You know what never fails to piss me off? Hacky lists of “worst cars ever.” We’ve addressed this dollop of bird scat on humanity’s cultural tapestry before here on the photon-pages of the Autopian, but this time I’d like to share a period-accurate bit of unbiased reporting that should be a good reminder of why these lists are such crap. I have for you a pair of 1970s-era car reviews from our old pal Bob Mayer, of the TV station WTVJ in Miami, Florida. One is for the AMC Pacer, a car that shows up in far, far too many of these stupid “worst car” lists, and the other, the Mercury Zephyr, shows up in almost none of these lists and is, let’s be honest, barely remembered at all, good or bad.
All I ask is that you watch the reviews of both of these cars, and then take a moment to decide if perhaps you need to re-think some things in your life.
First, let’s start with a review of a car that pretty much nobody would make fun of you for having owned, a 1978 Mercury Zephyr:
Wow. What a pile of crap! Dirt specs in the paint! The trunk lid wasn’t put on right! The glove box wasn’t installed properly, and the rattling inside sounds kind of like the drum solo from In the Air Tonight. All of this for $5,735, which comes to about $26,700 today. So, you get an anonymous, forgettable design, boring enough that photos of this car could likely be used as an emergency anesthetic in field medicine situations, and it’s built like crap.
Again, this is not a car that shows up on anyone’s “worst car” list.
Okay, now watch the AMC Pacer review from 1975, and you may as well note that the Zephyr enjoyed about three years of advancements in the automotive design and manufacturing fields when it was reviewed:
I can’t speak for you, but I just watched what seems to be a quite positive review of a new car! It wasn’t perfect – there’s that rear seat trim issue, and the radio had some static, but overall this review describes a small car with a novel, unique design that allowed for a surprising amount of room, all with a rattle-free driving experience, unlike some other cars I could mention. All this at a tested price of $5,332 (about $24,800 in modern-times money).
So, the Pacer gets comparable MPG, more interesting design, better quality and build, all for about $2,500 less. And somehow it’s the one on the lists of crap cars? Come on. I suspect most of the reason is that small-minded people have trouble accepting the Pacer’s zaftig, space-age fishbowl looks, and for that I squarely blame them, and if they want to drive a Zephyr, which has all of the grace of a lunchbox, then have at it.
Look, I’m not telling you what to think. Bob Mayer is, and I’m pretty sure he prefers the AMC Pacer over the Mercury Zephyr.
I’ve seen almost all these reviews on youtube and, by far, the most shocking one is for the 1979 Chrysler New Yorker or whatever their full-size sedan was at the time. I have to guess that it just missed QC entirely, because there was just blatantly fucked up components of the car that would have been found in minutes by any half-decent mechanic. It’s almost a parody of how bad American cars were at that time.
Here it is.