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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Now Some Horrible Cars That Now Are Collectors Items.

Now we're getting into an area of particular interest to me.  Since the 12 Hours of Sebring happened this weekend and the WEC Prologue is coming up soon, it's time to get into gear about cars and the automotive world.

However, don't expect this to be a "best cars" list, unless you wanna pick up a cheap collectable.  This is a sampling of some of the worst cars in the world.  However, time has been kind to them from the aspect of them now becoming collectors items and even have dedicated followings and fan and owners clubs for them.

There will, of course, be cars from the former Communist Bloc/Warsaw Pact countries, but also items from the 1970s, from British Leyland, and even stuff from mainstream manufacturers.  This will include many well known cars, and some that are more obscure.  For the sake of space, each entry will be a paragraph or two with a link to the Wikipedia article and gallery for each car.

First, I'll start with the Trabant.  This East German car had a small, two stroke engine, but its strangest feature was how it was constructed.  The car had a conventional unitary floorpan, but the body was made from a material call Duraplast.  This fiberglass-like material was made out of a mixture or resin and wool.  The car was the best seller in East Germany during it's near 30 year lifespan, but went out of production soon after the Reunification of Germany.

Also from East Germany is the Wartburg 353.  Like the Trabant, it was powered by a two stroke engine and used a similar unitary floorplan construction.  However, its body was made of steel and fiberglass. The car had some competition success in Eastern European rallying, but it's remembered nowadays since German Reunification as being a poorly built, cheap, inefficient car much like the Trabant. 

Now here's one of the better "bad" cars, the FSO Polonez.  It may've been a re-bodied Fiat 125 (built under license in Poland from 1967 to 1991), but it was one of the first Eastern European Cars to past US and EU crash testing.  Later cars discarded the old Fiat pushrod engines in favor of Ford gasoline and Peugeot diesel engines:

Then there was the Lada Riva, another Fiat derivative, in this case, the Fiat 124.  Likes most Comm Bloc cars, it served as cheap transport, not as a performance machine.  But even give that, it rusted like a shipwreck, handled badly, but to it's credit, it was mechanically durable and had a Russian designed powertrain. 

And also from Russia is the Moskvitch 408 and 412.  These cars are perhaps best known for a number of them being made in the same Izhevsk plant known as Izhmash, now owned by Kalashnikov Concern.  Which, as the modern name implies, is the same plant where most of the AK-47 and AK-74 rifles used by the Russian Army since the late 1940s have been made.  Though, as James May said, the Moskvitch cars are just as, if not more lethal, than the automatic rifles that came out of the same plant for it's on-road capabilities.

That being said, these Moskvitch cars were the first Russian cars to have seat belts, crumple zones, and other safety measures built into them as standard. 

And finally, the last of the Warsaw Pact cars, is the ZAZ Zaporozhets.  A car who's biggest innovation was a removable footwell pan so owners can use it for fishing on frozen lakes.  It was intended to be the Soviet Union's answer to the Volkswagen Beetle.  As such, it was small, rounded in shape, and even had an air cooled rear mounted four cylinder engine (a V4 vs the Beetle's Boxer 4).  But it was cruder than the Beetle, and was in most ways a flawed car, with nasty handling, poor build quality, and a tendency to rust far quicker than desired. 

But let's not pretend that the Communist Bloc had a monopoly on bad cars that are so bad that they're good.  The rot prone Alfa Romeo Alfasud was, aside from it's corrosion and electrical problems, a genuine sports car disguised as a family sedan: 

Less good were the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro.  Designed and built at a time when British Leyland were losing sales and profits to Ford of Britain and Ford of Europe, the Marina was based off the older Morris Minor--and was just as ancient under the skin.  This could be forgivable since the Marina was designed to sell off of convention, and sold well throughout its life though it was rust prone and was distinctly average in terms of performance. 

The Allegro, on the other hand, had complicated hydraulic suspension, was front wheel drive, and was intended to cash in on being basically an enlarged Mini.  And like the Marina, it did sell fairly well.  But it was far from being a good car, being rust prone, having electrical issues, awkward styling, and being a bit too strange for some tastes.

And of course, there's the well known Ford Pinto, which tended to catch fire when rear-ended due to Ford pencil pushers and bean counters leaving out things intended for it such as a rupture resistant fuel filler neck and a rubber liner in the fuel tank like what racing cars use.  Not to mention (like most cars of the era) it was never far away from the rust bug.

Or the so-called malaise era 1980's GM cars, which were poorly built, cheap, a pain to work on (my father can tell you that) and were built to cash in on cheapness, not quality.

I'll try and end things here, but don't worry, there will be more car posts later, considering that the racing season is about to begin in earnest for me.


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