September 29, 2009

Ian's List of: Some cars I like and probably shouldn't

Here at RWP we’ve always been advocates of the “lesser cars” (see Great Automotive Failures). This has prompted me to share with you a few cars that I must admit I like and probably should not. They’re not historically considered great cars; most of them known for being quite bad really. Nevertheless, in no particular order:

Audi 5000 (1982-1988)

At the top of Audi’s lineup in the mid late 80s was the 3rd generation of the 100 (known as the 5000 in the States). The base model cars were reasonably equipped, roomy, front-wheel-drive only, and were powered by a 2.3 L 5-cylinder. The performance was not stellar, they’re notoriously tricky to work on for a car of their vintage, and despite pioneering the modern aerodynamic sedan look, are not terribly attention-getting stylistically speaking.

That being said, I like them for their relative simplicity compared to modern cars, but a pretty decent level of refinement. They’re inexpensive to buy as well, and (if properly maintained) fairly economical. I’ve worked on them extensively over the years as well, so perhaps this has given me an un-natural fondness for the insipid Audis.

Cons: a little complex, finicky if not maintained well, kind of a German Oldsmobile

Pros: refined, practical, solid-bodies, fairly efficient, you can tell people you have an Audi…

Verdict: I’d own one.

Sterling 825 / 827 (1987-1991)

It seemed like a good idea; Honda’s expertise with old-world British motoring charm. Well, it didn’t work out. Austin-Rover’s Sterling line (they remained Rovers outside the US) sold over-ripe bananas, and unfortunately, many of the cars lasted about as long. The build quality proved to be quite horrid and despite a more sporting character than it’s Acura Legend cousin, consumers opted out. The whole line of Sterling cars sold about 35,000 units in 5 years.

All that being said, they’re still an interesting oddity. If I had enough disposable income to maintain an un-loved and un-reliable Ango-Asian auto, I’d keep it around just to say I had one and preserve a little bit of history. Who knows, maybe if it ran, it’d be fun to drive.

Cons: a 1980s English-made car and therefore unreliable, brand specific parts are hard to find, nobody knows what the hell it is.

Pros: apparently they drive nicely, Honda-made engine, it’s different

Verdict: I’d like someone else to own one

Yugo GV / GVL / GVX (1986-1991)

Yes, that’s right – a Yugo. Based on the Fiat 128 and built in Yugoslavia. Granted, they’re low on features, refinement, and overall quality, but I’ve heard many stories about owners maintaining them well and getting nearly 200,000 miles out of them with minimal drama. They’re cheap to buy and run, they’re economical with their small engines and manual transmissions, and they’re almost a collector’s item now… The GVX even had a 1.3 litre engine and a five speed!

Cons: made in Yugoslavia, bad reputation, probably not very safe

Pros: economical, potentially reliable, inexpensive

Verdict: I’d own one

Renault Encore / Alliance (1983-1987)

Another good idea gone bad (see our other article here). With their partnership with Renault, AMC managed to take a decent car in Europe – the Renault 9 & 11 – and crappily assemble them in Wisconsin. Like the Yugo, they have a bad reputation, but they’re so simple and easy to maintain, it’s not that big of a deal. They’re also pretty economical with a manual transmission and fairly roomy for their size. Maybe if you’re ambitious you can scrap the AMC designed American-market interior for the French one, as well as the other detail parts and you can have yourself an 11… but then it’s probably not worth it.

Cons: made in America, ugly and cheap AMC interior, not very refined

Pros: cheap to buy and run, Renaults are cool right? , they’re different at least

Verdict: I’d consider owning one

Chevrolet Corvair (2nd Generation 1965-1969)

A lot of people have a special fondness for Corvairs. The VW and Porsche guys can get into them for their air-cooled flat-six mounted in the rear. The restyle in 1965 looked pretty good too and they even managed to fix some of those pesky suspension problems that Ralph Nader complained about so much.

While yes, they are Chevrolets and therefore and unfortunately made by General Motors, they’re an interesting classic to have if you’re not so much of a Eurocentric auto critic as myself. They have a good following as well and maintaining one shouldn’t be very difficult.

Cons: it’s a Chevrolet

Pros: unique idea from the Americans, well styled, better than the original Corvair.

Verdict: I’d probably want someone else to have one for me.

Check back for future lists, including: "Cars I Don't Like and Should", "Cars I Absolutely Hate", "Best Looking Cars Ever Made" and more!


Keith said...

I figure you know, but the Audi C3 was actually produced until 1991. It is a solid car, but some of the maintenance (timing belt, most notably) requires more disassembly than seems rational. The C4 keeps much of the great German-ness while being easier to work on overall, though it requires instead of just suggests that you own a scantool for really solid diagnosis. They are so much easier to maintain than any C5 or newer Audis, and do have an unnatural appeal. I do own one, and they are great cars.

Ian said...

"Renaults are cool, right?"

David said...

Sterling 827 also kind of interesting as an attempt to sell a luxury hatchback on the U.S. market.