Friday, August 21, 2009

The 50 Worst Cars

It's no secret I'm not a big fan of "List Journalism." I've never seen the point of lazily reported "Worst Of" lists that are fun to make up in bars but shouldn't take up space in newspapers and magazines.

Having pompously made that declaration, I'll now backtrack and admit I love Time's list of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time. In my own defense, this list is actually insightful and has great detail. It also targets single cars, not entire cities.

Here's the review of the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron:
The horror. The horror. Everything that was wrong, venal, lazy and mendacious about GM in the 1980s was crystallized in this flagrant insult to the good name and fine customers of Cadillac. Spooked by the success of premium small cars from Mercedes-Benz, GM elected to rebadge its awful mass-market J-platform sedans, load them up with chintzy fabrics and accessories and call them "Cimarron, by Cadillac." Wha...? Who? Seeking an even hotter circle of hell, GM priced these pseudo-caddies (with four-speed manual transmissions, no less) thousands more than their Chevy Cavalier siblings. This bit of temporizing nearly killed Cadillac and remains its biggest shame.
How about the 1984 Maserati Biturbo:
"Biturbo" is, of course, Italian for "expensive junk." At least, it is now, after Maserati tried to pass off this bitter heartbreak-on-wheels as a proper grand touring sedan. The Biturbo was the product of a desperate, under-funded company circling the drain of bankruptcy, and it shows. Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus. The collected service advisories would look like the Gutenberg Bible. The only greater ignominy was the early 1990s Maserati TC, a version of the Chrysler Le Baron (a flaccid, front-drive, four-cylinder loser-mobile) with the proud Mazzer Trident on the nose. Finally, sir, have you no shame?
Go here for the entire list.


  1. Time is an influential national newsmagazine. It should have high standards. Yet, it doesn't even offer a flimsy pretext of objectivity in this highly idiosyncratic list. Every opinion is that of an unknown writer with unestablished credentials and amply displayed prejudices. Or perhaps 51 different writers, as nothing is credited.

    It's presumptuous to the point of offense to condemn vehicles to a "worst of all time" list not because they had automotive or aesthetic faults, but because the carmaker was providing buyers what they wanted to buy, and the writer is offended that some consumers have different automotive preferences than his own.

    And perhaps just to reinforce this idiosyncratic uselessness, after condemning the Hummer H2 for being "too militaristic" and insufficiently "green"...even though the H2 was created to compete with the military-originated Jeep, which somehow isn't on this list...the author incomprehensibly includes the Plymouth Prowler and Chevy SSR because they didn't have big enough engines for his manhood-proving needs.

    A "worst of all time" list at least should make an effort toward objectivity and reasonably universal standards. Unless, that is, it's competing for a place on "worst worst-of-all-time lists of all time."

  2. Damnit JWilly, I totally contradict myself on the subject of lists, then you turn around and point out all the obvious reasons I hate lists in the first place. But somehow I found this one less objectionable. Of course all these lists are ultimately subjective, regardless of how much reporting goes into them. For one thing, I think criticizing a car is far less objectionable than criticizing an entire city and all the people living in it. This car list seems more in tune with a list of the best outfielders of all time.

    This is a long way of saying I agree with your objections, but I don't think it matters as much for a list like this one.

  3. I should add that I don't like the anonymity either. People should put their names on their work.

  4. I usually despise these because the writer usually knows nothing of the car he describes nor its social context. This article no exception. Dan's passionate hate of GM is the only constant. Since when is leather a "cheesy fabric"?

    The Cimarron was a good car, in fact, the nicest compact GM has ever made. It was not anyone's worst car, it was just a marketing flop, like MANY of the cars on the list.

    It's misnamed. These aren't the 50 Worst Cars of All Time, these are "50 Cars I Don't Like For Whatever Reason and Want To Whine About"

    Go back to worshiping the Lexus for its Novocaine ride and leave us alone, Dan.

  5. "The Cimarron was a good car, in fact, the nicest compact GM has ever made."

    Add there in lies the problem. When the nicest compact you ever made is a flop from 25 years ago, that is the DEFINITION of failing in the car business. When you attempt a thinly veiled rebadge of a pedestrian car like the cavalier like GM did, and fail at it, your damn right the media and pretty much every car buyer on the planet will mock you for it. It's like saying the Zune is the best MP3 player Microsoft ever made. That means nothing, it will be ridiculed forever as iPods fly out the door.

    This is one of the costs of failure. Zunes suck. The Lions Suck. Caddyshack II sucked. They are all on someone's list of 'worst ever'. See I just made a list of 3 of the suckiest things of all time. And my list sucks. Put me on the 50 worst readers of flintexpats list.

  6. My first car was the Chevette. It was to vehicles what a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can is to aluminum. A functional road warrior that got you from point a to point a.5 and sometimes even point b if b was downhill. Hitting a pot hole and watching the shock absorber go through the hood was one of my fondest moments with the Chevette.


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