chevy II A real danger on snow or ice.