Question of the Day: What Was the Worst 1982 Car Sold In America?

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Last weekend, while I was helping to run the seventh annual 24 Hours of LeMons Fall South race, I got into a debate with LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm over which team should get the accomplished-the-most-with-the-worst-car trophy, the Index of Effluency. The 1982 Renault Fuego Turbo of Interceptor Motorsports, which made its debut at that race, managed to turn 19 laps during two days of racing (the winner did 377 laps) and finished 105th out of 110 entries. My opinion was that the Fuego Turbo was the worst car sold in the United States in 1982 and thus Interceptor Motorsports deserved Index of Effluency recognition for their achievement, but the Chief Perp felt that plenty of Detroit-built cars from the Malaise Era were even worse. In the end, we gave the prize to a 1979 Wagon Queen Family Truckster (which finished in P73), but I still think that you’d be hard-pressed to find any 1982 model-year car that approaches the Renault Fuego Turbo for across-the-board terribleness.

To avoid veering off into tangents about production-run-of-27-cars oddball stuff or non-car abominations such as the Comuta-Car, cars to be considered must be 1982 model-year vehicles sold in at least four-figure quantities in the United States. So, with 32 years of hindsight, what was that profoundly bad car, the biggest mistake you could make when car-shopping in 1982? The Fiat Strada? The Chevy Citation and its siblings? The Cadillac Deville with V8-6-4 engine? The Datsun F10? Ford EXP? You decide!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Vcficus Vcficus on Sep 28, 2014

    X cars are automatically better than Shove ettes because they have some room and the seats are not bolted to the road... the Chevette is truly one of the worst executions of car in a mass market sense. The problem is you COULDN'T 'gladly drive' one of the Renaults or Fiats because they wouldn't start. I had a Fiat Strada loaner (!)in the late 80s because my 1976 Buick Regal needed work... each day something else went wrong, from HVAC to lights to the final no start ending of the relationship. Car did ride and handle far better than US compatriots... it just didn't start.

  • Pb35 Pb35 on Sep 28, 2014

    I don't know, my first job in 1982 was as a parts delivery driver for an auto parts store. We had 2 Chevettes to make deliveries in, an '81 and an '82 Scooter. Sure they were slow and sounded like a blow dryer, but those cars sure could take a beating. Neutral drops, handbrake turns, jumping curbs, you name it, we tried it. The shove-its took it all with aplomb and then some. They were eventually replaced with Mazda pick-ups with a 5-speed. See my post at the top of this thread for the Fuego, definitely gets my vote.

  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."
  • Jeff Does this really surprise anyone? How about the shoes and the clothes you wear. Anything you can think of that is either directly made in China or has components made in China likely has some slave labor involved. The very smart phone, tablet, and laptop you are using probably has some component in it that is either mined or made by slave labor. Not endorsing slave labor just trying to be real.
  • Jeff Self-driving is still a far ways from being perfected. I would say at the present time if my car took over if I had a bad day I would have a much worse day. Would be better to get an Uber
  • 2manyvettes Time for me to take my 79 Corvette coupe out of the garage and drive if to foil the forces of evil. As long as I can get the 8 track player working...