Author Topic: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?  (Read 2583 times)

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Offline franksolich

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what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« on: February 06, 2008, 06:24:34 PM »
Okay, now I'm thinking of automobiles that influenced my life, beginning with the ancient creaking rusted-out "army surplus" jeep of my adolescence, trying to decide which one proved the most troublesome.

I think, hands down, it has to go to a 1973 American Motors Gremlin.

The vehicle was very old by the time I got it, but its mileage (true mileage) was in the mid-five figures (56,000, if I recall correctly), and it had been owned by the ancient grandmother of a friend, who had had it since it was brand-new.

A vehicle well kept-up, well maintained.

I did not select this vehicle myself; as has always been my practice, someone else looks around, decides, and then I write the check.  This is not so much an aversion to dealing with automobile salesmen, as it is a loathing of "having" to buy something, anything, whether it be an automobile or a loaf of bread.

It's a childhood hold-over; I'll never get over it.

The 1973 Gremlin was manual-shift, the stick on the floor, which presented no problem to me; after all, I had learned to drive using a manual shift (automatics were for sissies), and the parents had always used a manual shift.

But despite this, I immediately began having problems, problems which the Gremlin had heretofore never exhibited.

I was having to have the clutch replaced circa every 5,000 miles--damn--which is about the same as having to buy a new refrigerator every other week.

At first, I didn't worry too much about it, as I then lived under conditions more favorable than those at present; I had my own fleet of automotive mechanics on the "payroll."

When a teenager, while my peers were learning automotive mechanics, I was learning income taxes, and as we grew up, some sort of informal "barter" thing got started, where they took care of my vehicle, and I took care of their income (personal and business) taxes.

I had to pay for the parts, but the labor was free.

But even people who feel they are well-paid once in a while balk at doing a job.....especially if they have to do the job over and over and over again.

By the way, no one detected anything "wrong" with the way I handled a clutch.

I finally got rid of the vehicle after one of these friends got around to showing me the problem.

Apparently a clutch is a series of metal rods underneath the vehicle, and those long rods are kept apart from each other, and in place, using "figure-8" sorts of loops, the holes through which the rods pass.

For whatever reasons, American Motors made the Gremlin using plastic loops (or figure-8s or whatever) to hold these clutch-rods in place.  Plastic.

I mean to repeat that.  Plastic.

And so those plastic things were always snapping, mucking up the lower works of the vehicle.

I have no idea why American Motors did such a thing; I suspect that even though I'm no engineer, and far from it, even I would think not to use flimsy plastic for such an important "little" piece.

I think I had seven clutches put into that Gremlin in two years, and everybody was very happy when I finally heaved it.
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Offline Lord Undies

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 06:43:46 PM »
The first brand spanking new car my wife and I bought was a 1973 Gremlin.  It was Electric Blue.  It had an automatic transmission.

We bought the car at Mockingbird American Motors on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas.  The day we drove it off the lot, as we pulled off the parking lot apron onto Mockingbird Lane,  the engine fell down onto the street.  It seems two motor mounts were missing.  We drove our old car home and returned to the dealership the next day.

After that initial rough start, the Gremlin was never any trouble to own - except for one small quirk.  Whenever the temperature dropped below forty degrees I had to start it by jumping the solenoid with two screwdriverst.  Fortunately the solenoid was located in a handy spot on the firewall under the hood.  This little quirk was never repaired, and oh how the dealership tried to repair it.  They tried for four years. 

I drove that car for five years before I got rid of it and bought my first Lincoln Town Car.   I missed my little Gremlin, though.  It will always have a special place in my heart.   

Offline franksolich

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 06:51:15 PM »
I never had those problems, Demonic Underwear, but there was one other peculiarity that drove me nuts.

There's something on top of the engine--I hope I've identified it correctly as the "oil valve cover"--which had only four bolts holding it down when, really, it should have had six or eight.

The distance between the bolts holding the cover down was so great that oil would break the gasket.

Of course, this was something I caught early on, and it was dealt with before it became a problem.

But four bolts, when it needed six or eight.
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Offline Carl

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 06:52:41 PM »
Okay, now I'm thinking of automobiles that influenced my life, beginning with the ancient creaking rusted-out "army surplus" jeep of my adolescence, trying to decide which one proved the most troublesome.

I think, hands down, it has to go to a 1973 American Motors Gremlin.

The vehicle was very old by the time I got it, but its mileage (true mileage) was in the mid-five figures (56,000, if I recall correctly), and it had been owned by the ancient grandmother of a friend, who had had it since it was brand-new.

A vehicle well kept-up, well maintained.

I did not select this vehicle myself; as has always been my practice, someone else looks around, decides, and then I write the check.  This is not so much an aversion to dealing with automobile salesmen, as it is a loathing of "having" to buy something, anything, whether it be an automobile or a loaf of bread.

It's a childhood hold-over; I'll never get over it.

The 1973 Gremlin was manual-shift, the stick on the floor, which presented no problem to me; after all, I had learned to drive using a manual shift (automatics were for sissies), and the parents had always used a manual shift.

But despite this, I immediately began having problems, problems which the Gremlin had heretofore never exhibited.

I was having to have the clutch replaced circa every 5,000 miles--damn--which is about the same as having to buy a new refrigerator every other week.

At first, I didn't worry too much about it, as I then lived under conditions more favorable than those at present; I had my own fleet of automotive mechanics on the "payroll."

When a teenager, while my peers were learning automotive mechanics, I was learning income taxes, and as we grew up, some sort of informal "barter" thing got started, where they took care of my vehicle, and I took care of their income (personal and business) taxes.

I had to pay for the parts, but the labor was free.

But even people who feel they are well-paid once in a while balk at doing a job.....especially if they have to do the job over and over and over again.

By the way, no one detected anything "wrong" with the way I handled a clutch.

I finally got rid of the vehicle after one of these friends got around to showing me the problem.

Apparently a clutch is a series of metal rods underneath the vehicle, and those long rods are kept apart from each other, and in place, using "figure-8" sorts of loops, the holes through which the rods pass.

For whatever reasons, American Motors made the Gremlin using plastic loops (or figure-8s or whatever) to hold these clutch-rods in place.  Plastic.

I mean to repeat that.  Plastic.

And so those plastic things were always snapping, mucking up the lower works of the vehicle.

I have no idea why American Motors did such a thing; I suspect that even though I'm no engineer, and far from it, even I would think not to use flimsy plastic for such an important "little" piece.

I think I had seven clutches put into that Gremlin in two years, and everybody was very happy when I finally heaved it.

A bit perplexed on this one Frank and am wondering if those rods were shifter rods which actuated the forks inside the transmission.
When they would become able to move around am guessing the ball end would jump out of the fork leaving the vehicle stuck either in gear or in neutral.

Did the shift lever lose all feel when this would happen or just flop around?

Not familiar with the clutch linkage from the pedal to the fork and carrier that holds the clutch release (throwout) bearing so maybe something was getting out of sorts there not allowing the bearing to completely move away from the fingers on the pressure plate allowing the clutch to slip.

Anyways....worst vehicle I ever had was a 1981 Ford Escort.
I got it used in March 1986 with less then 50,000 miles on it and gave up on it in the fall.
The 5 speed transmission was not geared correctly with 4th being to slow as a highway gear but 5th an overdrive too gutless to even climb a modest hill.
In the heat of summer it would vapor lock after running for a while and then being shut off.
Changed the fuel pump and fuel pump push rod a couple of times to no avail.
Always kept water in the car to pour on the fuel lines when the thing would stall going down the road,never tried the wood clothespin trick.
Finally it deveolped a carburator problem that would make it almost stall and then pick back up until ready to shift into second then would die out again.

Most of these early ones were taken off the road when the timing belt would break and the pistons would hit the valves ruining the head and sometimes the engine.
By that point in time the market value was so small they were usually junked.

Offline Crazy Horse

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2008, 06:59:56 PM »
1996 Chevolet S-10

28,000 miles new transmission

32,000 miles blown heater core, head gasket

34,000 miles blown motor.

That car had more citrus than all the lemon trees in the world
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Offline franksolich

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2008, 07:03:39 PM »
A bit perplexed on this one Frank and am wondering if those rods were shifter rods which actuated the forks inside the transmission.

When they would become able to move around am guessing the ball end would jump out of the fork leaving the vehicle stuck either in gear or in neutral.

Did the shift lever lose all feel when this would happen or just flop around?

Yes, that happened.

That sounds, vaguely, the way it was explained to me, Carl.

But I wasn't really "listening;" I was usually just staring in utter perplexation at this busted plastic figure-8 thing.

I do recall "jump" and "fork," but again, I was so stunned by the engineering stupidity that I was deaf to what was being explained to me.

By the way, those guys who used to fix my cars, we're all still very good friends--but hundreds of miles apart now.  I have to depend upon myself now, alas.
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Offline Carl

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2008, 07:14:44 PM »
A bit perplexed on this one Frank and am wondering if those rods were shifter rods which actuated the forks inside the transmission.

When they would become able to move around am guessing the ball end would jump out of the fork leaving the vehicle stuck either in gear or in neutral.

Did the shift lever lose all feel when this would happen or just flop around?

Yes, that happened.

That sounds, vaguely, the way it was explained to me, Carl.

But I wasn't really "listening;" I was usually just staring in utter perplexation at this busted plastic figure-8 thing.

I do recall "jump" and "fork," but again, I was so stunned by the engineering stupidity that I was deaf to what was being explained to me.

By the way, those guys who used to fix my cars, we're all still very good friends--but hundreds of miles apart now.  I have to depend upon myself now, alas.

Yeah,especially with the plastics of that era.
Wonder what all our youn-uns here would think if their first car was a AMC Gremlin or a Pacer? :lmao:

Offline ScubaGuy

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2008, 10:00:14 PM »


1968 MGB-GT.  You name it, I replaced it at some point.

Probably the best car for a high school kid to have.  On those rare occasions that it was running it was fun to drive and felt like you were going 100 MPH when in fact you were probably 5 under the speed limit.  When it wasn't running (which was most of the time) you were learning the basics of auto mechanics or body repair.

That car probably kept me out of a lot of trouble just because I was always at home trying to keep it running.

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Offline Chris_

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2008, 10:06:04 PM »
1968 MGB-GT.

The MGB is NOT the first car that comes to mind when I think of "reliable transportation".   :tongue:
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Offline Chris_

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2008, 10:08:36 PM »
1996 Chevolet S-10

My worse vehicle was a 1981 Silverado.  Busted intake gasket, windshield wipers (yikes!), defroster, window regulators, door handles, wouldn't pass a smog test, gas guzzling monster.  I think it ended up being abandoned on the side of the interstate and forgotten about.
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Offline Lacarnut

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2008, 11:15:55 PM »
From 3 Brithish sports cars (MG, TR-3, Sunbeam Alpine, and 2 Fords (Pinto & Fairlane) the worst of the bunch was the Sunbeam Alpine. It was one year old and it never ran more than a week without something breaking on it. It was under warranty but that was one piece of crap. Got tired of messing with these guys so I went to see one of my golfing buddies that was the District Attorney. He wrote them a letter threathening to sue them for the price of the car plus damages. It worked because I did not have any more problems for a year and a half when the master brake cyclinder went out. Traded that sucker in for a new station wagon for my ex. I was driving another British car (my brother's Morris Minor) and the transmission went out on it 180 miles from home. Called him, he drove my old Pontiac there and I towed him home. He had 3 months left on the warranty so it was fixed for free. 

Offline Chris_

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2008, 11:20:37 PM »
I guess British cars require wet, cold, gloomy weather to run properly.   :mental:
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Offline Uhhuh35

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2008, 10:16:22 AM »
2003 PT Cruiser. Great looking car, but that's where the fun ended. It had no power but didn't get good mileage either. The first month I had it the fuel cap system was recalled. The transmission started acting up and wouldn't shift from park to drive sometimes. Then it wouldn't come out of park at all, had to call a flatbed tow. It was covered by the warranty but in the meantime I had to rent a car. My wife drove over a rock and smashed the oil pan, more time for repair. The factory alarm started acting up. If I activated the alarm and the temp dropped to freezing overnight, the alarm would not shut off. I mean NOT SHUT OFF! I could get in the car and drive down the street WITH THE ALARM SOUNDING! I'd have to go under the hood and remove the alarm fuse. Jeez!

I traded it in on a 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 that I have never had a problem with. Thank the Lord!
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Offline Chris_

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2008, 10:22:26 AM »
1993 Ford Mustang II -- the worst idea since the K car.

1990 Fiat X-1/9 -- cute but a total piece of crap.
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Offline Lacarnut

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2008, 01:51:17 PM »
I guess British cars require wet, cold, gloomy weather to run properly.   :mental:

Plus a damn good mechanic which I am not

Offline CactusCarlos

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2008, 02:05:45 PM »
1967 Mercury Cougar.  It was the late 70's and it was time I got a car.  To shut me up, my father bought me this junker that was sitting in a department store parking lot.  Mind you, I am 16 and I don't know squat about buying a car.  We didn't even test drive it - we looked it over and my dad bought it.  It barely made it 5 miles home before it overheated.  That was only the beginning of the list of things that were wrong with it.  We were too poor to bring it somewhere to get it fixed by anyone else so I ended up learning how to troubleshoot and fix many things myself.   I think my mom finally gave it away to another kid with the means and interest in fixing it. 

You will hear me say how I will never buy another Big 3 automobile again.  This vehicle is only a small reason for that - my experience with Big 3 cars later in life all added up to my disdain for them. 
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Offline Chris_

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2008, 02:57:01 PM »
I think everyone already knows the story of my 2001 Mazda 626.  No need to rehash that turmoil.   :lmao:
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Offline NHSparky

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2008, 09:59:50 PM »
1994 Ford Probe.

There's a very good reason it never made it.
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Offline Atomic Lib Smasher

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2008, 10:16:41 PM »
1987 Dodge Aires.

Got it at 56K miles, had to replace the transmission, rotors, radiator, engine, and if I had thought about getting it done, the paint job was wearing off getting oxidized and all that. Not to mention having to replace the side mirror and rearview mirror, but that was to my own doing.

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Offline ScubaGuy

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2008, 08:29:55 AM »
1968 MGB-GT.

The MGB is NOT the first car that comes to mind when I think of "reliable transportation".   :tongue:

Fixed.

It really was fun to drive though.

What can you expect when you drive a car whose electrical system was made by a company with the tag line of "We invented darkness".
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Offline ScubaGuy

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2008, 08:41:36 AM »
From 3 Brithish sports cars (MG, TR-3, Sunbeam Alpine, and 2 Fords (Pinto & Fairlane) the worst of the bunch was the Sunbeam Alpine. It was one year old and it never ran more than a week without something breaking on it. It was under warranty but that was one piece of crap. Got tired of messing with these guys so I went to see one of my golfing buddies that was the District Attorney. He wrote them a letter threathening to sue them for the price of the car plus damages. It worked because I did not have any more problems for a year and a half when the master brake cyclinder went out. Traded that sucker in for a new station wagon for my ex. I was driving another British car (my brother's Morris Minor) and the transmission went out on it 180 miles from home. Called him, he drove my old Pontiac there and I towed him home. He had 3 months left on the warranty so it was fixed for free. 

In college I dated a girl that had an Alpine hardtop.  Looking back there was no way that that relationship would ever work.  Neither one of us had a way to get to the others location.
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Offline Wineslob

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2008, 02:18:18 PM »
My first car was a Fiat 1200 Roadster. Neat little car, and much like the MGB you worked on it more than you drove it.
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Offline Lacarnut

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Re: what was the most vexing automobile you ever had?
« Reply #22 on: March 13, 2008, 04:56:16 PM »
From 3 Brithish sports cars (MG, TR-3, Sunbeam Alpine, and 2 Fords (Pinto & Fairlane) the worst of the bunch was the Sunbeam Alpine. It was one year old and it never ran more than a week without something breaking on it. It was under warranty but that was one piece of crap. Got tired of messing with these guys so I went to see one of my golfing buddies that was the District Attorney. He wrote them a letter threathening to sue them for the price of the car plus damages. It worked because I did not have any more problems for a year and a half when the master brake cyclinder went out. Traded that sucker in for a new station wagon for my ex. I was driving another British car (my brother's Morris Minor) and the transmission went out on it 180 miles from home. Called him, he drove my old Pontiac there and I towed him home. He had 3 months left on the warranty so it was fixed for free. 

In college I dated a girl that had an Alpine hardtop.  Looking back there was no way that that relationship would ever work.  Neither one of us had a way to get to the others location.

I would use may dad Olds or we would go in my date's car. Girls like to ride around in a sports car on a Sat. or Sunday afternoon but not on a date.