The Curbside Classic Cohort is one of the most respectful and friendly communities on the entire internet. I can think of no other website where I actually read the comments. You guys and girls help make this my favourite website, and I can’t read an article on here without reading the lively discussions and conversations that flow from it. So, I have a Challenge of the Day for the Cohort. I will present to you a series of vehicles. Unlike your favourite FM radio station, this is not a collection of the greatest hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s and Now. This will be a collection of misfires, failed starts, deadly sins and just in general, cars that don’t get much love. Your challenge? Say one nice thing.
AMC sure put out a lot of, umm, distinctively-styled cars in the 1970s.
The Gremlin was a cheap and dirty way to rival the from-scratch Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. Simply a Hornet with the back lopped off, the Gremlin was cramped and hardly fuel-efficient. Later models offered a VW-sourced four that struggled under the weight of the car, although you could get a V8 in some years. But, in its favor, the Gremlin was fairly reliable – especially compared with the disastrous Vega – and it was easy to repair. Also, can you think of many economy cars with such a distinctive silhouette?
Speaking of unique visages, how about the Pacer? Again, conceived as an economy car but failing at its intended purpose, the Pacer did have excellent visibility in its favor and eccentric styling. Plans for a rotary engine fell through but that was probably for the best: the AMC I6 and V8 engines used may have been heavy and thirsty, but at least they were proven. The wagon variant was acceptably practical, too, and you could get luxuriously appointed D/L and Limited editions.
The Matador coupe was supposed to be a personal luxury coupe but AMC designers really misread the market when penning the curvaceous lines. But was it really that much worse than a Torino to drive?
Over at Ma Mopar’s in the 1970s, you could purchase the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volaré, much anticipated replacements for the venerable Valiant and Dart. These cars got off to a horrible start, with abysmal quality control and rampant mechanical failures. Neither as luxurious inside as a Granada nor as dynamic as a Nova or reliable as a Hornet, these F-bodies seem like a waste of space but when optioned with the 360 in Aspen R/T or Volaré Roadrunner variants, these were some of the fastest domestic cars of their time and they handled decently. The wagon version was quite neat as well, especially in Volaré Sport Wagon trim. Ford and GM had abandoned the compact wagon segment, so Chrysler only did battle with more expensive imports and the older AMC Hornet.
The 1980s were a very different decade for Chrysler, with the range completely overhauled and dominated by FWD, K-Car-derived models. The most expensive, ambitious and disappointing was the TC by Maserati, which was notable in being so delayed, it arrived after the much, much cheaper and similar-looking second-generation LeBaron convertible. Not to mention, despite the purported Maserati involvement, the mechanicals were very similar to more humble Chryslers. However, there was a degree of exclusivity – few people were inclined to buy one new, after all – and the leather seats were nice.
Chrysler certainly knew how to get the most out of its new FWD architecture. The ’82 New Yorker is often derided on here for being such an awkward interloper to such proud lineage, given its small dimensions and four-cylinder powertrains. However, it offered all the luxury of bigger Broughams in a compact, more fuel-efficient package, while being more visually distinguished from its K-Car platform donors than the Cadillac Cimarron and Lincoln Versailles were from their respective relatives.
Several boom and bust cycles later in 2007, Chrysler launched its second-generation Sebring sedan. Replacing a predecessor that was initially promising but was left to stagnate, the new Sebring sedan (and third-generation convertible) featured brash new styling and nifty interior features like heated/cooled cupholders and an available MyGIG hard drive-based infotainment system. Unfortunately, the Sebring was dull to drive, had a trashy four-cylinder engine, unimpressive performance figures, an interior rife with chintzy materials and an ungainly exterior. My “one nice thing” about the Sebring would be that in overseas markets like Australia, it was certainly a unique offering and was keenly priced and well-equipped.
I’ve tried to see the bright side of each of these cars, and now I pose the challenge to you: say one nice thing below in the comments. If you’re feeling particularly generous, say a few nice things!