Calvin Mehlert may just be the last Rover 3500 V8 owner to take his car on long road trips. And he’s done it twice, successfully. That got me thinking: which of my cars would I have been most reluctant to take on a similar length trip? The answer wasn’t easy, since I’ve generally always had cars that I could take on long trips readily, which I did regularly. But I did own an MGB GT for a rather fitful short period; it was ratty to start with and I never had the chance to properly sort it out. Frankly, the few times I drove it around town, I was glad to make it back home, which I didn’t on at least one occasion. I sold it as soon as it was running again.
Which of the cars you’ve ever owned would give the most anxiety about heading off in?
My late and very unlamented Volvo 164E. That turd could barely get out of the county without crapping out.
The ’75 VW Dasher that I bought lightly used in 1977. I wouldn’t trust it for a 2400 yard road trip, much less 2400 miles. I hope that car was recycled into waste water pipe.
The 77 Chevette Scooter I used to have. Something about driving a car made from mostly aluminum and cardboard just doesn’t say long trip worthy.
I’m figuring your more focused on reliability, than comfort, in this post. I’ve generally taken very good care of my cars, whatever the model, so I’ve rarely been stranded. I’m usually more concerned when I am a guest of someone who has poor maintenance practices, regardless of the make or model.
I went on a road trip in my ’84 GMC van and blew a seal in the steering box one day out. Once it was repaired I wouldn’t be afraid to take it on another road trip though, at least until the rad started leaking….
When I got it I would’ve said my ’66 Newport convertible. I was planning to take it down to Chryslers at Carlisle the year I bought it, but it just wasn’t reliable enough at the time, so at the last minute I took my Windsor 2-door hardtop instead. I seem to have all the show-stopper bugs worked out of it now though (finally).
So I would have to say my second 1984 VW Rabbit diesel. My first Rabbit diesel gave me excellent service for 4.5 years. The second one was an unreliable POS which I should’ve never bought. The used-car dealer wouldn’t warranty it at all, and the shifter handle fell through the floor on the test drive because the linkages were worn out. These signs should have screamed “STAY AWAY!” but my dad pressured me into buying it anyhow. 🙁
Come to think of it, that Rabbit is my only DD that I never took on the 600 mile round-trip journey to Ottawa at least once.
Paul, I just spend the last 10 minutes looking over my COAL list and that’s a tough question. Turns out I did a road trip in almost every one, albeit not that length. If forced to choose i’d probably pick the ’88 GTI 16v only because it was a bit of a turd when I got it and I never spent enough time and money on it to make it as good as it should be. From a different perspective and if I can cheat a little bit, then the 1985 Yamaha FZ700 which I did take on some smaller trips down to Laguna Seca from the SF suburbs and even at that distance felt like a hunched over garden gnome when I mercifully was able to put the stand down and hobble off it. And I was still relatively young at that time to boot!
Citroen AX GTi- every time you turned the key,there was the “omg will it start” feeling. Plus it had total brake failure twice.
I drove from Bowen NQ to Sydney NSW approx 2400 miles with no brakes in a Mitsubishi careful planning thru Brisbane was the only tricky part, brakes? who needs em
Lol, I live in Brisvegas, so the hills and blind corners make it ….interesting.
I went thru in the early am to avoid any traffic
Maybe a new battery would have fixed the problem?
Nah, it was a dodgy set up with the distributor, it was impossible to keep moisture out of it. Plus tendencies to jump out gear,etc. and the near impossibility of sourcing parts in the pre internet days.
1978 Pinto. It couldn’t get out of the drive without taking a dump. The thing stayed broke. I jacked up the radiator cap after a couple months and drove a new car under it.
My first car was a 1986 Toyota MR2. It was reliable as Toyotas usually are, but it was the most uncomfortable car I’ve ever driven. I wouldn’t buy another MR2 if my life depended on it.
Wow, that car’s been on my automotive bucket list since just about forever (actually I prefer the black bumper inserts on the ’85 myself). I did not think it would be that uncomfortable, although the last one I drove was probably back in the late ’80’s and my body was more accepting of abuse back then…
Some people might be able to drive it and be comfortable. But I’m a fairly big guy, there just wasn’t enough head room to be comfortable. There was plenty of leg room. Anyone with long legs and a short body could drive it and be comfortable.
I have a 2001 MR2 and I love it. Great for road trips (as long as you don’t bring any luggage).
My current daily driver; a ’92 Grand Marquis. If it worked, it be the best roadtrip car ever. However, it’s “Willblough” 4 speed transmission fills me doubt everytime I drive to work.
2400 miles was roughly my annual commute away from winter in Australia yep just run up to far north Queensland and winter sunshine and warmth, I just drove whatever I had at the time a couple of really bad POS never made it and I ended up hitching but the number of absolute junkheaps that did was amazing one well beaten Falcon 6 used a gallon of oil every tank of gas going north and later used half a gallon 2L every 60 miles heading south(broken piston) but it kept going, A Holden Torana spat a motor before even getting to the QLD border, I just left it where it died and thumbed a ride, A oil burning Mitsubishi Sigma made it there and back with no issues at all as long as I checked the oil regularly and a badly crumbling Valiant did the run no sweat at all broken K frame making steering a bit inaccurate but Aussie roads are mostly straight.
Given a bag of tools some zip ties and average luck I’d try a short trip like that in damn near anything other than a VW engines for those are just too expensive and brittle,
You drove a car that used a gallon of oil every time you filled it up 2400 miles?
Even if the car could do that (and going through a gallon of oil every few hundred miles suggests it couldn’t) why would you do that?
If you had enough money to buy 4quarts of oil every few hundred miles and to do this for 2400 miles….why wouldn’t you just get a better car?
I know you like to tell tall tales but come on dude.
I know, right? Let’s assume that the car, later found to have a broken piston, somehow got 20 miles per gallon. Pretty much impossible, but let’s assume. So the car might have gone 200 miles between fills, which means that it used 12 gallons (48 quarts) of oil. The number only goes up from there. Even back when oil and gas were cheap, that’s an absolute fortune. The money he spent in oil alone could have been a down payment on a car that didn’t eat oil, a car that could easily be afforded by someone who could drive 2400 miles for a vacation. Pure bunkum.
I never owned a car I was afraid to drive long distances, although by the time I got rid of my Escort it was getting too expensive for me to fix. It had already done the Carlisle, PA-to-Houston, TX trip and back, and I would never need to do that trip again, but in the end it was coming down with the usual maladies of an abused car. My neighbor bought it and fixed it up himself, and it still runs well to this day.
Hey, what does it really matter? It as a really fun story. Lighten up, guys!
Dude yer a clod it was done with free waste oil I sold everything out of the car I couldnt carry and if it had blown I woulda just dumped it there it was a 3 vehicle convoy that consisted of a VW van my dunga Falcon and a 48 Knucklehead Harley with a chair next to it a no rush trip except for the constant oil burning and stops to replenish the sump the car threw a rod some 3 weeks after I started work in Windsor I tossed in a cheap 2nd hand 250 and box and drove the car another 6 months abandoning it in Orange NSW behind the hotel I was living in and left town by train it was by then not worth driving abnd I was cashed up enough to buy something else when I reached my new destination, I’m expert at keeping shit heaps running without money.
You need to write your memoirs Bryce. There’s definitely a book in you.
Cairns to Windsor in Sydney on waste oil every 60 miles the oil light would come on stop leave engine idling pour in half a take home pack carry on it was a 3 week trip something that would normally be done in 5 days I bought NO oil I just begged waste from service stations in major towns buy a better car why it ran I was broke I eventually threw in a $50 engine and box from a XA wagon just life on the road dude not in your city.
The same trip 12 months later in a Valiant cost $450 in petrol during Bush MK1 Kuwait excursion petrol went up to 79c per Litre it was only 59c on the Falcon trip and no it wasnt a holiday I was an itinerant traveling worker you guys with your salatried office jobs know nothing of living on the road on your wits and luck nursing clapped out old cars distances you cannot even concieve.
And I don’t have an office…and I’m not salaried. I work 80-120 hours a week for months at a time dude, in BFE North Dakota.
I’ve driven my share of beaters but your stories about driving a car that burned a gallon of oil every few hundred miles….for 2400 miles, or your story about driving a car with no brakes (“who needs brakes?” Uh, anyone with a brain in their head, that’s who.) are just hot air.
I don’t know why people like you feel the need to make that kind of stuff up, but I’m not buying it and you shouldn’t be selling it.
Probably a 1990 Renault 19, although it did a trip to eastern Germany with no issues, it did believe my salary was intended for its cooling system.
One advantage of having an MX-5 and not an MGB is that you don’t have to do this every morning on your road trip!
The ’75 Pinto I had in ’86. I loved that stupid car, but it just wasn’t reliable enough to drive that far.
My Fiat Spider Turbo. Even without its current drivability quirks and need for a front-end rebuild, it’s by far the least comfortable car I’ve had for long distances, even if it does get better mileage than my Accord on the highway.
1995 Saturn SC2, a fun and spry little car until a misadventure with a curb left the wheelbase on one side about an inch shorter than the other. And not in the fun Renault Le Car way… in a “vibrates excessively from 55-72 mph and then even more terrifyingly drives smoothly at 75″ kind of way. So you have to choose between (A) speeding ticket, (B) painful slowness, or (C) sense of impending doom via Death Wobble.
Also, by the end, a quart of oil had to be added at every fill-up.
I once owned a 1969 Z-28 Camaro, back when these cars were at or near the bottom of their price curve. Mine was in rough shape, but I’ve driven enough good ones to know that even new this would have been a terrible road trip car. With 3.73 gears I seem to recall about 3000 rpm at 60 mph, and it sucked the best premium I could find like a 707 at take off. I bought the car to harvest the good parts, and ended up having to use it as a daily driver for awhile. Even allowing for it’s advanced state of decomposition and a decade of abuse and neglect, any drive much longer than an hour was a long drive indeed. 2400 miles would have been torture, even at the age of 18.
Probably the Mk3 Cortina that was flooded the smell was overpowering and I never sorted the brakes properly.
1,200 miles from Tennessee to Texas and back was enough to rule out ever doing it again in my MG. Loud and harsh. I ended up blowing one of the sealing clamps and creating a bunch of pinholes in the header on the way down and spent the rest of the summer ruining my hearing. I have a minor case of tinnitus as a souvenir.
Definitely wouldn’t have used my 1965 Corvair Monza on a long trip…Not that I feared it’s reliability, it ran like a top whenever I drove it…but those damn seats! No support AT ALL for the lower back coupled with the hot back stickyness of vinyl in the summertime…Great for running around with on shorter drives / car shows, but any longer than that…nope.
I have a 65 Corsa, and I don’t mind the seats, but I’ve probably only driven it 60 miles at the longest in one sitting, but it does feel vulnerable and low when you are surrounded by crossovers, pickups and suv’s. that and the lack of cruise would probably make it the least likely long distance driver, I did have a 78 K5 that was dodgey as hell, with poor at best brakes that would have not been pleasant on a long trip.
I drove it for a 4 hour drive….once. Two hours to get there and two hellish hours to get back. I almost had to call someone to get me out of the car. You’re right though…very low and the front end is very subject to the winds of passing semi’s…But as I said, for cruising around locally on shorter jaunts there’s nothing better!
My used 1960 ex-Falcon lasted the 12-mile drive home from the dealer. It was ill-handling, the staight six was gutless on the hills, and the three-on-the-tree was too few gears. The next morning’s 25-mile commute killed it. The thing expired in a pool of engine oil within walking distance to work. Oh, well, back to hitch-hiking, which in those days, was more reliable and cheaper, too.
Today I would say the car I just bought because it pulled a whoops on me. Was fine during an hour drive, and I ran into Target for about 15 minutes. Came out and the car would stall going into gear. I finally got it going by doing the foot-on-the-gas-and-brake trick and running it around the parking lot for a few minutes and it was fine the 30 miles home. Right now I’d like to watch it fall off a cliff.
But otherwise, the absolutely disgusting 1989 Buick Regal I had. Heartache from the beginning. Someone hadn’t treated that car nice. I’ve driven a rustbucket Malibu from DC to Nashville, same for a bustleback Caddy with wiring problems and myself with food poisoning. That Regal, though – blech.
Easy…my ’78 Jeep CJ-7 that I had in high school. Ive driven cross country in my Jeeps before, but that one had a thirsty AMC 360 that was good for 8mpg. Going downhill. In neutral. With the engine turned off. Sure, it had enough torque to drag a fully loaded Exxon Valdez….but youd damn near HAVE to in order to make it that far! Also, I was constantly fighting an overheating problem with it. I damn near tore it completely apart looking for the problem. Turns out the stock 2-row radiator that is adequate for a 304 wont do much for a 360.
I had an early 80s Rabbit convertible that crapped out on me pretty regularly. It had serious electrical issues and I knew nothing about cars when I bought it (I learned a lot because of this car in fact). No way in hell would I have taken that thing cross country.
1982 VW Vanagon. I actually tried to do a road trip from Bloomington, Indiana to Philadelphia. Made it as far as the east side of Indianapolis before that air-cooled nonsense began burping up oil. I was able to limp it back to Bloomington and catch a flight.
Ha! An ’82 Vanagon Westfalia is on a used car lot that my gf and I drive past a couple times a week. She wants me to buy it for us to drive from the East Coast to the PNW. I don’t think the price could be low enough for me to sign on for the inevitable breakdown (mechanical, and likely emotional) in the middle of Nebraska.
It did make a winter trip from Indiana to Minneapolis with no problems. It was lucky to make it to 80 mph on a downhill with a tailwind. The cabin noise was like being in a small prop plane, so the radio was pretty much useless. The ride was comfortable though. I do miss that comfortable seating position and the front view.
1969 corvette 427w tripower. Had a habit of vaporlocking.
On a trip from new York city to Boston it died on 84 going up the hill north of Hartford. After it cooled the battery died just as gas was getting back to the carbs. Roll started it by going back word down the breakdown lane! Also had just one chance in the winter to start it before it would be dead. As this was before jump start batteries I kept a full size battery ready to go in my warm apartment. If I ever get another old corvette it will be a small block
Three in particular:
1) 1990 GMC Suburban. Tried to kill me (intermittent brake failure) and refused to hold oil in crankcase AND overheated if driven more than 20 minutes
2) 1983 Saab 900. All door handles broken. Had to crawl in through trunk. Auto trans but had to be shifted manually. Electrical and starter problems that stranded me on a regular basis. BUT: the AC was wonderful when it ran
3) 1997 Ford Crown Vic. Owned it for less than a week when catalytic converters failed and fuel pump died
I had a 1983 Chevette scooter coupe that was a good car for around town commutes but could be scary on long highway drives due to fact its mighty 60 HP made keeping up with traffic a bit of an trial and if you used the A/C on full then that sucker would not rise above 50 without feeling like it was falling apart.
Then there is my “new to me” 1999 Firebird. It is a great car on a 70 mile round trip on the highways to work and I don’t feel any back issues(even though the seat padding makes my old Taurus’s seats feel like luxury compared to the Pontiac’s seats) so I don’t think I will be doing long trips with it
My ’65 Corvair would not be first, because it uses a quart of oil every 500 miles (maybe even more) at freeway speeds. However, adding six quarts of oil would only be about 20 bucks for the whole trip, and that’s cheaper than an engine rebuild!
My ’53 Buick would use 200 or so gallons of gas, so that would be next.
At least your shrouds will be well rust-proofed!
You know, it actually doesn’t LEAK too much oil. I put new pushrod o-rings in it when I had new valve guides installed, and new oil cooler seals, and a bellhousing crank seal…I think it actually USES it, like through worn out rings.
I drive it maybe 1500 miles a year, so it’s not worth the money until it gets worse.
My 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme with the 260 diesel engine. I ordered that sweet ride from the local Cadillac-Olds dealer and that dealership became it’s home away from home. That car and their tow truck developed a warm and close relationship. Sometime during the second year I owned the car, I started carrying my 10 speed Nord France bike in the trunk at all times just so I had a reliable way to get home. I wouldn’t cross the county line in it for fear of the consequences, and I surely would never risk a 2400 mile adventure. It would stall, lose power, fail to crank, belch, die, or run as well as it ever could, all on a random basis. Driving it was like a bad weekend in Vegas. It eventually launched that finely engineered diesel engine and we ended up in the automotive version of Divorce Court, arbitration.
In spite of that unfortunate relationship, I do love my GM Broughams. But they have all been previously loved by someone else first. That diesel Cutlass 35 years ago was the last new domestic car I ever purchased. For all the road trips since, my heart belongs to Honda.
A few years back I drove my 1980 RR Silver Shadow II across the western US to western Canada. Despite the 105 degree Fahrenheit heat, the car did fine and was superbly comfortable but I doubt I’d choose that car again for a similar trip today – 16 mpg made for a lot of fuel stops!
My former 1987 Caprice Estate I bought off EBay for $510 and had various issues including horrible negative camber front tires. Would have been fun to drive across the country and see how far from Central New York it could have gone.
’77 Town Car. Random total electrical failures and 9.5 MPG, max, even driving it like your grandma would.
Oh, wait, we’re talking about motorized vehicles? That makes the decision much tougher. I think I’d have about a 10-way tie for best, and at least a 6-way tie for worst.
Which way to go… least practical, least comfortable, or least likely to make it in one piece?
If the objective was to get there, my ’76 Alfetta would be the worst choice. Loud, uncomfortable, and unreliable, but it could sure go around a corner.
If the objective was adventure, any of my newer cars would be awful. They just seem to work, and where’s the fun in that.
My 62 Triumph TR4. In 19 years I probably drove it a mile. At that rate it would take 45,600 years to do the trip.
Hands down, my 1991 Mercury Topaz. That car was a turd. The odd thing is, I had driven it over 1600 miles at a time in drives from Georgia to Ohio and then Georgia to Michigan. The Georgia to Michigan trip included all of my necessities when we moved back to the midwest. The car was not a sparkling performer when only I was in it, with several hundred pounds of clothes and personal effects (I was working in Michigan and house hunting) it was even worse.
Not to mention the poor performance in the Appalachian mountains and incredibly bad fuel mileage. I think my old Dodge Dakota got better mileage on the freeway than that car.
I know it’s odd to say this, but I hated that car. I was glad to see it go.
A 99 Olds Bravada which placed me behind the financial 8 ball very quickly. I drove it 30-40 miles before deciding to buy it. It worked for about 10 miles after I signed the papers before the CEL came on and the trannie started slamming. By the time I got done the dealer had refunded almost $2k and I kept the car. Btw, there was nothing wrong with the radio or the ac.
So many cars from the 40s and 50s when I was starting to drive that I excluded them. The 64MGB and the 2002 Saturn Vue get honorable mention but the Olds was the biggest cluster I ever encountered. Way too hard to figure which ones were best. 6-8 way tie for best but probably one of the LTCs.
Either of the two Triumph TR-3s – red ’58, black ’59. 240 mile road trip would be a stretch in either and the red one would be challenged on a 24 mile trip.
In 1985 I purchased a 1962 TR-3B with 58,000 miles from a guy in Centralia Illinois. He had purchased it from its original owner, or more accurately his widow. It seems the couple, who lived in Santa Barbara California, drove it to Centralia (a bit east of St. Louis) to attend his mother’s funeral. Unfortunately this trip ended with his death as well. After owning this car for a while it was easy to see how a cross country trip could be very hazardous to one’s health. Seriously, it drove like the tractor the engine was originally designed for.
We bought my cousin a babied 1960 TR and drove it from Chicago to SF with a two day break to pick up Grandma in CdA. I was 11, so no big deal to me. My 60 something Grandmother probably had a differing opinion. 2800 miles. My all-time worst driver was a 240Z I could see the road through the floorboards on. Serial number six or seven when that was a big deal to the restorers.
I think the real question here is: Who, among us, maintains his/her own cars? Those of us who have the experience and inclination to keep a car in good mechanical condition seldom worry about breakdowns leaving us stranded. I don’t really understand how a non-mechanically inclined individual can afford owning an old car—since all old cars will require frequent inspections and repairs/maintenance. I love old cars because I love fixing them. The last time I broke down was 1992 when an ignition module failed—-a completely unpredictable event. Most other failures can be predicted/averted with regular inspections and preemptive parts replacements.
Very good points and the reason we don’t see so many older cars in urban areas. I live in a congested city and I simply don’t have the space to park, let alone wrench on, an old car.
That said, something like a GM G or B body were so simple that even repairs at an indie shop are not unreasonable, especially when one considers what all the tools and time doing it yourself would cost you anyway.
In the hellish traffic with which I must contend on a daily basis, I would never drive without ABS and airbags. No way, no thanks!
I have owned several GM C-Bodies. I do certain maintenance myself, but I live in Manhattan and work very long hours. I have a parking space in Queens which allows for some tinkering. But, if a mechanic is needed, I don’t sweat it. I can swing the cost of many repairs and the car is not needed every day. Mechanics always enjoy working on my cars; not because they constantly need service (they don’t), but because they are simple. I could be persuaded to become more mechanically proficient if I couldn’t afford any repairs and actually needed to drive an old car 100 miles per day, but at the moment it isn’t an issue so when I want a challenge I’ll try something myself, and when it requires special tools, a lift, or anything that takes up what I consider too much of my down time at the time, off to the shop she goes.
1963 Volvo 122S Wagon. Without overdrive, it was wound up tight around 65mph so freeway runs were interesting. The seats were a bit trashed so my spine smacked against the metal seat frame over bumps. Kind of a neat old car, but was best limited to in town trips. My ’76 carbureted Rabbit was also a turd. It was plagued by intermittent fuel delivery issues on highway runs.
I’ve never been afraid to drive any of my cars long distance. Having said that, my 1994 Nissan Laurel diesel was a fairly horrible car and although I wasn’t afraid to start driving, I was never sure if it would actually complete the journey. With worn-out glow plugs and a dodgy injector pump the trick was not turn it off en route or it could take up 5-10 minutes to get started again (if the battery didn’t get too flat first). When it blew the head gasket and cracked the head in busy rush hour motorway traffic I sold it that day for scrap value. So based on that, I guess it would be my last choice!
I bought a new ’73 Vega GT – neatest looking car in town – it was comfortable & cornered like it was on rails – however, by the time 6000 miles rolled up It was time for its’ SECOND engine replacement ! I drove it for about 9 months – wouldn’t go over Snoqualmie Pass in 4th & sometimes even third – with my wife, daughter & a couple of suitcases we were very seldom in 4th (2.52 rear end) It sat on the front lawn for 6 months trying to be sold – a week after I ‘gave’ it away, there it was, sitting on the shoulder of the freeway in Seattle ! We replaced it with a ’74 Pinto, a really nicely appointed car – never a problem and gave it to our daughter when we bought a ’77 Pinto – hate to admit it but those two Pintos were the most reliable cars we ever had – when my daughter finally burned out the ’74, it had 250,000 miles on it (two timing belts & an alternator the only problems till the end – which was caused by the typical pretty young thing who knew nothing about maintenance….peace and goodwill !!
I’ve only had one vehicle that would cause me any concern about taking it on a long trip, and that’s my ’77 Macho Power Wagon. I took it to LA from Vegas and back 4 times, and each time, in rush hour traffic on I15, something would die on it, and I would be sitting in a dealer’s parking lot, or Pep Boys hunting down the latest electrical issue, or changing a hose that never should have died so soon. The scariest time was when the engine cut out, due to the big bulkhead connector corroding due to water getting into it. After messing with it while pulled over to the shoulder with 80MPH traffic passing 3 feet away from me for a half hour, I finally figured out I could hold the key in a certain position, and it would run. Of course, after I did that a while, the coil died. So I spent a couple of hours at Pep Boys replacing the coil and bypassing the corroded connections before I trusted it enough to get back on the freeway.
The 80 Rabbit I got for $300.00 that was a diesel but had a gas engine somewhat installed.I finished hooking up the electrical and had a toggle switch to turn on the fuel pump. When I got it running it still sounded like a diesel, it had a nasty piston rattle. I left the diesel emblem on so the smoke would be understood. I drove it from California to Washington, it had been wrecked and repaired but still had a bent strut. When you hit a bump it bounced from side to side. It was filling up the airfilter with oil and about every 60 miles it would slow down and blow out a huge blue smoke cloud. It was so bad the cars behind me would vanish. I fixed that by running a long breather hose to the bottom of the car. It made it, but used about 6 quarts of oil to go 1000 miles. I replaced the strut and bought 50wt by the gallon and put in a oil pressure gauge so I could tell when it needed more oil. Around town you could go about two quarts of oil to a tank of gas. I later gave the car to my niece, but she had to come up to Washington and drive it back down to LA. A steady drive on the freeway was when it really used oil badly. I gave her 2 gallons of 50 wt and told her to add when the oil pressure gauge began to wiggle. She made it back, and used about a gallon and a half. The car actually did not smoke too bad after I ran the breather hose to the bottom, but it still rattled like a diesel. She drove it for a couple of years, mostly around town. It finally was totaled by someone who ran a stop light in a pickup. He had no insurance, at least the car was worth almost nothing. That’s the car I would never again road trip in.
I had this ’70 Plymouth Barracuda Gran Coupe with a 383 2bbl. in it.. It wasn’t too pretty and tended to overheat a little in traffic during hot weather. It also had an odd random hard starting problem that defied all attempts to repair until I ditched the oft-rebuilt Carter carb. for a Holley. All that being said, I am sure the car would have made a 2,400 mile trip without any real issues. However, that semi-thirsty B-Block Mopar and small gas tank would have required many refueling stops.
I think that’s the first time I’ve ever read that the answer to someones drivability problem was replacing a Carter with a Holley and not vice-versa.
I know! The solution just made the problem that much more unusual. I think the original Carter had a slight crack in the bowl and the fuel would occasionally drain into the intake manifold if it was hot enough.
Yeesh, I guess my ’79 Honda Accord. How many head gaskets, water pumps, & fan switches would it take to go 2400 miles?
Honorable mention goes to my 1982 Camaro Z28. At least the Camaro was a great road trip car – for me, anyway. Just remember to bring plenty of motor oil and a triple A card.
Rover 45TD. Wouldn’t take it on a 2.4 mile round trip.
That being said, I think I’d feel a little bit nervy doing that trip with the family in *any* car I have owned. If I was on my Tod then not so much.
Actually each and every modern car, which is basically a computer system coupled to a petrol or Diesel generator.
If my Alfa 159 JTDm breaks down I am lost, but if I’d had my 1975 Giulia Nuova 1300, I’d be able to fix it.
Same with the MG-B in the picture.
I had a dozens of them, the thumb rule was they’d Always try you out the first drive you’d make.
If you fixed her grace in a good sensible way, she’d forgive you and be loyal to you.
And I had an MGB that travelled from Ireland to Greece on several occasions.
^X2. Modern cars are very, very good, but you no longer can repair them – even bodywork is becoming impossible (high strength steel, aluminium) when they break, you can call the ADAC, ÖAMTC or the AAA but that’s it.
On the subject matter of this entry, the ones that stick in mind are a 1967 Volvo 144S non-OD which felt as if it was going to burst at 70 MPH and a 1992 Ford Escort CLX diesel. The last one would have covered the distance I’m sure (and with 45-50 MPG, cheaply too) but not being able to overtake trucks at times (given its top speed of about 75 MPH and lack of power) it would not have been something I would have liked to undertake. Trips from Vienna to Tirol were bad enough involving as they did the joy of going uphill, pedal to the metal, and not being able to go faster than 40 MPH…
I remember when I traded in my first “older car” for a brand new Honda. They parked my brand new Accord next to my older car (an old Crown Vic) so I could get my stuff out of the old and into the new. The salesman laughed when I popped the Crown Vic’s trunk. There were bottles of coolant, motor oil, power steering fluid, jumper cables etc. Stuff that I used routinely and unexpectedly that I have not had to use since.
My first car – a 1967 Beetle 1300. It burned oil, overheated, the clutch juddered – was my daily (ish) driver for a year and the longest trip I took was about 60 miles with a few stops along the way.
My ’69 VW Beetle was a dog from the start!! Keep a quart of oil with me at all times just to top off the crank case. Engine blew at 50,000 miles. Great example of “Bad” German engineering.
However, my ’75 Corolla was like a bulldog. A bit crude, but it would keep running and running till the tires would run bald. It got me thru college and the first few years out on my own. Eventually sold it for what I paid for it!!!
My first car, bought in 1976, was a well cared for 1966 Beetle with about 65,000 miles on it. With the exception that if it had not been running it simply would not start after being rained on, it was trouble free until I sold it two years later. I made the unfortunate mistake of tuning and adjusting everything before I turned it over to the buyer, a co-worker who was purchasing it to give to her nephew. Without limited manual experience she drove the car for a few days and since I had adjusted the clutch free-play to spec (I think around 1/2 inch) just a few days of slippage eliminated all of the free play and thus it slipped like mad. She had to have it replaced and while I was under no obligation I paid for half.
1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe, 1965 Chevelle, 1962 Mercedes 220S; all carburetted and suffered from vapor lock. My 1988 Volvo 745 Turbo; comfortable over distances, but currently dead in the driveway. Worst offender would be the 1968 VW Squareback in winter. No heat to my feet, but my face melted off.
I’ve had a ton of cars, including a P1800ES that was 25 years old when I got it and a Spitfire that was 30. I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to embark on a long journey in either of those. Nope, the answer to the question is my Triumph TR7, bought brand new and kept for three years only, That’s the car I’d feel least safe to leave town with. In its entire life it only made one longish trip (still less than 2000 miles) during which it did not break down, and it had the most incredible knack for stranding me in odd places and at inconvenient times.
Easy: the 61 Thunderbird. When I bought it, the thing was just plumb worn out. Unfortunately, the rosy tint of my specs prevented me from seeing that. I did once drive it about a 200 mile round trip which, in retrospect, was just plain stupid.
Honorable mention was the 29 Model A. She would have made 2400 miles easily, but it would have been a really, really slow 2400 miles with occasional bursts of sheer terror due to the overmatched mechanical brakes.
Probably the ’89 LaForza I just bought off eBay. I’d be worried about something made of unobtanium breaking in the middle of nowhere. Plus the cupholders suck.
You bought a LaForza? Why? As you said, it’s made of unobtanium.
Oh, I know why. You wanted the most unique COAL post here, didn’t you?
I’ve wanted one since I was 9 and read an article in one of my dad’s car magazines about them.
I’ve had an ebay search for a couple years out of curiosity, and one came up half an hour from my house. I figured if I was ever going to own one, this was my chance.
My 1988 Mini… it might have survived the trip, but I doubt that I would have.
My 1966 Rover 2000. Fortunately it broke its halfshaft just before I was scheduled to make a trip to Ohio for a license plate collectors’ convention in 1968. Can you imagine being broke down on the road in Wyoming with a Rover 2000 in 1968?
We used the 1958 Plymouth convertible instead and had a completely problem-free trip.
In 1976 my father moved from Vancouver to Montreal – in a 1968 Rover 2000TC with a U-Haul trailer containing all his post-divorce possessions. I remember him saying he did most of the driving at night to keep the engine temperature down – but he made it with no breakdowns.
My Fuego. Even in the Bay Area, I was always having to wait at least a couple of days for “the guy who knows Renault” to show up at the AMC dealer.
“the guy who knows Renault” – and he was probably the only one for five states around!
You will read about my choice next week…
I had an ’84 GMC C-2500 Suburban diesel that ate a quart or two of dextron ATF every 40 gallon tank of fuel, steadily dripped every other fluid it could (temporarily) hold, overheated if it went over 65 mph, top foot to the floor speed was 69-70 mph and the Turbo Hydra-Matic 700R4 would downshift into 3rd from OD with ANYTHING other than steady state cruising. I called it the Exxon Valdez.
I had a choice on the commute home: 55 with the AC running or 60 mph.without. Any slight inclined overpass = downshift. The rare instances when I passed someone moving slower than me involved lots of megaroaring from the 6.2 motor and a rising temperature gauge, so I mostly learned to just follow the traffic ahead and Zen for the two years I had it.
I did average 16 mpg in normal usage. The one time I drove it to Oklahoma from Little Rock I averaged 23 mpg but I was filled with trepidation about a breakdown the entire trip. Lots of minor repairs that involved a trip to the Pick-N-Pull, but never anything with the actual block or transmission. I kept my eye open for fluid sales and kept them in a milk crate in the back along with my toolbox.
If someone was being aggressive or following dangerously close behind me, I could floor it and smoke them out (but without any actual measurable change in speed) which would usually result in being passed with the typical finger gestures, arm flailing and teeth gnashing.
Despite all that, I loved the thing, but my ex wanted a ’92 Flareside so it got traded in. IIRC, a mechanic told me that a 454 would have basically bolted right in…but my fuel bill would double.
I wouldn’t want to do a 2400 mile trip in it, not 30 hours of it on today’s interstates.
Hmmm… My choice would have to be the 1992 LeBaron convertible we owned for 8½ years. Strictly a cruise-around town car. The farthest I drove it was back and forth to Muncie, IN on a few occasions, right up to the day my eye went bad in 2003. The car blew up in 2007.
Beautiful car, but it needed an engine, still, I made it last as long as I could.
Probably my beloved and hated Peugeot 504 diesel. The magic carpet ride, driving position, and seats would be ideal, but it was a city car. You went into fourth gear around 30 mph and I would guess that normal 80mph interstate cruising would be out of the question. I never attempted driving it that fast as it started overheating at anything faster than 60mph in the South Carolina heat. This was in Charleston where it’s flat as can be. I can’t imagine trying to coax that car up the Saluda grade in western NC at anything resembling highway speeds.
Probably my ’81 Scirocco. I loved the car, but long distances weren’t its strong point. It tended to be pretty noisy at best, the stock sound system speakers were small & tinny, and no A/C meant windows down in the summer. The seats also didn’t provide the best support – I used a wedge cushion for back support the entire time I owned the car.
Add to that certain reliability and quality control problems. Strange wiring issues meant it stopped dead at least twice (luckily near home) and had to be towed for help. Then there was the road trip from Vancouver to LA when the car was just over a year old. While in LA it started running very roughly, and ended up having the entire fuel system replaced, due to a never-connected fuel system pressurization hose in the filler neck, located just above the rear wheel (a huge amount of road crud had ended up in the fuel tank).
The best road-trip car was undoubtedly a ’73 BMW 2002, driven across Canada from Halifax to Vancouver (6000 km / 3700 mi). An absolute joy.
My Audi 100LS. I was afraid to drive it across town. On the other hand, my ’65 Mustang made 2 round trips from Seattle to Iowa City with only one breakdown, outside Buffalo Wyoming.
Easy, my 1987 Honda CRX Si. Rode like you were sitting on the ground, liked to break a lot, had lots of wind and engine noise as a “bonus”. I once took it to St Louis from Nebraska, in the winter, and that was dumb. I’d take the ’93 F-150 Custom when the A/C broke on a trip across the desert over that infernal machine any day of the week.
A 1970 MGB I had for a few years… I drove it from CT to south FL and despite having it running well I ended up replacing an alternator and pulling the rear battery tray to wack the fuel pump every so often on the way.. I think I had to replace a fuse or two also. Very Lucasian eh?
Hmm. The ’82 Malibu would be in the running. By the time I got rid of it, it burned oil, though not too badly (maybe a quart per 2 tanks?), dieseled badly whenever I shut it off, the brakes were scary worn, no A/C, and it handled like the proverbial bathtub half-full of water due to completely worn-out suspension pieces.
The ’00 Alero would be the other contender. By the time we said goodbye to that one, it required topping up the oil and the coolant every day, due to leakage from several places. Long trips required topping up the fluids every couple hours, and even then, you had to watch the temperature gauge like a hawk so if the needle started to creep you could pull off and replenish before anything bad happened. But if you were vigilant about the fluids it wasn’t too badly behaved otherwise and the A/C even worked. It did make a 200 mile trip without drama as one of its last acts under our ownership, but 2400 would be nerve-racking.
I think the ’82 would be my last choice. The Alero behaved if you kept the fluids full. That Malibu always made me question if I would actually come to a stop every time I hit the brakes…
From a reliability perspective, the 1970 MG Midget that I owned in the early 80s…I had no money and no expertise, but I sorta kept that little turd running for a summer.
From a comfort perspective, we just finished a 1600 mile trip to Florida from Ohio, with 4 adults in a 2013 Honda Civic…it ran like a top, got 34 MPG for the whole trip, but it just isn’t big enough for 4 people. That sucked.
None of my cars have been consistently unreliable, and I have done several long trips (but not 2400 miles long!) in all of them.
I would not choose my ’74 Ford Cortina – mine had the Pinto OHC four, but still only managed 22-24mpg, and that’s with full-size Imperial gallons. That was thirsty for a 2 litre sedan even in the seventies, but it was the rough, harsh ride which seemed to somehow amplify bumps that would rule it out for a long trip. Having said that, I did take it from Melbourne to Adelaide and return, with a few side trips of the “this road looks interesting, wonder where it goes?” variety. IIRC that trip was only about 1400 miles with detours. The car was uncomfortable, but nothing left me stranded. I eventually got 280,000 miles out of it.
I also would not choose my ’87 Ford Laser (Mercury Tracer). It was a fairly high mileage used car when I got it, and the black box that ran the ignition developed an intermittent fault on long trips. On one memorable occasion this turned a 150 mile trip into a three day expedition as a succession of mechanics couldn’t locate the fault!
It’s a toss up between the $300 dollar 86 buick century that squirted a steady stream of oil straight at the alternator or the 77 New Yorker with the melty plastic Thermo-quad carb. Not to mention the cost of keeping that 400 cu monster supplied with gas. I would have taken my rusty old 60 Bel Air anywhere though.