My Favorite Crap Car
by Michele Christopher
Guest author Miker gets in on Car Week and tells us about his favorite piece of crap.
To be fair, it was smokin' fast for a Gremlin because of the small block Ford 305 V8 which (believe it or not) came as a factory option and made it monstrously overpowered. When it chose to run, it'd run like a scalded cat. Because the car was so light, it'd grab air time if you went over a rise at any speed over 45 mph, which was good for many a Dukes of Hazzard moment. Other than that, it was an automotive trainwreck.
For starters, it was responsible for my failing my driver's test. The Fat Man wasn't appreciative of the driver's side door falling open into traffic when executing an otherwise perfect right turn. Any other time, I would have just held the door closed, but The Fat Man insisted on both hands being on the wheel. Go figure.
Then there was the gas gauge, or the lack of one. Not for lack of trying. It was replaced five or six times, with each one crapping out within weeks. Eventually I gave up and kept a notebook in the car to record mileage and the amount of gas put in the tank. Needless to say, I learned to carry a gas can with me for those tragic mileage miscalculations.
Speaking of mileage, it got around eight to ten mpg. My second car, the beloved Queen Elizabeth, got better mileage and it was an almost nineteen foot long '67 Buick Skylark sedan with a 340 c.i. V-8 under the hood and a trunk that could comfortably hold five standard sized beer kegs.
The exhaust leak was a problem too. I like fresh air as much as the next person, but driving around in the dead of winter with the window open to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning was uncomfortable. It did let me hang my arm out the driver's side window to keep the door closed during turns.
At the other end of the car, the windshield leaked. I was the only kid in high school who had to scrape snow and ice from the outside and inside of his car during the winter.
Mechanically, there was the air conditioning and the transmission which kinda sorta balanced each other out. The a/c worked almost too well, but there's an automotive engineer somewhere out there who's laughing his head off about the maximum setting, which AMC inexplicably chose to call "Desert Only," as if you would get frostbite if it was used on an average sweltering humid day during an Indiana summer. As well as the a/c worked, the transmission didn't. It would drop out of drive and into neutral at stoplights. You'd only notice it when the light turned green and the engine would rev higher and higher until finally it would drop into gear and surge drunkenly forward with an earsplitting chirp of tires. If it wasn't for those high-backed bucket seats I'd still be walking around with whiplash twenty-three years later.
I stopped driving it in '84 when the front suspension gave out and I began to hear the oilpan scrape the pavement while driving down a perfectly level road. Turns out that AMC designed the suspension for a four cylinder or a small six. That small block V8 was a teensy bit too heavy for it. After rusting quietly in the backyard for a couple years Dad sold it for five bucks to one of my little brother's friends who turned it into a white trash hoopty complete with a custom paint job and a lift kit like you can still see on pickups driven by the hillbilly elite.
Since then I've driven a lot of crap cars. Chevettes. LeCars. A Buick Electra that was worth more sold by the pound for scrap than as a trade-in. A Triumph TR-7. Every car I ever popped during the year that I moonlighted as a repo man. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Chappy, the POS that's made me appreciate any car that runs. There's a perverse little part of me that wishes I still had that car. It was so crappy that it's almost come full circle to being ironically cool.
Miker never fed his Gremlin after midnight.