By on December 14, 2012

For every Junkyard Find of, say, a Malaise Era bomb that fired several torpedoes into the already leaky hull of a once-great car company, there will be at least one reader who writes a comment that goes something like “I bought one of these cars new, and it went 300,000 trouble-free miles on logging roads in Trinity County. This car’s bad image was undeserved, folks!” Just as it’s possible to have fun with a rented Corolla (just kidding, there is no way to have fun of any sort in a rented Corolla), it’s possible for a first-gen Excel or Sterling 827 to survive like a Slant-Six Valiant sedan.
The Volkwsagen Type 4. The Chevy Vega. Just about any Mitsubishi product built between the A6M Zero and, like, five years ago. Many of us have had such an odds-beating car (I’d like to say that my Peugeot 504 held together like an Accord, but such was nowhere near the case).
So, let’s hear those stories! Set the record straight! Feel free to add tirades about what a bad rap the (Mazda RX-2, Ford EXP, Fiat 128, Jaguar XJ-S) got.

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142 Comments on “Question: Notoriously Unreliable Cars That Were Bulletproof For You?...”


  • avatar
    George B

    I kept a 1990 Ford Probe LX V6 automatic transmission alive for 16 years with only a filter and fluid change. It ate CV boots and front-suspension parts until eventually all the original ones were replaced, but the weak automatic transmission (and the normally reliable Vulcan V6) were trouble-free.

  • avatar
    luke_a_like

    While my Dad was in law school, he worked part-time at the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio that built the Vegas. From the stories that he tells including people partying and sleeping in hidden beds, it isn’t surprising that the Vega is considered an all-time POS.

    • 0 avatar
      moedaman

      Hah! You should have heard some of the stories I was told. I had a grandfather and uncle work for Chrysler, another uncle work for Ford and my father worked for GM. And in the 70′s, at least at the Detroit area plants, that was SOP (or worse) for the many workers.

      Anyway, I had a 1974 AMC Gremlin. I bought it brand new when I graduated high school and the car ran very well for the four years and 60,000 miles I had it. Sadly, it was a lot better than the Chevette I replaced it with.

    • 0 avatar
      FoulWX

      We had a 73 bright orange Vega hatchback automatic when I was in high school. It was the “kid car” and my sister and I beat the heck out of that thing and it took it all in stride. Granted it did use a quart of oil every week but it had no issues until it was rear ended and totaled by a little old lady, causing me and my buddies to miss the opening night of “Star Wars.”

      • 0 avatar
        west-coaster

        I had a ’73 Vega GT Hatchback from 1979 until 1981, and it was extremely reliable. I must have had one of the few.

      • 0 avatar
        fendertweed

        I had a Copper/Bronze ’72 Vega Wagon that I later handed down to my brother. The front fenders rusted in 2 yrs and Chevy replaced them (i had to pay to get them painted!)… and of course, by the time my brother had it, it needed a quart of oil with every tank of gas and he said you could see the road go by through the holes in the lower door/rocker panels.

        But we think it is one f the few/only Vegas that went over 90,000 miles without blowing the engine.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    1991 Mercury Sable with the 3.0L Vulcan. Averaged $800/year in maintenance and repairs over the 16 years we owned it, far less than the 1990 Camry which averaged $1200/year. Never had any issues with the engine, transmission, nor cooling. Only issue was the constantly leaking A/C, which drove up our maintenance costs. Also ate light bulbs in the light bar grill, but that was an easy fix.

    1986 Hyundai Pony. We owned a used one for 3 years, and had zero repairs on what was supposed to be 1960′s tech. Only issue was rapid paint oxidation.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      You think that $800 per year for maintenance and repairs is cheap? The average do it yourselfer won’t have that much spent in a vehicle over the course of 100,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        I take that back, now that I think about the price of oil and filters today, and after you throw in brake pads and maybe a few little tidbits a do it yourselfer will have spent well over 1k in 100k miles. Certainly not in a year’s time though.

  • avatar
    Dawnrazor

    Believe it or not: a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am with the legendary Quad-4.

    Got it used in ’91 with about 21k on the ODO, got rid of it in ’96 with just over 105k.

    Not a single lick of trouble during the entire time. The only slight issue was a few squeaks and rattles from the right side of the dash, which (after contorting myself in a most unnatural position and shredding most of the knuckles on my left hand) I traced to a loose bolt toward the bottom of the assembly. Of course the materials, construction, and overall “feel” were just as shoddy as with any other Grand Am of the same MY, but nothing actually broke.

    These cars were notorious for peeling paint and blown head gaskets (leading to a well-publicized warranty campaign), as well as frequently-shorted coil packs and a whole host of other annoying problems related to bottom of the barrel engineering and assembly.

    I sometimes wonder if the one I ended up with was originally built for someone in GM management because literally EVERYONE I knew with one of these cars found it to be a completely execrable hunk of garbage (and was the last GM product EVER for them).

  • avatar

    1987 Audi 5000. Out of the 14 cars I’ve owned, it was by far the most reliable. Not a single problem in the time I owned it. Ironically, it was more reliable than the only Toyota product I’ve ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      DanDotDan

      My wife’s got a 2000 S4 that’s been very reliable, with the only failure being the secondary air pump. The maintenance costs have been high, but we’ve experienced none of the nightmares associated with Audis.

  • avatar
    turtletop

    1976 Triumph TR7. Yellow with black top & interior. $400 cash, pine-scented from being parked under a tree for several years. It needed some love, including rebuilding the Zenith-Stromberg carbs. clutch slave and master cylinders, a valve adjustment, a fresh alternator and a new set of tires. Once I shook it down, it became my commuter car for the next several years.

    I only learned of the TR7′s spotty reputation after I started driving it… ignorance was bliss. Other than weak 3rd gear syncros and a few minor electrical bugs, it was a great car and gave me over 30K of service… I’ve owned nearly 30 cars over the years, and the TR7 remains one of my favorites.

    It was still running great when I foolishly sold it to buy an MGB that turned out to be a massive POS. Argh!

  • avatar

    My parents had an ’87 Chevy Celebrity 4 wagon that gave them 140,000 reliable miles, and probably would have gone considerably further.

    My brother had the same car, but with the six, and that thing was nickeling and diming him so badly they junked it before it hit 100k.

  • avatar
    readallover

    1980 Chevy Citation not a single problem for 5 years until it was a victim of black ice.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      My dad’s 1980 Citation outlived him. Mom drove it til 88 or 89, then gave it to my brother. Only problem I recall was crappy paint, a $500 spray job fixed that about 1985. Considering that was the first year for the 2.8 V6, it did pretty well.

    • 0 avatar
      rmmartel

      Same here, an 1980 Citation with the only issue beyond routine I can remember was a water pump that dies early. For us it was a very reliable car.

  • avatar
    joneill1955

    1991 Ford Escort Wagon. Bought new, owned for six years and put 70k miles on it. Although it had a gutless engine and weak brakes, had no problems whatsoever.

  • avatar
    th009

    1990 Golf GTI 16V … five trouble-free (and very much fun) years, other than having the wheels stolen off the car while it was on our driveway.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    WOW! That Mercury LN7 brochure with the Michelin TRX rims (roughly 13-1/2 inches) brings back memories.

    I had an ’85 Ford EXP – loved the car – even if it was a steaming pile.

  • avatar
    Bowlandmonkey

    2004 Alfa Romeo GT – bought at 12k miles, drove for 120k miles over 6 years. Replaced the steering rods twice (tough roads), and one manual transmission gearbox. Otherwise absolutely beautiful and sold for 52% of my purchase price 6 years earlier.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    Had a 1986 Chevy Sprint Plus, the car engine self-destructed due to a broken timing belt in 1996 at approx 140,000 miles. Between those events, that car was as reliable as a mid-90′s Camry (usual wear items and maintenance for a non-computerized car with a carburetor). It was a great little car, and even with it’s 45hp engine, pretty darn fun to drive!

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      Who is saying the Sprint sucked?

      Especially when you could grab much worse on the same dealer lot, such as Murilee’s Citation or a Chevette?

      BTW, our Sprint just had a radiator explode in it’s 105k mile life with us.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Chevy Celebrity as a company car that did well while others with the same company car were blowing engines.

    First gen Ford Taurus that ran to 180K on the supposedly crappy first transmission. Vulcan was fine as expected. A/C unit died north of 180K, which is supposed to be another weak spot (and that A/C unit was heavily used in a hot part of the country). Ate a few reman alterators after the original died around 170K, but finally got a good one (all replaced under warranty).

    Two different Audis. There have been extended warranties or recalls by Audi of America on certain parts that were common failures on early B7 A4s (cam adjuster, coil packs, PCV, intake manifold control runner), but that has all been done for free and with no downtime. Audi fixes problems identified in early vehicles of a new generation better and faster than other manufacturers from my experience, so the other Audi has been fine thus far. Only unexpected thing on the B7 A4 has been replacing some lower control arms, but apparently replacing multi-link front suspension parts is normal at 100K on German cars, or at least I’ve heard it’s the case for BMWs.

    I usually chalk it up to following the maintenance schedule when many people are lazy about maintenance. I have a good mechanic that I trust and that shows me broken parts instead of just telling me something needs to be fixed. I only go to the dealer under warranty, and that’s mostly because there are silent recalls/updates and other things that get fixed automatically when I come in for service.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Saabs, all 7 of them.
    Some bought being well into 6-digits mileage.
    They all had their hiccups, but never left me stranded and never were wallet drains as the popular opnion suggests.

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      +1
      I’ve owned 6 over the past 15 years. Not perfect, but very reliable, very durable, and cheap to maintain. I am convinced that Saab horror stories are owner-inflicted. My current sled, an ’04 9-5, is rock solid.

      Perhaps even more surprising, I’ve owned two LR Discoveries (a ’96 DI with a 5-speed manual and an ’02 DII) and both of them were literally trouble free for the roughly 45K miles I put on each one.

    • 0 avatar
      turbosaab

      I was going to say Saabs as well – specifically, -turbo- Saabs. Popular belief seems to be that turbocharged engines are notoriously unreliable. My family has owned about ten of them, all purchased used, not one engine or turbo failure of any sort. The cars have been pretty good otherwise too, although certainly not as low-maintenance as a Honda or Toyota.

  • avatar
    rpm773

    I’m not sure if a 1998 MKIII Jetta rises to the level of “notoriously unreliable”, but I did put 115K in 5 years on mine without any work to it other than short-term and long-term maintenance. That’s more than I can say of others I knew with the same-vintage car.

    They were commuter miles, too.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      For Jettas in particular, I always wonder if it’s that the people who buy Jettas that are the problem, rather than the Jettas themselves.

      It doesn’t go unnoticed by me that a lot of commenters here think you should be able to spend no money on routine maintenance and leave the same oil in there for 30K miles at a time because they’re cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        I completely agree. German cars are only as bad as their owner’s level of care. Care, not matinance.

        Some people who get a bad used one and complain, well it’s not the dealer’s fault, it’s not the maker’s fault, it is the previous owners for not taking proper care and the buyers for failing to notice that.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        As to that, there’s a certain amount of due diligence that is proper. If you are going to spend big bucks on a used car, why not spend the $80-100 to get a mechanic to look over it before you buy it?

        Various mechanics have saved me thousands of dollars through pre-purchase inspections. For example, I spent $65 more than 10 years ago to get a $5000 car looked at, and it was worth every penny, because there was $2400 of work that needed to be done on it, plus they hadn’t disclosed an accident. Similarly, I spent $100 for an inspection on a $20K+ used car from a dealership and easily saved myself at least $2-4K depending on what the exact problem ended up being.

        But the maintenance thing is true for all cars. Do we really think windsormarxist is *that* lucky? It’s a short-term/long-term thing. I can save small money now or big money later. A lot of people are lazy, engage in deferred maintenance that causes their car to fall apart, and then just spend big money buying a new car, when they had a perfectly decent one already.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark_Miata

        I’ll admit it’s a sample of three, but I’ve owned dozens of cars, and I’ve never seen anything as unreliable as the two water-cooled VWs that tortured me or the Jetta that tortured my sister. That includes my Series IIa Land Rover, Triumph TR-4 and Spitfire, and even my MG Midget.

        My wife’s Jetta in particular was diabolical – failed electric window motors, dashboard switches, glove box latch – these are not parts you need to do regular maintenance on in ordinary cars after less that 50,000 miles. Let’s not forget the random failures to start (untraceable) that eventually led me to sell the car.

        I am strict about following scheduled maintenance, but my experience with VWs means I will never own another. Well, maybe an air-cooled Beetle – I had good luck with the two I owned.

        Are Jettas nice cars to drive – sure, my wife and I loved ours when it was working. Were the ones I had personal experience with unreliable POS cars? Most definitely.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve got to agree with Mark_Miata. The VWs I’ve known have had issues that can’t be explained away by poor maintenance or abuse. How do you maintain engine mounts? Heater cores that are blown by failed pressure release radiator caps? A/C compressors? The shop that worked on my Jetta had built a test rig for the radiator caps. They bought them in bulk from VW, tested them before fitting them to cars, and used far less than half of the ones VW sent them. Most were defective.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        @ Mandalorian

        When you own a bad German car, you will rue the day you uttered such naivety.

        I’ve owned a couple mediocre German machines, but my Mk IV GTI GLS (1.8T) takes the cake. It literally fell to pieces. Switches, knobs, buttons, handles, etc broke constantly. Turbo bypass valve failed b/c the ECU was not controlling boost accurately (reflash seemed to fix). The suspension bushings refused to seat properly, and the rear suspension creaked whenever the suspension traveled farther than an a few inches.

        Just reminiscing about the vehicle makes me chuckle. It was so spectacularly horrendous that I can’t even get mad about it. The car was a comedy of errors or a hilarious coming-of-age story. It was a shaving cream pie to the face for a college kid who landed his first interview in the new car league.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        German cars from the mid 90s to 2002 have very crappy elecgtronics that caused no end of trouble to those negligent owners who didn’t have the forsight to replace the controllers, window regulators, coil packs, etc every 12 months or 12,000 miles.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      I must have one of the few dead-reliable MkIV Volkswagens in the country. It’s about to turn 12 (I bought it used in ’02 with 13K miles on it), and has been a great car.

      Yes, the coil packs were replaced by VW twice (both times as warranty/recall – the engine never acted up) and those plastic window regulator parts failed three times (twice under warranty – it was a known supplier defect that affected BMW 3-Series of the era as well). But in the grand scheme of things, those are pretty minor.

      The 1.8T engine still pulls strong right to redline, the 5-speed manual shifts like butter, the air conditioner has never been touched but still blows ice cold, and there’s not a squeak or rattle in the car. Funny thing is, it was built in Brazil, and my car “expert” friends laughed back when I bought it and said it’d never be as good as the ones that come out of Germany. Ha!

      • 0 avatar
        iantm

        You know, the 06 New Beetle Convertible I bought for my wife four years ago has been rock solid reliable. We bought it through the VW CPO program. While under warranty, only two things happened – the windshield wipers stopped working and a window regulator broke. There was the coil pack recall as well, but VW took care of that. All tolled, I haven’t had to do anything other than basic maintenance with that car. The original battery that was in the car from the factory conked out the other day right after we had a cold snap, but I’m not going to consider that a fault as the battery lasted about 7 years! (car’s build date is 10/05).

        My 07 focus has been a mixed bag. In terms of the fundamentals – i.e. drivetrain and suspension, it has been pretty solid. In terms of interior trim, and electronics… it’s been more of a VW than the VW has been. The interior wiring harness let all of the smoke out at 77k miles. Thankfully, I talked Ford into giving me a 5/100k bumper to bumper warranty on the car after it blew the alternator at 35k miles – so I wasn’t on the hook for what the dealer would have billed me for $6500. (they had to gut the entire interior and rewire the entire car… If memory serves me correct, there was something like 50 hours billed on that job alone. All tolled, I have no major issues with Ford as they were good about giving me a better warranty for free and standing behind their product. It’s at 98k now and due for lower control arms…

  • avatar
    RobAllen

    I bought a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse with 20k on the odometer in 2002. I sold it in 2008 with 165k on it. I didn’t have any issues with it until I was driving to the dealer to drop it off as a trade in. On that ride in, a headlight blew, the radio ceased to function and the windshield cracked.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I had an ’03 Focus wagon bought new. Sold at 130k with the original clutch. The only problem it ever had was sometimes if was parked during a rain storm the gauge cluster wouldn’t work until it was driven long enough to dry out whatever got wet.

  • avatar
    ICARFAN

    My 73 128 coupe with the 1100cc motor was my commuter car for 8 years and had 258,000 thousand miles on it, when I finally sold it for more than I paid for it. One ground cable, one clutch cable and a few timing belt changes, oil and filters and tires that’s it. I did take it to 6000 RPM every shift change to keep up with traffic.

  • avatar

    2000 Land Rover Discovery Series II… Over 150K and nothing done other than maintenance and a few recalls. The bugger’s been absolutely bulletproof – literally, and figuratively unstoppable.

  • avatar
    Paulro

    2000 Neon, drove it 12 years and 250,000 km. Only things that needed to be replaced aside from tires and brakes was a tensioner pulley and one rear wheel bearing.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      I also had a 2000 Neon. Bought with 124k miles, transmission died @ 210k miles (320,000 km). No major issues. Cheap to maintain & run, even with the craptastic 3-speed auto.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        You guys got the good ones then. I had an early production 1994 Neon 4dr 5sp and it was a wild ride for from when my ex-wife got it new 0 miles to when I sold it last year for $500 with 267,000 miles on it.

        Not all was mechanical as my ex was an accident magnet but it was a pos that was kept on the road with both a 75,000 mile factory warranty and my mechanical skills. Chrysler lost on that warranty.

        By the time I sold it, the car was like the woodsman’s axe- handle of the axe replaced 4 times and the blade 2 times but it was the same axe.

        It had the original body and engine block but so much else had been fixed, changed, or revised due to mechanical issues (94-98 head gasket, manual trans at 60k), accidents (every body panel except left rear door had been fixed/repainted at some point including the roof!), or my getting better parts from later models (like front inside door panels with map pockets, a gauge cluster with a tach in it, over window drip rails that actually functioned, etc.)

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        To be fair, the 3-speed was unpleasant, but completely and utterly proven. Chrysler can make something work properly if they keep it in production long enough.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a 1996 Plymouth Neon 2-Door 5-Speed new and drove it for 8 years and 98,000 trouble free miles before selling it. During that time I had the displeasure of driving a friends 1998 Dodge Neon with the automatic, man what a dog that transmission was.

      • 0 avatar
        econobiker

        All the automatic trans Neons were dogs. The 1995 and maybe 1996 sohc motors had a hotter cam in them from the factory than any of the later ones. In fact, the 1995 cam became a Mopar Performance upgrade for the later 1997 and up sohc motors.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      I don’t know about Neons. Some were good long term beaters. I knew 2 stoner mechanics who swore by them. “Cheap parts, easy to fix.”
      To me (from them) that hardly qualified as praise.

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    I had not one, but TWO Volkswagens of MKIV notoriety. A TDI and a 2.0.

    Sold both around the 80,000 mile mark, with only regular maintenance required.

    My brother’s MKIV was another story. But once all the bugs got fixed, it became super reliable. It’s still on the road at 13 years old, and everything still works in it.

    • 0 avatar
      Andrew717

      2005 Golf with the 2.slow. Drove it from new till this past October. Most reliable car with which I have ever been associated. Hated it as a slow, fuel-inefficient b@stard the whole time. Damn near cried when I signed the paperwork.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    1993 Mitsubishi built Dodge Stealth ES. 3.0 DOHC with the 5 speed. 210K Miles. Got it with somewhere around 50K.
    Did tune up, timing belt, and water pump when I got it. Ended up putting in a starter, radiator, slave/master cylinder for clutch, at least one more tune up, a steering rack, and a ball joint. AT around 200K, the computer started acting up and the car would start intermittently. At 210K, I gave it to a buddy for his son.
    Probably the most reliable vehicle I had owned at that point.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    My folks had a ’91 Hyundai Scoupe until about ’02 or so. At that point it had racked up over 120 thousand miles, most of that before ’98, being used as a commuter car doing 100 miles a day in a perfectly reliable manner. The manual transmission needed a rebuild at that point and the body had started picking up some rust, and just wasn’t worth the trouble anymore so it was sold. I saw an online sales ad for it around 2006 so that wasn’t the end the story for that car.

  • avatar
    windsormarxist

    Those Xmas stocking filler books on the worst cars in the world could double as a photo album of my car owning history. The surprising thing is that the worse the car’s reputation is, the more trusty it has been for me.
    First car- ’65 Corvair. Handled well, always started, and totally bulletproof daily driver for a 16 year old- and it was 28 years old at the time. The only issue was a ticking tappet, but that’s more due to the design and age than any defect.
    Others followed, highlights include:
    Mopars- The Pentastar god shines on me- a ’69 Sport Fury, 74 Duster, ’91 Ram 150 and ’96 Dakota (old style AMC engine) have all been some of the best cars I’ve ever had. I”m sure if I purchased an Avenger or Sebring, the one I got would be the only good one made. Others in my family have not been so lucky, and remain bemused by how good my Mopars were compared to theirs.
    Since coming to the UK, I’ve owned 3 Ladas- all very reliable and never failed. None cost more than £300, and I never spent more than £20 on a repair- it was an ignition box, changed in 3 minutes.
    Austin Allegros have also served me well- and later ones were known for their cockroach like relaiblity and looks. My russet brown 1980 Allegro 3 ‘Mr Hanky’ was an undying and totally reliable little beastie- with mini-like fun, a big car ride and space, as well as over 40mpg in town traffic.
    Similarly, I’ve had two Citroen GSA’s and an early CX- all over 20 years old when purchased, and I never had a single mechanical failure or hydraulic leak.

    I presently drive a Saab 900 with almost 200K miles on it. (I won’t comment to avoid any jinxing). It came with almost £10K of repairs recently. I think much of this was due to the previous owner paying for things like blinker fluid and muffler bearings. ‘Saw him coming’ could be said. My only repairs were a gearwheel in the sunroof motor, driver’s seat foam, heater hose, and front engine mount- all age related and to be expected on a 20 year old car of such mileage.

    And last, but far from least is my Yugo I owned for 10K miles last year. Aside from weak syncromesh on second gear (name a Fiat that doesn’t suffer from that) it was totally reliable- and was 20 years old. It was also made fairly well out of steel as thick as that on my Volvo 240.

    I do take care of my cars, change fluids at 3K miles, ATF at 30K, clean electrical connectors every year before winter, tighten loose bolts, and tend to issues before they develop into failures, which might be part of my luck, but generally I think there’s a link between a car’s ugliness and unpopularity and its inherent goodness. The reason many of these cars developed a poor reputation was due to fast depreciation or low initial price which meant that they often sold to people who resented doing or couldn’t afford to do the basic maintenance that any vehicle needs to stay on the road.

    Now, I did push my luck- I purchased a Lancia Gamma, and yes- it WAS as bad as everyone said- and only surpassed by the piece o’ poo that was the Volkswagen 412.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      but generally I think there’s a link between a car’s ugliness and unpopularity and its inherent goodness. The reason many of these cars developed a poor reputation was due to fast depreciation or low initial price which meant that they often sold to people who resented doing or couldn’t afford to do the basic maintenance that any vehicle needs to stay on the road.

      Interesting theory.I can see it being a factor.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    91 Lumina Z34
    They’re rumored to be “Headgasket munchers” but I purchased mine used with 70k on the clock and flogged it for another 60k with the only major issue being a Power Steering pump.

    89 S-10 4.3l
    Another ride where the HG was supposed to self destruct early and often. Bought it used and beat the tar out of it from 55k to 130k with the only issue being a blown front CV and an alternator.

    02 Cavalier LS “Sport Coupe”
    This car, according to the interwebz, was the worst car ever produced. EVAH!!!!11!!one!!eleven!
    The wife and I bought it new and the Ecotec 2.2/Getrag 5 speed never let us down, plus it was a decent handler to boot.

    88 Chevy Astro 4.3
    Not the greatest vehicle but for $100 I couldn’t pass it up. The original engine was never cracked open and that thing had 230k on it when I finally dumped it.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    “it’s possible for a first-gen Excel or Sterling 827 to survive like a Slant-Six Valiant sedan.”
    No. It’s not. The Slant-Six didn’t survive with “only routine maintenance”, it (warning, legend “not actually witnessed by me”) survived having it’s oil drained and being set running with a full tank of gas and a brick on the pedal. Eventually they ran out of gas…

    • 0 avatar
      windsormarxist

      I did see this in the flesh and it is true. The Aspen was shut off after 15 minutes when another spectator offered the owner $200 for it. It was the only car still running, its competition failing within the first 5 minutes. Oil added, it ran as sweetly as before. I can’t remember if coolant was drained though.

      I also don’t think a Rover 800 or Excel would do that, but you could probably get a similar effect from a Lada due to its equally over-engineered yet tolerance-deficient nature designed specifically to cope with abuse.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      I was given a 77 or 78 Volare 4dr slant six. It apparently dropped a valve or something as its check engine light would come on when it wasn’t at speed. When the oil pan was removed there were chunks of metal in it but it had kept running up until that point when we junked it due to the engine and body rust rot out.

    • 0 avatar
      ICARFAN

      No kidding, those old slant-six motors where a great design that got little or no respect back in the day.

  • avatar
    markholli

    My cars always seem to fail exactly where they’re supposed to. In my case, Consumer Reports may as well be an oracle. If it has a black or half-black dot next to it in Consumer Reports, it will go wrong.

  • avatar
    Marko

    My father had a 1983 Buick Skyhawk T-Type (non-turbo, automatic) that went over 250,000 miles in 13 years with no huge problems.

  • avatar
    StaysCrunchy

    I’ve got two:

    First one was a 1984 Pontiac Fiero. The Iron Duke never failed to start up first time every time, and the car never once burst into flames like so many people claim they “all” do. The only money I ever spent on that car was gas and a set of tires.

    Second was a 1985 Audi 5000. I thought my dad was going to have a heart attack when I brought that thing home. It already had 250k miles showing on the odo before I got my hands on it, and the only things I bought for it were a new radiator and the digital climate control head from a junkyard.

  • avatar
    vcficus

    That $3300 VW luxury wagon was my mother’s 412… metal flake bronze; lasted from 1973 or so to 1984 when we sold it to someone who wanted the fuel injected engine for their trashed out Beetle.

    Primary cause of death was corrosion from living in NE Ohio for a decade, no real issues apart from regular maintainence and she got a ticket for doing over 80 in it once! With the automatic!

    Even I wondered if the cop’s radar was calibrated properly…

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Apparently these 411/412 were quite fire prone. In the late 70′s my next door neighbor had one of these in yellow. She seemed to like it, reliable, roomy and good gas mileage. One day it burst into flames and the insurance company cut her a check for it. Oddly enough her boyfriend drove of all things a Renault 16 which he found to be quite reliable though he did have a parts car at home and relied on the local junkyard where they had a few.

      Around the same time a H.S. buddy had the 411 wagon. One night it burst into flames in a night club parking lot. I think the Type III Fastback/Squarebacks were far better.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      I had a 1974 VW 412 coupe up until 1980. Put 80K miles on it and had no problems except the paint peeling in the Texas sun. I bought it in Ohio without AC and I just couldn’t take the Texas summer so I traded it in on something I don’t remember except it had AC!

      I was not aware of the fire problem. I did have a co-worker with a Porsche 914 that had the same engine. One morning it caught fire in the company parking lot and burned to the ground.

  • avatar
    lowmanjoe

    My 2004 Nissan Titan. Bought new in Jan ’04, still running strong on the warp-prone original factory brakes (which, admittedly, ~90K miles of use will see the pads replaced and rotors re-surfaced/replaced inside of a year) and a rear differential that has not done anything resembling the grenades that have plagued the early Titans. The front CV axles have not popped out as they have on a lot of early Titans. Simple maintenance and some relatively mild mods have done much to keep her looking and running great after nearly 9 years, hard to think she’s that old already!

  • avatar
    ChiefPontiaxe

    My first car was a 1978 Olds Cutlass Supreme Brogham with the 260 V8(1st year of the smaller A body). My parents bought it new in fall ’77 and it was my first car. We sold it in 1985 with 120,000 miles. It barely gave us any problems, which I partly attribute to my dad working next to a mechanic, where he took it for frequent oil changes. In fact the only trouble with the car I could think about was some trouble with the ignition key, which required replacement of the lock cylinder. We also got 17 MPG in mixed driving.

  • avatar
    LennyZ

    Pictured is a Ln7. I had an EXP. The worst car I have ever owned. That coupled with horrible dealer service has sworn me off Fords forever. I will not even consider a Ford until they return the money I paid for that POS. My best was an 1987 Acura Integra. 170K with an alternator replaced ~120K and a clutch ~160K. Besides that nothing else wrong. A great running car. The engine was still tight and didn’t use a bit of oil. After owning that car it has been Toyotas and Hondas for me.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    While not mine I actually saw a Yugo driving down the road in Tampa last week. I live in Kansas City so those things surrendered to the rust Gods years ago.

    I had no idea any still existed.

    • 0 avatar
      windsormarxist

      That’s where I grew up and you’re right- I rarely saw them after the early 90s, but I do remember sitting in them in the showroom of Hallmark Dodge down on Metcalf, which was the Yugo dealer in Johnson County for a while. I think my parents still have the brochures I picked up. I don’t think it was rust that killed them though- it was mainly that they sold to non-car people who didn’t realise that the timing belt was a consumable item in the same way that a fanbelt was. If you didn’t change them at 40K, somewhere before 70K, bang- valves, meet piston. piston, meet valves. So easily preventable.
      The shop that worked on my Corvair in Lenexa also specialised in Yugos, and the owner swore by them. I think he purchased every one with a broken belt in the KC area and fixed em up or turbo’ed them.

  • avatar

    A 2003 Dodge Neon was and still is the best car I’ve ever owned. Its tiny front disks fade a bit in spirited driving, but other than that it out brakes, out turns, and out accelerates just every other car I’ve owned. There have been a few glitches, but nothing that the OBD2 key dance didn’t take you right to. The one time it returned home under tow the fix was to simply plug the transmission control connector back into the ECU. I’m looking forward to finding a 2000 or 2001 with 5-speed as a 24 Hours of Lemons ride.

  • avatar
    sdb8440

    1981 Buick Skylark with 2.8l V6, brown with a vinyl top. Got it 1994 from my now ex father-in-law who got it from his father-in-law. Drove it until 2003 when I parked as I bought a new vehicle. The only thing it ever needed was 3 water pumps, 1 battery, tires, brakes and fuel. It had 280,000 KM on it at that point and some body cancer on passenger side only. Nary a crack in the vinyl and the original windshield was still in place with no rock chips or cracks. Sold it to a friend of my dads who gave it to his dad, who drove it for another 4 years and 60,000 KM before someone T-boned him. In that time he replaced the water pump and battery and it was still going strong.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I don’t know if the Pinto was considered unreliable, but I’ve had three of them (’71 1.6, ’76 2.3, 80 2.3 Bobcat).

    The ’71 and ’76 were very reliable, but the ’80 was awful in every respect.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      My Pinto was red with a big Starsky and Hutch stripe. Early 70′s model, paid cash for it. Very reliable,especially considering it held up to teenage abuse. Traded it on a Prelude, I wanted a hotter car.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I saw a pristine 70s Pinto a few weeks ago at a diner I frequent. California, so rust hasn’t eaten the damn thing. You could tell the guy took amazing care of it — interior in great condition, exterior shined. I saw the guy leaving the diner — older white-haired gentleman who has probably garaged it well since he bought it new and now drives it mostly on Sundays.

      I bet his kids think he’s nuts and would complain about having to send it to the crusher when he bequeaths it to them, but I get it.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    1991 Pontiac Sunbird. Over 385,000KM I replaced a starter, ign. module, lock-up solenoid and heater motor. All relatively minor problems. My Lexus requires a steady diet of front suspension parts.

  • avatar
    Pan

    1974 TR6. Still running strong after 38 years. No major problems.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Funny that you reference the slant-six Valiant – those things wore like iron underwear.

    Not sure if it’s on the “all-time” worst list, but I bought a 1983 Chevy Cavalier Type 10 (the hatchback) with a 4-speed manual and drove it for 13 years and 180,000 miles before my wife demanded that I give it away. The most expensive (and only) major repair was replacing the clutch at 130,000 miles. Otherwise it was incredibly durable. I had friends who owned Cavaliers that weren’t, ahem, so good to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      I also had good luck with the 1984 version of the same car. 10 years, but only 84k. Sold it due to boredom and an excessively cluttered driveway. No rust, no head gasket failure; the worst problem I ever had with it was occasional FI sputtering, cured by changing the PCV. It sold for about 30% of original price. Not bad!

  • avatar
    tim850csi

    2002 B5.5 Passat, 2.8 V6 with the trusty 5sp automatic. Bought it with 50k on it 3 years ago (got it cheap which was good because I had been out of work for some time) and she now has 122k on it. Did the timing belt, a set of front breaks, and a CV joint. Only surprise repair that I had was the right bank was leaking small amounts of oil into the spark plug well, creating a short on the number 3 cylinder.

    Knock on wood she keeps going until this May when I will take delivery of a new ST. The first new car I have owned since I got a 2002 Jetta back in the day.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Another vote for the Chevy Celebrity. Mine was am 89 model that started out as a government sedan with HD everything–suspension, cooling and brakes. I bought it in 92 and it lasted until last year. Had less trouble with it than with my second generation Camry. That was a POS, with electrical issues. Never had any issues with the Celebrity, except for paint and weatherstripping. With it’s paint prolem, it had a hooptie look, but the weatherstripping is what killed it. I actually bought 3 of them at auction; I had 2 in my garage in the mid-90s and one to my in-laws.

  • avatar
    Hank

    160,000 miles on a Ford Windstar with the infamous 3.8L. Great roadtripper that never once left us stranded and could take on mountain grades without breaking a sweat; never a squeak or rattle. None of the transmission or head gasket failure that was common.

    According to CR, my 2000 Blazer should have been a dud, but when I sold it, it was like showroom new with 127,000 miles and it, too, was rock solid.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ve got a 4.7l V8 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab SLT with over 92K on the clock. I bought it new in ’02 going against all recommendations to avoid Dodge anything from family, friends and the interwebs in general. This truck has spent 95% of its life towing my 2,000lb boat all over Florida at 65 mph in 90 degree heat. Despite this vehicle collecting nearly all the black dots of shame in Consumer Reports its been perfectly acceptable and totally reliable. Only issues: the stock brakes sucked, some body computer that flaked out (causing the dash lights to flicker), a tranny solenoid that got stuck, a wheel bearing that squeaked and an A/C vent that broke. All told I’ve put less $2K into maintenance/repairs beyond the standard tires, battery and oil changes. That’s only $200 a year… I owned a Ford Ranger that required that much in repairs MONTHLY!

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      I know that the prior generation of Dakota 87 to 96 was well sorted out by the end of that run so if the 1997 to 03? version was just a redesign then it would be good too.

  • avatar
    fuldamobil

    I’m still driving a 78 Renault LeCar every day. Never fails me and it’s a real fun ride.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    a very-very-first year VW anything is supposed to be a nightmare, right? I bought a fresh-off-the-boat 2005.5(!) Jetta, base model, 5-speed, in 2005. Brand new chassis, electronics, engine, everything brand new.

    I drove the car 80,000 miles in 4 years. Repairs: well, there was a recall on the airbag sensor and one other thing. It chewed up rear brake pads (3rd set by 80k, still on original fronts.) I sold it to a friend.

    Saw him again recently, the car has 190,000(!!!) miles on it. Things replaced: brake master, gas cap, more brake pads. Burns 1qt/5000 miles (VW factory spec!) Original clutch.

    Car had Unitronic Stage 1 software, short shifter, poly dogbone, GTI rear swaybar, Neuspeed springs on stock struts (still not blown out at 190k!) and other various shit. Had a CEL for secondary air due to the ghetto rigged air intake with no port for that. But otherwise, no real problems whatsoever in 190k miles.

  • avatar
    geo

    I bought a 1990 Corsica with 200,000 kilometers, and drove it for five years, putting another 140,000 kilometers on it. The only repair I had to make during that time was an alternator (and several rounds of brake pads and rotors). It had the 3.1 in it, which I’ve since heard was a not a reliable engine. I found it to be torquey and reliable, with fantastic gas mileage.

    We’re now driving a 2001 Suzuki XL-7, which is supposed to have “spotty” reliability. We’re into our fifth year without any problems other than the downstream O2 sensor throwing the check engine light.

    Our 1999 Venture was a complete, unreliable pile, even with somewhat low kilometers.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The 3.1 liter V6, not to be confused with the later 1994 on up 3100 engine was actually pretty reliable overall as it didn’t suffer the intake problem that the latter engine experienced, had a pretty stout bottom end and didn’t spin to a very high RPM to hurt it’self. Still like most any aluminum head engine if you overheat it a few times say goodbye to those heads.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I drove a 94 Escort up to 220K on most of the original running gear, including the clutch. Got close to 40 mpg right to the last day I had it. It still had AC, and started every time. I see it every once in a while, the buyer’s brother lives up the street from me.
    There are quite a few of these survivors on the road, the junk yard examples are either wrecks or automatic transmissions. This vehicle was not recommended by CR when new but became one of the very few domestic models recommended as used by CR after 5 years

  • avatar
    smartascii

    We got a 98 Mirage from a girl whose idea of maintenance may have been to drive it near the Jiffy Lube. The timing belt snapped at 190k (I assumed that it had been replaced at 100k, though the mechanic said not), but after resetting the timing and slapping on a new belt, it was fine. I’m pretty sure that when it got traded in at 230k it had no rubber in the motor mounts and was running on a single working CV joint, but it never broke down. All the electrics worked, and the HVAC would put many new cars to shame.

  • avatar
    kwbuggy

    1976 Mercury Monarch. 250 ci straight six. It pinged like crazy just cruising at 60mph The dealer was never able to fix the pinging despite multi visits even high test gas didn’t cure it. Not as bad as my 1990 Dodge REliant. It needed a new head at 115K km an had a habit of stalling at cruise on the highway,traded it on a Nissan Micra which ran flawlessly for almost 200K km.

  • avatar
    redseca2

    I drove my 1972 Peugeot 504 from Eugene, Oregon to NYC and back in 1976 and all it needed was a quart of oil.

    But it wasn’t as reliable as the 1963 Jaguar XKE I had before I got the Peugeot. The only work I did on the Jag was change the oil and plugs, and litle cosmetic things – and the time I pulled the entire exhaust assembly off when I drove over a tree root three hours before a buyer was picking it up.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    My dad’s windstar , coming up on 16 years old no garage ever lots of rocksalt potholes subzero temperatures and 165k miles. Things were replaced as needed but just all the usual consumables. All recalls done, no blown head gasket grenanaded transmissions and the rear axle is attached to the car.

  • avatar
    rjones

    (I’ve posted about this before, but what the hell…)
    1989 Vanagon Westfalia, second owner, bought in 1996, currently at 210,000 kms, never stranded me, original transmission (never rebuilt), original engine lasted 180,000 kms with no head gasket leaks.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    I once had a 1979 Plymouth Horizon. But not just ANY Horizon. This one was the highly sought-after TC-3, a rakish fast-back version of the VW Rabbit-wannabe shitbox, but with .0005 lower coefficient of drag, making it a true sports car. No wimpy automatic transmission either. Mine was a MAN-ual transmission (for REAL men, dontcha know). With roll-up windows, a cigarette lighter that actually worked (I didn’t smoke, but it came in really handy for toasting ants) and red vinyl upholstery. This car did zero-to-60 in 5 seconds flat, got 80 miles to the gallon, was the ultimate chick magnet and had over 400,000 miles on it with nary a wrench put to it. Original brakes too….

    And then the phucking alarm clock went off.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Were it slightly later and a Shelby, with a little tuning a 5 second 60 was easily in reach. No dreaming required.

      As to mileage over 20 and living beyond 150K, go back to sleep….

  • avatar
    Mark_Miata

    I used my 1977 Triumph Spitfire for years as my daily driver before I got my Miata, and I still have it as a weekend car to drive at British car club events. Never failed to start and run, despite having almost 90,000 miles, and it still has the original electronic ignition. Must have been made on a Wednesday around 10am…

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Have to tell another slant six story. A neighbor took his daily driver Valiant to the shop to ( fix that exhaust pipe rattle ) they told him to bring it back in a week as we are very busy. After another week of driving to work the shop fixed the rattle with 3 quarts of oil. One tough motor.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    Mare-Coor Ex Are Four Tee Aye.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve owned Pintos, Yugos, J-bodies that have all discredited their reputation. I’ve known folks with cars with allegedly sterling (not Sterling) reputations that were total junk.

    I swear, it’s all one big crapshoot.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It isn’t even close to being a crap shoot. There have been models where a third or half of their first owners were miserable due to quality and engineering issues and the rest took a bath on resale because of them and there have been models where the odd lemon was the rare exception. Not a crap shoot at all.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Growing up, my parents had a 1994 Chevy Lumina APV dustbuster van. They kept it for something like 12 years and drove it all up and down the Eastern seaboard. To this day, they claim it was the best family car they ever had, and I know my dad wishes he still had it for things like going to gun shows and hauling pool chemicals.

    The U-Bodies were notoriously trouble-prone, but in over a decade of ownership, the only thing that ever went wrong with theirs was that the windshield wipers would sometimes lock up and stop working. The dealer was never able to trace the fault, but it was solved by keeping a coating of Rainex on the glass at all times. Dead reliable otherwise. I remember my father was quite surprised years later to learn that these vans had a bad rep, because he honestly had no idea.

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      He’s not the first one. Many, many people had great luck with these vans even though they weren’t “supposed to”. Sometimes I wonder if the looks affected the public perception a little too much.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        It seems to actually work in reverse up here. I still see dustbusters roaming the streets. Probably by virtue of their rust-free bodywork, they actually have a fanbase and are kept alive. That is, until the salt eats the front suspension mount points away.

      • 0 avatar
        rmmartel

        I always believed much of the grief the “dustbuster” design received was because it came from GM, and GM wasn’t supposed to build weird-looking vehicles like that. Same design from a foreign manufacturer likely would not have received so much criticism. As if the Previa looked so main-stream at the time.

  • avatar
    CorLex300

    All my cars have been known reliable and been reliable in practice, But one of my oldest and closest friends has had a few good ones.
    He is a man who doesnt like to spend money on cars. He has a passion for utter beaters, and he has had surprisingly good luck! Him and i have always liked to wrench together and i have helped him with all his miserable heaps. We have been known to keep his cars on the road with cheap aftermarket or used parts, home depot grade hardware and lots of mechanics wire and zip ties.
    1996 Ford Explorer sport 2 door w/ 4.0L “Cologne V6″, 4WD, automatic. Bought for $1500 with 120k on it. It was decent when he bought it, but became rather derelict after a few years of projects we started and never finished, hooning and abuse and a ton of miles. It did just over 270k miles, original engine, trans, diff, etc. We put in an alternator, belts, did the oil every 3k changed fluids and filters,regularly, and other basic maintenance. Even the 4wd, power windows/mirrors/locks still worked towards the end! on the way to the junkyard it blew the transmission. We drove it in with only 2nd gear and he got $500 for it.
    He followed it up with a $250 95 golf sedan BASE model. Acquired with 190k with lots of rust, has survived 2 years and another 60k on basic maintence. This is still going as of now but he has recently acquired…
    1991 VW GTI 16V with 152k acquired for $2200 in good shape. We’ll see where this one ends up.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    1988 Ford Bronco II with the head cracking 2.9. Only mine never cracked the heads or broke anything else to speak of. In 350k+ it got one 5 speed transmission rebuild, a rear ABS module, 2 clutches, tires, a couple mufflers, and front brake pads and 1 set of rear shoes.

    1995 Saturn SW1. Had the oil injesting saturn 1.9 SOHC motor. Yes it used a quart or so between oil changes almost from new. It was still using that same quart at 250k and like the Bronco II, every option still worked as when new, though I had had to redo the headliner. It had to get an alternator, a piece of the wiring harness repaired, and a water pump in addition to the normal brakes and stuff. It still had the original clutch at 250k. All but the water pump was fixed under warranty and it was a 30 minute repair.

    On the flip side I had a supposedly bulletproof bubble Caprice (1991 I believe) that had the supposedly bomb proof TBI 305 which broke a ring land at 40k and required a new motor. My Land Cruiser’s straight 6 dropped a bearing into the oil pan at 250k which is supposedly as unheard of as the grenading Caprice motor but I attribute to a massive oil leak not being tended to by the previous owner. Upon digging through the service receipts I found I missed the one that said “Customer reports engine noisy…added 4 quatrs of oil”.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I had a 1994 Saturn wagon with the SOHC . I thought they were considered pretty reliable . I bought mine used , 2 years old with 60k miles for my wife but for a while we both drove it to work as we did different shifts, my wife got another car and I used it for delivery work , driving up to 200 miles a day . Main problems were , first the ignition switch , which I had hot -wired and some malfunctioning pollution gear that caused the odometer and speedometer to work off and on , but as it was a manual I just guessed at my speed using the tach . When some guy rear ended me after I had it a few years it had 275k and at least another 30k or 40k not recorded by the defective speedo . And the guys insurance paid me $3200 for it . As for the VW 412 , a buddy had a 1974 412 wagon he bought new and my own not – so – fond memories of it include during a trip to Mexico it broke down on the Reforma in Mexico City . A year or two later it burned up as I recall . On the other hand it was a comfortable car , and an interesting comparo with the 1970 Squareback I owned at the time , which handled better but was a bit smaller .

  • avatar
    manbridge

    74 911 with only the exhaust guides replaced being any major work in last 39 years.

    Need to fix a few oil leaks and get it into therapy to address its hurt feelings due to Baruthian death rays.

  • avatar
    Brahms

    Bought a 1980 Fiat Brava new and drove for 125000 miles with almost zero problems. Still looked and drove like new when I finally sold it. I wish I still had it. Wonderfully balanced handling sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      I’ve had 3 X19s as a much younger man and all made it to over 100K with nary a problem. (I did have to do an alternator once.)

      In a sea of domestic dreck, Bravas and other good looking Euro cars were the only reason the late 70s weren’t the worst car times ever.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      My brother had one of those that he got cheap new (maybe an 84?), really good deal and a very nice car.. unfortunately some crazy driver hit him in front of our house and totaled it like a pretzel.. on close inspection all the body panels joints were rusted!.. nothing showed on the outside but it was cursed.. and this was a practically new car in salt free and warm Miami.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        If you didn’t maintain them, even an 80s Fiat would rust like a early 70s American car. I never had any probs because my cars all got washed, garaged, and and I’d fix any rust blooms as they popped up.

        But I’ve seen some that were as close to rolling rust as any mid 70s Chebby truck or Honda Civic.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I used to own a ’97 Cavalier coupe (a “Z22″ according to the sticker on the side – one of my friends would joke that it was the true enthusiast’s version, being better balanced than the big-block Z24) that I drove from 195k kms up past 250k kms. In that time, the only real repair I did was a CV joint, and gave it consistent oil changes. Granted, something in the fuel system was going a little wonky when I got rid of it (because I got a newer Hyundai Accent free), but it was fine once it warmed up and as long as I drove it every day.

    Cheap and nasty inside, but it wasn’t terrible looking, and with the 5-speed and a sunroof, it pretended to not be a complete penalty box. I also got as high as 37mpg, although I’d more consistently see 33-34mpg.

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    I still drive a 96 S-10 I bought new. It’s got 333,000 on it now. the 4.3 V6.
    There are half dozen of these trucks in the parking lot where I work, and it isn’t that big of a lot.

  • avatar
    Maseraudi

    Daily commute (40 miles) in a 1986 Maserati Biturbo with the double barreled weber carb from hell> 4 months trouble free in 2006…Am I the record holder?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Naw, you’re just bragging ;)Many of us on here drove some cars back in the day that were so bad we just laugh now when we talk about them. I have Allen Edmonds shoes that cost more than some of 1st cars.

  • avatar
    typhoon

    My parents have a 1996 Audi A4 (2WD with the 5-speed Tiptronic auto and the 2.8 L 12V V6). The HVAC and stereo displays are unreadable, both the tachometer and speedometer have stopped working, the digital odometer went out ages ago (so no idea how many miles are on it now, but it’s well past 150k). It’s endured the heat of San Diego and Yuma, AZ and much neglected maintenance (still on the original timing belt, unless the previous owner changed it, and it’s been leaking oil longer than most people keep Audis at all). But somehow, it still runs perfectly and has a fantastic ride. In a weird way, it’s one of the most reliable vehicles they’ve ever had.

  • avatar
    Leatherneck

    I owned a 94 Range Rover and a 2000 Discovery. Both went well into the mid 100,000 mile range with zero issues. I attribute that to vigilant maintainence at the dealer every 7500 miles.

  • avatar
    mercuryman73

    I’ve had good luck with just about every car I’ve owned, EXCEPT FOR ONE,, which I will mention after I highlight the two most bullet-proof cars I’ve ever used and abused:

    The first “bulletproof car”: a 1983 Mazda GLC (the precursor to the 323). I bought it in the spring of 1991 (when I was a senior in high school) at 74,000 miles in near-mint condition for just under $2K. The thing had no balls whatsoever, it was probably the most underpowered import sedan ever made with a very feeble 1.5L engine, but my dad pushed me to buy it because it was a “gas-sipper”. Shortly after buying it, I decided that I hated it, so I set out to try to kill it. I beat on that car like there was no tomorrow…I would pile my friends in it, and just floor the gas pedal, and power shift through the gears. The fastest I ever got that car going was 87 mph on the highway, when it was loaded down with five of my friends (not including me), and I would throw it into third gear to pass people. I also used to jump over the train tracks to get air at about 65 mph on some back roads in my rural town I grew up in…Dukes of Hazzard style…and the car always held. I would start the car in the morning in 20 degree weather and take off without letting it warm up…I’d go through first gear until about 20 mph, hit the clutch, and it would stall, and I’d just throw it into 2nd, and floor the pedal. The thing always started on the first try. Aside from replacing the tires, and after two years of constant abuse and commuting to school (70 miles a day) and racking the mileage up to 122,000…I didn’t spend one dime on that car. When I finally had enough $$$ saved to buy another car, I let it go for $600…and the guy I sold it to drove it for YEARS after that.

    Second “bulletproof car”: 1989 Ford Escort. It was given to me in the fall of 1996, to replace the ’87 GTI I bought after I had the Mazda. (I had the GTI for 3 years, it had more problems than a Chinese math book.) I got the ’89 Escort with 72K on it…drove it for 5 years until it had 167K on it. All I did was replace a full set of tires, have a brake job done, and replace a fuel pump. At 167K, the oil pressure sending unit failed, and the head gasket warped, causing it to piss anti-freeze. A vial of stop-leak cured the head gasket, and a new sending unit fixed the oil leakage. I sold that car for $500 in the spring of 2001. I saw that car still on the road about two years ago.

    Most UNRELIABLE car I’ve owned: 2001 VW Golf. I had that thing in for more warranty service and got more recalls on it than Lindsay Lohan has run afoul with the law. :-P

  • avatar
    waltercat

    Unbelievable as it may be, I bought my 1991 Audi 100 new, and after a horrible year of warranty issues – mostly minor – the car straightened up and was perfectly reliable until I sold it to a friend after 7 years and 120K miles. It was comfortable and handsome and pretty much did what it was supposed to for a good long time.

    But Murilee – did you REALLY buy a Peugeot 504? I thought you would have known better! I had one, too – a standard-shift 1970 sedan – and whenever I dream about it, I wake up screaming.

  • avatar
    Egroeg1000

    My mother and aunt bought a 92 Plymouth Reliant wagon and Dodge Aires sedan respectively. I kept hearing about how horribly unreliable these vehicles were, but this pair kept chugging along. My cousin destroyed the sedan during his teenage years, but the wagon ended up handed to me when mom upgraded to the next vehicle. Had that car for years. Still wish I had held onto it sometimes.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Dads 1984 Olds Cutlass Ciera Brougham sedan with the Tech IV. Bought it with 50K miles from a co-worker and drove it until it had 224,000 miles on the odometer and it still ran like new! The A/C quit around 120K, the valve cover seemed to develop a leak every couple of years and the EGR valve crapped out twice but other than tuneups and the usual fuel injection cleaning service and spark plug changes etc it was very reliable, always started right up, even in 30 below zero temps, got reasonable mileage and the engine/transaxle was newer out of the car. CR panned this very car with many black dots for poor reliability. It was anything but.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    1994 Audi 90 with 2.8 V6 engine. Bought it with ~ 30K on the clock and managed to put 50K+ on it of completely trouble-free miles.

  • avatar
    SaturnV

    2001.5 Passat with the 2.8L V6. I bought it new and proceeded to put ~130,000 miles on it over 10 years before trading it in. The only non-maintanence items repaired were a broken wheel speed sensor (bad part) and an oil pan (due to a horribly misshapen speed bump). It was otherwise flawless in all respects. What’s slightly sad is that, although my own experience was near perfect, I could never bring myself to recommend VWs without the caveat that ‘my car was great, but statistically they have more problems than other cars…’ Also, dealer maintenance was seriously expensive – the best thing I ever did for that car (and my wallet) was find a good independent service shop specializing in VWs.

    -SV

  • avatar
    AmcEthan

    my 1994 dodge dakota made it too 480,000 before i sold it for $2000. i was told that the dodge transmissions sucked. i never had to replace it or do any maintnents to it or the engine.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    1995 Mk3 VW GTI VR6. Bought new and driven to 205k. The Mk3 got a bad rap but the only problems I can really remember having with it were the failure prone “6 pack” coil (the plastic cover cracked and arc’d when wet), a window regulator, and a sticky idle control valve. I drove the hell out of it and it kept on ticking. Very easy to work on and maintain. I kind of miss it sometimes.

  • avatar
    Helfrichi

    Geo Storm. bought it with 60k, at 64k it completely rusted out. Pretty good for them I think.

  • avatar
    Power6

    1990 Sunbird – bought with 102k miles it was in great shape. Junked it 7 years later with ~225k when the head gasket kicked second time, rust spot was about to get the unibody. I did do the head gasket once otherwise it was typical maintenance and it served me well day after day. Drove it for a good 10k with the head gasket blown and bubbling through the coolant reservoir it just kept on going.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    My aunt and uncle bought an ML320 in its very first model year and held on to it for 10 years; the only reason they ditched it was to get a newer vehicle (an MDX, incidentally) with more tech features, e.g. Bluetooth, navigation, etc. Another of my uncles now uses the ML320 as his daily driver after buying it for a song from the aforementioned uncle. As far as anyone has told me, the vehicle has seldom needed more than basic, routine maintenance. The one who drives it now is a pretty thrifty guy; I’m sure he’d sell the ML if it became a drain to his pocket.

  • avatar
    sray_ATL

    One thing I have learned from my dad is this. How you drive has more to do with longevity than how you maintain your vehicle. He has a weird philoshy on maintaining his vehicles. Do the absolute minimum maintenance possible for the first year or two, before switching over to the “manufacturer’s schedule”. He has had remarkable results from this. For instance a 1995 Olds Cutlass Supreme with 227k on it when he traded it in, a 2001 Old Alero with 201k when the passkey system died, and most remarkable a 1987 V6 Plymouth Voyager that had 349k on the odometer in 1997 when he allowed me trade it in for my next car. The funny part is the speedo cable was broke for 2 years, so there is no telling how many miles it really had on it. I even drove that van for a while when my fairly new Nissan was in the shop again. The Chrysler dealer near my work had a $12.99 oil change special for loyal owners (aka come in so we can sell you another vehicle), it was also the dealer where dad bought the van a decade earlier. I pulled the van into the service drive, waited my turn, then pulled in to the oil change bay. The normal conversation began, “what are you in for today?, Has this vehicle ever been here for service before?, blahh balhh blahh”. “Oh sir how many miles does the vehicle have on it?”, I looked down and read him off something like 330,000 miles. You could have heard a pin drop. I went into the “Customer Lounge” and when i looked out the window to the service drive there were like 5 guys taking turns looking at the odometer. It was a priceless moment. My dad currently has a 2003 Silverado with 180k+ on it, it’s on the 3rd set of tires, it looks almost new except for a little paint oxidation, and of course still has the original brake pads. I guess there is something to be said for his “it’s all in how you drive it” statement.

  • avatar
    yeahright

    sray_ATL You hit the nail on the head, some vehicles are more apt to take a beat however than others…but overall if you put on your silk gloves on and drive your car in a civilized manner, keeping your lead foot off the pedal – the car will definitely last much longer, and maintenance intervals would be far apart from each other as well…I drive a 1989 Vw Fox with 280,000 recently starting to burn some oil due to worn out valve seals – relatively easy job in this vehicle if you have the tool and specs to torque everything back into place.


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