QOTD: What So-called 'Special' Car Let You Down?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
qotd what so called 8216 special car let you down

I was channel surfing over the weekend and stumbled upon 2002’s Die Another Day, the last entry in the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond flicks. Arguably the worst of the four. I’m a GoldenEye man myself, in no small part due to the video game that was big among my social groups in high school and on into college.

Anyway, while watching Die for about the fifth time this month (hey, it’s on Showtime a lot, what can I say?), I took note of the scene in which Halle Barry’s character pulls up to the ice-palace hotel in Iceland in a Ford Thunderbird. One of those retro models sold from 2002-2005 that came out with much fanfare — it was even a Motor Trend Car of the Year — before sales fell off a cliff.

Thing is, I always thought that generation of T-Bird looked great. I still do. But it sold poorly after the first year.

That T-Bird was one in a long line of cars cranked out in the 1990s and the Aughts, mostly by the Detroit Three, that attempted to capture buyers based on retro styling but either was a let-down in terms of performance or simply wasn’t marketed well. In the T-Bird’s case, a quick Google shows that reviewers at the time praised its looks but dished out mixed feelings about its performance. They seemed to like the V8 and dislike the five-speed automatic, and were upset by shakes and rattles. The consensus seems to be that the car would sell well and be thought of as a boulevard cruiser and not a sports car.

Other cars on the list of “hyped then, looked back upon with wary eyes now” include the Plymouth Prowler, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chrysler Crossfire, Chevrolet SSR, and Chevrolet HHR (non-SS).

There were other models that attempted to snag sales, not with retro looks but modernist styling, that also flopped like a just-caught marlin – think Cadillac XLR.

What car were you once hyped about, only to later learn it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be?

Maybe you test-drove one of these vehicles and found out the hard way? Or you bought one in a fit of temporary madness? Perhaps you had extensive seat time for some reason – someone else in your household had one and you drove it on occasion, or you worked for a dealer that sold these abominations and you had to drive one every now and then? Maybe, like me, you spent a month in one that the rental-car company foisted upon you while your Accord sat lonely in a body shop waiting on parts after being smacked by a Saab wagon that went wild due to black ice?

Yes, friends, I “owned” a PT Cruiser for about a month while my poor Honda awaited the surgeon’s touch.

This question has been on my mind not just because I saw a T-Bird in an 18-year-old movie, but also because the upcoming Bronco could disappoint. I don’t think it will, based on its specs and Adam’s first-ride report, but we won’t know for a while yet. Hopefully, the return of the Bronco goes over better than the return of the Thunderbird.

Until then, I want to know what car got you all hot and bothered, only to find out that it was the automotive equivalent of a cold shower?

[Image: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com]

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  • -Nate -Nate on Aug 29, 2020

    A few years back (on that _other_ site I think) I asked about the failed transmission in my buddy's PT Cruiser he'd bought new . He loved the car but was badly caught in the failing economy, (mostly his own stupidity truth be known) , he held onto it and now has a $3,500 rebuilt tranny and still loves it . I think the worst turd I ever polished was a 1962 VW #151 DeLuxe convertible we pulled out of a field, I used discarded speed limit signs to replace the gone missing (rusted out) floors and repainted it the original forest green, fell in love with the damned thing and kept it as a daily driver... _RUST_NEVER_SLEEPS_ plus it causes all manner of weirdness few Mechanics ever encounter, it's a wonder I have any hair left . -Nate

  • DungBeetle62 DungBeetle62 on Aug 31, 2020

    Had a friend who was with Microsoft at the peak time it was cool to be with them. I was going to buy his 1994 Accord Coupe because he was moving uptown to the BMW dealership. He took me along for the afternoon of test driving various permutations of 3-Series. I could not have bene more disappointed in the M3. I’d owned a 1978 Camaro and while it did have shocks and springs when you looked beneath, I can’t believe they had anything to do with the suspension or ride of that vehicle. Like the 1978 Camaro, the M3 rode as if the wheels were bolted directly to the car (though it DID corner better). Cost was no object for my friend (remember : Microsoft) but when asked for my opinion I favored the 328is with the sport package. “If I had to have that M3 as my daily driver I’d shoot myself” Although within 2 months he bought a boat. And than bought a Dodge Ram to pull it with, so maybe the M3 would’ve worked for him? But that Accord Coupe did not disappoint. Holy smoke that was a great car.

  • RHD I wonder if these will be as easy to steal as so many other Kias are...
  • Zerog Isn't this the car that the self anointed AutoExtremist said would finally shut down Tesla AND the Prius?Just like his father - that Detroit bubble does him no good
  • Zerog When will the media admit that Mary Barra has simply been a disaster of a CEO, and "Dan the Man" Akerson is to blame?
  • Tassos When the Volt was on sale, it cost twice as much as the (better looking!) Chevy Cruze on which it was based. The interior of the Volt did not match that lofty price either. I like plug-in vehicles with a good Electric only range and no range anxiety. People with a 40 mile commute each way, if they were allowed to free charge at the office especially, could save some $ with the Volt, but not as much as to justify its lofty price.The 2nd gen VOlt was less nerdy looking than the 1st, but also even more similar to the new Cruze and indeed the Civic, which cost almost HALF. Then the geniuses at GM made a 2-door Caddy out of the Volt, the ELR, which was much smaller inside than the already cramped Volt, and... asked for... 4 times the price of the CRUZE. Don't remember the failed Caddy Cimarron? Neither did those morons.So a good idea in principle was screwed beyond recognition. GM Bled billions despite the lofty price, sold a bunch of VOlts, and finally had to cry "UNCLE". The end.I am not at all attracted by the VOlt's lousy interior. Its gas only MPG is also lousy compared to the ICE competition. A prius was 50% cheaper and far more sophisticated mechanically and got a stellar 50 MPG overall, and could be had in plugin with 10-20 mile range (the current one will double that again).
  • Buickman GM marketing killed many a car.