Question: Notoriously Unreliable Cars That Were Bulletproof For You?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
question notoriously unreliable cars that were bulletproof for you

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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  • Sray_ATL Sray_ATL on Dec 31, 2012

    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.

  • Yeahright Yeahright on Mar 23, 2013

    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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