Volumes could be filled on this subject. Everyone probably has their own opinion as well. The likelihood of finding 50 different opinions on this subject by talking to 50 different people is very high. Occasionally I will write about a car that is part of my never ending list of the worst cars that were sold as new during my lifetime. These might not be the worst cars ever since they are only cars that have been sold in the last, I won’t say how many years, but anything that was made before I was born doesn’t count.
Some of you will see something on my list that you owned at some point in the past and perhaps even liked. If you disagree with me, that’s too bad, you are wrong. Don’t worry, it’s not personal. You can find a website or two dedicated to each one of the bad cars on my list with people posting all sorts of nonsense about how great their car is. Just because a lot of people like something doesn’t mean that it’s good. I would even say that many people are fans of one car or another just because it is so crazy bad.
So let’s start with the following, and as you see articles on these bad cars remember that they are listed in no particular order:
Might as well start out with the car that might be the most controversial of all of the vehicles on my list. The original bug was commissioned by Adolf Hitler. How in the world could anything that came from that man’s mind be good? The designer of the VW beetle was Ferdinand Porsche but he cannot be blamed for how awful the Beetle turned out. If you were under pressure from Hitler to design something small, cheap, and something that would keep the people of the Third Reich humble, you would probably come up with the same thing. The people would have never had a chance of rising up against the Fuhrer with such bad cars to drive. Porsche redeemed himself in the following years with some really fantastic cars.
|Sorry Herbie but you are a terrible car.|
The Beetle was produced from 1938 to 2003 and over 21 million units were rolled off the assembly line. Sales of the original Beetle ceased in the U.S. after 1979. This car is often chosen as one of the most influential cars of the 20th century but so what, this does not make it a good car. Cigarettes are also very popular and influential but that shouldn’t give them a special place in anybody’s heart.
The bus was produced from 1950 to the present, but the old air-cooled models disappeared from showrooms in the U.S. in 1980. I am referring to the T2 transporter here, the one that was beloved by the hippies of the 60’s. The T2 is still in production in South America. In the U.S. market the T2 was replaced by the Vanagon which was a much better vehicle, and that was later replaced by the Transporter which was even better.
The reason these things are so bad is the same reason that so many other cars are bad. They are terrible to drive, they have no power, and they sound funny running down the street. Climbing a mountain pass with an underpowered air cooled engine is never good. Every single one leaks oil and there is not much you can do about it. Most of the early Beetles and Buses didn’t even have an oil filter. That’s really good for making the engine last a long time.
These vehicles had air cooled engines which means that they didn’t have a radiator or antifreeze circulating through the engine. If you want to find out whether or not your local auto parts store employs reasonably knowledgeable people behind the counter, call them up and ask them if they have an upper radiator hose for a 1977 VW Bug. If they actually try to look up the part, then you know that’s not the person you want helping you.
|This 1977 bug looks almost exactly like a 1947 bug. Obviously|
developing the product over time wasn't that important to VW.
The old bugs and buses had a big fan on top of the engine that would constantly blow air down around the engine to keep it cool. This is similar to the way your lawnmower engine stays cool except your lawnmower is small enough that it doesn’t need a fan. This fan was also the fan that would move the air up to the front of the vehicle for the heater and defrost. The heater and defrost are so bad that you have to always keep a towel on the passenger seat so you can wipe the inside of the windshield in order to avoid dying in a wreck, and the rest of the time you are just plain freezing from the lack of heat in the passenger area. If you drove the vehicle on a long trip then you could possibly get enough warm air from the back that you might be able to travel without freezing.
The bus is probably slightly worse then the bug just because it’s bigger, but whatever, neither one is practical. Perhaps the only reason that anyone ever bought either one is because they lived in a third world country and that’s all there was, or they lived in a country where the bug was the only thing that got good gas mileage. How can a car that uses the air pressure in the spare tire to power the washer fluid sprayer, be considered a good car.
|Can you imagine hauling your kids around in this. My parents |
actually had a few of these before I was born. I'm pretty sure
they were hippies.
Many of you are thinking that these old V-dubs are so cute and nostalgic that it seems highly inappropriate to criticize them. Think about what it would be like to have one of these things as your daily driver today. You would hate it. Just for the sake of comparison, think of what it would be like to have something else that was sold at the same time as one of these Volkswagens, as your daily driver today. You might still hate it but probably not as much, unless it was one of the other bad cars that you might find on my list.
If you like them because they are old, that’s fine, if you like them because they are quirky, that’s okay too, but to think that anyone ever drove one of these things as their daily driver is almost laughable. The hippies that used to run around in the buses extolling peace, love, and being good to nature were spewing so much air pollution that their ignorance really shined through.
Many people say they were well built, but when compared to the likes of a Chevy Vega, or an AMC Gremlin of course they would seem well built. Some of the appeal came from the relatively good fuel economy that they achieved. They typically got about 30 miles per gallon from an engine that was only good for about 30 to 60 HP. Along with this they had a top speed that wouldn’t let them keep up with traffic on the freeway. This does not make them efficient by any means.
|The custom Baja Bug, yuck!|
The Volkswagen beetle and bus were toys, not cars. As cars they were terrible and if you have ever had one then you may know exactly what I am talking about. If you had one in the past and you disagree with me now, then let me ask you this question. Would you make this car your commuter today if somebody offered you one that was in mint condition?