Worst Cars, Best Lines

Why are some of the funniest, most skilled writers (“Pulitzer Prize-winning,” in fact) creating copy for Time magazine’s list of 50 Worst Cars?
“Actually, at 1,100 lbs and 145 in. long, the Crosley Hotshot was a minor hunk of junk, but at least it was slow and dangerous. A wondrously mangled and compacted Hotshot can be glimpsed in the 1961 driver’s ed scare film Mechanized Death.” (Crosley Hotshot, 1949)  (But it’s so darned cute and snouty.)

“It took the drivers at Road and Track 32 seconds to reach 60 mph, which would put the Dauphine at a severe disadvantage in any drag race involving farm equipment.” (Renault Dauphine, 1956)

“It was also a lovely little coupe, which made the moment when the suspension mounts punched through the stressed-skin monocoque all the more pathetic.” (Lotus Elite, 1958)

“… giving it a top speed of only 50 mph, assuming you had that kind of time. Its unique feature was the rear-facing bench seat, which meant passengers could watch in horror as traffic threatened to rear-end this rolling roadblock of a car.” (Zunndapp Janus, 1958)    (1958 — great year for cars!)

“A vehicle that promised to revolutionize drowning … Its single greatest demerit — and this is a big one — was that it wasn’t particularly watertight. ” (Amphicar, 1961)

“The 3.0-liter Triumph V8 was a monumental failure, an engine that utterly refused to confine its combustion to the internal side.” (Triumph Stag, 1970)

“The interior looked like a third-world casino. … Here we are approaching the nadir of American car building …. Or, it would be the nadir, except for the abysmal 1980 Chrysler Imperial, which had an engine cursed by God.” (1971 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron Two-Door Hardtop)

“The only Bricklin I ever sat in caught on fire and burned to the axles. This is notably ironic, since the car’s creator — the smooth-talking Malcolm Bricklin —  didn’t include an ashtray or lighter in the car, to discourage smoking. Despite its hand-removing, 100-lb. gullwing doors, the SV1 was supposed to exemplify the safer car of the future.” (Bricklin SV1, 1975)

“The Trabant was East Germany’s answer to the VW Beetle — a ‘people’s car,’ as if the people didn’t have enough to worry about.” (Trabant, 1975)

“In the disco days of the 1970s, even supercars were cocaine-thin. Meet the Aston Martin Lagonda, a four-door exotic that lived on dinner mints and hot water.” (Aston Martin Lagonda, 1976)

“Few car projects were more maledicted than the DMC-12. By the time Johnny Z. got the factory in Northern Ireland up and running — and what could possibly go wrong there? — the losses were piling up fast.” (De Lorean DMC-12, 1981)

“There was a time when 90 horsepower was a lot, and that time was 1932.” (Camaro Iron Duke, 1982)

“Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus. The collected service advisories would look like the Gutenberg Bible.” (Maserati Biturbo, 1984)

“Malcolm Bricklin, he of the Bricklin SV1, wouldn’t be satisfied until he had forced every American to walk to work. … Built in Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia, the Yugo had the distinct feeling of something assembled at gunpoint. Interestingly, in a car where ‘carpet’ was listed as a standard feature … (Yugo GV, 1985)

“At the time, Ford argued that many of its customers — ranchers, farmers, um, tugboat enthusiasts — needed a vehicle this big with over 10,000-lb. towing capacity.” (Ford Excursion, 2000)

“I was in the audience at the Detroit auto show the day GM unveiled the Pontiac Aztek and I will never forget the gasp that audience made. Holy hell! This car could not have been more instantly hated if it had a Swastika tattoo on its forehead. … With its multiple eyes and supernumerary nostrils, the Aztek looks deformed and scary, something that dogs bark at and cathedrals employ to ring bells. (Pontiac Aztek, 2001)

“One struggles to think of a worse vehicle at a worse time.” (Hummer H2, 2003)

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