Question of the Day: What's Your Favorite Failure?
The annuls of automotive history are littered with all sorts of coulda, woulda, shoulda beens, and vehicles that were just plain wrong. The Edsel springs to mind. Weird-looking, pricey and built with 1957 technology (in 1958), Ford's Oldsmobile competitor was doomed from the get-go. Then we have the Volkswagen Phaeton, Gen Y's notion of what a failure should be. Unlike the Edsel, Piech's folly was quite handsome, mega-advanced, impeccably built and a decided bargain in the world of high end luxo-barges– especially when fully equipped with a [prodigiously thirsty] 444 hp W12. Its sin? Its badge. But Audi's Allroad is my favorite failure. It was the right car at the right time with the wrong consumers. The Allroad offered more off-road prowess than any soccer mom could need, more interior space than competitors' SUVs and came stuffed with a hot twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6. But Audi didn't stand by its wagon. These days its pushing its eyesore, mega-mouthed, gas-hog stretched Touareg, the Q7. Yippity doo da. Your fave?
Whenever I see an Aztek on the street, I wonder how long it took for the buyer's remorse to set in. I imagine the owner looking out to his or her driveway and saying, "aw, shit." -Matt
Basically the entire motley collection of eastern Bloc cars that arrived in Canada after glasnost. Of course, there's the obvious, the Lada. But there was also the ROC, an eastern European sports utility. Then there was the Dacia Vultura, a combination of an extremely dated Renault design combined with Communism's legendary build quality. And last, there's the one I had first hand experience with...the old Skoda. Think of it as four dour sedan based on a rear engined, air cooled design, with body panels containing a secret rust accelerant (I think it was something Russia developed to pour on NATO tanks to put them out of action in the event of war.) John Deere never put out anything this primitive. Add a complete absence of parts availability... Of course, returning the domestics... I find ther cars that I look at now that look like crap BUT I can sort of forgive them knowing that at the time their awfulness probably didn't stand out. One exception is the 1962 Dodge Dart and it's Plymouth equivalent. They are awful...period. Oddly enough, as recently as 10 years ago I saw a 62 Savoy 2 door sedan at a used car dealer in upstate NY. I was almost tempted to buy it as a curio. Of course, the 60 and 61 were appallingly ugly as well. This may be an urban myth, but I remember reading that the 61 had those odd side mounted tail ligths because it was well into the design process and they still hadn't worked tailights into the design, so they hastily added a side mounted design based on a contemporary flashlight. Sounds bogus but...have you seen the car?!
Ingvar, "Poor build quality, high on the ground, quirky styling, only 4-cylinder, and no rag-top. And it was based on the very humble Morris Marina underpinnings. Could it be any worse?" Point of order here 1. The car was available in V8 2. There was a full convertible version 3. It had no relation whatsoever to the Marina (apart from door handles and some versions that were fitted with a derivative of the Marina four speed). It did have a lot in common with the SD1 Rover however. Not that I like the vehicle, but in the context of mid-seventies cars it is a long bow to call the styling "Quirky".
I'll go with the Lancia Beta series. They sold this in the US starting in about 1975. Great car, semi-exotic looking exterior and a beautiful Italian leather interior. The Beta Coupe was a great 3-series alternative, and the Beta Zagato was a unique 2-seater convertible. Not to mention the very fast Beta HPE (high-performance estate) 'shooting brake' hatchback. Except... the electrical system was *worse* than the Lucas electrics inside Jaguars of the time, and uh, Fiat forgot that we get snow in the northeast, which is where most of them ended up being sold. And snow means salt... and salt means rust, especially on a car without rustproofing! They never fixed the electrical issue (Americans like their cars to you know, actually start), and it took them until about 1980 to fix the rust issue. Didn't help Lancia's reputation, and sadly they withdrew in about 1983.