International man of mystery, Elliot Rush, has returned from Monaco to pen an acid-dipped list of shame. “Thirty stinkers, automotive atrocities...” he said.
We’ll leave it to you to make up your own minds which of them should and should not be there. But careful... it may offend.
Had a bit of time at the bar flying back from Monaco; personal guest of the Grimaldis - wonderful place, billionaires everywhere, and none of that income tax nonsense.
You’d consider living there if Pastor Maldonado didn’t insist on visiting every other day and crashing into the villa (“Use the brakes Pastor you twat, the middle pedal.” There are only so many times you can rebuild a wall...).
So, yes, ruminating at the bar, the mind turned as it does to WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY!
And I’m talking about our car industry. As the best friend the Australian car industry ever had, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, told me recently, “Elliot, I’m the best friend the motor industry ever had.”
And he’s right.
But here’s the thing. We might have popped one or two stinkers out of Adelaide or Broadmeadows, but we’ve also been more than happy to throw open the doors to let other people’s rubbish in.
Stuff from ‘over there’, shiploads of it, and we’ve been letting it in for years.
Without putting too fine a point on it, we’ve done a pretty crap job of protecting our borders.
We’re going to need a bit of Prime Ministerial intervention if we’re not going to be just a dumping ground for any old automotive rubbish that someone wants to put on a boat and send over here.
So, here’s a loose summation of where we’ve gone wrong over the past few decades.
The Elliot Rush list of shame: 30 dumb cars we could have done without... and in no particular order.
1978 Triumph TR7
Only the inmates of the asylum formerly known as British Leyland would have replaced the TR6 with... urk!... this?
About as athletic as a dead dog, the ‘wedge-shaped’ TR7 was the more appalling because it pretended to be a sports car.
And power? A truly crappy 2.0 litre lump - just 78kW and 161Nm - that would overheat in the backdraft of a fart. So bad, it fell below the badness scale.
Strangely, some people bought TR7s with actual money. They were the same people who thought it was cool to drive around in something that looked like it had been caught in Methuselah’s bum-crack.
1975 Alfa Sud
“Sud” means “south”, and that’s where this poorly-built pile of disappointment took the Alfa Romeo brand.
A 1.2 litre boxer engine in the snout, the Sud drove really well for five minutes. In the next five minutes it began to rust, and five minutes after that all the electrics failed.
A victim of a dodgy cold-war deal with Russian steel producers, on a quiet day Sud owners could hear the rust bug chewing.
If you can find one now that’s not full of rust, just wait a week.
1989 Ford Capri
As much like a sportscar, and as useful, as a Bishop’s tit; Ford supplied owners with brown paper bags so that they could drive past friends without fear of social death.
Anyone who bought one realised their horrible mistake the moment the fabric roof detached itself at speed. Speed? Not likely.
Lame, stupid looking and with the durability of a chocolate frog, a PR disaster for Australian manufacturing when exported to the US as the Mercury Capri.
1975 Holden Superchicken
Yes funsters, you read it right. Not really a car, more a badge. Maybe not a badge, more a decal…whatever. The Superchicken was dreamed up in Holden marketing after someone sprinkled LSD on the cupcakes.
It was supposed to be a piss-take on Ford’s XW Super-roo GT, but succeeded only in prompting the whole country to cast serious doubts on Holden’s sanity.
Thousands of the decals were printed - hoo, it was gonna be huge - Australia-wide two (2) apparently were sold. (No-one will admit to buying it.)
2005 SsangYong Stavic
Why does this car sound like it was named after a Balkan war criminal?
Styled after a pregnant whale that thinks it’s a car, bystanders have been known to gouge their eyes out after it swims past.
The lunatics at the wheel also think it’s a car, that’s why they’re lunatics.
2000 Volkswagen Beetle
A try-hard retro dung-beetle: the market saw through it in a flash. Thanks to unsuccessfully wedging a beetle shape onto a Golf platform, it came without front seats.
To drive it, you sat somewhere in the region of the back seat, your passengers sat in the ‘back of back’ seats. Somewhere in the distance was a windscreen and, between it, a dash deep enough for three sleeping winos to take up lodgings.
But it did come with a stupid flower and flower-pot.
1973 Leyland P76
An enormous hatful of droopy lines and disintegrating parts from a disintegrating company.
It could carry a forty-four gallon drum in the boot as if anyone gave a crap. There was only one reason to buy the P76: the magnificent alloy V8 could be slung into the boat after the rest of the car had flopped onto the garage floor.
Luckily, or sadly, when Leyland Australia went down the gurgler, it not only took the P76, but also the Force7, the two-door coupe version waiting in the wings. Collectors wearing rose-coloured glasses seem to love them both; the rest of us can thank our lucky stars these turkeys hit the chopping block.
1997 Holden Barina Cabriolet
If you bought one of these, you may have thought that you were buying something special, something made in a factory perhaps.
But no, Holden just took a perfectly adequate three-door Opel Corsa, cut the roof off with an angle grinder, and welded some bars in place.
As floppy as an octogenarian’s underpants, and about as sexy. (An octogenarian’s underpants may have been easier for Holden dealers to sell.)
2008 Chrysler Sebring Cabrio 2.7
Bring a peg! What possessed Chrysler to dishonour a hallowed US racetrack with this pretentious concoction of foppish lines? A genuine stinker that assisted in spearing Chrysler into bankruptcy.
And Sporting? Not even close. A total lard-arse of 1800kg with a creaking convertible body and truly shabby handling.
Thanks to the wheezy 2.7 litre V6 under the corrugated bonnet, firewalling the accelerator was like getting turkey-slapped by a eunuch. (Redemption, thankfully, came with the 300C.)
1972 Morris Marina
Morris, of England, tied its boat to this atrocity in the hope it might keep a sinking company afloat.
Archaic lever-arm shockers, wrist-snapping kick-back through the steering wheel, gutless, horrible engines and the loosest-fitting interior this side of a Mongolian Yurt.
It could understeer in a mild breeze; a truly awful hand-grenade of a car that blew up in owners’ faces five minutes after leaving the dealership.
It also came as sporting version, the TC, for ‘twin-carbie’ boasting 71kW and 144Nm. Wow. They sold like hot cakes... (yeah right).
A later Aussie-only model was sold to total loonies (with a death wish) fitted with a 2.6 litre six, turning understeer from chronic to ‘certain death’.
2007 Holden Epica
As epic as a fart in a warm bath; GM’s great achievement was to find possibly the stinkiest car in the Daewoo stable and decide it was “just the thing” for the Australian market.
This blouse had to man-up against the likes of the Mazda6, Accord Euro and newly-arrived Ford Mondeo.
It should have been taken straight to the knackery; drab to behold, a deeply awful interior and a coarse east-west straight six in the snout producing a horribly limp 105kW and 195Nm.
It was as popular as leprosy; even grannies picked it as a lame mule.
1985 Subaru Vortex
Quite possibly sillier-looking than the TR7, the Vortex succeeded in looking wonky from every angle: a wedge from the side, glass in the wrong places and a block of flats from the rear.
The 1.8 litre boxer engine in the nose and optional AWD underpinnings were a saving grace, but it handled like that huge square arse was filled with cement.
Maybe Subaru thought the wailing and gnashing of teeth was cheering because it followed this dumb lump with another - the daft SVX (that came with a $70k - you’re dreamin’ - price tag in 1991).
1980 Maserati BiTurbo
About as collectable now as a bag of spuds (maybe not quite that collectable). The cream leather interior was as durable as the skin on a bowl of custard; the flim-flam velour trim-option was worse.
And worse again was the driving position. Only a gorilla with arms twice as long as his legs would have found it comfortable.
These crimes were compounded by a notoriously unreliable 1996cc twin-turbo V6 (feeding a single carb sealed in the plenum chamber).
Oversquare to buggery with an 82mm × 63mm bore and stroke, it managed 132kW and 253Nm and a 0-100km/h dash of 8.2 seconds on the rare days it was running smoothly, or at all.
A saving grace was the kerb weight of 1086kg... it was easier to push to work and back rather than actually driving it.
1974 Datsun 120Y
Yes, why indeed? So crappy it was a dunny on wheels. Proof that car-makers can get stuck in reverse (in any decade), it followed the brilliant little Datsun 1000 and the not-too-bad Datsun 1200.
Tinny, gutless and thrashy, it produced a meagre 51kW and 95Nm and, sitting on tiny skinny wheels, drove like a boat.
The only way Datsun could live down the shame of this atrocity, and the equally atrocious 260C and craptacular 280ZX, was to change its name to Nissan, and hope the market forgot.
1999 Toyota Echo sedan
A runt with the arse-in-the-air grace of a constipated wart-hog. When it drives past, mouths fill with vomit (this is normal...)
How did anyone calling themselves a designer come up with such wonky lines without being shot? And who approved it? “Hey wow, this is exactly what we’re looking for...”
It wouldn’t have been so bad if it drove half respectably, but it didn’t.
The Echo was such a style abomination that it set a “let’s-all-be-bog-ugly-too” trend for other small sedans to follow - like the Fiesta sedan, Almera and Barina sedan. FFS, get that white powder out of the design studio...
1978 Lada Niva
Proof positive that communism would eventually collapse, even back then it was the car you’d buy only if you really hated yourself.
An off-road 4X4, it was so crappily built it could be taken off-road only if you didn’t mind the walk back.
But there was nothing wrong with the little Lada’s basic design - if anything, its unibody structure and full-time four-wheel-drive set the scene for the modern small SUV. It also had three diffs and a proper low-range transfer case.
On the trip away from civilisation, the gutless little 1.6 litre four could actually drag it into some challenging out-of-the-way places. But by then it had fallen apart.
1985 Mitsubishi TM Magna
It followed the boring as bat-shit Sigma, which, though boring, lasted forever (or slightly longer).
Mitsubishi Australia’s trick with the Magna was to widen the Japanese Galant’s platform by 66mm (about three inches) so that they had a size-competitor for the rampant Falcon and Commodore.
Unfortunately, the 83kW and 201Nm 2.6 litre engine fell way short of the task of moving the Magna, and the four-speed auto transmissions kept lunching themselves.
On the plus side, the TM Magna was spookily quiet on road, but that’s because they were mostly stopped.
And thus did Mitsubishi Australia set itself on a path to perdition and death.
1993 Ford Probe
This lame and horrendously expensive front-wheel-drive slug was more like an anal probe.
With an asthmatic 2.5 litre Mazda V6 in the nose producing 121kW and 213Nm, it could manage the 0-100km/h sprint in 10.7 seconds... glaciers move faster.
The Probe’s $47,450 sporty lines appealed to someone, but we know not whom.
But it had pop-up headlights which sometimes popped up and sat on a half-reasonable Mazda MX6 platform.
1986 Mazda 929 HB Coupe
A sack of haemorrhoids from Mazda’s ‘wilderness’ years. Futuristic, apparently, it was actually so misshapen it would have been rejected as a prop in a two-bob sci-fi - like ‘PLAN 9 from Outer Space’.
The woefully inadequate 2.0 litre SOHC four-cylinder lump under that huge bonnet could only manage a piss-poor 70kW and 158Nm.
And how much did you have to pay, back in 1986, to get this immense turd into the garage? Try $29,640.
Worse, Mazda actually found a brace of total idiots prepared to pay this amount of money to drive around looking like total idiots.
2007 Hummer H3
As dumb as a brick, and as stylish. Not big enough to be taken seriously by survivalists (coz’ you can’t fit a 20mm anti-tank cannon on the back), and way too stupid for anyone else.
No thumping V8 here, not even a ‘six’ - just a sludgy 3.7 litre five-cylinder that produced 180kW and 328Nm of torque (the latter at a valve-bouncing 4600rpm).
Fuel consumption of this 2.25 tonne lump is nowhere near claimed figures of 13.5 l/100km, more like a planet-eating 17.0 l/100km+ in the real world.
The biggest problem with owning one of these, besides looking like a twat, is getting egged by greenies.
Strangely enough, they’re kind-of collectable “in da hood”. (I rest my case.)
1975 Lancia Beta Saloon (Berlina in Europe)
This handsome 1.8 litre saloon sold pretty well ‘back in the day’.
The reason you don’t see many of them is because they rusted away in the first light dew they encountered.
Any that survived this blew up shortly after in a shower of valves and shattered pistons when the stretched franger that passed as a timing belt failed.
The front-end also couldn’t cope with Aussie potholes and was prone to collapse. Sometimes when at speed. That’s another reason why you don’t see them.
1996 Ford Taurus
You have to be deeply suspicious of any car uglier than a bottom-dwelling sea blob.
Not bad dynamically, quite good really, but its Ford designers came up with a design that sucked so deeply it will forever occupy a special place in loser-land.
Look closely, and you will note that every line is a curve. This was the daft intention; Ford spoke about it as if it thought sensible people gave a crap.
Making things worse was the deep-seated suspicion carried by Australian buyers of anything ‘big’ that was front wheel drive - despite the half-reasonable 149kW V6 nestled in that gawdawful nose.
2001 Jaguar X-Type
As much like a proper Jaguar as a rooted moggy, the X-Type absolutely sucked.
Back when Ford was doing its best to stuff up Jaguar, it decided the Ford Mondeo could be re-fettled to wear a Jaguar badge.
The piggy eyes never worked, even less the constricted ‘Jaguar-esque’ rump, and less again the gutless 117kW 2.1 litre V6 that found its way into the 2002 base model front-wheel-drive atrocity.
It had lots of leather, splashes of mahogany and round traditional Jaguar dials; but nothing could disguise its Mondeo roots. It was, and remains, a pig in lipstick.
1968 Lamborghini Espada
It is six feet wide, 73 inches no less, and even now it looks wrong - like it’s sagging in the middle.
Sure, we'd have one, you wouldn't throw it out of bed, but why create something as big as a gothic cathedral, with room inside for a tabernacle choir, and only give it two doors?
And the tuning quirks of the six 40DCOE Weber carbies feeding the 3929cc V12 meant that it was as reliable as a politician's promise.
It was also prone to rust. Strangely enough, because nutbags and loony millionaires have never been in short supply, the Espada became Lamborghini’s most successful supercar (even though it cost more than the delectable Miura).
Some that came to Australia were automatics. The auto: a three-speed Chrysler TorqueFlite at least offered the benefit of cheap parts (thanks to all those Valiants running around the place).
1986 Hyundai Excel
As appealing as acne; being cheap - just $9990 - was no excuse for awfulness.
Back when we pronounced it Hi-yoon-die, this loosely arranged bucket of hand-me-downs (from Mitsubishi) would shake itself to bits at the first sign of an Aussie road.
Despite ploughing out just 52kW and 123Nm from its 1.5 litres, it was as thirsty as hell, made a horrible noise, and looked like a dose of the clap. (We can blame Alan Bond.)
Lexus SC 430
Blergghhh! A car for total dickwits or blinged-up rappers with their heads up their arses.
It wasn’t slow, the 4.3 litre VVT-i V8 produced a reasonable 215kW and 430Nm of torque, giving this gut-wrenchingly naff coupe a 0-100km/h time of 6.2 seconds.
The ridiculously puny retractable roof is aluminium, which made it lighter; there is nothing else of any interest.
The SC 430 remains a high-water mark in tasteless horribleness. Unfortunately, it is exceptionally well-built and will last longer than the pyramids. This is a shame.
Otherwise known as 'the shitbox Porsche', the 924 failed on nearly all measures of 'Porsche-ness': its interior would melt in the noonday sun, it had a somewhat ordinary 2.0 litre in the nose producing a snotty 82kW, and nearly everyone hated it.
Its only saving grace was a featherweight 1080kg kerb weight and a pernickety transaxle rear.
It was designed originally for VW/Audi, then Porsche took it back to replace the gammy-looking 914 - also a pretend Porsche but it at least had the engine in the right spot.
1988 EA Falcon
And you were thinking the AU was a cock-up? The EA Falcon is what happens when a company panics; it ends up pissing in its own nest.
It was popular at first, because it looked pretty good. That was until you looked closer.
Because Ford rushed it onto the market to beat the VN Commodore, it paid the price with misaligned panels, crap paint, bumpers that would fall off, a shabbily-fitted dash and dire front-end problems.
Ford need not have bothered. The VN, which won Wheels COTY, was a total dud. (And who, pray tell, was paying the Wheels piper?)
Pissing in the nest? Despite raising serious question-marks over Australian manufacturing capabilities, development of the EA reputedly cost Ford Australia no less than $700 million.
Makes the $1 billion development cost of the VE Commodore seem a bit of a bargain really...
2001 Proton Waja
Expensive, and styled loosely on a startled owl, it was never going to fly; even the name was the subject of ridicule - it was correctly pronounced ‘Woger’… like ‘Roger’ with a speech impediment. ("Ok, welease Woderwick... do we have a Woderwick centuwian?")
The Waja came with great expectations from Proton. Everyone else had a different expectation: they thought it might be an arse-biscuit, and it was.
1980 VC Commodore 4-cylinder
Why anyone thought that the VC Commodore range would be improved by slotting the puny 1898cc Starfire engine under its bonnet, remains one of the great mysteries of the modern age.
It could manage, at its best, a putrescent 60kW and 140Nm. To achieve this, Holden engineers hatcheted two cylinders off the 2850cc ‘red’ six, itself no marvel.
The result was a landmark in crap engineering: a four cylinder with an iron head and iron block and archaic pushrod technology.
Technology? But surely I jest. Described at the time as “a little down on power”, it was in fact completely incapable of dragging a greasy stick out of a dog’s arse.
The fact that this engine was shared by the UC Torana, and also by Toyota in its 1980 Australian-built Corona, does not make it right.
And that’s just 30.
No steaming pile index of course is ever complete. It is, by its nature, a moveable feast of crapness.
In fact, even this list is barely complete without dishonourable mentions also going to the Holden Piazza turbo, Jaguar’s XJS, the Daewoo Espero and, yes, Toyota Avalon, the car that made dog-droppings look fashionable.
Also lucky to avoid the list - and only because the jury is out funsters, we’re making no promises about future lists - is Nissan’s ‘beaten to a pulp by the ugly-stick’ Juke, BMW’s twat-magnet X6, and the bloated-bum Porsche Panamera.
(And if no-one points out your manifest failings, how will you ever learn?)