Curbside Classics: ’97-’02 Daewoo Nubira – And A Few More Piles Of Garbage

Some time ago CC reader Nate pointed me to a Central American tradition of sorts, that of abandoned vehicles literally buried under piles of garbage. This, after a post of mine brought back memories of his Guatemala days back in the ’70s. So, fear not Nate, such traditions remain to this day unabated. And fear not CC readers, for this post’s title does not refer to the cars themselves -I wouldn’t stoop so low as to call a car garbage- but to PILES of garbage.

It may be tempting though, for we all know Daewoo’s early foray into foreign markets was comprised of not-quite-there engineering. It may not be too noticeable on these shots, but this Nubira’s interior is filled with what I assume are a bunch of discarded personal items. The car being parked next to the street’s guard post made it a bit hard to go around without being harassed, but the stuffed bags are noticeable through the back window. Some other bits are on the car’s roof, with a tiny blue bag that looks like the guard’s discarded lunch.

To say the whole ’97-’02 Daewoo lineup was underwhelming is a bit of an understatement, as the parent company went belly up not long after. Most of the brand’s pains came from launching unrefined products, along a too ambitious growth project. “The Largest Car Company You Never Heard Of” was a line used on Daewoo’s PR, and to this day it remains so, as it now only serves as a provider of cheap Chevys for Latin America. Outwardly, the cars were innocuously safe in a very ’90s way. Of that ’97 Daewoo lineup, Giugiaro’s Italdesign is behind the Leganza and Lanos, while Italy’s IDEA Institute claims authorship of the Nubira.

While effort was made into creating a distinctive Daewoo grille, one would be tempted to think the Italians had lost their verve for design, or were just collecting a quick check. In reality, both design firms were probably busier with better regarded clients. Considering that Daewoo’s styling was in its infant stages, it may have been worth the money though; one could only wonder -in horror- what they could have accomplished with a clean sheet of paper.

If you wish to read more about Daewoo’s Icarus aspirations, it’s been covered previously.

In the US, cars left in the wild become part of the landscape; weeds grow through panel seams and rust holes, while faded paint, oxidized, cracked and curled, provides tons of photo opportunities. So, the extensive US landscape allows these forlorn vehicles to remain unmolested, with some almost becoming works of art. Meanwhile, in the overpopulated nations of Central America no object is exempt of human usage. Here’s a sight that will probably bring a tear or two to British car lovers. I’ve no idea if this MG MGB Baby is restorable or not, but I assume some marque devotee would put up with the effort if given the chance. After all, every single panel is available to purchase and weld-on if one wished to endure the ordeal.

Instead, this MGB is getting a more ‘practical’ use in a repair shop, with some bricklaying tools scattered around it on top of who knows what else. Concrete bags I think. On the back is some Fiat, or Corolla; those unoriginal taillights don’t help. I would have looked some more but was put off by the shop’s owner trying to get me into purchasing a totaled Nissan Rogue (stay tuned…).

Now, tiny British sports cars from the ’60s rarely show up over here, so it’s kind of a ‘quite a find.’ Too bad it’s in such a shape I find it hard to get excited about.

Although I’m owner of an A3 Golf and a ’68 Beetle, I was never much fan of the New Beetle. The whole Golf-in-a-less-practical-package never did much for me, and in ditched condition the worn out disheveled plasticky bits make it look rather cheap. An old Imperial still looks like a work of art in abandoned state, but that’s not the case with modern offerings. The New Beetle got some fans though, and this one comes with its own plastic chair in case you wish to sit and stare to its oh-so-turn-of-the-century-retro lines. Hard to think it’s been 25 years since these were launched, and VWoA was such in a comatose state that the retro theme did bring some pulse back into the brand.

It took me a few drives to capture this Acura Integra, as it’s in a busy bus stop. Since this is a car I wished to own back in college, it brings huge pain to see its current destitute condition. What’s worse, it looks like this one was rather unmolested; at least until that timing belt went bust and took those valves along (pure speculation on my part). If you’re a fan of these, you could have some carnitas by the roadside while staring and thinking of ‘what could’ve been.’ I hate this shot… better move on before I get too emotional.

Being a Ford product of sorts, this Aspire aspired to have some Di-Noc. Too bad this Aspire’s owner got matters mixed up, as Di-Noc goes around the vehicle, not on top. Adding insult to the injury, real wood is not acceptable. Of this lot, this was a rare case where the vehicle disappeared after a few days, with the log remaining behind. Good thing the car was moved or it would lay under a pile of timber by now. On second thought, some Di-Noc would probably do wonders for the Aspire. Anything could, actually.

Now, we finally reach a vehicle that’s almost a pile of garbage itself, the Rogue I was being ‘sold.’ In previous posts I have talked of El Salvador’s grey import market, an unintended result of the 1980’s civil war. With vehicle imports banned during the war’s early years, a grey market got started with local mechanics bringing in used US cars to tend a public thirsty for new-used wheels. No matter how worn.

By the early ’00s, real car dealers cried foul of course, so heavy taxes were placed on those used US goods. Local mechanics, unabated, just started importing TOTALED vehicles, showing once more that restrictions are the surest way to get a populace to get ‘inventive.’ Local mechanics actually do wonders nowadays, and show they have learned much since they made my mom’s Datsun F10 look even worse than it did from factory (no easy feat). On regards of this Rogue, I can assure you it will look as a ‘never crashed’ vehicle when finished. Now, as for its crash worthiness, I wouldn’t put my life in the line; those roof pillars may end up ‘looking straight,’ but their structural soundness will definitely be appearances only.

Well, I can’t help it. Against what I said on that first paragraph, I’ll stoop that low and call this car garbage. These Daewoos were everywhere in San Salvador’s streets back when I visited in ’97, and by the mid 2010’s they had become incredibly scarce on the ground; proving not even resourceful locals can keep these in running order. Paul gave it its due a while back, and my high school friend owned one, with me ‘marveling’ at its rinky dinky feel while riding as passenger. I would hope the LeMans version got a few improvements before being sold in the US. Wait, the LeMans? How did I get back to GM in this post? Better stop before I fall into deadly sin territory… Dang, too late now.