Arnold Schwarzenegger has done some good things (like the Pumping Iron documentary, and his speaking lines in Terminator I and II .) But he deserves eternal damnation for his pivotal role in turning the gas-guzzling Hummer into a civilian vehicle craze. Designed by General Motors to meet the specifications of a U.S. military contract, the vehicle first appeared in 1985, branded as the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV. (The troops soon began calling it the Humvee.) In the early 1990s, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a champion body builder and action film star, bought a Hummer to drive around Los Angeles. He was quickly imitated by legions of wannabes, and the Hummer, designed as combat-zone troop transporter, was now a fossil-fuel sucking male enhancement device. The Hummer went through a series of revisions aimed at improving its civilian usefulness, but at its core, it remained a singularly stupid, vanity-based vehicle, huge on the outside, small on the inside, and inherently wasteful.
The Cimarron is widely regarded as the worst mistake ever made by Cadillac, a GM division that became a synonym for the American luxury car. Designed as a response to a rising tide of smaller, more agile imports like Mercedes and BMW, the Cimarron was introduced in 1982 with a four-cylinder engine. For buyers, this was pure sacrilege - when they opened the hood of a Cadillac, they expected to see a classic American V8, not an engine they associated with a toy car.
The Cimarron's styling and interior also failed to impress. It sold poorly, and was taken off the market in 1988, only six years after its introduction. History has judged the Cimarron harshly - it was too small and cheap to be seen as a real Cadillac, and too crude and cumbersome to compete with its foreign rivals. When readers nominated it as a Worst Car, I considered it a shoo-in. According to Car and Driver magazine, current Cadillac product director John Howell has a picture of the Cimarron on his wall captioned, "Lest we forget."
MGB Mark IV
Next to Winston Churchill in a Speedo swimsuit, there could be few sadder indications of the British Empire's decline than the MGB Mark IV, the last, sad gasp of a once-great sports car builder. The original MGB, which hit the market in the early 1960s, was an instant hit. With its low-slung suspension, light weight and quick-shifting manual transmission, the MGB provided fun, wind-in-the-hair motoring.
MG fans reacted with horror when the Mark IV was introduced in 1974. Its most egregious sin was its mockery of the MGB's classic design. Confronted with new bumper-height and collision standards, MG engineers had taken the easiest and ugliest way out - they jacked up the low-slung car with tall springs and equipped it with black rubber bumpers that looked like inflated Zorro masks. The Mark IV epitomized all that was wrong with the British car industry in the mid-1970's - kluged-together mechanicals, sloppy welds, and a short-circuiting Lucas electrical system that prompted the slogan: "Lucas, Prince of Darkness."
MG became a cog in British Leyland, a government-engineered industrial alliance that included a number of storied brands, including Jaguar and Rover. British Leyland became a synonym for sloth, incompetent engineering, and unionism run amok - it made Detroit look like a labour Shangri-la by comparison.
The British government pumped hundreds of millions into BL, but the conglomerate was a money pit that would go down in history as an example of what not to do. The MGB Mark IV became an enduring symbol of this great mistake.
"It was sad," one Globe and Mail reader said. "It was hard to see the MGB end up like that."