By on December 5, 2017

1992 Geo Metro, Image: public domain

As so often happens here at the TTAC ranch, our collective venom turned itself loose on an undesirable car last night. The object of these barbs, hurled in the private confines of our Slack chatroom, was the lowly Fiat 500. The new iteration, not the endearing Italian classic.

While driving a 500 shortly after its launch, I recall cocking my head to the right. Why? The roof was in the way. That’s how insanely outsized I was for a turn behind the wheel of this mass-market vehicle. I felt like Homer after he visits Crazy Vaclav’s Used Car Lot in that episode of The Simpsons. There was no doubt in my mind that the 500 could go “three hundred hectares on a single tank of kerosene.”

Of course, the cramped cabin was only half the story. Another pressing issue, one solved by the addition of an Abarth model, was the 500’s absolute dearth of power.

To quote the late, great Bud Lindemann, that thing couldn’t punch its way through a wet Kleenex. What was the last car that offered torque in the two-figure range?

During this completely random takedown of the Fiat 500, I couldn’t help but recall my first car — a very lacklustre car with a very lacklustre engine. A 2.2-liter Plymouth Sundance. The thing is, despite the base Sundance’s 93 horsepower, the thing never felt slow around town. All thanks goes to that unit’s 122 lb-ft of torque. It was all bottom end. Any inkling of performance evaporated on the highway. With a five-speed stick, I regularly burned rubber in second gear. Not a chirp, but an actual full-on strip of freshly laid rubber. (Installing the cheapest tires imaginable helps anyone reach this goal.)

Next to a Fiat 500, that Sundance may as well have been a Hemi-powered Charger. And of all the cars I’ve owned, that old Plymouth definitely ranked last in terms of power.

Only a lucky few of us have escaped having to own something decidedly lacking in get-up-and-go. A slug. A real dog. Something that can’t get out of its own way. And displacement isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all. Your slowest vehicle may have come equipped with a massive boat anchor of an engine that underwent unsuccessful surgery at the smog clinic. A detuned beast of a thing, far removed from its high-compression, leaded gasoline glory days.

So, let’s talk. What was the slowest, pokiest vehicle you ever owned? And just how bad was it?

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125 Comments on “QOTD: How Slow Can You Go?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    My father bought a very used 1971 ZAZ 966 Zaporozhets in the late 80s, mostly to be able to sign up to build a garage in the garage co-op (you had to prove ownership of a car to participate), mostly for the root cellar and storage capabilities of said garage. But back then owning a car, any car, was pretty prestigious. The 966 had the enlarged 1.2L 40hp cast iron air cooled V4. they’re actually decently peppy (relative to more powerful Ladas and Moskvitches) away from a traffic light owing to a nice fat torque curve biased down low, short gearing, and low weight. But it quickly runs out of steam. Practically speaking, cruising speeds on what constituted the main highway (M52) from Novosibirsk to Biysk constituted 45mph on paved sections, with engine off coasting down hills to let the engine cool.

    Anything after that is obviously an upgrade. My dad waxes poetically about our first car in the US, a rusty ’82 Civic Wagon 5spd that he said felt like a sports car after the Soviet iron, with a slick shifter, smooth engine, and fantastic handling (again, relatively speaking).

    Me personally, I started driving in our ’90 Civic wagon with the throttle body injected D15B2 and an automatic. Just fine around town although obviously I wished for more power and more than anything else, a manual transmission. The DPFI fuel injection system had some pretty annoying lag from when you pressed the accelerator to when the engine would react.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I will say, I also owned a ’98 MPV Allsport that was definitely rather underpowered. 4050lb curb weight with all the 4wd hardware and moon roof, etc. But an aging 155hp/169ftlb 18 valve 3.0L V6 left over from the van’s launch in ’89, and a 4spd automatic that tried to lock up the torque converter at 40 mph. The gearing was fairly short to try to make the most of things, but it really was a dog climbing hills at highway speeds. Even my ’96 4Runner with the 183hp/217ftlb 3.4L V6 feels substantially more powerful and less strained, the big difference you can feel is that extra 50lb ft or so of torque, placed down low by the Hino folks that engineered the 5VZFE for Toyota. This allows for taller highway gearing and easier hill climbing with fewer kick-downs, and even better MPG. The 4Runner is also about 300lb lighter I suppose.

      • 0 avatar

        Poor old 929 engine.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          There was a DOHC variant of that JE 3.0L motor, the JE-ZE that made around 200hp. I wonder how it would have done with that? Probably not much better in around-town driving, I’m assuming most of that power bump came at high RPm from better breathing in the DOHC head. The Jatco rwd-automatic trans shared with Nissans of the era meant that bolting on a Nissan 300ZX twin turbo motor would be possible, and that’s exactly what one guy on the MK1 Mazda MPV forums did!

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      I had a friend who was very smart, and for that reason he drove a ZAZ. He demonstrated to me in the streets of Moscow that it’s more important to pick the correct lane for passing than having the HP. Having driven Volvo 240 for a few years, I’d say he was right.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Chevette.. I cam still recall kicking the thing down to merge on the on-ramp. The motor would roar and I’d barely inch forward. I don’t know how diesel Chevette folks managed.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Slow as the Chevette was, imagine it after 25 years of deferred maintenance – I used to drive a fleet of them, some were incapable of accelerating from 45 to 60mph (although they’d get there if you did it from a stop), some took about a half hour to warm up in winter (and they were basically undrivable til then), but none of them could easily outaccelerate an 18-wheeler.

    • 0 avatar
      kcflyer

      86 chevette. Or “the vette”. pull into the gas station, fill up the oil and check the gas. 0 to sixty, same day.

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      Most of the surviving Chevettes in Western Canada were consumed ice racing.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Vauxhall Viva. This had, for a pommy car, a large engine (1.2L – most of the others of that class were about 850 cc) but was _amazingly_ gutless. Like you would have to throw it down to third to get over a mild rise in the road. Anything like an actual hill would have you screaming along in second. An 850cc Morris Mini would be miles away by then.

      GM has this weird predilection for putting really high final drive ratios on their vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      My mom had an ’81 Chevette that got her through the decade between her divorce from my dad and when her career put her in a position to buy somewhat nicer cars. On the steeper freeway hills around here, it couldn’t maintain speed, and would gradually drift down to about 40 mph.

      My weakest car was its replacement (which I eventually ended up owning), an ’88 Accord. It didn’t have any excess power, but it could maintain freeway speeds uphill and never felt unsafe.

  • avatar
    NoID

    All of my cars have been relatively mediocre, but the most lethargic was probably the 1992 Pontiac Sunbird SE coupe I purchased for my wife after we married (only the best for my bride!) which I inherited when we moved to Michigan and I bought her a Mazda Protege so she could have a proper sedan.

    I don’t think I ever chirped a tire in that car, except for the time I knocked it into reverse on the highway. That was fun.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    ’78 Mazda GLC. The 1.2l motor could roast the skinny right rear tire if you clutch dumped it, but it was severely lacking in the ability to actually get up and move. Years after I got rid of it I discovered most first-gen RX-7 parts would bolt right in. A rotary swap would have been fun.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    It’s a toss-up between my 1988 Ford Aerostar or my 1992 Saturn SL2.

    Granted, the Aerostar had the 3.0L Vulcan putting out 145 ponies but it was more than half a ton heavier than the Saturn with it’s stable of 125 horsies.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Man your 92 Saturn was probably a rocket compared to my 92 SL. Bare bones with the SOHC TBI motor packing 84 horsepower. With the stick and manual steering though I really miss that car.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      My later 97 SL1 with the 100hp SOHC and an auto was probably my slowest though and least favorite to drive. I’d have to drag it against the 97 Hardbody auto I had to be sure though.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      Disagree on the Aerostar. Drove one for work –it was cargo version, so it was probably much lighter– but me and my coworkers never got over how much acceleration the Vulcan V6 gave. It was certainly a lot quicker than the GMC Vandura that was the other company van.

    • 0 avatar
      commeatus

      the DOHC saturns weren’t that bad. I’m still driving a ’97 that refuses to die and it’s plenty fine. they have the same power-to-weight ratio of an older miata, can tie a honda fit, and easily outpace any prius. not high bars, for sure, but not the worst thing you could drive.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    In the early 90’s we had a 87′ (I believe) Chevy (Suzuki) Sprint 5MT & AC! with the 3 cylinder motor. We had the four door version. Holy smokes, when myself (I was 6 ft + by 14) and my buddies loaded in and my mom would cart us around, we could race non restored air cooled beetles and JD lawn tractors only. My mom even figured out in the summer that when going up a hill turning the AC off was like hitting the turbo boost button from KITT. Now I would equate it to the ‘Go Baby Go’ button on Eleanor’s shifter.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      I rented a similar sprint in Florida – you literally had to turn off the ac to get any notion of acceleration. With the ac on, you just kind of gained momentum. I’ve had lots of cars with less than 100 hp, but that car was ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      TheEndlessEnigma

      At least yours had the 5 speed in it, I have an ’86 Sprint Plus(!), 4 door plus hatch with the 3 speed automatic. The car did not come with A/C but did have a radio with tape deck (3 speakers, 1 in the dash and 2 in the hatch), driver side view mirror only. If I remember correctly it was a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine cranking out 48 HP and a whopping 57 torque!

  • avatar
    grinchsmate

    1985 Suzuki mightyboy. 44Nm and 20kW, which is still a small number when you convert it.

    I just rely on it being bright yellow and hope the car I pull in front of brakes.

  • avatar
    spamvw

    78 Rabbit Diesel, 48 HP 58 Torques.
    85 Vanagon 83 HP 106 Torques.

    Both of them would run out of steam at 80 MPH. The downside is, you really have to think about pulling out in front of people on a four lane. The missed opportunities for merging is another things that slowed you down. Well that, and having to drive the Van in the right lane with the big trucks and flashers on up mountains.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      One of the memories from my childhood family vacations is the sound of our ’65 VW “Station Wagon” (Kombi) loaded with 7 people while pulling a tent trailer, struggling up the grade on a mountain interstate in second gear, with a very long line of angry drivers behind us.

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      I had a 78 Rabbit Diesel and I think about a third of the upshifts I ever made were at redline or at least when the torque dropped off. It was kinda fun to play boy-racer all the time and still not be very illegal.
      Ran the legs off of it, put used oil in it but what finally killed it was a suspension attachment point rust failure.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    1974 Superbeetle with a 2-speed semi automatic. Well, low + 2.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Ah yes, the famous A.S.S. (automatic stick shift).

      When my dad showed up with a brand-new 1970 A.S.S. Beetle, all I could think was “you got suckered”. He had promised to involve me (his car-guy-in-training son) in the car shopping process but one day, on the way home from work, he stopped at the Queens Village VW dealer and met a salesman from his home country and that was that.

      I learned to drive in it. My dad always used to berate me about using all three gears saying I was “racing”.

      One night that damned thing almost got me killed when a drunk ran a red light and I hit the gas to get out of his way. I didn’t quite make it and he clipped the left rear spinning me across Peninsula Blvd.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinB

      I had a ’69 Bug with the Automatic Stick Shift. I could tell that 90% of the little engine’s power was magically absorbed into that transaxle, never to be seen or heard from again.

      So I traded it in on a ’74 Z-28.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The slowest car I ever owned was also my first – a very-well-used ’65 Mustang convertible with the 200-inch six and three-on-the-floor manual. It struggled to reach 80. However, the slowest car I’ve ever driven was a 1964 VW Beetle.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My parent’s 78 Fairmont with the 200 cu. in. straight six was slow. Going up hills we would shift down to second to get a little more oomph. But it was mostly noise.

    My father traded that in for a 79 Datsun 510 which felt fast in comparison – but still it was slow.

    My first car – a 74 Gran Torino was slow – despite decent torque it still was a lumbering beast. But, as my first car, I still look for clean examples for sale. Why? I don’t know.

  • avatar
    DM335

    I can’t say that I owned it or even wanted to, but for a short while I drove a new 1982 Isuzu P’up (their name for the Pickup) with a diesel engine. Nothing was fast in 1982, but a small diesel pickup truck was slower than slow. Waiting for the glow plugs to warm up meant it was even slow to start. At least it was red.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Erm? Where were you that you got to drive one of those? I had the opportunity to drive two different ones… the only difference being the engine itself, gas instead of diesel for the second one. Maybe not fast but they sure could haul things.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      My dad had an ’85 diesel P’up. It liked to eat alternators and desperately needed power steering, but otherwise it was a good little slow truck.

      On a similar topic, my slowest ride is the Cummins 12v automatic. It feels like driving a tugboat: lean on the go pedal and the message is eventually relayed to the engine room where momentum is steadily attained via some indeterminate process.

  • avatar
    incautious

    1955 VW BUG with wait for it….. a whole 30HP. This was to be the biggest POS I ever owned. No heat, cant defrost the windshield, window washer powered by spare tire air( real fun when you get a flat and your spare tire is also flat because of this feature). Oh and lets not forget that when someone would sit in the back, the METAL seat frame would contact the battery and short out the entire electrical system. AH the good old days. I would move up to a 1965 valiant 170 slant 6 101Hp. It felt like a Ferrari compared to the VW

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      I also had a 1955 VW Type 1 which the family owned from 1955 to 2008. By the late 1990s the original engine (74K miles) was a little tired. Originally was rated 30HP and 56 ft/lb torque. 55lbs/bhp. Anything over 55 mph felt squirrelly and a modest hill at 60 mph meant loosing speed.

      Mine was euro version so no windshield washer. Phillips vacuum tube radio with AM/SW band. Semaphore turn signals. Fabulous OEM wool carpeting on side channels and seats which lasted 50 years. Canvas sliding sunroof. Always garaged inland with no salt on roads so no rust. Paint and chrome pretty good. Enameled Wolfsburg badge looked like new.

      The most frustrating thing was the lack of synchro in the transmission. In traffic you learned to match engine speed to vehicle speed before down-shifting into first. You had to do that or come to a complete stop since the lack of torque meant starting from 5 mph or less in second gear was a no go.

      Sold to a collector in 2008 for about 20X original price since it was in good to excellent condition, had original bill of sale from Frankfurt and all numbers matched. It looks like the price for a similar example has about doubled in the last 10 years.

  • avatar
    2012_117

    A 2003 4 cylinder Chevy S10 with an automatic transmission. Big SUVs would be screaming by me whenever I merged onto the highway (A/C off, of course.) My brother in law called it “midget truck.”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    1983 Mercedes Benz 240D. 67 hp @ 4000 RPM, 97 lb ft of torque @ 2,400 rpm.

    Built like a tank, but MAN was it slow. Even having a manual transmission didn’t help. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been with an automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      revjasper

      They bumped the horsepower up from 62 back in 1981. I’ve owned both a 1974 and a 1977 240D. No automatics for me, I’m not that adventurous! Both cars would make it to 70mph given enough road, but neither could maintain that speed uphill.

  • avatar
    TR4

    My first car, a 1960 SAAB 93F. Three cylinder, 750cc two-stroke with 38 SAE gross horsepower. 14mph/1000rpm in top gear, maximum 70mph @ 5000rpm. 0-60 in 25 seconds. However this was comparable to contemporary Beetles, and would easily out drag my father’s 1970 VW bus. I liked to generate clouds of blue smoke by flooring it with a cold engine.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    The one car I regret ever buying: a 1974 AMC Hornet “Sportwagon” with a three-on-the-tree. It was DOT yellow, had a broken front seat frame and, at $200, was one of the most expensive cars I ever owned as I was spending $100/month on repairs and $300/month on Chiropracters. One day I came to my senses and ordered a Mustang GT which cost a lot less per month and, at the time, was one of the quickest things on the street,

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My then-GF-now-wife’s 1980 Honda Civic wagon with the 70hp(?) CVCC engine.

    My other car at the time, a ’87 Stanza with 99hp felt like a race car in comparison.

    My Toyota T100 was pretty slow – it didn’t like to go much faster than 70, though the 3.9n gears made for some decent starts with the 3.4L engine.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I had to get as much momentum as possible and furiously downshift my 1981 Mercury “Cougar” to try to get it over mountains. The car would literally almost come to a dead stop half way up. It wasn’t a real Cougar of course. My 1978 Mercury Monarch (with an anemic V8) was not much better. My commuter car (a 2011 Focus) is a Viper compared to these cars.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    I have owned some really awful cars, but they were not always the slowest. However, the Chevette takes the cake as both awful and slow. That thing felt like it was straining at 60.

    My favorite slow car? That would have to be the 1972 Toyota Corona I owned for a couple of years. It had a 4-speed manual transmission, since the original owner did not feel like plunking down the additional cash for the 5-speed. All that car needed to be great was a 5-speed – it was a gem otherwise.

  • avatar
    sgtjmack

    An old Ford Pinto with an automatic. It was so lame I don’t even remember the year model.
    I think my Farmall tractor was faster. I only had it a few months and sold it to my sister.

  • avatar
    stevejac

    We had an ’85 toyota minivan. Yeah, the one the driver sat on top of the engine. I don’t know the torque and HP number, but they sure were small.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Exactly how big are you that you had to cock your head over to see out of a recent-model Fiat 500?

    Why? Because my wife is six-foot tall and not small by any measure, yet she absolutely loved hers and if it weren’t for our need for an AWD/4×4 she could drive, we would still have it. She settled on a Jeep Renegade Anniversary Edition and traded the 500 in. No, she had no headroom issues and was quite comfortable in the car. I enjoyed it too as it was quite spritely, with snappy acceleration and incredible agility.

    But since you’re asking “how slow can you go,” who can forget the old 40hp VW Beetle of the 60s? Agile as sin, yes. And the old commercial about running through snow was pretty close to truth; the front wheels made great rudders with that lightweight front end. But fast? Unh, uh. Nope. Thing made an 18-wheeler look fast off the mark and maybe topped out at 75mph… going downhill.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I was wondering the same thing – I am relatively gigantic 300+lb 6’2″ gorilla of a male and I fit just fine in my Abarth, though I will say 500s with a sunroof have MUCH less headroom. I still miss that car. Just so completely silly and entertaining.

  • avatar
    bjarnetv

    Been driving a subaru domingo with 55hp (when new in 97) for a couple of years now.
    It’s actually just fine most of the time, though it can’t really keep up at highway speeds over 110kmh.
    it will happily stay at 4-5K Rpm for hours though, so no problems driving cross county as long as you can handle the noise.

    my renault super5 has 95hp with all the torque and power down low, so that feels like a rocket compared to the domingo, though it’s no better at highway speeds due to the gearing.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    1986 Dodge Aries 2.2L, 3-speed auto. Barely acceptable in normal driving, snail-like with the A/C on.

  • avatar

    A Suzuki Mighty Boy- its 23 horsepower 3 cylinder makes every slight incline known. With a top speed of only about 48mph, drives on major roads were daunting. Sorry, but anything with 50+ hp seems like a rocket by comparison

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Compared to some of these stories I should consider myself lucky. 25 seconds to sixty would get you killed on the freeway in 2017…

    My first car was a Vulcan-powered Taurus with the AXOD. Like Steph’s Sunny, it was all bottom-end. I don’t know what it did 0-60 but after the 60 part it ran out of breath like a Parliament-Light pack-a-day’er.

    I also had an N/A 2.2L Subaru Legacy, blessfully with a five-speed. It was a ball to drive as it was light (and the diffs had a tag on them with the numbers “4.11”) and it could be wound-out with a stick, but getting to 70 mph took an eternity on the 271 outside of Cleveland.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    ’91 4runner was pretty pokey, but the slowest car I’ve driven was my friend’s early 90s cavalier base motor. We “borrowed” it one night when he was sleeping and almost got run over trying to pull out onto a 55mph road.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Everyone already knows what I’m going to say – 1982 Chevy Celebrity with the 2.5 ltr Iron Duke (or 151 cubic inches as I would have told you as a 16 year old). 92 TBI HP! 122 lb. ft! – TH125 transmission. In the rain on Firestone Supreme tires I could make an impressive show of it. Utterly out of breath at roughly 60 miles per hour, nearly impossible to bury the needle on the 85 mph speedometer.

    Interestingly the slowest feeling car I ever owned was a 1997 Escort Station Wagon with the 2.0 SOHC (110 hp) engine and 4 speed auto. I loved the space and utility of the wagon but being out west and with interstate highways at my disposal it couldn’t cope with even the slightest incline and hold speed.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    ’92 Volvo 740 (non turbo) wagon. With automatic. Hella slow, but it was a great car anyway.

  • avatar
    gtem

    A common theme seems to by smaller displacement engines paired to older automatics. I’m sure a 1.6L Versa with a CVT would have really set the world on fire back then with a blistering 10-11 second 0-60 time. To think that some mainstream compacts with 4 cyls and autos can clip 7 seconds 0-60 is truly a sign of the progress made.

    My Lima 2.3L Ranger (110hp) really wasn’t too bad with the 5spd manual. Even hauling a load of soil in the back, I could accelerate up an inclined on-ramp up to 55mph without having to totally wring its neck. A trip out to PA through some WV and SW PA hills required some planning and downshifting and dropping below the speed limit, but hey it makes for some attentive and not boring driving.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Was? Did you sell it?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yep, traded up so to speak to a very clean single owner 2003 Pilot EX bought for almost nothing from a coworker (it needed welding near the rear subframe). Perfect comfy commuter for slick roads, never mind the unseasonably warm Fall we’ve been having. Sold the Ranger for $2500.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @gtem: My Ranger is 112 horses with the five speed. I had one thing modified which has improved both fuel mileage and acceleration: A manual switch in the cockpit for the AC compressor. Now it doesn’t run AC until I WANT it to run AC. No compressor on heat. No compressor on defrost (unless I switch it on,) and no compressor on the ‘face and feet’ setting… again unless I want it. Very poor design that every setting EXCEPT “Vent” and “Off” ran the compressor.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Agreed on the AC setup on the Ranger. I just pulled the power to the compressor, mine had a slow refrigerant leak. Drove it that way all summer, topped it off before the sale, it actually was blowing ice cold, made me wish I had revived it sooner for my commutes.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Ice cold is right! Even on the hottest days, if I’m running the AC for more than about 20 minutes, I have to kick heat into it to keep from getting downright cold. Truck could have used a cabin sensor that could modulate the AC compressor for temperature control and power demand from the engine.

          I’m lucky that my truck is practically brand-new (20 years old with only 25K on the odometer.) But it still lacks the one thing I really wanted… the extended cab where I could put tools and packages behind the seat when I’m carrying a passenger. Were it not for that, I’d have the drivetrain updated to a modern AWD configuration (preferably Jeep’s, with about 50% more horsepower and a three-diff AWD.)

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            That does indeed sound like a nice “dream” setup. Aside from my rotten core support, the reason I sold mine was that I was dreading winter commuting in it. A fulltime AWD setup in a compact truck would indeed be very neat. I think the closest thing we’ve come to that (aside from Honda’s Ridgeline) were certain trims of Chevy S10s and Colorados and I guess Explorer Sport-tracs with the “auto” settings that shuttle power up front once slip is detected. Not quite full time, but better than nothing.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    VW Superbeetle with semiautomatic transmission: a true terror when trying to get onto a freeway.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Only those of us who have consigned our very lives and fortunes to this most misguided of automotive
      ideas can truly understand that it, more than any other, is the slowest car of all.

      Especially when the windscreen frosts over from your breath and you get visibility that *almost* makes you forget about the lack of power.

      Fun fact: You can fit seven dressed-for-the-prom teenagers in one. The location of my friends date just over the shift lever made changing gears *interesting*, especially when she shifted position and engaged the electric clutch…

  • avatar
    raph

    Mid 80’s Chevette. Can’t really complain though. I bought the car for 75 dollars as I recall and drove wheels off the thing and after the brakes gave out ended up giving it to the maintenance guy at work and he fixed it up for his daughter.

    But yeah, abysmally slow…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My grandmother had a two door “Shove-it” while her real estate broker husband had a FWD Sedan DeVille with the 4100 (talk about a crap car two-fer).

      They were living in Florida and we borrowed it to go to the beach. Dad, mom, and my sister and I (we were firmly in our teen years). I told dad it made me think of what our John Deere 112 lawn tractor would be like if someone gave it an enclosed body.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Lol, sounds about right. My brother had one as well and somehow managed to get the thing to go 80.

        At that speed I kept looking for the glove box to pop open with Scotty’s face appearing and telling us He’s giving her all She’s got and any faster and she’s gonna shake apart.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    My very first car. 1969 VW Fastback (The sloped version of the Squareback). It had a fuel injected engine – a mechanical nightmare all on it’s own – AND an automatic transmission. The thing couldn’t outrun a bird – and I mean the kind with feathers.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I’m fortunate I guess, in that the slowest vehicle I every owned personally wasn’t that bad. 1990 Ford Taurus L with the optional 3.0 V6. My friend had a Taurus with the 3.8L and could routinely smoke me, but I was still doing better than the Taurui that made it out of the factory with the 4-cylinder. And, at the time, lots of folks were still driving slow 80’s iron, so I fit well in traffic.

    As for slowest vehicle regularly driven, I had a couple female friends in high school that hopelessly friendzoned me and I was too dumb to realize it, but we had some fun and hung out a lot, and one of them had a 1987 Tercel with an automatic tranny. Together, the three of us weighed around 500lbs and so driving it meant putting the pedal to the floor pretty much all the time. Many close calls because as a young driver my judgement was pretty bad. I vividly remember driving into town on the interstate and barely being able to make 70mph on flat ground. I will never willingly own or drive a vehicle that under powered again.

    • 0 avatar
      Junes

      Echoing SaulTigh’s story: For me it was a 1989 Toyota Tercel EZ hatchback. It was a stripper model, the cheapest car Toyota sold at the time. No radio, no A/C. (I installed both later when I saved up the money.) It had 78 HP with a 4-speed manual. The engine noticeably struggled the more passengers and cargo you had. My friends and I used to give it what we called a “turbo boost” when going on a highway onramp: we would turn off the A/C and the car would very mildly surge forward. It needed the boost with four passengers and their beach gear. Highway passing was an exercise in precariousness and recklessness. The engine buzzed and revved, and I ran the hell out of it. It was a great car for what it was, and especially what I could afford. I drove it 93K miles and it never needed a single repair. Regular oil changes and one set of tires is all I spent on maintenance. It was my “gateway drug” to Toyota products on that basis alone.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I had a 36hp VW bus. I could pass a semi going up the mountains, but it took awhile. 40hp Beetles were kept up with the 55mph speed limit. Then I got a 45 hp Sprite and had some fun. Now I have a 200hp TSX wagon that most people consider slow.

  • avatar

    The slowest thing I’ve had is probably the automatic, I-5 Audi 5000S. I think it had 115 horsepower, and considering it was 14 years old that figure was probably down to 100. Turn the AC on, and you’re at 85.

    And it’s a heavy car.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    1980 Oldsmobile Toronado diesel. Fine highway cruiser with 28 mpg economy but off the line it could be pokey.

    • 0 avatar

      Weren’t those engines super extra unreliable?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        If you were smart enough to install a water separator in the fuel line and the dealer techs actually knew what they were doing, it could be a strong lump.

        I knew a guy in the late 80s and early 90s who would specifically look for Olds diesels on used car lots because he had a “barnyard” engineering background in tractor diesel engines and swore by the fuel economy and durability of the Olds diesel. His favorites were the Delta 88s.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I purchased the Toronado back in 1988 from the original owner for $500. It had a Mr. Goodwrench rebuilt motor and a aftermarket water separator.

          With normal maintenance including oil changes and the factory fuel filter as well as the separator filter it ran fine for a couple of years. I also installed a rebuilt diesel only hydro boost that was starting to leak. Since diesel engines have no vacuum the brake boost unit is hydraulic running off of the power steering.

          I used it to commute to work and took a couple of road trips with it. A comfy luxobarge that got 28 MPG highway fit well in the late 80’s.

          Then one day the engine started to make an ungodly sound like a thrown lifter rod or rocker arm. It still ran so I knew it was not a broken piston rod. I thought about doing a gas conversion with a 307 or 350 Rocket V8 or even a Buick 4.1 V6 but I’d figure I’d move on to something else. I ended up selling it to a wrecking year where it was either converted or parted out. Over those two years the $500 car I put another roughly $500 into served me well.
          Overall I’d buy another E-Body anytime as a collector car. The T-Type Riviera was always a favorite.

  • avatar
    azmtns

    There have been a few in my life. The worst were a Datsun B210 and a Ford Pinto; both with auto and air. I swear you if floored it, they might make it to 60 in a mile.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    My Mom’s Taurus wagon with the Vulcan did 0-60 in 10 seconds. It felt smooth and responsive at half petal, but if you put the foot down it didn’t go any faster. The previous poster was correct, it really didn’t like going faster than 70.

  • avatar
    JMII

    While my ’85 Civic S 1500 hatch only had 90 HP, however it felt quick with the 5 speed at the time. By today’s standards its 11+ seconds 0-60 time would be considered laughable. At the same time my GF (now wife) had a Chevy Cavalier (a well known POS). I have no idea how much power that car had but I once floored it and it struggled to reach 80 MPH with the 4 speed auto.

    My ’96 Ford 4.0l V6 Ranger Splash while towing by boat pretty much topped out at 65-75 MPH. Thus passing was impossible and this was in ruler flat FL! I have no idea how anyone could tow with this setup in any place with even a remote amount of elevation change. At the time this same engine was in the Explorer a vehicle that clearly weighed more so that scenario seems scary. I replaced my Ranger with a ’02 Dodge 4.7l Dakota and the speed difference was night and day.

    My late aunt had a 1st generation Toyota RAV4 and my brother’s ex-wife had a 1st gen Honda CR-V. Both of these vehicles were a joke in terms of acceleration on the highway but seemed fine around town. The RAV4 was a rattle-trap, I still think its the loudest stock vehicle short of a Jeep Wrangler I’ve been in.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    Triumph tr7.0-60 was “leisurely”. Unfortunately,braking was similar, best described as “terrifying”

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    My dad’s employer, when I was a kid, was in a permanent bust-out condition. He was assigned company cars; a Pinto, Chevette (with a rear seat delete!) and a couple of Ford Fairmonts.

    The Fairmonts were always delivered in tan, with a brown vinyl interior, and dog dish hubcaps. I remember each of them was so painfully slow… loud as hell, but always straining to accelerate. You could hear the pitiful sound of the motor climbing the hill near our house. I don’t know how the heck he managed to merge onto the highway. In any event, the Fairmont was a step up from the Chevette to say the least.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Back in the 80’s, I knew a guy who had an 70+ mile round trip commute for work and he did it in a Chevette. I don’t know how he did it, especially in the hilly areas. The patience of Job, I guess.

  • avatar
    OzCop

    For me it was my first car at 16…a 49 Plymouth 4 door, flat head straight six three speed on the column with 98 hp as I recall. That was the late 50s during the era of Ford, Chevy, and Plymouth with hp in the 200 plus range and some with 4 speed manuals. I had inherited the car from my grandfather with 95 K miles on the clock, and mechanically it was relatively sound…but oh so slow.

    At 120 K plus miles, the engine blew (mostly because of my in-attention to oil level) and I found a Chrysler straight 6 engine in a junk yard and went to work. The Chrysler engine was 2 inches longer, so some degree of fabrication was required. Between my friends and I we got the thing in there and in the process picked up 20 hp. A split exhaust manifold, a Fenton intake and wormed out carb to match the port, and a few other light mods made the car much more fun to drive. I even took it to the local drag strip and turned times in the low 17’s to high 16’s, besting several flat head V8 Fords and Mercs, and winning a regional championship in the process.

    So turning a really slow first car into a relatively quick one (in comparison) taught me a lot about hp, torque, and drive-ability, sparking a genuine interest in cars and performance that has had a lasting affect to this day…and I’m approaching 75 rather quickly…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’ve wanted to do up a slant 6 with a split manifold etc. It’s on my bucket list.

      I do admire those guys who “hot rod” something and keep it in the family. Anybody can drop a SBC into an old car it takes a little more work to slant-6 a flathead Plymouth.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    That I’ve owned: 61 Corvair 3spd Manual. Could nor beat a VW Karman Ghia. 86 Chevy Nova(Toyota) manual trans. I remember a trip thru West Virginia and not being able to keep up with a Subaru Justy.
    But the slowest car I had ever driven was early 70’s Subaru with an Automatic Trans. Ugh

  • avatar
    paxman356

    My first car, a Chevy Chevette Scooter, was no racecar, but compared to my 4th car, it was sufficient. I crashed that, got into a ’78 Monte with a 305 V8. Then it was the ’83 Plymouth Sapporo Technica, that 2.6 I4 humming.

    It was the ’83 Civic HF that almost got me killed. I’ve seen anywhere from 55 to 60 horsepower, with similar torque. And it got off the line decently, but it was still really slow. It had no power for the highway. I could do highway speeds easily, but if there was a headwind, I’d be lucky to get 60. Well, I went to pass a semi, and didn’t realize I had a headwind. I just finished the pass before a trash truck travelling the other way passed.

    At least it got 40mpg, which was great since I delivered pizza.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Will have to be the 79 Electra 225 with the 350 I had way back. It had a rebuilt everything including tranny and engine (as is typical for anything GM). My friend’s 84 Charger barely broke a sweat smacking me down from light to light. It wasn’t even close. The 79 Volare I had after wasn’t much better but at least it didnt break down like the Buick did.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      There’s gotta have been something wrong with that particular Electra, ’cause we owned a 1979 with a 350 as well, and that car drove fine. Sounds like you might have had a clogged catalytic converter, something quite common for cars of that era.

  • avatar
    Broo

    1981 Toyota Tercel, 60 HP mated to a 3 speed automatic.

    25 seconds to reach 60 MPH. At that speed, it revs just under 4,000 RPMs (I added a tach). Definitely not a highway cruiser.

    I’d be curious to try either the 4 or 5 speed MT version which were available.

  • avatar
    haroldhill

    1959 English Ford Consul, 3 on a tree. Went out on a flat Indiana highway in the early 60s with three friends along for the ride to check out its 0 – 60 time. We gave up after about four minutes.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      That’s strange. Both my father’s ’59 and a friend’s ’60 would make it to valve float at about 78mph. The friend’s eventually threw a rod after two years of proceeding everywhere foot to the floor, something he also managed to do with his next car, a ’60 MGA. 6400 rpm for hours on end and bang! I know, where were the Mounties, right? That’s 100 mph in the 1622 cc version. Jim always got away with speeding.

      Something wrong with your Consul, I think, ours made it to 95,000 miles before it was traded in, and was a robustly made car. Didn’t seem any slower than a ’60 Falcon with the two-speed Ford-O-Matic, now there was a slug with about a 20 second 0 to 60 time accompanied by much whining, and a loosey-goosey body that just about shook itself to pieces on the many gravel roads (We called ’em dirt) in Nova Scotia in the early to mid sixties.

      • 0 avatar
        Guitar man

        The Engish Ford Consul I think he is referring to is the replacement for the Prefect/Anglia, 1.2L engine, 3 on a tree, with the droopy headlights. The van model was called the Ford Thames.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Brother had a Ford Prefect, with the big chrome grille and running boards, wooden floor, sidevalve engine and mechanical brakes. 42 MPH, pedal to the metal.

      British Motor Magazine claimed a top speed of 98 km/h. They must have dropped it from a plane.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    Slowest vehicle I’ve driven recently was the 148-hp Crosstrek, but that thing was a bolt of lightning compared to its long-gone forefather, an ’86 AWD Subaru DL wagon I bought off the old man after university.

    Believe it was a 1.8L engine (carbed?) that wheezed out 82 powers of horse.

    Even with the 5-sp. manual this thing was pokey around town and easily vanquished by steep grades on the highway (read: gear down to second and put on four-way flashers). Can’t imagine driving that thing with a 3-speed slushbox…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’ve had my share. Three that stick out in my mind: A former girlfriend’s 1978 Honda Accord with HondaMatic. In the rolling hills of Northeastern Ohio, this car had a constant struggle maintaining a speed. Downhill it would speed up (unless head winds), uphill you could turn off the a/c for additional “boost”. It felt like it was going faster, but in reality it was not.

    1990 Mercury Topaz 4 door. With the 2.3 HSC engine it was a powerhouse (not). I drove the car from Ohio to Georgia and then later from Georgia to Michigan. Don’t think I ever exceeded 65 MPH (or 23 MPG, for that matter). Driving through the Appalachians was an exercise in swearing…

    1997 Chevy Cavalier. This had the 2.2 OHV motor with the 4T40 trans. Reliable as the sun, which was handy as you could measure your peformance using a sundial, too. Whoever coined the phrase “slow but steady” must have driven one of these. At least it wasn’t a parts-eating POS like the Tempo that preceded it.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    I’ve been relatively lucky. My slowest vehicle was my first: a ’92 Jetta Coupe. 100 hp and about 110 lbs-ft of torque. 0-60 in a little over 9 seconds, I believe. I knew it wasn’t fast in the early 2000s, and today it would be a downright slug, but I had no trouble making forward progress with it. I remember one time being behind a Mustang 5.0 at a light who was trying to get the sport bikes next to him to run him. The bikes were having none of it, but just for fun I revved up my 1.8. Between him not being able to put the power down on launch and the left-hand corner a block or two later, I basically stayed glued to his rear bumper. I had no trouble cruising along at 90 MPH for hours on end, either. Like I said, I knew it wasn’t fast, but compared to my then-girlfriend’s 300k mile non-turbo diesel Jetta (52hp when new), it was a freaking rocket.

    An important thing to remember is that it’s not just the power that’s improved on modern cars. Modern cars put down their power so much more effectively that it seems less dramatic. I remember having to manage wheelspin in the Jetta – even on Dunlop performance tires – while my ’99 Miata, with near-identical weight, 40% more power, and lower gearing has no such trouble. Wheelspin and torque steer make everything feel faster.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Your last paragraph is spot on. Tires, transmissions and suspensions, on the whole, are better than they were, allowing more effective use of our admittedly abundant power now.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    My grandparents have a 1991 Nissan Pathfinder Se V6 at their vacation home. It could actually be the best preserved 1991 Nissan Pathfinder on the planet, because it has always been garaged and has barely over 100k miles on it. But my gosh, a 3.0 V6 with 153 horsepower! It has to be flogged to keep up with traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Those late 80s-early 90s 3.0L OHC V6s from the Japanese (VG30 from Nissan, 3VZFE from Toyota, the aforementioned JE from Mazda) were all fairly smooth and refined for the time, but a common complaint seemed to be that they lacked the low end torque that American SUVs with their larger displacement OHV six cylinders packed. Chevy had a 160hp 4.3L OHV V6 (pre-Vortec), Jeep had the venerable 4.0L I6, Ford had their 160hp Cologne OHV 4.0L. All made substantially better low end power, and likely got similar or better MPG than the smaller Japanese OHC units that needed to be flogged like you said. Motorweek has a fantastic 1991 SUV comparison test highlighting this very thing:
      youtu.be/yaR_D49V6A0

      The domestics get universal praise on the hillclimb for their strong torque.

      • 0 avatar
        chiefmonkey

        Underpowered engine aside, it is probably the sturdiest, most well made vehicle I have piloted. Like a bank vault. You just don’t get the same feeling of quality in an SUV today…

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Oh I agree in full, a “WD21” body Pathfinder is on my bucket list of vehicles to own. This is pre-cost cutting Japanese goodness. Rust-prone sheetmetal and frames aside, these things are the proverbial brick sh*thouses in terms of durability. Overbuilt frames, unkillable torsion bar front end, 5 link rear with a sturdy good sized rear axle (available rear LSD), and a nice interior to boot. The unibody R50 that followed is a nice truck that blended in a lot of on-road handling, but it can’t hold a candle to the WD21 in terms of ruggedness. Sad to see what the Pathfinder nameplate has been turned into.

      • 0 avatar
        chiefmonkey

        Thanks for the link.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Mustang II with the 4 banger and a 3 speed tranny. It made my old Beetle feel like a Porsche.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    ’83 Ford Thunderbird. What a hunk of junk. It looked alright for the time, but was slower than a politician’s apology.

  • avatar
    JakeSizzle27

    My current 97 Civic DX. I’m pretty sure the power/torque figures are both well under triple digits at this time.

    But the 5-speed makes it a blast on any back-road, and it has just enough grunt to maintain 70 on the highway!

  • avatar
    john66ny

    ’73 Austin Marina (Canadian spec) driven in 1986:

    As new ~68 HP and ~85 ft-lb in a 2200 lb car ~12 years later, made for a 0-60 mph time around 20 seconds (if you could tolerate the front end shimmy over 50 mph).

  • avatar
    SOF in training

    Hard to say. the ’86 Tercel 4wd was slow, especially hauling a trailer full of bikes. My DKW 3=6 was slower, but more fun. My 60 VW convertible… That was SLOW, and cold. But I think my favorite for slowness was my 1966 Renault R8 with the 3 speed “automatic transmission”. That was a 3 speed manual with an electromagnetic clutch and electric motor that self shifted gears. I don’t think the shifts took more than three seconds each.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Slowest car I drove was a ’53 Studebaker Champion DEEluxe with the supposedly 90 hp flathead six and automatic. Friend was bequeathed a beautifully kept one in ’64 after his dad passed and quite a few trips back and forth to the hometown from college on weekends four up was an eye-opener. It would be so slow on hills, my friend developed an autonomous rocking motion back and forth trying to will it up, as even in passing gear (second) it would slow to under 40 mph, with traffic building up behind. When even VW Beetles were up your behind, THAT was slow.

    There are still some people experiencing this complete lack of power!
    http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/showthread.php?89822-56-Champion-with-flathead-6-upgrades

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    3FE powered FJ80 Land Cruiser. Lucky it was slow because the brakes sucked. In it’s defense it was slow, but unstoppable.

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    1983 Mercedes 240D… here it comes… AUTOMATIC.

    It was handed down to me by my father. A great car that felt (and drove) like a bank vault. To be honest I didn’t think it was that slow since 0-50 took place in a reasonable amount of time. This meant getting around town wasn‘t such a pain. 50 to 60, however, yes, that did take some time. Accelerating and merging onto a freeway could be quite a challenge.

    I miss that car. Slow, but relaxing to drive.

  • avatar
    Bill

    ’88 Chevy Corsica with the 2.0 ohv 4 cylinder. Whenever I’d floor it there was lots of noise, lots of vibration, but almost no forward movement.

    I noticed several replies mention this engine family. This engine family was so bad it never even got a name. At least the Iron Duke had a name. And there was no redeeming qualities to go with the lack of performance. Fuel economy wasn’t impressive, NVH was subpar, just nothing good about it, yet GM built it with minimal changes for 20 years.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Probably my 1980 Audi 5000S diesel. It was slow…painfully so, but I still adored that car. Beautiful metallic red, with that velour interior and a sunroof (for a kid just out of high school, that was glorious). My then-GF thought it was super-fancy, and I loved the sound of the diesel, despite how glacial it was when attempting to accelerate. But once underway, at 65-70MPH, it was stellar. Clean design, large windows, comfortable seats…I miss that car in some ways. While the “new” 5000S that came after it got all of the attention for it’s aero styling (and then, unfortunately, for the unintended acceleration debacle), I kind of preferred the generation I had, but then, I tend to like square cars.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I had an ’85 Jetta diesel with 52 HP @ 4800 RPM and 68 ft-lbs @ 4500 RPM.

    It wasn’t bad around town, but terrible on the highway. As my brother once said, you had to make appointments to pass people.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’ve sadly never owned anything “fast” and probably for good reason. My fastest car personally was probably my 95 Cougar V8 and even then our current Sienna SE would blow it away.

    As for my slowest car, it’s a toss-up between my first car, an ’81 Regal with the 3800 (praise be) and the car that followed it, an ’84 Eldorado with the HT4100. The Buick was a dog and the finest example of Malaise-era poke and awfulness with the electronic carb and such. Rated at 110 hp and the 3 speed auto geared for economy, it was terrible , especially around town.

    The Eldo felt slightly faster, probably due to the 4 speed auto, as the 4100 was only rated at 125 hp in the heavier Eldorado.

    When I learned to drive a stick, my Dad’s ’88 Ranger with the 145hp 2.9 V6, 5 spd and 3.73 rear end felt like a rocket compared to my Malaise sleds.

    But really, 16 year old me didn’t need any more power than that old Buick could provide. Still managed to bury that 85mph speedo more than I care to remember (and than my folks knew).

    Slowest “modern” car was when I was a car prep(car washer) for Enterprise in the mid to late 90’s. It was a toss-up then between the Geo(Chevy) Metro or the Ford Aspire, with the Ford being slower (and awful-er?). I remember planting my foot going downhill on a highway and it barely made 90mph. And in traffic, with an automatic? Ugh. Runner-up goes to the Plymouth Breeze with the 120hp Neon engine and 3 speed automatic.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The slowest car I have ever owned was my Peugeot 504D wagon Automatique. 57hp with the mechanical fan disengaged, 52hp with it engaged (Peugeot felt the need to include this in the owner’s manual). Coupled to a 3spd Borg-Warner autotragique. Glacial does not even begin to describe it, and this is with a rear-end ratio so low that 65mph was about all your ears and the fragile head gasket could stand on the highway. My 4spd stick 504D sedan was geared for a more reasonable if not much quieter 75mph. I also had an automatique 505 turbo-diesel wagon that was even slower 0-25mph, but once the turbo wound up was actually decently spritely. That car would cruise at 80 all day long.

    The lack of pace never bothered me – you simply plant the foot to the firewall and go – people will give way to you if you seem determined, and I still generally out-accelerated most from lights. Americans generally can’t find full throttle with a GPS.

  • avatar
    rofergZ28

    My slowest car was my 2006 Smart Fortwo Cabrio diesel. 40 horses, 74 lb-ft of clattering rage.

    But you know what? It was an absolute *hoot* to drive.

    The throttle was basically an on/off switch, like a bumper car at the fair. And you knew that you’d have a tough time drag-racing that city bus at a stoplight, so you had to be *clever* if you wanted to survive traffic. It accelerated slllloooooooooowly, but once you got up to speed you could use that little buggy’s microsize to zip through the tiniest gaps in traffic and keep up the pace. Full throttle from virtually every stoplight, but that car personified the old adage that “driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow.”

  • avatar
    415s30

    Faster than my 1952 M37 Dodge Power Wagon I would wager. I did drive a guy home from a party one night in college, it was a hatchback Geo Metro and it was slow to get up to speed but I think it did 55.


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