The casual observer might think that the 24 Hours of Lemons has seen just about every terrible car built through its 13-year history. However, the depths of the automotive history approach abyss levels. As such, we maintain a pretty substantial Wish List of crapcans yet to see. Some are more surprising than others, but let’s cover seven cars that will most likely land your team in Class C (though not a guarantee). After all, that’s the slowest, crappiest class for the cool kids and the source for nearly all Index of Effluency winners.
Frankly, we’re stunned that no one has yet raced one of the most iconic terrible cars of all time. The Aspen and its Plymouth Volare (pronounced “rust bucket”) twin came into being as a product of Chrysler’s attempts to downsize during the Malaise Era. The Aspen replaced the venerable and beloved Dart with coupe, sedan, and wagon versions. The ubiquitous Slant Six powered base models with Chrysler’s emissions-choked V8s optional. Any Aspen you find will likely be some shade of brown, curiously, except for the utterly bitchin’ tape-stripe packages like the R/T, R/T Super Pak, Super Coupe, Sunrise Coupe, and Special Edition. The Volare had similar special-edition appearance packages.
In the late 1990s, General Motors decided that letter combinations lent Cadillac some competitive credibility against European luxury cars. In reality, GM pretty much repackaged the same things they’d been building for most of the decade. Nowhere was this more evident than the Eldorado Touring Coupe, cleverly discerned with “ETC” badges. The ETC was merely an uprated trim at the very end of Cadillac’s once-legendary Eldrado line with special wheels and uprated Northstar V8 with an extra 20 horsepower. That could be optioned out to a healthy $45,000 MSRP. That’s about $70K in today’s money and could just about have bought you a BMW M3. Depreciation, etc…
How do you get a 10-year-old car into Class C? You’re looking at it. These awkward crossovers represent some of the most easily forgotten piles in recent automotive history. Powered by a Duratec V6, they represent a lot of weight to haul around, although they fall within Lemons’ weight limits. The Freestyle—later named the Taurus X for some reason with a redesign—shares a platform with also-forgettable Mercury Montego and Ford Five Hundred. All of those would be great Lemons cars with squishy handling that might be improved, owing to their Volvo roots. Just kidding, they’ll be perfectly terrible.
Speaking of forgettable junk, Lemons could always use more Suzukis and Daewoos. In fact, the Forenza was a Daewoo, which is like the world’s most boring bonus points. General Motors rebadged the Daewoo Lacetti—a reasonably priced car, some might remember—as a Suzuki Forenza (sedan and wagon) or Suzuki Reno (hatchback, above). Daewoo’s 132-horsepower D-Tec II 2.0-liter engine powered both models. That is probably enough power to have some fun with the five-speed manual transmission even with a stock weight north of 2,700 pounds. Your biggest difficulty likely comes from trying to find one that still runs. With a low sales price, these Suzukis epitomize the automotive appliance. However, you just might find a nice Class C loophole—a squishy automatic transmission will help your case—through which you can drive this disposable whip.
The F10 is perhaps best known lately as a cousin to the Nissan Cherry in the immersive automotive video game My Summer Car. Howeer, Datsun sold its first front-wheel-drive F10 in North America at the height of the Malaise Era. While the Big Three struggled to downsize neatly, the bantamweight F10 (which weighed under 1,700 pounds) found a few buyers on the promise of great fuel econony at more than 30 mpg. Few would call the F10 attractive, which slots in nicely with other Malaise Era cars that were 2-3 times as big. However, the lightweight front driver could be good fun on a road course.
You probably wouldn’t have noticed even at the time, but the Rootes Group’s Hillman sold the Minx and Super Minx for decades in the United States. One could theoretically buy them in various years as convertibles, coupes, sedans, and wagons to boot. However you purchased one, the Minx represented basic transportation at its finest and most efficient. The bulk sold with manual transmissions, which allowed the various engines to give 30 miles per gallon in the 1950s. Sure, quarter-mile times ran in the range of 23 to 25 seconds, but the Brits were seldom going anywhere in a hurry. The “good” Minxes all came in 1957 or later with pseudo-American styling, but we’d happily take any Minxes. Want to really get in Lemons Judges’ good graces? Bring a Hillman Hunter rebadged as a Paykan.
Shortly after Renault’s merger with AMC, the French automaker sold the Sportwagon from 1981 to 1986 even after discontinuing its sibling 18i sedan in 1984. You may already know this as a tumultuous time for the Renault-AMC conglomeration. As such, the Sportwagon theoretically could compete with the Chevy Cavalier and Dodge Aries wagons on price. With a five-speed manual transmission, the Renault also offered 35+ miles per gallon. That was nothing to scoff at, but few Americans were picking up what the French were putting down and the Sportwagon remained a flop. The Renault 21-based Eagle Medallion—also a car we’ve yet to see and one that is nearly extinct—replaced the Sportwagon in 1987 and the last Renault-based cars (Eagle Premier and Dodge Monaco) were gone from the U.S. by 1993.
Don’t like anything on this list? We’ll always welcome anything on these lists, too.
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 1
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 2
Late-Model American Cars We’d Like to See
Lemons Cars We’d Like to See, Part 3
Six More Cars On Our Wish List
Still More Wish List Cars
Weird GM Hatchbacks for Lemons
Even More Wish List Cars
Five American Cars With Imported Engines