Recently Wired magazine ran an online piece about cars that suck so badly they should be thrown in a black hole. The cars weren’t necessarily unpleasant looking, though some had certainly been driven into the ugly tree. The list included such luminaries as the Jaguar XJ-S (debatable), Mustang II (certainly), and the General Motors X-cars, specifically the 1984 Buick Skylark.
Their thinking was that since nature abhors a vacuum, merely destroying these cars wouldn’t really be a solution since some other form of suckitude would immediately take its place. For example, launch a Pontiac Aztek fueled by a Jet-A molotov cocktail off a cliff and its replacement could appear in the form of something even more eye-bleedingly wretched, like a BMW X6.
However, launching a car into a black hole, an anomaly wherein the gravity is so strong it could suck the ass out of the cat light cannot escape, would not technically destroy the car. Therefore nothing would have to take its place. The car would be somewhere totally out of sight (see that light escaping bit) but would still technically exist.
Could something more ghastly still show up? Sure, but it wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion.
This got us thinking about cars that are so bad we’d like them to be permanently out of sight. Here’s what CarEnvy.ca came up with.
Leave it to the British to screw up an Acura. This joint venture of Japanese engineering fused with Ye Olde World styling and accommodations should have been a win-win for both companies. But of course it wasn’t. The British bits fell apart if left alone for ten minutes. Doors would line up with Venus, but not the rest of the bodywork. Heck, even the dashboards would turn green if left in the sun too long. The car was so bad that even the Honda drivetrain, not wanting to be left out of the pity party, developed sympathetic pains.
God bless Maserati. He must have, as most people since the 1980s, forgotten about this would-be competitor to BMW’s iconic 3-Series. Prior to that Maserati has a glorious past. However, when they tried to appeal to the Yuppie market things went predictably bad.
How bad? Well the early Biturbos would shed pieces and fluids like any other Italian car of indiscriminate build quality. But with the Biturbo you had the bonus possibility of the carburetor, which lived in a pressurized box atop the motor, catching on fire. Exciting! The interior was a combination of Italian plush (puffy leather seats and door panels, real dead tree dashboard) and off-the-shelf components (heater control panel from Chrysler).
The 425 four-door and convertible followed shortly after the coupe. Now you’re asking us, “And your point?” That was it, really.
Another idea that probably seemed like a good one at the time. Jensen had been building cars for about 40 years when it teamed up with Donald Healey, father to some rather special sports cars. Slap a Lotus twin-cam engine in its engine cubby and away you go.
But it never gelled. Because of the fuel crisis, and the fact Jensen was bleeding money due to sales of the thirsty Interceptor drying up, the JH was rushed to market. And we know what happens when British cars are hurriedly kicked out of the womb, don’t we? They weren’t any more or less reliable than any other British car of the time, for whatever that’s worth. However the styling was bland and the early interiors austere. All North American Jensen-Healeys received large rubber bumpers in 1974 which did precisely zip for the aesthetics.
I will admit to being smitten by these cars when I was younger. Because of that ancient bias we’re not absolutely sure these are bad enough for the black hole, so for now we’ll hold it in reserve.
Just absolute crap. Malcolm Bricklin, the visionary who established Subaru of America, wanted to create the world’s first high performance safety car. However, lacking any real sense for what it takes to build a car from the ground up, the whole thing went sideways. The company folded after 2,854 cars were hatched and owed the New Brunswick government US $23 million.
The bodies, fiberglass bonded to acrylic plastic, had a tendency to crack while still in the moulds. Which was probably for the best since the finished product (and we use the term loosely) was nothing lovely to behold. The gullwing doors were allegedly power operated, but few could prove it. Motivation, such as it was, came earlier from an AMC 360 CID V8 and later from a Ford 351 CID.
At least it was actually safe. The car featured a safety cell, 5 mph bumpers, and side impact beams. Sadly, there was no cigarette lighter or ashtray (Bricklin thought it was unsafe to smoke and drive) so you’ll have to find other ways to light this heap on fire.
Land Rover Freelander
The baby Rover that should have been thrown out with the bath water. The size of a first-generation Toyota RAV-4, the Freelander had little of the economy and reliability. Given the way it dry-humps the Land Rover history teat, they should have called it the Freeloader.
The K-series engines will drop their cylinder liners into the block. In place of a proper Landy four-wheel drive system there is a symphony of electronics that is said to work well in wet grass, when the electronics actually work. The interior sported enough plastic to build a child’s play structure.
The Freeloader was a best-seller in Europe. Much like the black hole into which this car should be thrown, nobody can really explain it. Maybe it was the gigantic plastic front bumper or the two-story-tall dashboard and tiny gauges. Maybe Europe were stopping all the inbound ships carrying RAV-4s and CRVs.
Of course, this list is not the end-all be-all of suckalicious automobiles. There are plenty of others. Let us know what you think. But don’t tell us about the Pinto, Gremlin or Pacer. We know that already and have the cannon aimed at the nearest black hole.