Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The worst cars from GM, post-WWII

The Chevy Vega -- Clean Lines, but beneath the skin....

I have to start out this account by sharing with you the reason why I have ill-will towards GM. It wasn't always this way. My family -- displaced from Germany after WWII and just getting on our feet again -- began buying used Chevrolets in the 1950s, and our experiences were quite good. The first car I remember is a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster, and particularly the interior and dash of that car, and the radio plate where a radio should have been. We followed up with a 1954 tw0-tone blue and white Bel Air, and then after a brief and disasterous flirtation with a 1958 yellow and white Plymouth, settled into a 1962 Chevy II.

Later my father purchased a 1972 Mailbu that was by all accounts a great car, and then as he approached retirement, he bought a 1979 Malibu Classic. It was that car that turned me against GM, because it had a THM-200 transmission in it that was far too small to be coupled to a small block V-8. Consequently, the car kept on blowing tansmissions, one after another, and GM never made it right it with my father. They kept ducking the problem, and thus my father, who had purchased this car to travel during retirement, was greatly disappointed. I owned it for a while after my father died, and ultimately solved the problem on my own by replacing the the THM-200 with a more durable and appropriate tranny. And it had other issues, including weak springs and valve guides that wore out way too soon, given the care it received.
So after that experience I resolved never to buy GM again, and thus shed no tears with GM's current problems.

For what it is worth, and given my bias, here is the list of the 5 worst GM cars, compiled with the help of Sean Falkowski and Rebecca Blust.

1. Chevrolet Beretta -- Sean Falkowski owned one of these cars and vigorously claims it was "the biggest piece of crap" ever. I have no details as to why, but since Sean is a graduate of General Motors Institute (GMI), I have to believe him.

1988 Beretta

2. The Chevrolet Vega -- books and articles have been written about his car, and the workers at the Lordstown plant who made them. This was GM's answer to VW and the Japanese competition of the early 1970s, and we should have known then that the reckoning we are now facing was imminent. They rattled, burned oil and were cheap. Sort of like a Capitalist Trabant. Superceded by the Chevette, which is a car analgous to the East German Wartburg.

1981 Caddy -- or is it a Citation in disguise?

3. The J Body Cadillac Cimmaron -- This early 1980s model was a response to the 1979 oil shock and subsequent recession. GM decision-makers took a brand that was the standard of the industry and degraded it to such depths that Cadillac only recovered from this insult during the past 5 years. Old ladies drove this car in the 1980s, thinking it was their final luxury car. As it turned out, their last ride was in a Cadillac hearse, which remained of high quality only because undertakers would not settle for vehicles anything less than the best.

4. The HT-4100 Cadillac of the early 1980s. Another failure for Cadillac was due to the hasty introduction of an engine that could be run on either 4, 6, or 8 cylinders depending on the need to do so. It deactivated cylinders via solenoids, but overall was an engine that lacked power, and torque. The engine was thrashed in just keeping up with traffic, and consequently rod bearings failed and its coolant leaked.

5. The Pontiac Aztek -- some of its owners swear by these incredibly ugly vehicles. I just hope the owners posess a better appearance than their cars! Technology should be beautiful as well as functional. This "thing" looks like some sort of a mutant, altered by a burst of radiation.

1 comment:

  1. John, It seems like Cadillac did not learn from their mistake with the J Body Cadillac Cimmaron and came out with the V Platform Catera (also based on a Cavalier). Is it going to far to think that GM's current situation can be partially attributed to not learning from mistakes in the past? I think not.