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Vanity: Five Epic **** that Drove Once-Invicible General Motors Off a Cliff:
Reaganite Republican Blog ^ | November 17, 2011 | Reaganite Republican

Posted on 11/17/2011 4:21:54 PM PST by Reaganite Republican

Ah, back when GM ruled...

As a car-crazy American kid in the late 70s, only GM cars were cool to me, except Mustang or a 'Cuda maybeI myself had a  '75 Camaro and then a couple Firebirds, and when I was in high school, if your dad drove a new Olds Cutlass Supreme (America's best-selling car at the time) or Pontiac Grand Am/ Grand Prix, that meant you had sporty style and class- very cool. We simply weren't into imports, and Ford and Chrysler did not have fresh designs on the same level as GM in my mind... more like parodies of the General's best. And I'd have stayed loyal the GM for the rest of my days... 
Alas, that was just about the time that company's product quality really started to tank.  And it wasn't just built-to-a-price materials and typically indifferent Detroit assembly... now we were talking major design flaws and shortsighted engineering that cost the company -and it's customers- dearly.

My next Firebird -a '79- had frail door handles made of pig iron and the new, feeble lightweight (in every sense of the word) Pontiac 301 V-8... it's weak performance and mediocre reliability enough to scare me towards a German-built Volkswagen for my first new car out of college in the mid 1980s.

And you know what: I still tried to consider a new Pontiac Sunbird instead... that is, until the eye-opening experience of driving it back-to-back vs the Jetta, simply no comparison, particularly in handling and refinement: disappointingly, the 'J-car' '87 Sunbird just felt clumsy and crude. Fact is, an engineer ran VW, while an accountant like Roger Smith could always be found in the captain's chair at GM... it showed in both cases.
But as corporate morass, an insatiable UAW, and clueless bean-counters slowly eroded GM engineers' ability to put a quality product on the road, this was more readily apparent in some designs than others. Seems penny-wise-pound-foolish engineering was first made obvious to the public by the early 60s Corvair, but here's five cars that really destroyed GM's reputation and eventually scared away millions of customers... most unwilling to step inside a General Motors showroom again as long as they live:

1978-85 Oldsmobile Diesels

A crash program to develop an economical engine for large GM passenger cars had Olds engineers basing their new Diesel engine on existing gasoline block, rather than a from-scratch design as would normally be the case. Extensive modifications weren't enough to bring the (ultra high-compression) engine even a modicum of reliability, and at a measly 120 hp, the (largest-available) 350 V-8 version was extremely underpowered for two-ton Detroit sleds like the 88 Royale and 98 Regency.

In the end, they shouldn't have even bothered if they weren't willing to do it right. Unfortunately for other GM divisions, they too sold product "powered" by troublesome Olds oilburners, with midsize cars offering a sickly 85 hp V-6 Olds Diesel that broke every bit as much as the eights.

Eventually a class action lawsuit against GM -along with horrible press- brought hapless buyers of these lemons 80% the cost of a replacement engine. How foolish of the company to bully them legally and force them fight for it so publicly when everybody and his dog knew those motors were junk long before anything ever went to court.

Chevrolet Vega, 1971-77

The plan sounded good enough, like Ford and AMC, General Motors was entering the econo-car business to confront the imports with it's own compacts.  And GM was aiming to produce a more advanced design than the competition, with a state-of-the-art aluminum engine block, among other features. The mini-Camaro styling was handsome, and actually, for the few years -in  the midst of a gas crisis- they sold like crazy.

But besides numerous design flaws caused by an under-developed rush to market, the vaunted 60 cars/hour production rate at Lordstown, Ohio brought what could be described as crap assembly quality. Thousands of unfinished cars languished on lots awaiting back-ordered parts, yet none of the car's numerous troubles -including rusting so intense you could hear it on a quiet night... or trunks that filled with rainwater- could amount to the damage to public perception caused by the Chevrolet Vega's horrible engine.

GM's skinflint management had them making a block that distorted, heads that then leaked, and engine cylinders that got scraped 'cuz they skipped steel cylinder sleeves to save a little dough... what a good idea! 

And engines with warped blocks and scoured cylinder walls tend to make lots of smoke and blow up... pretty much what Vega owners learned to expect with certainty, and somewhere well-south of 50,000 mi.

Chevrolet Chevette. 1976-87

Learning precious little from the Vega debacle, the battle-weary General's attempt to compete with the Japanese and VW's advanced fwd Golf (Rabbit in the US) in the mid 70s actually ended up with outdated rear wheel drive so as to utilize as many existing parts from Vega and other Chevys as possible... to cut costs, of course. The result was poor handling, a cramped interior with unwelcome drive-shaft tunnel... not to mention mediocre performance by any measure.

Plenty were sold through the '79 gas crises and beyond, that's for sure. But the car's main attributes were simply low cost of purchase and operation, and the Chevette was outclassed by almost every single rival: with 53-70 hp, it could barely get out of it's own way, while the quality of the drive could be described as 'agricultural'. 

The business argument is often made that manufacturers need to maintain a presence at the entry-level -even if not making money- as to build a base of future customers. But how can that possibly apply to a car like Chevette... anybody I ever knew who had one longed for anything but a Chevrolet after spending a couple of years in an automotive purgatory like this.

1981-84 Cadillac V8-6-4

The concept was sound: a computer-controlled fuel injection, valves, and ignition system that cut-out two or four of the Cadillac V-8's cylinders when cruising speed was reached, downhill, etc. My buddy's dad had a new one in 1980, and we went and beat on it for fun when we could. It had a trip computer that read out instantaneous MPG on the dash all the time, I recall we thought it was cool to coast at 99 MPG then stomp on the gas and drive it to 2 MPG, lol.
But while such selective firing engines are sold today -including by GM- the concept was far ahead of the 1981 computer technology, thus the Cadillac V8-6-4 was a lemon, BIG time. Even when it was working properly -and on all eight cylinders- the 6.0 liter V-8 still made only a pathetic 140 hp. And all this trouble and weak performance in an expensive, top-of-the-line luxury car?

GM 'X-Cars', 1980-1985
(Chevrolet Citation, Pontiac Phoenix, 
Oldsmobile Omega, Buick Skylark)
They were supposed to revolutionize how GM cars were engineered and built, and although the design was spacious and well laid-out -and an incredible amount of money was spent on their development- the 'X-cars' were a quality nightmare: there had never been a General Motors car with so many recalls in history... and there's never been since.
The monumental failure of such a large-scale, vital GM program like this one really shook confidence of many who once felt the company's market position to be unassailable. Although sales started out briskly, by the third year they had all but collapsed as the platform's quality woes became legend.
A friend of mine's family picked up one of the first Oldsmobile Omegas as a third car when the first came out. Really nice little sedan, like a mini-Cutlass, comfortable with tons of room... but indeed this brand-new (and not inexpensive) car was always in the shop.
As I recall, this is when most started to wonder if the General had lost his touch...  sadly, it had- and in today's iteration as 'Government Motors' imo GM still wanders in the dark...

Video/more at Reaganite Rebublican



TOPICS: Business/Economy
KEYWORDS: autos; business; gm; government

1 posted on 11/17/2011 4:21:59 PM PST by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

nice job....some say that GM’s decline began when they were caught sticking Chevy engines into Oldsmobiles without disclosing it..while at the same time continuing to market the “Rocket Olds “ engines..


2 posted on 11/17/2011 4:24:47 PM PST by ken5050 (Perry/Gingrich 2012!!)
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To: Reaganite Republican

i bought a vega as my first car. $3,500. and man did it rust out. the panels in the back went almost instantly, and one day i looked down and could see thru the floor.


3 posted on 11/17/2011 4:24:57 PM PST by beebuster2000
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To: Reaganite Republican

“...including rusting so intense you could hear it on a quiet night..”

Ha! That is *so* true. My older sister had a Vega, and that thing rusted like it had metal-eating termites in the body.

The really funny thing is, every Vega I remember seeing always first started rusting just behind the driver’s side front fender on back to the driver’s door. It was eerie - I must have seen ten or fifteen Vegas on the road with the exact same rust pattern.


4 posted on 11/17/2011 4:29:56 PM PST by DemforBush (Send lawyers, guns, and money. Dad get me out of this!)
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To: Reaganite Republican

This is what you get when UAW Union thugs design GM cars and decide what cars should be produced.


5 posted on 11/17/2011 4:30:35 PM PST by trumandogz (In Rick Perry's Nanny State, the state will drive your kids to the dentist at tax payer expense)
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To: Reaganite Republican

That Oldsmobile Diesel engine was the first thing that I thought of.


6 posted on 11/17/2011 4:35:10 PM PST by Rio
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To: Reaganite Republican

No critique of GM stupidity is complete without the inclusion of the 1980s J-body: Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac 2000/Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Firenza and Cadillas Cimmeron. It providede just what the market demanded: a Chevy Cavalier with leather seats badged as a Cadillac.

Just when GM developed some decent models, it dropped the line: Oldsmobile (Aurora, Allero and Intrigue), Saturn (View, Outlook and Aura) and Pointiac (G6 and G8).


7 posted on 11/17/2011 4:35:26 PM PST by bwc2221
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Day 48 Of The FReepathon
Do You Know Why?

There are loyal posters that donate every FReepathon. Some donate several times during every 'thon. But others never donate. Why?

1 My enemies haven't been zotted.
2 The owner doesn't support my candidate.
3 FR won't "upgrade" to "Like" buttons and blinky crap.
4 Someone else will donate.
5 My friend was zotted.
6 I lost my job and have no income.

Only one of those is a legitimate reason.

Support It Or Lose It


8 posted on 11/17/2011 4:35:29 PM PST by DJ MacWoW (America! The wolves are here! What will you do?)
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To: ken5050

What about the 1980 Olds Cutlass with a Buick engine?


9 posted on 11/17/2011 4:37:35 PM PST by rocksblues (Obama, the biggest liar in the history of American politics!)
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To: Reaganite Republican
Based on my own personal experience, I would disagree with the X-cars on this list. I had a Citation (inherited second hand from a family member) that got great mileage, took a lot of abuse, and due to its interior layout allowed a kid to haul a lot more stuff to and from college each year than most similarly sized cars. Back in high school and college I was an active spelunker and the front wheel drive of that car let me go a lot of places I'd have never made it in a rear wheeler.

Say what you will about the quality control issues, I continued to (and occasionally still do) see one on the road here and there. With minimal maintenance that car made it well over 200K miles before it gave up the ghost.

10 posted on 11/17/2011 4:37:46 PM PST by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Reaganite Republican

That’s also what you get when you listen to Motor Trend.

Chevrolet Vega - “Car of the Year”

Chevrolet Citation - “Car of the Year”

I owned a Vega as a college student, and bought a Citation (based on Motor Trend’s recommendation) right after getting married.

I canceled my Motor Trend subscription and have never read it since!


11 posted on 11/17/2011 4:38:58 PM PST by I cannot think of a name
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To: Reaganite Republican
GM 'X-Cars', 1980-1985

Yep, horrible cars. The proof is that you never see them on the road anymore, and that has been true for many years. They are the lost generation. When you do see one, it's like seeing a ghost.

12 posted on 11/17/2011 4:39:53 PM PST by Yardstick
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To: beebuster2000; DemforBush
Once rode from Branson to Fayetteville, AR in a Vega. Damned thing tracked sideways! The body was actually cocked to the L on the non-existent frame! When driving, one had to look slightly to the right to see straight ahead!

Good thing I had a couple cold ones with me....What a sad, sad, car.

13 posted on 11/17/2011 4:40:49 PM PST by donozark (Sam Walton:"It was paper when we started, and it's paper afterwards.")
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To: Reaganite Republican
Sales volume leaders from the early 1970s:
1. Chevrolet
2. Ford
3. Plymouth
4. Pontiac
5. Oldsmobile
14 posted on 11/17/2011 4:41:05 PM PST by bwc2221
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To: beebuster2000
I had a '72 Vega that me and my Air Force buddies dropped a souped-up 350 engine and a 2-speed automatic into. Bought a kit from a company called "Don Hardy" to do it. (I think that was the company name)

That thing was FAST!

15 posted on 11/17/2011 4:43:30 PM PST by MountainDad (Support your local Militia)
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To: Reaganite Republican
I notice an intro into this article stating "Ah, back when GM ruled..." underneath a picture of a 1975 Formula Firebird.

Um, no.

That honking land beast didn't have the power to pull a sick whore off a toilet, even with the rare 455 engine that had single exhaust and catalytic converters like it was trying to breathe through a swizzle stick. That generation of GM pony cars were close to twice the weight of the first generation Camaro/Firebirds once you added up all the 'elegance' crap like Berlinetta packages with crushed velour living room furniture interiors and safety bumpers and smog control devices.

Guys trying to modify that version of the 455 for torque with aftermarket cams found out that the lifter valley casting tray was weak as a kitten and would often crack and let the whole valve train loose in an explosion of white oily smoke. Those blocks were not the last gasp smog-era 455 H.O. motors of fame.

Author needs to investigate what GM was offering about five years earlier, I think.

16 posted on 11/17/2011 4:43:52 PM PST by The KG9 Kid
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To: I cannot think of a name

let’s not forget the great idea to sell the Nova in Latin America..seems that nobody in GM marketing ever took Spanish..


17 posted on 11/17/2011 4:45:22 PM PST by ken5050 (OH SHIT****NOT MITT!!!)
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To: Reaganite Republican

I remember when I was a kid my parents had one of those big Oldsmobile Diesels. To a little kid, I thought I was in a big limo (if I knew what Pimpin was then, I would have said it was Pimpin). I still remember the little ‘glow plug’ light on the dashboard and before you started the car, you had to turn the key until ‘glow plug’ lit up.


18 posted on 11/17/2011 4:45:58 PM PST by mnehring
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To: Reaganite Republican
I once had a 1965 Chevy Impala which I drove for nearly a quarter million miles. However, the quality of GM cars seemed to go down in the vehicles that I or my family have owned since.

In 1972, my family got a '73 Pontiac Le Mans. When they first took it to a car wash, the trunk was flooded--at the factory, they forgot to put in the rubber seals under the trunk lid. The car continued to have problems until one day, I turned on the air conditioner and acrid smoke started coming through the vent. I got off the freeway and drove to a tractor manufacturing plant, where the fire developed in earnest. Employees at the plant put out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but the car was history.

I also got a 1972 Impala which had a design flaw--the metal under the rear window rusted, causing rain to leak into the trunk.

My final GM car was an '84 Buick, which I bought used. I was driving along, and it stopped cold. Turns out the timing chain--made from cheap plastic--had broken.

I'm now on my fourth Ford product, a 2000 Taurus, which was the best car I ever had, but it's nearing the end of its life. In the past, I've sworn I would never consider a "foreign" car, but I'm now considering a Hyundai, a Mazda, or a Honda.

19 posted on 11/17/2011 4:46:37 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: beebuster2000

That is precisely why a friend of mine put a v8 in his vega wagon and foam sprayed the undercarriage(he did it for the noise, probably had no idea about the rust). He won so many races with that thing, because no one believed they could lose to it.


20 posted on 11/17/2011 4:48:41 PM PST by ResponseAbility (Islam...Imperialism in a turban.)
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To: ken5050

When was the rocket-Olds engine replaced?

During my first year in college, I used an inherited a 13-yr. old ‘50 Ford sedan (which got to 55 in first), demolished by a red-light runner. My second was a brand new ‘63 Corvair; but my sister got one of the first-off-the-line Camarros, white convertible with pale blue leather seats—gorgeous car. But she was working, could afford it, and we had several uncles at GM. The last Chevy I bought was a Monte Carlo (1972)—beautiful, but short-lived, and the last GM a cadillac (’86?), also great-looking but too often shop-lodged. The rest were Fords, then Toyotas. Nothing better in the price-range. And I’m not financing a union.


21 posted on 11/17/2011 4:57:57 PM PST by Mach9
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To: ken5050

Anyone remember how Chevy Novas would have something detach in the back, so that they all looked like crabs going down the highway?


22 posted on 11/17/2011 5:13:05 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: ken5050

Too bad, “No Go” would have been completely appropriate for the Vega and Citation.

The Nova (Chevy II) was not that bad a car. A ‘67 with the optional 327 and 4 speed was a rocket.


23 posted on 11/17/2011 5:18:13 PM PST by I cannot think of a name
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To: rocksblues

I had a ‘77 Cutlass Olds S four door jalopy with 6 cylinder 261(?) in it. It was a good car even when the modulator valve busted (easy fix) and burned tranny fluid leaving everyone in a white cloud of smoke or when the master cylinder busted (easy fix), or the fuel pump went out (easy fix).

I liked that big back seat and the mileage was okay for that time (~20 mpg hwy).

I always needed some curb feelers for it because I kept checking the curbs making right hand turns but never got around to buying and installing them.

If I could I’d like to buy a 1973 Mercury Grand Marquis. Now THAT is huuuuuuuuuuge car! I bet the back seat is like a canyon back there!


24 posted on 11/17/2011 5:18:50 PM PST by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: mnehring

I had a Rabbit Diesel once actually, it got 50 mpg on the road, I swear

But GM Diesel cars in the 70s... they were the worst lol


25 posted on 11/17/2011 5:20:28 PM PST by Reaganite Republican
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To: ken5050

Thanks, and I might agree with that

The Chevy engine thing was a PR nightmare for GM, but one of their own causing


26 posted on 11/17/2011 5:21:35 PM PST by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

Oh, I don’t know. I loved my little Chevette. Kept it running until my mechanic refused to work on it anymore.


27 posted on 11/17/2011 5:29:16 PM PST by VietVet (I am old enough to know who I am and what I believe, and I 'm not inclined to apologize for any of)
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To: Reaganite Republican

If only we had high enough tariffs on foreign cars, we’d still be enjoying these high quality designs.


28 posted on 11/17/2011 5:47:55 PM PST by Toddsterpatriot (Math is hard. Harder if you're stupid.)
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To: Reaganite Republican

This thread is making me throw up a bit.

Me: New 1974 Vega. Traded in a flogged ‘69 Z/28 for it. (Not a 302). Kept it for 3 months, enlisted in the Army and sold it to my older brother then. Sucker!

Younger brother: 1977 T-top Trans Am. OK car (sitting on top drinking beer at 70 MPH). Big motor, 3 inch horsepower.

Sister-in-law: Chevette. Are you s******* me? Weighed three times as much as my Sportster with the same HP. Can you say anvil?

Fiancee/wife: Citation. (Alt name, Subpeona). Daddy says that’s what you get, honey. Manual tranny, as well. Good move, in retrospect. Kept the college jocks away ‘til I got there and rescued her.

4-6-8 Caddy? Gas to diesel motor? Sorry. No one in my realm stupid enough to fall for those.


29 posted on 11/17/2011 6:40:46 PM PST by SnuffaBolshevik (In a tornado, even turkeys can fly.)
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To: Reaganite Republican

Any 70’s and even most 1980 models trucks including the blazers had horrible rustpoofing, sometimes I swear a collusion was made to actually make them rust apart so the aftermarket parts were guaranteed of business for decades.

Biggest mistake is canceling the Hummer H2, I swear I will buy one some day soon and fit in a European high output diesel in it. And then make my own stainless steel and ABS body panels.


30 posted on 11/17/2011 6:49:40 PM PST by Eye of Unk (E-Cat is the future, unless we want to live in the past.)
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To: Toddsterpatriot

lolol

Well put


31 posted on 11/17/2011 11:43:38 PM PST by Reaganite Republican
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