On Twitter, @OTooleFan was talking about some of the worst automotive disasters, like the AMC Pacer- celibacy on wheels- and the Yugo. For more of these, I suggest you read Car Talk's Worst Cars of All Time. Now, a lot of cars stood out as truly bad, but almost any car you drove from 1973 to 1986 was like a prank an auto exec was playing on you. I had a '76 Pinto Wagon as my first car, and the only fun I had in it was when it was parked. It was rust brown with fake wood panels, a folding rear seat and a roof rack. It looked like the Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation.
I loved that car because it was smoking hot, Silversmoke Gray with a red interior, my first V8 engine- a 289 2 barrel carb auto. Less horsepower than my Mini has today, and awful, awful handling, but what a blast to drive- because you were constantly putting your life in your hands. The master brake cylinder only had one chamber, so any leak in the brake lines put you in a suicidal charge toward the enemy front. Sure, it had an emergency brake but the cable was frozen, so I ended up throwing the car into reverse, bouncing my nose off the horn, and suddenly going backwards. The transmission held up, amazingly enough. I could change the oil by crawling underneath it without a jack. I had to raise the power top manually, there was a rust hole in the passenger door, but I didn't care. Because it was a blast to drive, and simple to work on. The only problems I had were gas and brake lines older than I was constantly leaking all over the place, a leaky fuel filler cap getting water in my tank, and a complete inability to back out of a parking space if there was more than a sprinkling of snow on the ground. So on second thought, thanks Ralph Nader!
Soon, cars went from simple machines, sort of like tractors, to add with sleek fins and chome bumpers shaped like tits (the infamous '60 Cadillac and its "Dagmars" named after a Swedish comedienne's rack). But after the muscle era faded, they became annoying household appliances, like a push-button blender with wheels. This was the era of the K car and the Yugo, when the best-loved car was... the Taurus. Shaped like Mork from Ork's Eggship, it at least gave a passing nod to the concept of aerodynamics. Everything was made of shoddy plastic that would dry out and crumble like sawdust in too much sun. They gave us automatic seat belts that would try to strangle you, but pop off their rails and let you smash into the windshield. You may complain about daytime running lights and nanny devices, but just try finding the damn headlight switch in a car from the late '70s. And the high beams? Try the floor, next to the emergency brake pedal. Oops, I was trying to flash my highbeams, and locked up the rear tires! What a calamity! At least nowadays, when someone plows into oncoming traffic it was because they were playing Farmville on their iPhone, and not because they pressed the wrong button.
© 2010 Tommy Salami
Monday, August 30, 2010
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