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Here are the Top 10 Worst Cars of 1980

With the best cars of 2010 in mind, we thought it would be fun to go back 30 years and show you the Top 10 Worst Cars of 1980. Think Ford Pinto.
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How many times did you see The Empire Strikes Back in theatres? How proud were you when Canadian ambassador Ken Taylorgot those Americans out of Iran?

If you have answers to the above, then you were probably were around in 1980, the automotive equivalent of the Dark Ages.

After a decade of oil crises, burdensome safety and castrating environmental regulations, and the arrival of new competition from the Far East, new car buyers were left with few worthwhile options by the time 1980 rolled around.

For those who say, “They don’t make `em like they used to,” we say, “Thank gawd!”

Here they are, in descending order:

10. Ferrari Mondial 8

By the end of the 1970s, even super carmakers had it rough. Take for example the Mondial 8 2+2 introduced that year. A rare example of an undesirable Ferrari.

The Mondial’s underpowered engine didn’t help. And its inherently ungainly 2+2 mid-engine design produced a tall, awkward-looking profile that even made its dorky predecessor, the 308 GT4, look good in comparison.

Today, a Mondial represents one of the few affordable used Ferraris — mainly because no one wants one.

9. Chevrolet Monza

Named after the legendary Italian racetrack, the 2+2 Monza hatchback — like the Oldsmobile Starfire and Buick Skyhawk — was a Chevy Vega by any other name.

You have to squint, but Chevy actually promoted the Monza’s resemblance to the Ferrari 365 GTC/4. Seriously.

Introduced in 1975, by 1980 the rear-drive Monza was on its last legs. Better-made and more reliable imports like the Toyota Celica and Honda Accord were eating its lunch.

The 5.0-litre V8 was gone, leaving a wheezy Buick V6 as its most powerful mill.

By 1981, the new front-drive Cavalier would replace the Monza.

8. Dodge Aspen

The intermediate, rear-drive Aspen was only produced between 1976 and 1980 but its residue still lingers after 30 years. Here are the Top 10 Worst Cars of 1980

Like the Chevy Citation (see below), the Aspen (and its Plymouth Volare mate) were given the kiss of death by winning Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year when introduced.

Riddled by poor production quality, then-Chrysler head Lee Iacocca wrote that the Aspen and Volaré were probably rushed to market too soon, leaving early owners to act as Chrysler quality-control agents.

The biggest problem were front fenders that would literally rust off the cars.

For 1981, the Aspen was replaced by the smaller, front-wheel-drive Dodge Aries.

7. Audi 100

Three years before its cigar-shaped successor revolutionized the auto industry and put Audi on the map, there was the 1976 to 1982 Audi 100 — a German engineer’s wet dream but a mechanic’s nightmare.

The front-drive, Audi mid-size sedan came with the first five-cylinder engine (a weak-kneed, 2.1-litre unit with 103 hp) that was known to warp heads and blow gaskets on a weekly basis.

Its inboard brakes (which sat right beside the engine) would heat up and literally fall apart.

And the 100 would rust at the mere mention of precipitation in the forecast.

6. AMC Spirit

By 1979, AMC was like today’s Chrysler: on the ropes and without much hope.

So instead of an all-new car, the struggling automaker simply rebadged its horrid, nine-year-old Gremlin as the “Spirit.” Here are the Top 10 Worst Cars of 1980

But beyond the badge, there wasn’t much uplifting about the “new” AMC compact.

By 1980, even the 5.0-liter was dropped.

Unbelievably, the Spirit continued on for three more years, until the new owners at Renault replaced it with the Alliance-based Encore hatchback.

5. MGB Mark III

The MGB was relatively modern. Back in 1962.

But with little or no engineering improvements along the way, by 1980 the British roadster was celebrating its 18th and last birthday. Five years earlier, its pretty chrome bumpers were replaced by cartoonishly large and heavy black plastic versions that hindered handling.

And now, instead of a proper redesign, to meet new headlight laws, the car’s ride height was jacked up like a Jeep Grand Wagoneer.

Smog regulations dampened performance to below contemporary economy car levels.

4. Fiat X1/9

Here’s a fine, Italian example of why FIAT stands for Fix-It-Again-Tony.

The two-seat, rear-drive X1/9 was the first mid-engine sports car that even a pizza delivery boy could afford to buy. Here are the Top 10 Worst Cars of 1980

To be able to afford to maintain it, er, that’s another story…

Never really intended to be produced, the X1/9’s cramped engine bay prevented routine maintenance.

Its steering racks would fall out of the car because of vapid rust. And too much heat would cause the Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection to not restart the car.

Then there’s the issue that the Fiat never really sorted out: its tricky handling characteristics. Mama mia!!

3. Chevrolet Citation

Along with the badge-engineered Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega and Pontiac Phoenix — the so-called X-Cars — the compact Chevrolet Citation was one of GM’s first front-wheel-drive cars, replacing the aging, rear-drive, Nova.

Rushed to market to fight off the likes of the Honda Accord, the Citation was ugly, poorly made and had insufferable torque steer. Citation ownership meant a plethora of safety recalls and eventually an unsuccessful lawsuit.

By 1987, the public had had enough. The Citation was replaced by the not-much-better Beretta coupe and Corsica sedan.

2. Oldsmobile Delta 88 Diesel

Ever wonder why Americans don’t like diesel engines? Even after three decades, here’s one reason: the 1980 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Diesel.

Yet another knee-jerk, under-funded reaction to the 1970s oil supply problems, GM’s V8 diesels had a fundamental design flaw that caused pistons, cylinder heads and cylinder walls to fail. Not good.

Over time, a class action lawsuit resulted in GM diesel owners being able to claim 80 per cent of the original cost of the engine.

1. Ford Pinto

Introduced in 1970, like the Chevrolet Vega and AMC Gremlin, Ford’s Pinto was one of the first small cars from Detroit to take on the Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Corolla.

Regardless of its poor packaging, dodgy build quality, and milquetoast performance, the Pinto will go down in history as a death trap.

That the Pinto’s ill-designed fuel tank could explode from a rear impact was one thing.

But Ford’s decision to not recall the car — now known as the Ford Pinto memo, which calculated the cost of reinforcing the rear end ($121 million U.S.) versus the potential payout to victims ($50 million) — says more about the state of the auto industry in 1980 than any other car here.

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