Car talk: Winners' list: 10 Worst Cars of Millennium

Published: Friday, March 31 2000 12:00 a.m. MST

TOM: The ballots have been counted!

RAY: Today we present the results of our "Worst Car of the Millennium" contest.

TOM: We asked our newspaper readers and radio listeners to nominate cars for this prestigious dishonor, and we got thousands and thousands of suggestions. Thank you all!

RAY: Then we narrowed down the field to a bunch of finalists and asked everybody to vote. More than 25,000 people cast ballots, and here are the winners (or losers, depending on how you look at it), along with a few choice comments from the voters.

TOM: The 10th Worst Car of the Millennium is the Volkswagen Bus. Now, this is a controversial choice because so many people have romantic memories of this vehicle. But from a purely mechanical point of view, it deserved every vote it got.

RAY: As one of our readers put it, "The bus had no heat, blew over in the wind and used the driver's legs as its first line of defense in an accident." Added another: "The flower stickers were the only things that held the car together." Ah, a romantic.

TOM: The ninth Worst Car of the Millennium is the Renault Dauphine — a prime example of unmitigated junk if ever there was one. One of our readers had it figured out: "At the time, it cost about half the price of a Volkswagen . . . which was half the price of everything else. How could Renault do this? Simple. It had half as many parts." On a more personal note, another reader wrote: "A side impact by a bicycle totaled my Dauphine after only one year." That's what we call a blessing in disguise, my friend.

RAY: The eighth Worst Car of the Millennium is the Cadillac Cimarron. "GM thought they could take a Chevy Cavalier, slap some Cadillac stuff on it, add an extra $5,000 and sell a bundle," wrote one reader. "Tragically enough," he adds, "they pulled it off — for a while."

TOM: This was a car that did more to soil the name "Cadillac" than anything they've ever done — with the possible exception of the 8-6-4 engine. One other comment from a Cimarron owner: "When we traded it in, my wife was upset because we didn't keep it long enough for her to buy a gun and shoot it." Now there's a repeat customer, eh?

RAY: The seventh Worst Car of the Millennium is the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare. The biggest problem with this car was the carburetion. They had to tune this thing so finely to comply with emissions requirements that if it was cloudy out or the temperature dropped below 65, the thing would stall constantly.

TOM: Then there was the "image" issue. As one reader put it: "Owning a Volare was total ego death — the theme song, the vinyl landau roof, the inability to pass another car on the highway." We feel for you, buddy.

RAY: The sixth Worst Car of the Millennium is the Renault LeCar — Renault's second entry on the Worst Cars list. Said one regretful owner: "I'm convinced that the body metal for this car was supplied by Reynold's Aluminum Foil." Actually, I think it was the store brand.

TOM: The fifth Worst Car of the Millennium is the Chevy Chevette. As one reader described it: "An engine surrounded by four pieces of drywall." Ouch!

RAY: Here's another happy owner's assessment: "Plywood floor, printed-circuit wiring, no redeeming qualities. It was a throw-away from the word go."

TOM: The fourth Worst Car of the Millennium is the AMC Gremlin. Most AMC products could have made the list on ugliness alone. But the Gremlin apparently had a special place in the hearts of its owners.

RAY: Said one: "The car had all the quality and safety of a cheap garden tractor." But another reader looked on the bright side: "It was entirely possible to read a Russian novel during the pause between stepping on the gas and feeling any semblance of forward motion." See. The glass is half full for that guy.

TOM: The third Worst Car of the Millennium is the Ford Pinto. Remember seeing bumper stickers on Pintos that said "Hit Me and We Blow Up Together." So, it exploded on rear impact . . . picky, picky!

RAY: Here's another Pinto memory: "Dad had an orange Pinto the year that car thieves hit our street. Although a dozen cars were stolen in one night, ours was there the next morning, on a strangely empty block." Even car thieves would rather walk than drive Pintos. That's harsh.

TOM: The First Runner-Up — also known as the second Worst Car of the Millennium — is the Chevy Vega. Some comments from former Vega owners: "As near as I could tell, the car was built from compressed rust."

RAY: Here's another: "When the rear end went on my Vega, the Chevy dealer accused me of racing it. Racing who? My grandfather in his wheelchair?" And a testament to its build-quality: "My Chevy Vega actually broke in half going over railroad tracks. The whole rear end came around slightly to the front, sort of like a dog wagging its tail."

TOM: And, finally, the single Worst Car of the last Millennium, as selected by our listeners and readers, is none other than the infamous Yugo. The Yugo wasn't around that long, but it apparently made quite an impression. It got twice as many votes as the second-place Vega.

RAY: Here's what our readers said: "I once test drove a Yugo, during which the radio fell out, the gear-shift knob came off in my hand, and I saw daylight through the strip around the windshield." OK, so quality wasn't job one.

TOM: "Any time we made a right-hand turn, we all had to lean to the right to prevent the driver's side rear tire from scraping against the wheel well." Ah, an interactive vehicle!

RAY: And, of course, the most famous comment ever made about the Yugo was this one: "At least it had a rear-window defroster — so your hands would stay warm while you pushed."

TOM: So, congratulations to Yugo and all the runners-up. And thanks to all of you who wrote in and voted. If you want to peruse the results and see even more comments from voters, just head on over to the Car Talk section of www.cars.com and go to the "Worst Cars" area.


The Magliozzi brothers' radio show, "Car Talk," can be heard Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at noon on KUER FM 90.1, and on KCPW 88.3/105.1 FM Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. If you have a question about cars, write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th St., New York, NY 10017. You can e-mail them by visiting their Web site at cartalk.com.

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