The 10 worst cars of the last 50 years

Friday, 16 December 2011 From Issue Vol. XIX No. 50 By  Dr. Iain Corness

A few months ago, I started this discussion and got as far as the Austin A40 Devon.  A very, very slow car, which you time over 400 meters with a calendar.

The next car?  One of my university buddies came from a well-heeled family and his mother had a convertible.  Open top motoring no less.  A guaranteed crumpet catcher.  It was a Mk 1 Ford Zephyr, complete with a two speed automatic transmission.  Show the car a photo of a hill and it would immediately hunt up and down the gearbox, looking for the right ratio, which it never did find.  Low was ridiculously low, while high was too high.

Ford Zephyr convertible Ford Zephyr convertible

It did have a 2,262 cc (138 cu in) six-cylinder engine producing 68 bhp (51 kW).  It also had MacPherson Strut independent front suspension and a live axle with half elliptic springs at the rear.  A Zephyr saloon tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 79.8 mph (128.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in just 20.2 seconds, slashing seven seconds off the A40’s time.  Now we are talking!  20.2 seconds, without additional oxygen!

The next in my list of personal dreadful cars came from Italy, the home of GT motoring, Ferrari, Maserati and later Lamborghini.  Mine was not a GT car, but a Fiat 1100 D I purchased for five British pounds and it was a well-worn example.  So worn that it used more oil than gasoline.  I used to collect oil from my local garage that had been drained from better cars coming in for a grease and oil change.  Remember those days?  In its heyday (the first week after coming out of the factory) the Fiat 1100 D boasted performance figures of: top speed 120 km/h (75 mph) (factory); acceleration 0- 60 mph 27.2 seconds; 0- 100 km/h 30.2 seconds and a standing start 1/4 mile in 23.2 seconds.  My rather more knackered version would go nowhere near those figures.  Another very bad car.  Incidentally, I never sold it.  I parked it on Tilbury docks in London, threw the keys in the water and hopped on to the MV Adelaide Star where I was to be the ship’s surgeon for the voyage to Australia.  It may even still be there?  However, being left in light-fingered London, I doubt it.

Holden FE Holden FE

Arriving back in Australia, with no money and no credit, I was somehow shoehorned into a 1957 FE Holden, the four door Aussie family transport.  It is difficult to dredge up details on this car.  A single piece windscreen was a sales feature and other improvements included a 12 volt electrical system (replacing the previous 6 volt system), improved steering, a front stabiliser bar and wider wheel rims.  All models used a 2,172 cc in-line six cylinder engine, coupled with a three speed manual gearbox column change, known as “three on the tree”.  Engine improvements over the previous model included the use of bigger valves and the lifting of the compression ratio to 6.8:1, which increased the power output from 45 kW to 53 kW.  In actual fact, the 53 kW were hardly enough to pull the skin off a rice pudding.

I shed no tears for the Holden (the only one I have ever owned) when I replaced it with a Morris Mini 850, which definitely went into my ‘good’ car list.

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