Automobiles gain their reputations on at least three major factors: Style, mechanical integrity and who drives them. Style is the first thing we react to when we see a car. There have been more styling missteps than you could point a trembling branch at. When I was a kid back in the ‘50s, a large number of folks felt that the "bullet nosed" Studebaker from the late-’40s , early-’50s, was the height of bad style. I remember my dad saying that you couldn’t tell if it was coming or going. I was offered one for free once by a guy up in Chelsea, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. That may have been a mistake. Sixty years later it is now a desirable collectible and they look really good to me. It’s amazing how time will change our tastes.
The car my folks had that was the worst, mechanically? A Renault Dauphine. Stylistically it was cute in it’s own Gallic way. They sold millions of them, rendering it France’s answer to the VW Beetle. It had a rear engine, and it was graced with comfortable seating. Sadly, it was great on paper but poorly supported by Renault in the U.S. It’s biggest weakness was the head gasket. Years later my brother made the sad mistake of purchasing a Renault Fuego. Yes, you are right, the head gasket blew, ending all the fun.
That brings us to the bad driver’s vehicle of choice. My dad thought it was the Nash Metropolitan. He knew several people who were poor drivers who chose to express their driving inability in a Metropolitan. I never agreed with my dad on that one. I thought that any Volvo except the sporty P1800 was the choice of bad drivers, but of course this is all subjective. Fast forward to 2014 and while I don’t want to insult anyone, it seems that there is a high percentage of folks who are truly uncomfortable driving a car that are drawn to the Toyota Prius. In my opinion the person who does not like cars feels that the Prius speaks to them. All I can respectfully say is that they were made for each other.
How about terminally ugly cars of recent memory? May I suggest the Kia Soul, the 2014 Ram Promaster van, the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Versa, the Buick LaCrosse, the neo Beetle, and an inordinately high number of current offerings from Mercedes Benz. Again, this is all 100 percent subjective, your tastes will differ. However, the all time worst car for all the reasons above?
Allow me to remind you that, sadly, Pontiac is no more. Yet the worst car in my opinion was the one Pontiac offering that prompted people to say, "Pontiac deserved to go out of business" -- The Aztec. How can I count the ways? It was the answer to a question that no one really asked. Its proportions defined the word clumsy. You could order it with a tent that fit over the open rear hatch. To me, using it as a place to sleep seemed, well, poetic. It was a sales disaster and the butt of many a disparaging joke. While I have no statistical proof of this next statement, it just stands to reason that an unloved, painfully unattractive vehicle is bound to be neglected. I mean abused to the point where it is ultimately found in a really bad section of a large city, abandoned, with the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it with a hand lettered shard of cardboard with the word "free" taped to the window. To my way of thinking at this point in the history of the automobile, the Pontiac Aztec is the worst of all time.
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.