Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Worst American Car, Ever.

When I started this countdown to the worst automobiles ever made by American companies I was sure I knew where the journey was going to take me.  Smugly, I thought I could pull from my knowledge of Motodom's biggest flops and there you would have it.

The problem that reared its ugly little head was that whenever you get an ersatz self appointed know it all with an opinion of their own in these lists, like myself, the same damn cars keep popping up.  And these cars keep popping up not because they are so gawd awful that they desrvse it, but because its easier to say they are bad than really look at what resulted from that car, itself. 

Take for example the Ford Motor Company's Edsel.  Was it a bad car?  In reality, no, it was not worse than anything else on the road.  It may have been ugly, it may have been all hype and no substance, and the it became the butt of jokes, but it wasn't an inheritantly bad automobile. The Edsel did have a great engine and great brakes but all of that was lost "in the process."

Another example of a car lumped in as bad was the Corvair.  Yes, there were handling issues in the 1960-61 model years if the tires weren't inflated properly, but by the time the 1965 models hit the road 99% of the prioblems had been ironed, but the dye was cast.

So to name my idea of the worst American car ever I had to weigh some criteria:
  • Looks
  • Operation
  • Cost
  • Build
  • Impact
After carful consideration....

My worst American car ever...


The Ford Model T.

Now hear me out on this one.  First of all the car was utilitarian - no real bells or whistles.  And most of the models didn't provide all weather protection, necessitating the use of oiled canvas curtains. 

But, Cookie, you argue, they sold so many of them!  This is the car that put America on the road, a car in ever garage, a filing station on every street corner, asphalt roadways....

And it is precisely that reason why the Model T is the worst of the whole lot.  Henry Ford's machine and its business developments led to many of the troubles that plague us today.  Yes, Ford envisioned a car in every garage, but could he ever have imagined two cars in every garage? Streets packed like sardines with cars burning fuel while they waited to go forth?  The noise, the air pollution, the industrial waste, the shopping malls, suburbia, the decline of the American downtown, the erradication of passenger rail...  The list goes on and on.

The Model T put mobility into the minds of the middle class, and today, for every $30,000 mid sized car we buy - and my parents didn't spend that much on their first house in Shaker Heights - we commit another $15,000 to $30,000 over the life of the vehicle into its upkeep, taxes spent on infrastruction, insurance, fuel and everything else that goes into supporting that car and its needs.

For as much as I love the American Car, that Model T was as much a curse as it became a symbol of mobility.  It was crude and loud and it was a model marvel of its day.  And our cars today are engineering marvels too - but we're far too dependent on them, we use them too much and they are destroying the world around us because we don't think further than our immediate needs.  Why should we - anything we need is a short car ride away from where we need to go.

The Model T was to Americans as the box was to Pandora.  And that is why I have named it as the worst car in the history of the American Automobile industry.


  1. maybe you should do "worst cake mix" next time.

  2. A "boxed" cake mix? Norma! Even thought of a boxed cake mix makes me feel unclean!

  3. Did someone mention CAKE?

  4. You have put an interesting spin on the worst car idea. I recently read about Levittown which would have never happened without the dependence on the car. Like the T the houses were all alike but they were needed in the Postwar world. Also like the T they were affordable.

  5. Exactly. The car is an amazing thing. It took the streetcar out of the streetcar neighborhoods, it gave Americans the idea that better was alway beyond the next hill. Its decendents have lead to sprawl creating sprawl. It began the shift of priorities that have enslaved us today.

    But what it opened up in American life was a giant waste of money in pursuit of "more".

    The Model T isn't a horrific vehicle, but what it did for mankind in shifting priorities, the ruin of the environment, etc. is pretty dire.