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2023-06-14 19:30:05

Top 6 List of Worst Domestic Cars - Which Classics Should You Avoid

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As I looked on Google and searched on youtube , I found a lot of people offering opinions on worst cars sold in America .

And invariably the lists generally include things like the Aztec and the Cadillac Simeon and some Oldsmobile diesel .

But often I find these lists are really incomplete , inaccurate or frankly not grounded in reality .

So I thought I would make my own list of what I believe are the worst cars that were used by the domestic automakers .

And I'm going to try to be as specific as possible or as generic as possible because sometimes what makes the car really bad is the engine , that engine was used in a number of vehicles across a number of years .

But this is going to be my specific list of worst cars produced in the US by domestic automakers .

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And rather than try to just build out a generic top 10 list , I was able to come up with six vehicles that I felt really changed unfavorably , the public perception toward domestic automakers and perhaps sent many people past the point of no return .

And that's what I'm focused on here .

Those cars that were so bad that they really turned customers off from buying the next vehicle .

Now , interestingly , one of the things that might relate to a car being one of the worst ever on this list would be a series of recalls on that vehicle .

And interestingly , the Ford Motor Company has had more recalls in history than any other of the big three , most notably stemming from 20 million cars being recalled in the early 19 eighties due to faulty parking pas on vehicles from prior years which led to about 1700 injuries and almost 100 deaths .

But we'll save most recalled vehicles for another video .

And that is definitely an issue with classic Fords .

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You have to be aware of that .

You don't leave them running in park unattended , you should shut the engine off .

So let's get started with the list .

And number six on my list is the Ford Pinto .

The Pinto was produced for the 1971 to 1980 years and I suppose I should also loop in the Mercury Bobcat as well here , which was produced from 1974 to 1980 .

And the reason why this is number six on the list is that the Pinto itself really wasn't a horrible car in many respects .

In fact , in the subcompact class to which it belonged was actually a pretty good vehicle .

It had a decent ride , had pretty good and reliable engines , everything from a European 1.6 and two liter early on to a 2.3 liter and even the 2.8 liter cologne V six , all of which were pretty reliable compared to the other subcompact cars that were on the market .

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Of course , the Pinto's main Achilles Heel was the fuel system fires and recalls and litigation resulting from the fuel tank placement .

And this was one of the things that really doomed what was otherwise a pretty decent car to drive .

And part of the reason for this was that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had changed the overall guidelines for impact standards in the rear from a 20 mile per hour moving barrier rear impact test to a 20 mile per hour fixed barrier impact test that car companies had to meet within about a year and a half .

And it was really an increase in test severity that was not planned by this point .

The Pinto was pretty well developed and consequently , the Pinto was designed with its fuel tank located between the rear axle and the rear bumper , which really was not an uns standard practice at the time .

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But regardless , there were a number of crashes that were reported starting in the early 19 seventies .

And the thing that really , I think hurt Ford was the infamous Pinto memo where Ford had calculated what the cost was to improve the cars and reduce the overall fire risk at something around $11 per car .

And they also calculated what the cost to society of deaths and injuries was , and they found that the cost to society did not exceed the cost to change the car .

And this just was something that doomed the car from then on .

This doesn't make a higher number on my list , as I said , because the Pinto , in terms of its overall drive ability and for the owners that had them , most of them were pretty satisfied .

It wasn't a bad little car .

In fact , like I said , it drove pretty well , had a decent ride , relatively reliable engines and transmissions , especially compared to the others in the subcompact class .

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Hence , I put it at number six , at number five , we switched to General Motors and the luxury brand and that is Cadillacs with the H T 4 100 engine and the HT some people say it stands for hook and toe , but it actually stood for high technology .

S was introduced in 1982 and was placed in Cadillacs in which it was really never intended to be employed .

In particular , the big full size rear wheel drive Cadillacs where it made all of 100 and 35 horsepower and about £200 feet of torque .

It just really was not enough under hood for these cars .

And consequently , the 0 to 60 times on a big Deville or Fleetwood of this era are about 16 to 17 seconds , 0 to 60 .

And yes , I did say that right , 16 to 17 seconds , just agonizingly slow , slow as economy cars from the air .

So that is a huge problem for these vehicles .

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And specifically , the problems occurred on the 1982 to 1985 Cadillacs .

With this engine in the 1985 Bier , they did make some changes to the engine that really helped it from a design perspective and reliability perspective .

And then subsequently , this engine as it got enlarged to be 4.5 liters in 1988 and 4.9 liters in 1991 actually became a pretty decent and reliable engine for Cadillac .

But in this 4.1 liter form , in particular , in 1982 and 85 it just was an absolute slug under hood .

And on top of that , they had a series of intake gasket issues , head gasket issues , camshaft issues , oil pump issues .

The list just goes on and on and on unfortunately .

And it's too bad because this came on the heels of the V 864 Cadillac engine which was offered in passenger vehicles only in 1981 .

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Another engine that customers had problems with , despite the fact that it was based on a very reliable Cadillac cast iron 368 cubic inch V eight .

But these 82 to 85 Cadillacs with the H T 4100 just turned so many customers off to Cadillac because of the issues that they had Cadillac , in fact , extended the power train warranty on these to try to tell customers that they were standing behind the engine , but the damage was already done .

And beyond that , these cars were just agonizingly slow to drive .

Once ca transitioned to the front wheel drive , full size cars .

This 4.1 was actually a pretty good engine in those from a drive standpoint .

It just was never made to go under hood of these big behemoth vehicles that G M placed the engine in in order to try to meet cafe standards for fuel economy .

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Next up at number four , we're going to have motor trends 1976 car of the year and that is the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Veri .

These cars began with so much promise in particular , many of the buff books at the time gushed over the vehicles that offered mid space in a compact car package and they did so with a version of Chrysler's torsion bar , front suspension here , they were transversely mounted torture bars as opposed to longitudinally mounted torsion bars and vulnerable engine lineup including the Slant six , the 3 , 18 V eight and even the 360 V eight .

So the power train choices under hood for the Aspen Vela were quite good and the car showed a lot of promise .

So what happened then to put this on one of the worst cars lists ?

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Well , it was unfortunately build quality and even LEA in his autobiography said that these so called F bodies really needed another six months of development before they were ready for the public .

And these were one of the most recalled cars in us automotive history .

And these recalls included everything from hoods that didn't latch to engines that stalled to seat belt , tensions that didn't lock to rust issues , to suspension issues , to suspension issues , to even the steering wheel shaft becoming disconnected from the rest of the steering system .

The Aspen and Vela were the most recalled cars in automotive history until that crown would later be taken by the G M X cars .

And it's really unfortunate because they had quite a bit right , but they had so much so wrong and you know , it's bad when Leah Koch even puts in his autobiography that the car is needed six more months to be perfected before being released to the public .

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So this is another one of those cars that makes one of the buff books , best cars of the year , but then lands up on the list of worst cars ever made .

Interestingly though the Aspen and Vala did evolve into the Chrysler and body platform that was used from 1977 to 1989 .

And these bodies from about the early eighties all the way until the last year in 1989 were quite reliable and good driving vehicles .

So the Aspen of Vala did have a lot , right .

But there was still so much wrong let's go on to number three .

And that is the General Motors X cars , particularly those from 1980 1981 model years .

Now , as I mentioned , the X car would soon become the most recalled car in automotive history after the Aspen and Vela and the X cars really had so much so right .

But they also had so much wrong and from a packaging standpoint and an interior comfort standpoint , even overall ride and fuel economy were quite good at these cars .

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But as I mentioned , they were the most recalled cars in automotive history to that point after the Aspen vala debacle and everything from the now infamous rear braking issues where the rear wheels would lock prematurely in part due to gm's decision to change from a hand emergency brake to a foot brake , which didn't allow for as much leverage .

And consequently G M changed to stickier linings on the rear wheels to prevent the car from rolling backwards with the parking brake gauge .

That was the most infamous issue , but these cars also suffered from power steering rack issues where they would get morning sickness and be hard to turn .

They had electrical issues and some of the lower end cars in particular , some of the plastics just didn't hold up very well and would fade to different shades over a pretty abbreviated period of time .

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And the carburetors that were used on some of these models also lended themselves to engine stalling until fuel injection was introduced at least on the base engine in 1982 .

So these cars had so much right and so much promise , but they also had quite a bit wrong .

And the cars after the 1982 model year really are quite pleasant to drive and pretty reliable .

But if you pick one up from 1980 or 81 it is likely that you're going to have some issues .

Let's move on to the next series of vehicles .

And this is really any car with the 1978 and 1979 Oldsmobile 5.7 liter V eight and 4.3 liter V eight diesel engines .

Notice I've been very specific on the model years here .

78 79 I would say the 78 S are the worst of the bunch by 1980 .

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These engines weren't nearly as bad as GM had learned from the previous two model years and I've also excluded the 4.3 liter V six diesel that came out in 1982 because that also was an improved version , albeit it still had some head gasket issues and other issues associated with it .

But it was far improved from the 1978 and 79 5.7 liter 350 cubic inch V eight diesel .

And the 79 only 261 cubic inch 4.3 liter V eight diesel .

As many people know , started the development of these with the 350 cubic inch V eight diesel and they really tried to diesel an existing gas engine and that may have worked in some circumstances , but they made a couple of critical errors in judgment and design .

The most notable was that they left the original head bolt design from the gas engine and the pattern unchanged so they could use the same tooling for the gas engines .

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And that led to catastrophic failures of head bolts and head gaskets as the diesel engine had a compression ratio that was almost three times greater than the gas engine .

On top of that GM didn't put any water separators in these particular vehicles .

Some did have a water and fuel light that would illuminate if water was detected in the fuel tank .

But then if that light illuminated , you had to have the car towed .

So that was not a good solution .

They also had some injector pump issues from the Rosa master injector pump .

They had starting issues .

The 1978 models also didn't have fast warming glow plugs .

So in some cases , if it was very cold outside , you had to sit in the car for a minute or more to wait for the glow plugs to warm up the combustion chamber that would be improved in 1979 where they went to fast warming glow plugs where the maximum time to wait went all the way down to six seconds from a minute .

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Plus , so that was a huge improvement .

Imagine sitting in your car for over a minute when it's zero degrees outside , waiting for the glow plugs to warm up .

And it's really unfortunate because customers love the fact that they could get in the mid to high twenties in terms of MPG and big vehicles and still drive their big vehicles around , but get good fuel mileage .

It was a great promising idea , but unfortunately , the execution just left a number of things to be desired and it soured American consumers on diesel power for decades to come , particularly given that millions of people bought vehicles with this Oldsmobile diesel and they just absolutely hated them .

Let's move on to the number one car on this list .

And that is the Chevrolet Vega , particularly the Vegas from the 1970 to 75 model years after which the engine was redesigned .

Now , the Vega is another one of those cars that was motor trend car of the year in 1971 in particular .

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But unfortunately , the car subsequently became known for a wide variety of issues and most notably its engine and its durability .

The Vega did have some things going for it in particular .

It was a good looking little car , especially prior to the 1973 model year where it had the smaller bumpers in the front and the rear .

But really the issue was what was under hood and that was the 2.3 liter aluminum block without cast iron cylinder liners .

And this car engine did have , as I mentioned , an aluminum block and an iron head , an overhead cam design , which was well , not quite revolutionary for General Motors .

In particular , they did have the overhead cam six cylinder and Pontiacs in the 19 sixties , but it still was pretty controversial or advanced for the era .

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But the main issue was with this aluminum block , absent cast iron cylinder liners and quite simply the engine became an oil burner and not that long of a period of time , it took a long time to redesign the engine .

They did so for the 1976 and 77 model years and rebranded it as the Dura built 140 they redesigned the coolant passage ways as well as the cylinder head , gave it some different hydraulic valve Lior better valve stem seals .

They even upgraded the warranty to five years or 60,000 miles to try to show customers .

They now stood behind the engine , but it was simply too late .

And the car had also demonstrated a number of other failure modes aside from the engine , which really related to rust .

These cars , you basically breathed on them where a chipmunk broke wind in their direction and they started to rust so fast .

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And it was quite unfortunate because as I said , it was a good looking small car they even had the performance variant , the Cosworth Vega that was pretty expensive but did have good performance for the era .

And unfortunately given the overall hype of the car and how many were sold , it just damaged General Motors reputation so severely that it really never recovered for a number of customers .

In any case , that is the list of my top vehicles in automotive history that changed it for the worst .

Let's say , hope you enjoyed this video .

If you did be sure to like , comment and subscribe .

Thanks again for watching and until next time , take care .


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