What car your parents drive can have a big influence on your early experiences as both a passenger and a driver. If it’s something cool, you might be hooked on cars for life. But if it’s something bad, it may take a while for you to recover.
To find out what cars shaped you, the Jalopnik readers, in the early days, we asked for the worst cars your parents drove. Thankfully, some of these wretched machines didn’t quite put you off cars for life.
2 / 17
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep Grand Cherokee
“Hands down, without a doubt, my mom’s 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (with the 4.0L). I remember when she got it new – it was such a sharp looking car, especially compared to the others she had been looking at (Ford Explorer and Isuzu Trooper).
“It looked high tech with its center console screen that showed which doors were open and the compass and outside temp shown up high. It was also my parents’ first car with a factory CD player. That being said, that thing was the biggest piece of junk. It left us stranded no less than 5 times – multiple ignition coils and water pumps were the worst of the issues. It consistently had issues with the brakes and alignment, none of which the dealer(s) could get straightened out. Plenty of CELs over the years she owned it.
“In 1999, she limped it over to the dealer with about 70k miles (CEL glowing and no A/C) to trade it in on a new Toyota Sienna XLE (which ended up lasting through a few owners up to over 200k relatively trouble-free miles before the engine grenaded).”
The first generation Jeep Grand Cherokee premiered in 1993 and, with this poster’s review, it’s clear the car has come a long way in the years since.
Suggested by: Andrew Piland (Facebook)
3 / 17
Chevrolet Vega Kammback
Chevrolet Vega Kammback
“Literally on their trip to drop me off at college in Minnesota, my parents traded the Ford wagon on one of these: ‘76 Vega GT Kammback.
“I thought it was awesome: a mini-Camaro wagon with a manual! I only got to drive it on holiday visits home, but it met my (admittedly low) expectations. Being a Vega it was probably the worst car they ever owned, even including my dad’s ‘62 Corvair and ‘63 Belvedere with the slant six. They drove it about five years, I think.”
The Chevrolet Vega came as a two-door wagon from the factory for the 1971 model. But sadly, other than the manufacturer and number of doors, it shared very little in common with the Camaro.
Suggested by: stevegravelle
4 / 17
“Suzuki FX (basically an Austin Metro). One time the driver side wiper wasn’t working and it was raining heavily. Fun times.”
Call it a Suzuki Fronte, call it a Suzuki FX. Whatever you choose, it’s still trash.
Suggested by: @MrDLatif (Twitter)
5 / 17
Chrysler New Yorker
Chrysler New Yorker
“1986 Chrysler New Yorker. My mom bought it in 1986 as a replacement for a 1974 Buick. I was 13 years old, and the Buick was embarrassing. Pain peeling, missing hubcaps, vinyl roof in tatters. My friends families were switching to imports like Accords and Camrys. But my dad, a former GM employee, was very much ‘buy American.’ So we went from the absolutely archaic Buick to this thing.
“It had the all digital dash and it talked! It was like going from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. For about 3 months. Then everything started breaking.
“I don’t know if the turbo ever worked right.
“The all digital dash would randomly blow a fuse at least once a month, so it wasn’t uncommon to lose speedometer, fuel gauge, and all other warning lights while driving.
“The flimsy interior door closing handles routinely broke off, and there was no good way to grab the door to close it without putting the window down first. At least they were expensive to replace.
“The crankshaft broke. I could go on. My parents spent something like $22,000 to buy it, and then probably spent another $10k maintaining it for 7 or 8 years. It was replaced by a 1991 Nissan Maxima that needed about $100 of non-standard maintenance for most of its life.”
Buying American sometimes means you have to deal with things that break America. It’s tough.
Suggested by: grannyshifter
6 / 17
“In the theme of ‘we used to live in a wet paper bag’ how about an old 1950s Fordson E83W with a leaking exhaust which sent fumes up through the hole in the rear floor. 1.2 liter engine and crunchy three-speed gear box.”
I hear that exhaust fumes in a confined space aren’t good.
Suggested by: Neil Barr (Facebook)
7 / 17
“My parents drove some stinkers and winners alike that spanned the gamut from Chevy Chevette and Pontiac LeMans to Mustang GT and Honda S2000.
“The worst by far was their 1990 Audi 80. I’ve driven some unpleasant cars, but this one takes the cake. Where to start? The clutch was heavy but the shifter vague, the steering was loose and disconnected in a way that makes my Camry feel like a Lotus, a manual crank (!) sunroof that leaked, the electronics often failed, and it cost a couple kidney donations to service.
“The best part is I had to take my drivers license test on this turd. How I passed is still one of my life’s greatest mysteries.”
Anything that makes a Toyota Camry feel as sharp and responsive as a Lotus has got to be bad. Must have been an off day at Audi when the 80 rolled off the production line.
Suggested by: regnis78
8 / 17
“1996 Ford Windstar. We once drove it back from Florida at 35mph in 3rd gear ‘cause the transmission was shot. 18 hr drive. Only had one sliding door which at the time really felt poor compared to my town and country friends.”
“My dad was jealous of his cousin’s Nissan Pajero. His cousin was a gardener and used the Patrol to haul a large trailer full of sand, dirt, plants and tools. So he bought himself a four wheel drive himself: an Aro 10!
“For those unfamiliar with this brilliant Romanian Frankenstein: it is a utilitarian four wheel drive thought up my Romanian dictator Ceausescu as he tried to re-invent the Ford Model T. This Romanian Model T was powered by Dacia’s 1.4 liter engine that was a Renault Cléon-fronte engine built in license. The Renault engine is basically indestructible, so why not? Well, because it isn’t the most powerful or torquey engine to begin with. This led to high fuel usage as now the engine needed to be revved to compensate for its lack of power. Also my dad’s Aro 10 was consuming dinosaur juice like there is no tomorrow, so the previous owner already converted it to run on liquid petrol gas (LPG). So now the little 1.4 liter was not only underpowered for such a heavy car, it also was now robbed of any torque left in this engine.
“As my dad used to be a contractor, he also hauled large trailers full of debris, tools and building materials. The Aro 10 would simply stall when pulling away at almost every traffic light and was continuously overheating. Then one day the head gasket blew and the head was warped. So my dad had the engine swapped for a real Renault Cleon engine, but it turned out it didn’t fit as the Dacia engine was slightly different. So the old engine had to be rebuilt and had its head swapped.
“My dad continued to drive the dreadful Aro until it failed on him once more. Then he got a new car and just parked it on his driveway. Two years later a man walks up to the house, introduces himself as an Aro collector, offers him 1000 guilders (about 500 dollars) for the car and my dad sold it right at the spot.”
This 1980s off-roader was assembled in Romania and shared a lot of parts with aging Dacia cars. Despite its shortcomings, the car remained in production between 1980 and 2006.
Suggested by: banpei
10 / 17
“My folks had two different Corvairs, a 1960 and a ‘65. My memory is that both of them were turds. Our other cars were Oldsmobiles and they were great.”
“Holy cow, I’m not even sure where I would start. My parents were very young and didn’t have much money when I was born in 1983, and we had all kinds of terrible cars when I was growing up.
“The one that sticks out is the AMC Gremlin my mom drove from the time I was born until I was 5-6. My biggest memory of that car is sitting in the backseat and watching the road go by through a golf ball size rust hole in the floor. I used to drop things through it and imagine them getting mushed by cars behind us.”
The AMC Gremlin was, is and always will be a strange car. This poster’s experience only add to the legacy that surrounds it.
Suggested by: panthercougar
12 / 17
Pontiac Trans Sport
Pontiac Trans Sport
“Pontiac Trans Sport. Not because it broke all the time or anything, just because it was a boring ass van.”
Between 1989 and 1998, Pontiac shipped the Trans Sport to families across America.
Suggested by: @specter177 (Twitter)
13 / 17
Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover Discovery
“While 8-year-old me growing up in the UK thought it was super cool (sideways seats in the trunk!), my parent’s worst car has to be their 1996 P-reg Land Rover Discovery which the local AA (like AAA in the US) referred to as a Land Rover Recovery.
“Sure it looked great – ours was darker than the below in Epsom Green with beige fabric seats – but I have never known such an unreliable brand new car. I am sure that particular model is a huge part of Land Rover’s bad reputation from the 1990s. I remember a flat battery at the beach on a really hot day. I remember being at the side of the road on the way to school.I remember not knowing if it would start up again in a traffic jam going onto the Channel Tunnel. So many precious unreliable memories.
“I will say I drive a modern JLR product (post TATA) and it’s been really solid.”
A Land Rover, unreliable? That’s truly shocking.
Suggested by: williamblvd
14 / 17
“Mom’s car- 2000 Chevy tracker. Northern VT. Holy hell was it a rattlebox. It was basically new when she got it. The biggest issue was how poorly insulated and sealed from air it was. On very cold, below zero, days it would literally never get warm enough going down the road. Heat blew just fine, when parked it was fine. All the fit and finish was so bad it just was like driving with windows partially open.”
Say what you want about new cars, but one of the best revolutions is the way automakers can seal out a breeze these days. It’s truly an under-appreciated development.
Suggested by: Ryan Heuser (Facebook)
15 / 17
“Probably my Mom’s Rendezvous. I’ve always remembered some good things about it, but my sister likes to remind me that that sucker was STIFF. She had come from a couple Caravan’s (one of which the sliding door came off when I was like 4: I still remember that!), then after the Buick SUV, she got a Buick Lucerne and now a Rouge after years of firmly grasping the ‘Foreign cars are more expensive to insure’ schtick akin to the ‘red cars are more expensive to insure’ too... which, funnily enough, is what her Rouge is. And she pays less lmao.”
Great name, awful car.
Suggested by: turnworld
16 / 17
“My folks are ‘buy American’ and while there’s good American cars, they never bought them. I think the worst was my father’s 4 cylinder ‘Corsic-AUGH.’ Super cramped for adults, noisy as hell, bad brakes, and it somehow leaked so much water that we’d find solid ice inside in winter.”
More than 1.6 million of these old Chevvys rolled off the production line, but I wonder how many of them actually ended up in Corsica?