Thursday, December 01, 2005

Vega-ly speaking

If you haven't already seen it, MSNBC has a great gallery of automotive turkeys. The companion article employs reader anecdotes to crown the 1970-74 Chevrolet Vega as the worst car of all time:

The 1972 Chevrolet Vega was by far the worst car ever made. Unfortunately, it was my first car, and I was so proud of it ... for about 6 months.

After 20,000 miles of gentle driving, it needed a valve job, and possibly a new engine, a new clutch, a new transmission sync gear and new tires. The Vega was incredibly slow, loud, and stuffy (the air circulation was awful). The gear spacing was all wrong. And the handling was horrendous — even dangerous, especially on wet roads. What was good about the car? My hatchback looked great...

—Bob Eicholz, Hollywood, Calif.

In preparing this post, I asked my mom about her first car. She said she was thrilled to have it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. So, what did you drive, Mom?

Icandigit hecandigit shecandigit wecandigit theycandigit youcandigit...oh, let's dig it! Can you dig it bay-bay? I couldn't make this up if I tried...

The car was a gift from my grandfather, who offered Mom a choice between the Vega and another car, of which she picked the former. I asked my mom if she ever had any trouble with her Vega. She said not really, except that she once tried to open the passenger door:

Just kidding! Actually, she got hit, as this photo (dated August 1978) plainly shows. I should probably have asked her how she managed to drive this car for five years. In any case, she followed this car a few years later with a secondhand 1980 Dodge Mirada, an experience for which driving a Vega was great practice. I distinctly remember that the paneling around the Mirada's brake lights sort of disintegrated over time and that, toward the end, Mom had to click the blinkers manually. Good times.

Chintzy cars are a classic piece of Americana in at least one sense: as a motorist, you really get to know your car. When the fear of parts falling off is constant, your car instills in you a keen sense of hyperawareness. Some call it paranoia; I call it, preparedanoia. I knew my recently departed Chevy pickup down to its tiniest parts; Donald Trump, on the other hand, probably couldn't locate his gas tank (and in New Jersey, wouldn't have to, because pumping your own gas is illegal there). It's a metaphor for life, really.

So be proud, go out and proudly drive your piece of crap. Just don't drive like crap.


Mustang Bobby said...

The Chevy Vega and its counterpart, the Ford Pinto, marked the tipping point in the American auto industry -- they thought the imports from Japan like Toyotas and Subarus were cheap crap and the American consumer would accept a piece-of-shit car built in America because it was called a Chevrolet or a Ford. They haven't recovered fully since.

Mustang Bobby said...

PS: I referred to this post in my own about Your Favorite Piece of Crap Car.