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The Worst Failures

We’ve had some pretty bad cars foisted on us in the past. We’ve also had some pretty awful marketing failures.

We’ve listed our top five here:-

THE LEYLAND P76

It’s aim was to knock Holden, Ford and Chrysler off their big car perches – and it failed miserably

THE DATSUN 120Y

Boring! Yet is sold over 2 million worldwide. Why?

THE MORRIS MARINA

Another Leyland disaster trying to play catchup.

AU FALCON

How a styling studio and the research dept. got it so wrong, and Ford never recovered.

MITSIBISHI 380

The car that was to save Mitsubishi local manufacturing and pay back Government grants. It didn’t.

For the full story on the top five failures, and a list of the ‘also rans’ (or didn’t) click here

28 comments

  1. Marshall Peters says:

    The Vauxhall Viva. I bought one new. I was sandwiched between an underengineered car, and an incompetent dealership. It was a race between how many things could fail before warranty expired, and just after. I suspect that manufacturer was having a competition to see who could build parts just long enough to beat warranty, but they were too enthusiastic and most parts failed before the warranty expired.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 9:28 am

  2. Nigel Martin says:

    Any list of lemons that doesn’t include: the 1980 4 cylinder Commodore isn’t FOR real.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 9:32 am

  3. Rick Mason says:

    Leyland missed a golden opportunity with the P76 after its initial failure – they could have simply left off the boot-lid and sold it as the ‘luxury utility for the man on the land’. Don’t forget the lairy ‘Targa Florio’, and spare a thought for the short-lived Force 7 – Leyland’s barely-realised answer to the Charger!

    BTW, the 120Y Coupe was actually a nice little car in its day but wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. Had one in for service/tuning one day and couldn’t believe how poorly it ran in standard tune. Ended up advancing the spark & re-chiselling the timing mark at 12° advanced – what a difference! Customer thought I’d changed the engine.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:06 am

  4. Ian says:

    Don’t underestimate the 120Y!. As a 70’s Newcastle teenager, I was surprised when my lanky surfy mate bought a new one! We did a lot of driving in it- it was cheap and reliable. Although it’s performance was much maligned when compared to the Torana/Commodore/Fords of the rest of my mates, it did surprisingly well when driven vigorously. I recall hitting 160km on the Newcastle Sydney expressway with 4 of us on board- maybe with the assistance of a hill and tailwind. Those were the days (for those who survived). I wouldn’t be on my list of failures.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:08 am

  5. Carolyn Graham says:

    We had a Lada Niva back in 1992/93. It was only 3 years old and the floor
    almost fell out. We had to have the entire floor re-welded at considerable
    expense. We also had trouble with the gear box. We sold it eventually with
    a large loss incurred. It was a nightmare.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:46 am

  6. Jeff says:

    Oh you forgot the Holden “Sunbird” the four cylinder medium sized Torana that wouldn’t go uphill with the aircon on. To reach top of hill. Turn off aircon.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:50 am

  7. Mark Salmon says:

    You forgot the Datsun 360Z, now there was a vehicle that would rust in a heart beat!

    December 3rd, 2009 at 10:56 am

  8. ChrisB says:

    What about the Datsun Stanza? One swift right turn – for example, a quick u-turn through a gap in a central reservation – and the carburettor would be starved of fuel just at the time you needed it most.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 11:20 am

  9. John says:

    A few comments:

    Though a failure for reasons described, the P76 deserves some recognition for its attempts at technological progress. It took Ford until about ’82 to introduce an alloy head six, and Holden until 1999 to launch an alloy V8 like the COTY-winning P76!

    The 120Y’s main historical criticism was its styling, particularly in ‘cockroach’ coupe form. The Marina’s worst mistake was the option of a heavy six cylinder engine, resulting in vile handling.

    The AU did not come out in 1988 and did not look like a 2005 BF Futura as per the photo.

    Regarding the sub-list, I wouldn’t have bothered with the X-type as its had good points (performance mainly) despite its origins.

    As for the Polish-built Niki 650, it deserves to top any list. 0-100 km/h in 40 seconds and extremely dangerous handling, criminally marketed to the young as a substitute for a respectable secondhand car!

    Cheers!

    December 3rd, 2009 at 11:45 am

  10. Lee Noonan says:

    The LADA NIVA was NOT a FIAT… it was a Soviet designed 4WD.. The LADA Samara was also NOT a FIAT…

    the reborn Fiats came from POLAND called Polski Fiats..
    from the small Fiat 500 type to the Fiat 123 which were very popular..

    The Ford Falcon which was a dud was the Falcon FORTE [Four-tay]
    it had been syled by .???? no one would own up… lol

    The Mitsubishi Magna – I visited the Mitsubishi factory while they were making the six cylinder Magna similar in style to the 380…
    On the production line they were making one LHD and one RHD car… the LHD cars were destined for the USA… I then rented a Magna and drive from Adelaide to Sydney via the coast. Excellent vehicle..

    A bad car in My mind is one that is unrelieable and badly put together…

    The Datsun 120Y was loved by the owners… different looking and ran on the smell of an oily [petrol] rag… very good fuel economy.. and OK in the cities…

    The Leyland P76 was the wrong car at the wrong time…
    and Finding an owner who could lift a 44 gallon drum was difficult..
    and who wanted to carry a 44 gallon drum even harder.. lol
    Their alloy V8 engines are still being used in other cars…

    Lee Noonan

    December 3rd, 2009 at 12:08 pm

  11. warren says:

    Mistubishi magna 1989 the wort piece of crap ive owned it , the auto gearbox was forever leaking at low klms , the timing chain rattled when starting and this was just a 2 year old car with low klm and it wasnt just my car either. it was quite common for this model

    ps i will never buy another mitsubishi again (junk).i was glad they moved overseas , i just wished they take their junk with them

    December 3rd, 2009 at 1:04 pm

  12. Rick says:

    1) The picture of the Ford AU Falcon is in fact not an AU – It’s a BF MkII.
    2) The Mitsubishi 380 was the wrong car at the wrong time, so the car itself wasn’t what caused Mitsubishi to shut shop – it was prior years of poor product marketing and economic decision-making. The 380 was actually very good – I’ve driven one and it is well made and has a good engine. Certainly not worthy of being on the same list as a Morris Marina – come on!

    December 3rd, 2009 at 1:07 pm

  13. Troy says:

    I agree with the Leyland. We had one when I was a kid. I remember the last time I seen it. My parents took us to African Lion Safari and while we were there our Leyland decided to catch on fire and burn to a cinder. Can’t remember how we got home.

    December 3rd, 2009 at 1:15 pm

  14. Archie Roach says:

    Dont forget the Subaru WRX

    December 3rd, 2009 at 1:46 pm

  15. Richard Miller says:

    Yes a pity about the 380 I have driven one since 2006 and find it is a fantastic car
    Passengers have commented on the smooth and quiet ride Whilst it was not a marketing hit I don’t think it deserves to be described as a failure

    December 3rd, 2009 at 4:04 pm

  16. Namejs Jaunalksnis says:

    How could you forget the Austin Tasman & Kimberley which took the place of the Austin 1800 which was a great car. In saying this, they and the Morris 1100 were ahead of their time. People scoffed at east-west motors, but what dominates the small car industry now!

    December 3rd, 2009 at 6:02 pm

  17. Lee Noonan says:

    The Morris Marina was a typical British BMC car…
    They may have worked OK in the UK, doing a few kms here and there but they just didn;t last in Australia. I believe it was designed and built Here also.

    Lee Noonan

    December 3rd, 2009 at 6:35 pm

  18. Doug Halligan says:

    I have to agree on most selections. But I must be a bit critical on your infomation. The FORD Falcon AU was introduced in 1998 not 1988 and the picture you have is of a FORD Falcon BA not an AU.

    December 4th, 2009 at 12:25 am

  19. Ian A says:

    What about the greatest lemon ever ,the mitsubishi Magna.Iam sure it was introduced by the Automatic Transmission Mechanics Affiliation as I sent a few of their kids to private schools thanks to the Magna.Mitsubishi still have not recovered from the damage this one did to their rep.You couldn,t give me a Mitsubishi even to this day

    December 4th, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  20. admin says:

    Thanks Guys for pointing out the typo with the AU Falcon, have also put in the right illustration-oops.

    December 4th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

  21. June ursula says:

    We had an Austin 1800 in the early 70’s. It spent as much time at the local garage as in ours, having the hydrolastic suspension pumped up! One or other side of the car would just list alarmingly when this suspension failed. It was a comfortable ride though.

    December 4th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

  22. Don says:

    You have all forgotten about the Triumph Herald ,one of the biggest lemons ever built, morris marina I spent hours trying to keep my fathers on the road, what about the mini , you needed to be 3foot 6 high with 12 inch fingers to work on them.

    December 6th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  23. Lee Noonan says:

    I had a Mitsubishi L300 – TM Magna – 2 x CE Lancers and no problems with any of them. they were all manuals and I serviced them My self.. every 5000kms…
    There is nothing wrong with Mitsubishi vehicles..
    They Now have an excellent 5/10 year warranty including the power train..

    The DDR East German Trabant was made from recycled resin and wool material called durolast which didn’t rust and is toxic if burned. they did have a steel frame/chassis. Made from 1958 until 1991. Their life span on average was 28 years.. as the waiting list for a new one was up to 15 years at one time…
    They now have cult status in some parts of Europe..
    Naturally not in the eastern part of Germany.. lol
    they had a two stroke two cylinder engine -500cc then 600cc from 1963 until the last models having a VW water cooled 1100cc engine from 1990-1991…

    December 7th, 2009 at 6:06 pm

  24. Lee Noonan says:

    One of the most basic cars I can remember was the Hillman IMP a rear engined rootes group made car… the front suspension was as basic as I have ever seen…
    it was made from 1963-1976 in Scotland and sold for many years in Australia.
    There was even an IMP GT in Australia….
    It seems this was the major cause of collapse of the rootes group in the UK..

    December 7th, 2009 at 6:17 pm

  25. Bruce says:

    The worst vehicle was the Austin 1800 ute from the 70s. Does any one still see them on the road. I had one and it spent five months of the 12 month warranty in the shop. Traded it the day the warranty expired.

    December 21st, 2009 at 6:12 pm

  26. xBeanie says:

    You obviously never owned a 120Y. We did and it was an awesome little car. Was never beaten by 1.6 Gemini/Escort etc and even bettered some 1.8 and 2 litres (yeah, I was a teenager at the time). Never had any problem zipping around the adelaide hills bends even on el-cheapo tyres. Did many a long trip in that car. One day on the open highway was overtaken by a Ford Escort with some yahoos pointing at us and laughing. 120Y was fully loaded with friends and camping gear. Dropped it down a notch and planted the foot. Speedo was at its limit but the car kept accelerating. Poor escort tried hard but couldnt stop us from zipping past it. This was a completely stock standard car. I guess the last laugh was ours that day.

    February 19th, 2010 at 10:33 pm

  27. ybabe says:

    My first car was a Subaru Sherpa (which I believe was a rebranded Suzuki Hatch). This tinny little two-seater certainly didn’t live up to its hardy namesake – I had to have it towed away by a spare parts dealer at the end of its relatively short life.

    March 27th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

  28. Steven Diala says:

    The Datsun 120Y was an ugly duckling, one I remember well. My one friend inherited one from his grandmother’s deceased estate and it was our party car. Our nickname for the trusty old cow was “The Dustbin” and we had many an adventure as adolescents in her.

    She might rate as one of the worst failures, but for us she was just right. Honestly a better car than the Volkswagen Beetle my other buddy used to drive. Myself I had a Mini, a car I’ll cherish forever. What a fun car, but seriously unreliable. The brakes were a constant problem, as was the electrics.

    It was nice reminiscing.

    Steven

    April 20th, 2010 at 5:55 pm