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Not the worst Award Toyota's P76 Appreciation Holden V8 Hybrid


First among the worst
First Published: The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday, June 30, 2000

Datsun 120Y

More than half of readers' nominations for Australia's biggest lemon went to Datsun's 120Y. By JOSHUA DOWLING.

The Datsun 120Y - and not the Leyland P76 - is the worst car ever sold in Australia, according to a cascade of emails from Drive readers.

The failed Morris Marina was a close runner-up. But the most surprising car to appear on the list is the Holden Commodore VT.

It may be Australia's biggest-selling car but it seems buyers are growing tired of the quality problems due to Holden selling examples as fast as it can build them.

Graham Bresnahan was not alone in feeling that his VT has "the most faults of any car I've ever owned. I won't bore you with the list but it was bad enough to force me to sell it recently leaving me severely out of pocket."

The only other new car to get a mention was (perhaps unsurprisingly) Ford's controversial AU Falcon: "How can you possibly spend $600 million and build something so ugly?" one reader asked.

Of the scores of emails sent in response to last week's Drive cover story on the worst cars ever made, more than 50 percent nominated the 120Y (pictured) as the worst car ever sold in Australia.

Vic Hughes from Canberra said of the Datsun: "Aside from being ugly, cramped, uncomfortable, having no performance or handling to speak of and generally being worse than the mediocre model it replaced, it was quite durable - which meant the damn things hung around forever."

Others, it seemed, wanted to cry as they suffered four-wheeled flashbacks.

Martin Young wrote of his ordeal with a Morris Marina: "A dear uncle had one. Horrible in all respects. Thankfully few Marinas (if any) survive." On a good-ish day, a Datsun 120Y can still be seen "lingering in the hands of student nurses and other kamikaze drivers... The exhaust note is instantly recognisable, before the smell."

Cooma reader HB defended the 120Y: "We bought our Datsun 120Y brand new in November 1975 ... and it is still going strong. Hardly luxurious by today's standards ... it has been a great little car. Our fourth child is about to learn to drive in it."

Peter Berman believes there is no contest. "I cannot believe that there has ever been another car as bad as the Morris Marina."

John Solvyns wrote to defend the Marina which "had quite comfortable seats". He owns a dark blue coupe with 1750cc engine and tan interior. "Sigh," he says. We agree.

One reader dobbed in his brother as the owner of an Austin Kimberley which, he says, in the past 18 months has been on the road "approximately two or three times".

"Every time it comes home from the mechanic it has another problem and has to go back. My brother refuses point-blank to sell it. Fool!"

The anti-4WD lobby was stirred. Bruce Kercher, boldly nominating the Toyota LandCruiser, said, "The old model was massive and terrifying to the drivers of smaller vehicles (which is to say, nearly everything but a road train or a bus), so what did Toyota do? They made it even bigger. The people who designed it must have attended the same ethics exams as cigarette executives."

Several readers objected to the inclusion of the Volkswagen Beetle in last week's list.

Mike Patterson's 500-word email said in part: "My deeply beloved Beetle a lemon? No way! A bittersweet orange now and then maybe. This machine is the very apex of fine German engineering. Simple and robust ... driving in its pristine rawness. All the funof a motor bike without the instability of only two wheels."

Mark Formby said the Jaguar XJ-S didn't deserve the legendary status brought about by one Bathurst win. "In the real world and without a race workshop to keep it running, the legend soon lost its gloss."

Julie Brady could not decide between her father's Ford Zephyr or a Hillman Minx, their second family car, as the worst. "How well I remember (myself and two siblings) in the '60s pushing dad's company car ... down the drive each winter morning because it could not get going under its own steam."

Megan Kemmis wrote to defend late model Holden Camiras. Some insurance companies, she says, insist there is no such thing as a JE Camira. Perhaps it's wishful thinking.

Motoring writer and historian Pedr Davis nominated the Lightburn Zeta and supplied a revealing anecdote.

In 1963, maker Harold Lightburn invited Davis and colleague David McKay to drive the car. He believed it would knock Holden off its perch.

"We didn't know whether to cry from laughter or embarrassment," Davis says. "It was unrivalled as the oddest Australian car ever, with a tiny two-stroke engine driving the front wheels through a gearbox with a monkey-up-the-stick gearshift."

Absolutely straight-faced, successful race driver McKay told Davis: "You'd better take the wheel Pedr, you're more used to high-performance machinery than me!" Not recognising a lampoon when he heard one, Lightburn preened with pride.

Some 363 Zetas were built. "Awful though the concept was, it did have one good point. The owner could take out the front seats and clip them on the roof, which doubled as an observation deck. The idea was to watch sporting events at rooftop level, but most owners found it a convenient place to sit and wait until the NRMA van arrived."

Also nominating the Lightburn Zeta, Brian Wilshire asked "when will we see a road test of Australia's own supercar: the quad-cam, 3.0-litre, 600kg, $50,000 Nota F1?"

Other shame-file cars included all Saabs, the Peugeot 405 Mi16, Bluebird TRX, Rover 3500, Ford Taurus, Toyota T18, early Mitsubishi Magnas, all Sigmas, Ford Telstar, Jaguar XJ-S, Ssangyong Musso, Ford Cortina TC6 ("how could a car with 4.1-litres be so slow?") and the Holden VN Commodore-inspired Toyota Lexcen..


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