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The 5 Most Unfairly Maligned Cars Ever

Updated November 2, 2017

There are poor cars that deserve the reputation that’s been handed them. Whether they suffer from low power, short engine life, have issues with corrosion, or just plain miserable styling , those are the attributes of a car that deserves a bad reputation.

Here we have a list of cars that have been wrongly accused of being bad cars, but in these cases it’s likely that the issues are fictitious, overinflated, rumored,  or the problems easily remedied. Let’s take a look at a few and see where we have a disconnect.

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Porsche 911 2.7  (1974 – 1976)

After a phenomenal run of cars right up until 1973, Porsche took a huge step backwards in 1974 with the installation of the 2.7 liter engine into the 911 (to compensate for power losses due to US emissions regulations). The problem was the 2.7 wasn’t the old engine bored out but the high performance 2.7 Carrera detuned. Meant to be primarily a race motor that would see constant maintenance the 2.7 had a slew of problems, including the unfortunate habit of ingesting itself at 50,000 miles. These problems were solved in later Porsche engines, so upgrading to eliminate these issues is relatively straightforward, but not entirely inexpensive. That said, the market value of these cars were way below those of earlier and later 911s, but with fixes in place the ’74 – ’76 can be an excellent driver’s car.

Chevrolet-Corvette_C3_1968_L48

Chevrolet Corvette (1979)

The great irony here is that the least respected of all Corvettes was also model year in which the most Corvettes were sold – ever.  Part of the perception issue was also that 1979 saw the lowest powered V-8 Corvette ever. There are four cylinder cars out there right now that make more power. The other issue is the monochromatic interior, that if you purchased in black looks great, but any other color looks like the shag carpet in Mike & Carol Brady’s house. On the plus side, the seats were upgraded from the previous year’s pace car, bolt-on front and rear spoiler were available and much of the trim painted black. In addition, the C3 had probably the best integration of the 5 MPH bumpers of any domestic car. So, the interior can be swapped and experts suggest a camshaft swap and new cylinder heads to perk up the engine.  With a little investment in a car that’s under-priced by the market, you get a distinctive, comfortable, classic Corvette.

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Ford Edsel (1958 – 1960)

The Ford Edsel had so much going against it that it’s a small wonder that it ever existed at all. Most people believe that the oddball grille is what turned people off to the car, but that was a minority (the stylists had a much more subtle and attractive design, the engineers increased the size of the “horse collar” to get more flow to the radiator). Another shortcoming pointed to was the name: Edsel. Edsel, the only son of Henry Ford, died at the age of 49. Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II, then Chairman of Ford vetoed the use of his name, but when the board met when Ford was out of town, they voted in the Edsel name. Strange to the ear in the late 1950s, as must have the last name of two Swiss race drivers 30 years earlier: Chevrolet.

What really killed the Edsel was poor planning. Ford felt they needed to have a wider range of brands like GM and introduced Edsel to fit between Ford and Mercury, except the gap was so small, that Edsel overlapped higher priced Fords and lower priced Mercurys. A new president came into Ford and killed Edsel because it complicated manufacturing and cost the company incremental development dollars with little return. But Edsel did bring a few firsts to the market: warning lights for oil, water, and parking brake. All around, not a bad car, pretty much like any Ford of the same era, and certainly not the lemon it’s perceived to be.

1966_Chevy_Corvair_Coupe_by_aibrean

Chevy Corvair (1961-1969)

The Corvair started life as a stripped-down import fighter but turned out to be expensive to build and didn’t immediately catch fire. When performance and styling improvements were made, sales jumped. Then consumer advocate Ralph Nader published a book titled “Unsafe at Any Speed” where he took to task the Big Three automakers for their lackadaisical attitude toward safety. One chapter targeted the Corvair and its potentially dangerous handling tendencies due to its rear swing axle design (though the same as in competitors like VW, Renault and even Porsche). GM made a hasty change to the existing chassis, but for 1965 GM overhauled the Corvair, with more aggressive styling and an all-new rear suspension. It was finally the car that it should have been in the beginning. Unfortunately, Ford had launched the Mustang, which hurt the sales of the performance version of the Corvair, while the very traditional and dead-simple Chevy II took away the lower end business. This pushed Corvair sales down and in 1969 the plug was pulled on the Corvair. A sad end for what became a very good car.

isuzu_vehicross_1024x768_2

Isuzu VehiCROSS (1999 – 2001)

It seemed as though at one point the Isuzu VehiCROSS was everywhere: car magazines, magazine ads, even the occasional spotting of one on the highway. Then it all disappeared and conjecture was that the VehiCROSS was too  far out for public tastes and Isuzu halted production. Not true. The VehiCROSS was always intended to be a limited-production vehicle to serve as a demonstrator of Isuzu’s technology. First, body panels were molded in ceramic dies, which were less expensive to produce but could only produce enough panels for 5000 vehicles before wearing out.

The VehiCROSS featured computer-controlled AWD system for on-road driving , and for off-roading,  a locked-differential low gear. The suspension was comprised of existing Isuzu bits, but very well selected, and in some cases created just for the VehiCROSS, like remote reservoir shocks. Owners effuse about how well the VehiCROSS handled on and off road. So in no way can the VehiCROSS be considered a failure. It did what it was intended: to demonstrate Isuzu technology. Unfortunately Isuzu didn’t stay in the car business here long enough for us to see round two.

 

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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