What’s Your Favorite Turkey?

On behalf of Jack, Bark and myself, Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s an oldie from that other turkey, the Curbside Prune’s website, that I wrote years ago. Cheers! -TK

There are so many great cars in the past, and plenty of efficient, if unremarkable ones too. But then there are the turkeys. Cars that had perhaps not the worst constitution, design or aesthetics, but for one thing that adversely affected them: Appearance, or engineering, or assembly quality. Cars with redeeming features in one area or another, but at the same time, having some huge flaw that made them unattractive, unreliable, or–perhaps worst of all–a laughingstock.

They may have sold well new and made a lot of money for their parent company, like the Mustang II, but became nigh-on universally derided–then and now. But hey, it’s still better than a Fat Daddy McButterpants “Mustang” Mach E…


They may have been a shallow attempt at making a silk purse out of the Granada family sedan, but at the same time been a well-assembled, comfortable and luxurious car, like the Lincoln Granada Monarch Versailles. And that’s Ver-SY, not Ver-SAYLES!

Or they might have been attractive, useful, and spacious–but with totally terrible execution and baked-in shortcuts, like the FWD General Motors X-cars. Great on paper, but not quite the same in practice.


I think my favorite turkey is the 1985-86 Sedan de Ville and Coupe de Ville. While they looked like “biggie” cars that shrunk in the wash, I found them attractive in their early form, especially if they happened to be that classic light yellow with matching leather! But traditional Cadillac owners weren’t sure what to make of them, though they sold well. Despite cheaper and less prestigious Electras and Ninety-Eights offering a much more robust powertrain–and for less money. A turkey? You bet.

The later 1989-93s were solid cars with their 4.5 and 4.9 V8s and stretched flanks. But they are a little outside of our purview in this context.


My least favorite turkey is probably the Vega. Simply because it was such a great-looking car. Stunning, really. A little Italian flair here, a little dollop of Camaro there… It stole your heart with its looks, then broke it in short order when it dissolved into iron oxide before the note was paid off–unless the engine blew up first. Yay! And this was before GM started actively hating their customers. Whaddaya think of that $300K 6000 SUX/retro 1980 Citation electric car they’re all harping on about now? Oops, never mind. The Vega could have been so good. True, later ones were much improved, but the damage done in 1971-72 resulted in the better, later Vegas being less successful than they could have been. And it all could have been avoided; it’s not like GM didn’t have the cash to make them right the first time. The Vega was like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown at the last instant: Screw you, customers!

And there you have it: My favorite turkey is a car that was let down by its engine, and my least favorite is ANOTHER car let down by its engine. And both are GMs. Take that however you like.

So now I turn the microphone over to you fine folks, if I can pull you away from your dinner a minute. What is your favorite turkey, and what is your most derided car in all of humanity? Let’s have some fun.

Not all of us care about watching sportsball after Thanksgiving dinner, dontcha know!

21 Replies to “What’s Your Favorite Turkey?”

  1. LynnG

    Tom, so many choices so little time, so I will just second Nate and say Happy Thanksgiving to the Riverside Green staff, editors, and authors….and readers to.

  2. John Van Stry

    The ford pinto wagon.
    I’ve had TWO of them. First one I bought cause I desperately needed a car after the last one blew up and I was quite poor at the time. Car did everything I needed to, and then I drove it to the other side of the country, for a job offer.
    Then got a better offer BACK on the left coast, so I gave it to my dad (who kept it for years and loved it) and flew back for the better job.
    Two years later, I buy another one and I damn near drove it into the ground (several times I strapped almost a thousand pounds worth of lumber onto the roof and drove it twenty miles to my house) damn cars were champs.

  3. SajivW

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Also, Paul Niedermeyer seems to live rent free in your head, doesn’t he Tom? At least it seems so judging by the number of digs and snide remarks that you throw in at him and CC. As a reader at both places, it frankly does get a bit old. But hey, you do you.

  4. John C.

    Happy thanksgiving to all, although even offering to my 27 year old daughter a free cross country trip, she did not come.

    It must have drawn Paul wild, but I am so glad you included the 100LS. So many years removed from 1968, we must now wonder why broughams and not the 68 Euro sedans, are fascinating our car collecting friends in Europe? My favorite turkey by the way is the late 60s domestic USA Rover P5. Despite 2002 like praise from Brock and DED, it was no where man in the USA. Did those older guys not understand the hippy zeitgeist?

  5. -Nate

    The Audi 100LS was a serious POC ~ I remember them new, they failed to keep running .

    I didn’t work on water cooled VW’s so I never found out why they were so unreliable, they certainly looked nice to my eyes and the engine appeared similar if not thw same as the VW Rabbit’s engine .


    • John C.

      On the 100LS, I don’t think it was the engine that made it bad in USA service, it was remember designed for Audi by Mercedes. I think just complex Euro gets ever harder to deal with at lower price points, and the Audi’s were relative bargains.

      I have always wondered how closely related the Audi 2.0 four of the time was to the smaller Rabbit and Polo engines? If there were indeed close, it is interesting how much of a guide Mercedes was to get VW past the 30s.

      • -Nate

        Interesting non answer John ;

        The engines per se didn’t fail that I know of, they simply were near impossible to keep running .


  6. George Denzinger

    With me, my favorite turkey (of recent times) was the Pontiac Aztek. I had three Azteks, two really good ones and one really bad one. Two were bought new, one was bought used. Oddly, the really bad one (which was the second one) did not keep me from buying the third one. I also had three Mercury Capris (four-eyed Fox body versions, not the German ones or that awful Australian turd). All of them bought new. And, to top it off, I had not one but two Yugos. Those were bought as used cars as well. Whoo-eee, that’s a lot of turkeys!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all

  7. Sobro

    Those Vegas sold in the southeast didn’t disintegrate like the northeast and midwest cars. My Mom had one that lasted 10 years before the engine blew up from overheating. She then “upgraded” to a Chevette. She was fond of Turkeys, I think.

    Like the DC-3, the Vega fuel stop routine was “fill it up with oil and top off the gas”.

    • jc

      “Those Vegas sold in the southeast didn’t disintegrate like the northeast and midwest cars. ”

      Yes, they did.

      I had a ’74 Vega in ’78, in Dallas Texas a place where salt is NEVER used; and it already had terminal cancer rust all round the front and rear windshields.

      Also, the often-repeated statement that “the engine was improved later” is not accurate. They did a few little tweaks, but the aluminum block and iron pistons remained till the end, thus the magical self-growing cylinder bores and the quart-of-oil-every-75-miles condition remained till the end.

      Of course they were also desperately trying to get horsepower numbers, so they put way too big a carb on it, which helped peak HP (at what, 4500 rpm) but gave it an incurable stumble/stall upon acceleration. Nothing like turning left in front of oncoming traffic and having the car die on you when you push the pedal, to introduce you to “pucker factor”.

      It was a shame; the iron Pontiac engine, normal attention to rust-proofing and a small staged two barrel carb would have made the car so much better – a sort of mini-Camaro.

  8. JMcG

    If you squint hard, you could almost convince yourself that the Vega was an Alfa. I speak as a former Alfa owner.
    Biggest Turkey I’ve owned?
    Chrysler T&C. Needed a transmission when it was about fifteen minutes out of warranty. The A/C line to the rear ran through the rear wheel well where it was exposed to road salt all winter. A 1700.00 repair after it corroded and vented the refrigerant to the atmosphere.
    That car was impeccably maintained and a real disappointment to me.
    I’ll never buy another Chrysler or whatever they are called again.
    The Mustang Club of America magazine is on a full-throated campaign of acceptance for the Mock-E as a Mustang. YOU MUST NOT DISSENT!
    They are also pushing the Mustang IIs pretty hard as well.
    And Tom, thanks for your posts. They are wonderful.

    • Carmine

      The TC comment reminded me of a client I sold a new GMC Jimmy SLT to back in the late 90’s, he must have been a turkey lover since when I delivered the car to his house, in the driveway there was a Sterling 827SL, the later hatchback ones which were really rare and in the garage…..there was a Chrysleratti TC.

      The other TC story I remember was a friend of my old mans that got a TC after they were discontinued at a fire sale price, it was one of the last ones which had the Chryslerbishi blue smoke V6, bright red with the tan leather wrinkled foreskin leather interior…. he said that he had “bought a Maseratti” several times in passing before anyone actually saw the car and upon finally seeing the car….I remember my old man saying….”that’s not a Maseratti……that’s a f**king LeBaron” to him.

      If I had to pick my favorite turkey, it would be tough, I have a soft spot for the oddball diesel Oldsmobiles, X cars and the Allante always gets me interested.

  9. ArBee

    I’m late to this party, but let me throw out – please – the Ford Tempo. It’s been 40 years since I drove one, but I remember it was as comfortable as an irrigation pipe, and styled like a worn bar of soap. Who could resist?

    • jc

      My first new car purchase, I wanted to buy a small two door American car with standard transmission – but I was also considering imports.

      I ended up comparing the Ford Tempo to the Mazda 626.

      The Ford cost more, had lower horsepower despite a larger engine, worse fuel mileage, and the brand new one on the dealer’s lot rattled like a bucket of bolts driving over a railroad track. I didn’t buy it.

      The Mazda lasted me 17 years and 170,000 miles with exactly one unscheduled repair – when I got rid of it, it had been at least 10 years since I’d seen a Tempo on the road.

      Personally I preferred the styling of the “worn bar of soap” Ford to the “one rectangular box set on top of another” Mazda – I thought the Tempo was kind of reminiscent of a 1949 Ford – but styling’s one of the least important factors to me when I’m buying a car that I need to start every time and always get me to work.

    • Carmine

      Tempo’s were our drivers ed cars in school, back when that was still a thing. They were equipped like police/taxi cabs….. plain jane, no radio, rubber floor and heavy duty vinyl upholstery, those were the lowest mileage whipped cars I’ve ever seen.


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