Readers choose the least-loved American auto
Selection of the best comments on turkey cars from MSNBC.com readers
The Chevrolet Vega, a popular choice of MSNBC.com readers for the 'turkey' car of all time.
Identifying the worst automobile ever made can be a staggering task — after all, there are so many cars to choose from, and one driver’s lemon on wheels is another’s dream ride. But when MSNBC.com asked its readers to name their least-loved car, one name stood head and shoulders above the rest — the Chevy Vega.
What was it about the Vega that struck a chord with so many of our readers? Was it the car’s unsightly appearance, or its collection of highly-publicized design defects, which led to carburetor fires, an overheating engine and premature body rust?
Below is a selection of the e-mails we’ve received on this topic. Many reader comments were from car owners detailing their troubles with specific car models, while others reflected on what they see as the decline of the U.S. automotive industry. Some reader comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Detroit’s early attempts at small economy cars in the wake of the first gas spike in the early 70s were spectacular busts: The Chevy Vega, the Ford Pinto, the AMC Pacer, the Dodge Horizon and the AMC Gremlin. Either of the AMC cars were probably the worst overall quality of the lot. There were jokes about parts falling off and windows leaking all the time. But everyone my age remembers the exploding Pintos and the aluminum block Vegas who usually didn’t last past 60,000 miles.
—David Genther, Grand Rapids, Mich.
For me, the worst car ever made was the Chevrolet Vega. It had a great design for the time, but GM made a huge mistake with the engine. Instead of going with a V-4 aluminum block with steel sleeves in the cylinders, they started with half of a V-8 block to cut costs, but this proved very inefficient compared to imports. When GM finally went to the aluminum block, they used the wrong pistons that ate up the cylinders. By the time GM figured out how to do it right, the reputations of the Vega and GM were seriously damaged.
—Pamela Simone, Frederick, Md.
The Chevy Vega is the worst car ever made, followed closely by the Ford Pinto. The Vega was a great idea, with an engine that was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the manufacture of the engine was years behind the design. So the car was a miserable failure. The Pinto was just a rotten design, dictated by Iacocca's short-sighted management and the even more myopic bean counters who squeezed out every extra cent, and left the car a rolling firetrap.
—Thom Moon, Cincinnati, Ohio
The 1972 Chevrolet Vega was by far the worst car ever made. Unfortunately, it was my first car, and I was so proud of it ... for about 6 months.
After 20,000 miles of gentle driving, it needed a valve job, and possibly a new engine, a new clutch, a new transmission sync gear and new tires. The Vega was incredibly slow, loud, and stuffy (the air circulation was awful). The gear spacing was all wrong. And the handling was horrendous — even dangerous, especially on wet roads. What was good about the car? My hatchback looked great. That’s it. I still think Chevrolet should refund the $2,499.95 I paid for that car. What an injustice to a good kid who just wanted to show off his car!
—Bob Eicholz, Hollywood, Calif.
The first car I ever owned was a brand new, beautiful Ford Mustang -- it was also the worst car I ever owned. In Pennsylvania, you have to get your car inspected every year. My new Ford Mustang did not pass inspection. When I returned the car for repairs I felt ignored and would get it back with the same problems. It broke down constantly. Before it reached 100,000 miles the engine froze and I had to have it rebuilt. I just bought a new 2005 Honda Accord and I love it! It has an onboard computer with GPS and voice commands. My husband has an old Toyota that is 16 years old and has over 300,000 miles on it!
—Pamela Butler, Los Angeles, Calif.