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Hooniverse Asks- What Was the Worst Automotive Engineering Feature Ever Introduced?

Robert Emslie June 21, 2011 Hooniverse Asks 126 Comments

The automotive engineering foisted on the public has, over the years, been pretty hit or miss. For every direct injection there’s a talking dashboard. Ford’s external keypad is pretty brilliant, while Cadillac’s attempt to fool buyers of its cars into driving four cylinder when they  coulda’ had a V8 is one of the most noteworthy of failures. Diesel engines engineered from weak-kneed gas progenitors, hydraulic everything, airbag suspension, lights that turn with the tires, massage seats, there’ve been an encyclopedic quantity of engineering solutions for problems both real and imagined – and some of them sucked.

Sure, some may have been more ahead of their time than ticking time bombs, but others have eventually grenaded on their owners, ensuring a place in history’s pantheon of questionable executions. Was the Chevy Avalanche’s Rubik’s Cude of a mid-panel a good idea, or the tool of the devil? How about the JDM Honda Del Sol’s automatic targa retractor – complicated, weight-adding and kept at home because the Japanese are notably less litigious when it comes to  product failures?

What do you think, is one of these engineering marvels on the top of your list of craptacular automotive solutions looking for a problem to solve? Which automotive engineering feature strikes you as the worst ever?

Image source: [mycadillac]

  • acarr260

    The landau top. Why? To speed up rust? It's surely not for looks… and one of my cars has a landau top ('74 Monte).

  • P161911

    GM's idea of passive restraint was to install the seat belt on the door. The idea was that you would leave the belt buckled all the time and be automatically belted in when you closed the door.
    <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5090/5333143040_817e4ffa2f.jpg&quot; width="500" height="375" alt="1990 Chevrolet Caprice Classic LS Brougham ">
    I thought it wasn't uncommon for doors to come open in a crash.
    It was only slightly worse than Ford and others "motor mouse" shoulder belts that would try to strangle you if you opened the door and leaned out to grab the paper in the drive way or if you forgot to buckle the lap belt would just decapitate you in a crash.

    • topdeadcentre

      Volkswagen also tried a design with the whole belt system on the door, sometime back around the late 1980s. I can't find any pictures, but I believe the whole thing was supposed to stay fastened all the time, so you had to slide in under the already fastened belt, and then shut the door. Ugh.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        VW did worse, before that they had the switches in the front seats of the Type I where the engine would not start unless the belts were buckled. It always was finicky at best, most people fixed them by overriding the system.

        • OA5599

          The starter interlock "feature" was imposed by the federal government for model year 1974. It brought so many consumer complaints, that the requirement was quickly dropped.
          http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/1974-sea

          • tonyola

            My 1975 Duster 360 must have been one of the early production models since it had been originally equipped with the interlock. The wiring was disconnected by the time I bought the car in 1978, but the warnings and advisories were still on the driver's side sun visor.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Thanks for the link!

        • topdeadcentre

          In 1975, my father bought a 1974 VW Dasher sedan, in "Cliff Green" (see representative picture); my older sister named her "Gertrude". It had the unfastened-belt starter cutout, and I remember being reminded a lot to fasten my seatbelt by the giant red idiot light on the dashboard that said "FASTEN BELT".

          <img src="http://images.jcwstatic.com/jcwhitney/vehicle-images/model/Volkswagen-Dasher.jpg"&gt;

          I believe that about two years later, my parents paid a mechanic to disconnect the sensors when they started getting flaky. But that's not what makes the car memorable. About two months after purchase, the car started whistling at speeds between 30 and 45 miles per hour. A constant high-pitched whistle could be heard inside the car and up to about 50 feet away. Since I was in elementary school, of course I got teased about our "weirdo" car…and no mechanic was ever able to figure out how to stop the whistling…

    • rtfact32

      In actually, this was a brilliant answer to the problem. No one left the seat-belts buckled, so this functioned just like a normal seat-belt, and yet in 'theory' it was passive without the motorized mice to satisfy the mandate.

      I think this is a secret 'win'.

      • AteUpWithMotor

        I much preferred them to the mouse belts, which would have gone over well in revolutionary France.

      • P161911

        I agree they are much easier to use. But it just seems to me that it is not uncommon to see a door fly open during a crash. They wouldn't do much to keep you in the car then.

  • Vega sleeveless aluminum cylinder block. The 8-6-4 was ahead of its time, too bad the engine control systems weren't up for it yet, at least it can become a regular V-8 with just the snipping of some wires. The Oldsmobile 350 Diesel was again not a failing of engineering, as much as it was execution. At first they were slapped together by the same production line drones who made the gas motors, with just as little attention to detail. My grandfather had one in a Pontiac wagon that was great, my father had one in a Buick wagon that he rebuilt 3 times and just couldn't get it to stay together and finally switched to a gas 350.

    So, the point is, there was no help, and no hope for the Vega motor.

    • topdeadcentre

      Mrs. Topdeadcentre owns a 2008 Chevy Impala SS with the V8-4. When the four cylinders shut off for cruising or turn back on for acceleration, the transitions are seamless, and the power is there on demand. You can barely tell when the engine is running on half its cylinders, there's just a little more valve noise. GM really got it right after they got it wrong.

      Sad to say, getting it right hasn't been quite enough to save the V8 motors. The only V8 equipped Impala of the current generation is the SS model, and that's been dropped. Which is a shame; her car gets gas mileage comparable to my 5-cylinder Volvo V70R, but without turbo lag (which isn't at all bad on the Volvo) and a lovely V8 feel (and sound, they got the stock exhausts right with a little grunt and growl).

    • The only weak part of the V8-6-4 was the self-governing actuation system. Wire the hardware up to a three-position dash switch and you'll have a fairly simple, reliable, manually controlled system.

    • dukeisduke

      The Vega motor was hopeless only if you let it overheat (don't ever do that to a Vega) or didn't change the oil. The problem with Vegas was that a lot of people who bought them were too cheap and/or lazy to keep up with maintenance. I drove one from 93,000 to 218,000 miles, and it still ran well when I sold it. It leaked oil, rather than burning it, thanks to the rope seal they used for a rear main seal, and the double oil pan gasket set-up (block/first gasket/windage tray/second gasket/pan). I changed oil every 3k (and used Valvoline Turbo) and added a custom 3-row radiator. Vegas also used an in-tank electric fuel pump that was wired through the oil pressure sender, so that if you lost oil pressure, it would shut off power to fuel pump.

      As for the Cadillac V-8-6-4s, yeah, the electronics were their downfall -the Eaton valve control solenoids were pretty reliable. I knew a guy that owned one at the time, and he loved it. He was one of the lucky ones.

    • Texan_Idiot25

      The Olds diesel was a total failure in engineering. Not enough headbolts to deal with the compression, and no water filter for the fuel system were the main problems. These weren't assembly line problems…

  • RichardKopf

    The idiot light.

  • Feds_II

    Keyless entry, push button starting.

    At this point, I consider my Protege a luxury car because it has a key cylinder on both doors and an extra one on the hatch! When my driver's door lock motor quit last week, I just stuck the key in and turned. If I hold it, it locks and unlocks all of the other doors! Amazing. Keyless entry is just a way to cost-savings out lock cylinders.

    Hate to rail on GM, but having the only way into the trunk be by pressing a button in the glove box is ludicrous. Worse: If you don't leave your corvette in 2nd, the battery drains overnight. And ask Toyota how much grief it would have saved if all those Prius' had a little key somewhere near the steering wheel that would shut the car off when rotated, rather than having to press and hold a button while you're panicking your pants off.

    • Alff

      Electronic keys are one of my personal peeves. In what ways are owner's interests served by replacing something essential that costs a couple of bucks at the hardware store with something that costs $50+ and can only be sourced by the dealer or certified locksmith?

      • Joe Dunlap

        Well, the idea was to make it a lot harder for someone to steal the owners car. But your point is well taken. +1

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Add to that all the stupid ways you can have the alarm go off if you dare not use the fob after locking the doors. Actually the alarm itself it pretty stupid by itself really at this point since so many cars have them and there are so many false alarms.

      • smokyburnout

        My least favorite part of driving other people's cars is when simply using the key to lock or unlock the door sets off the alarm. Usually the markings on the fob are completely worn off, so I figure I'll just open it the old fashioned way, but the alarm doesn't care.
        Also, alarms sensitive enough to be set off by the car going up on a four-post lift make me want to stab their computers with a hot soldering iron.

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          I set off the alarm on my grandfather's 'new' '00 Outback the first time I unlocked it because I ignored the key fob – it looked like an aftermarket unit, with only two buttons (lock/panic and unlock – the former is insipid, the latter is fine) and no badging. It's a great car otherwise, but I'll have to figure out some way to permanently disable the alarm if I ever own one.

  • Rim's bigger than twenty inches. Hell, rims bitter than seventeen inches.

    • Paul_y

      I keep repeating, until I am blue in the face, that your wheels only need to be big enough to clear your brakes. Real men roll 15s.

      • SSurfer321

        Amen! Smaller wheels = less expensive rubber.
        I roll on 17s on the truck as it's the smallest I can go. Stock 16s on the Subaru.

      • I've got somewhere between 25 and 35 14s, and a few sets of 13s as well.

        (tiny cars)

      • west_coaster

        Some larger police departments got really upset with Ford when they increased the wheel size on the CV/PI from 15" to 16". The fleet managers didn't like having to stock two different sizes of tires when the newer cars joined the older ones in the fleet.

        Ford's answer: We thought your officers would like it if the cars stopped better, so we went to larger brakes, which need larger wheels to clear them.

        The situation happened again when a further increase in brake rotor size brought 17" wheels.

  • P161911

    I had a 92 T-bird with those belts. It was always fun for rear seat passengers.

  • Van Sarockin

    Ford's Road-hugging Weight.

  • topdeadcentre

    Inaccessible and encrypted car software/firmware/hardware, with documentation restricted to dealership technicians (and the REAL tech docs restricted to the engineering departments).

    I love (and respect) embedded systems, and I want to play!

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      I do realtime/embedded SW for a living and it's annoying for me too. I can't get docs unless I sign NDAs if I can get the company to send one even (companies buy other companies all the time, so it's complicated) but then legal here has to go over it first. Every single time I've just figured the blasted thing out first before I ever got something to read. Thankfully they don't seem to make it hard on purpose at least in my cases.

    • Jim-Bob

      This should be illegal because it is anti-competitive and gives the dealerships a de-facto monopoly. It's one of the things that keeps me from buying a new car. I refuse to own anything that requires me to use another person or company to service it. I would sooner reverse engineer the whole damn system myself than to have to pay a dealership to fix it for me.

  • Joe Btfsplk

    Fuel tanks that double as the trunk floor (Mustang)….outside the frame tanks (GMC, Chev pickups)….extreme rear mount fuel tanks (Pinto in particular) ….inside the cab fuel tanks ( Fords, Jeeps, FJ40's etc.).

    • discontinuuity

      Inside the cab ain't so bad. If the tank gets ruptured you're probably dead anyways.

  • themagicboltbox

    Thumbs up for the copper-cooled engines, I'd forgotten about those.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Oh man I feel a rant coming, I'll hold it back, I'll try…. the knob, the button, the LCD, the LED, everything on a stalk (except some things on the steering wheel, seemingly at random). Arghhhhh! Sorry. So what was wrong with dials, sliders, toggle switches, and memory switches? I guess being able to know what something was doing without looking was somehow too ergonomic, safe, and useful. Like look at a typical climate control now, it has some button labeled 'auto' but it will be a push button with somewhere a LED or indicator on an LCD (it might be near the button or near the fuel gauge, how convenient). Then there are the mode buttons, some of them turn off auto, gotta look. And to set the temperature, push the button up or down until the LCD has a number on it you like. So why can't that be a slider or a dial and if you have the LCD why does it not tell you the current interior temperature instead of what you set something to?

    • tonyola

      I actually like the multi-function stalk on my LeSabre.

      • Paul_y

        The GM Omnistalk is an ergonomic nightmare, but once you master them, you wonder why everyone else doesn't stick everything onto one stalk.

        Last month, my parents came to visit me, and had a newish Sentra as a rental. They both found the headlight and wiper controls absolutely baffling (he has driven GM since 1997; my mom has always driven GM products). I mocked them and pointed out that every asian car has the exact same controls.

    • RichardKopf

      My first-gen LHS has a fancy climate control system, but the fan speed and temperature both have analog controls.

    • dmilligan

      I'm a big fan of toggle switches myself. A toggle switch and a dial or slider can control just about anything, and you can see at a glance or a quick feel what the setting is. I agree; what's wrong with that?

  • Alff

    Semiautomatic transmissions

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      One thing pretty neat about the bitty Mercedes that they had in Europe (A class?) was it was a manual but with no clutch pedal. That was pretty neat. But the manuals that are really automatics, yeah those are stupid.

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      >poof!<

  • OA5599

    An ex-boss had one of these. It was in the shop nearly every other week with another $1400 problem, but he loved the thing and seriously contemplated not turning it in for the buyback.

  • OA5599
    • highmileage_v1

      If I could +∞ I would. That bathtub-shaped life cycle curve annoys the hell out of me. You just know with cars from certain manufacturers that when 100,000 Km rolls up, things are going to fail regularly. Yes, they are designed for a certain price point and you get what you pay for, but when the radiator, wheel bearings, AC, wipers, lights, etc, all start failing around the same mileage, it is a pain.

  • $kaycog

    Having a talking car would really annoy me. [youtube P88AnM3z_wI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P88AnM3z_wI youtube]

    • FЯeeMan

      Well, after listening to that, I'd really have to reconsider buying the car, knowing how much work I'm going to have to put into it. It is an UR Quattro, though, so I guess that's really just justification for making a much lower offer…

      • $kaycog

        Maybe there's a way you can put a sock in her mouth. 😉

        • FЯeeMan

          snip her tubes, er, wires?

          • $kaycog

            Hehehe……clever!

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    My wife's Honda has a sync button. It makes the number the same for the right, left, and rear. Yes it's on all the time too.

    • Alff

      I understand that GM vehicles with dual controls also have some sort of synching mechanism. It's a shame that Subaru didn't include that.

      Subaru wanted to compete with the little Audis and BMWs with the Legacy GT but it's minor things like this that held them back.

      • P161911

        On our Trailblazer the driver's side controls both until the passenger changes theirs.

  • Charles_Barrett

    I drove around Western Europe in the summer of 1982 in a leased Ford Fiesta with a college chum of mine. I did all the driving since a) he was unlicensed, and b) he couldn't drive a stick-shift anyway.

    That sporty little Fiesta had its horn button at the end of the turn signal stalk, so
    — I would honk when I didn't want to (usually while turning or changing lanes), and
    — I COULDN'T find the button to honk when I needed to (e.g. at crazy urban drivers in France and Italy).

    • oldcarjunkie

      My Hyundai Stellar had that as well. Very odd.

    • tonyola

      Many US Fords in the late '70s and early '80s had the same annoying feature.

  • Alff

    My process as well, often with an added step to relocate the car to the proper side of the pump since the Subaru is the only one of my cars that has the filler on the passenger side.

    With gas pricess going astronomical, though, I can get beyond the interior release. It's easier to contend with than the locking gas cap I've been compelled to install on my pickup.

    • SSurfer321

      What year is your truck? Most newer vehicles have fuel filler necks that prevent hoses being shoved down them.

      • Alff

        '02 Dodge. I know it can be siphoned 'cause I've done it myself in a pinch.

  • Car alarms.

    Never, have I ever responded to an alarm going off by checking to see if someone might be breaking into a car.

    Typically I wait a minute or two then find the tools necessary to break in and disable it myself. Ironic, dontcha think?

    • vwminispeedster

      But without car alarms we wouldn't have the LeMons Taiwanese National Anthem Penalty.

    • exactly why i opted for the manual unlocking, key entry only in the miata.
      sure, maybe not so great for security. but the mazda dealer auto installs lojack in all the miatas.

    • dmilligan

      I've always wondered; how many times would you have to shoot a car with a .50 caliber rifle to silence its alarm? I've always wanted to find out.

    • thecrazydanish

      I've had a number of mazda second generation Rx7s and all of them have bizarre alarms. No particular one acts the same, and all of them are possessed by some thing. My first one would go off completely at random until I would wake up and walk out there. At which point it would shut off, seemingly to say, "Good now you're up, lets drive!" My current Rx7 constantly thinks I'm trying to steal it. Every other time I open the door the alarm will go off. Ever since some on tried to break into it in Arizona I can't lock the doors or it will just go off all the time. I know how to remove the stock alarm module on 86-88 model year Rx7s but they changed it for 89-91 model cars. So I just have to deal with never having the car locked or just leaving the neg battery cable off like I usually do.

  • smart's automated manual transmission. God damn thing.

    • Maymar

      So much plus one – in spite of being a flawed car, I really dig the smart. But based on that lethargic, idiotic transmission alone, I could never buy one.

  • dragon951

    Cupholders. It all went downhill from there.

  • OA5599

    Two blondes were in a parking lot trying to unlock the door of their car with a coat hanger.

    First Blonde: "I can't seem to get this door unlocked!"
    Second Blonde: "Well you better hurry up. It's starting to rain and the top is down!"

  • buzzboy7
    • IronBallsMcG

      Nicely done.

    • ptschett

      They have their place. Wheel loaders and tractor/loader/backhoes, for example.

    • austinminiman

      But how do they work…? HOW THE HELL DO THEY WORK?!?!? Now I'm scared.

      • buzzboy7

        "For a second there I was really afraid, because I forgot how torque converters work."
        Probably my favorite me quote.

  • Tiny A-pillar windows like in a Previa. What point do they serve?! Also, it is a bitch to tint those windows.

    • dukeisduke

      Hey, I like those – I actually look through them sometimes. But that front windshield is a bitch to clean. The thing I hate about our Previa? The separated accessory drive system ("SADS") couplings – the "revolvers". They're a PITA to replace, and if everything isn't perfectly aligned, the replacements only last a year, like the ones I put on a year ago. Gah!

  • pj134

    Any use of a Nikasil in a non racing setting.

  • Alff

    Keyless entry was a $300 option on my Ram (along with security system). The truck I picked off the lot didn't have it, I haven't missed it. I actually think it's kind of cool having the only modern vehicle I see that still needs a key in the door.

  • tonyola

    The one stalk function I really hated was Ford putting the horn button on the end of the turn signal stalk instead of on the steering wheel. Needless to say, here I was banging on the hub of my loaner Fairmont in desperation to warn off somebody, then remembering in frustration where the horn really was. A really stupid and unnatural idea.

    Almost as bad were the "rim-blow" horns of the late '60s and early '70s, where you squeezed the wheel rim to honk. They were fine when new, but as the car aged the contacts got wonky so either the horn sounded at the slightest touch or not at all.

    • Maymar

      I drove a Volt yesterday, GM's come back to that idea. You still get the conventional horn on the steering wheel, but there's also a quieter pedestrian horn on the left stalk (cause, you know, it's quiet on electric). It's a neat idea, but it'll be interesting to see how often it gets used, or adversely, how many people get accidentally run over while the driver awkwardly fumbles for that button.

    • JoeDunlap

      As I recall, those horn functions were on a stalk with the headlight dimmer switch, at least it was on my 78 Fiesta. I was told is was designed that way so you could flash the high beams and sound the horn, presumeably to warn slower vehicles? you were overtaking them. :-).

    • BGW

      My grandfather swore for years that the stalk-end horn placement was the reason he wrecked his Fairmount. Had it been in its proper, God-given, Constitutionally-Mandated location, his theory went, he could have properly honked at the mysterious driver who "cut him off" and thus avoided the experience entirely.

      Personally, I think he fell asleep, just like he did when he crashed his Cutlass. And his Celebrity. And possibly the Neon.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      The horn buttons on the wheel spokes of many early airbag-equipped cars (Accord and Volvo 740 come to mind) get to me as well.

  • tonyola

    The two Hondas I owned (Civic and CRX) had both fuel filler door and trunk/hatch release handles right on the floor next to the driver's seat. I found that really handy plus it discouraged would-be siphoners.

    What I really hate is not having the fuel filler door on the same side as the driver. Lots of American cars are guilty of this sin.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      Honda trunk/fuel door releases seem to be, in my experience, the least reliable part of the car. One friend's had a few fourth-generation Accords and occasionally runs across this; another has an '02 Civic and has to open the trunk with his key.

      I like having the fuel door on the passenger side – I always thought it was an American-car thing to have it on the driver's side; the only Volvos with this issue are the 740/940 series, and when I drive mine it always throws me off (compared to, say, the 244, New Beetle, or Outback in the family).

      • tonyola

        I never had a problem with the remote releases on my two Hondas which were owned for 10 years (CRX) and 16 years (Civic). Also, they both had the fuel door on the drivers side.

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          I'm not too concerned about side when there's a good design involved; both Hondas have their fillers on the driver's side as well, and it only bothers me because of what I'm used to. I actually like the two-levers-together setup. I was merely commenting that in my limited experience, the mechanisms could be a bit flaky – either they got worse over time or you were luckier than my friends.

  • $kaycog

    I first thought they were saying "train ahead" and thought, WHAT? Then I got it right…."terrain ahead".

  • Number_Six

    iDrive, Synch, lane-departure radar, park-assist, radar cruise-control, emergency brake-assist, driver alert warnings…the list of recently-introduced idio-shite is endless. Meanwhile people's ability to actually DRIVE A CAR is waning faster than Megan Fox's career…

  • dukeisduke

    Those were pretty wild looking. The main problem was the exposed valvetrain, combined with a big cooling fan that drew air, dust, dirt, bugs, etc., over said valve gear.

  • dukeisduke

    OBD-II engine controls.

    • dukeisduke

      And, oh yeah, OBD-I, too.

      • Hoonda

        OBD1 is fine, especially since many OBD1 ecu's just use standard EEPROM chips that allow for easy reprogramming. OBD2 on the other hand is generally much more locked down.

  • dead_elvis

    Maybe not technology so much as design, but I always found it particularly stupid that my manual transmission Wagoneer had a 4th pedal to set the parking brake.

    • My buddy's old Chevy Apache had a 4th pedal to start the engine.

      I always thought that was the coolest damn thing.

      <img src="http://www.ssrfanatic.com/forum/attachments/f6/97711-grandpa-53-chevy-grandson-06-ssr-1953-interior.jpg&quot; Width="500" />

      • My '37 Plymouth has a floor-mounted starter button like that, but it's discreetly located above the gas pedal instead of beside it. Sometimes when I get a new passenger I like to make a big show of turning the key (which only activates the ignition coil), heaving a weary sigh at the resulting silence, then thumping the dash with my fist in "just the right place" while quietly stepping on the starter button to make the engine crank over. I figure it inspires some combination of respect, fear, and pity, although I'm not sure of the proportions.

      • dead_elvis

        And the high-beam peg on the floor too, as did my Jeep (and my '72 Cutlass too, I think).

    • RahRahRecords

      my 5 speed ranger has that too, but t doesn't bother me. It's far enough from the clutch that it's a non issue.

      • dead_elvis

        It's not the proximity, it's the fact that it's a pedal, not a hand brake. For parking, being able to set the brake before letting out the clutch & leaving the car in gear feels far more natural to me than having to either turn the car off, leave it in gear & set the brake or neutral/brake/put in gear/kill engine does.

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          What's unnatural to me is requiring a separate lever to let the pedal go. This seriously threw me at first in the Ciera wagon I had to drive once – I knew from prior experience with Cadillacs that those would free the parking brake when the car was shifted into gear, but the Ciera wouldn't. I found the lever, and the car, out of spite, blew a brake line not five minutes later and put me into three inches of slush to avoid parking under a ten-year-old Silverado.

          Come to think of it, my wagon went under a similar Chevy truck when the brakes started getting weak and some lady on her phone pulled directly in front of me. It's a goddamned conspiracy.

        • RahRahRecords

          Oh, I see your point and having seen it cannot unsee it. That is a bit of a design flaw.

    • smokyburnout

      Left-hand-drive versions of my car have the 4th pedal for the parking brake, but right-hand-drive versions get a dash-mounted parking brake handle. It's not fair!

  • Alff

    Ooh, got one. Some formerly idiosyncratic car company was once known for placing the ignition switch in a hole in the console. I believe they incorporated some kind of lock for the transmission to prevent theft. Good idea, until one of your spawn spilled a milkshake down there.

    • smokyburnout

      I always heard they put the ignition switch there so the key wouldn't embed itself into your knee in the event of an accident. I've never actually heard of that happening to anyone, but it doesn't sound fun.

      • dukeisduke

        As a teenager, a cousin of mine had that happen to a friend. This was about 1960, on oil-topped back roads in East Texas. They got to a T intersection, and ran head-on into an red dirt embankment. My cousin was in the passenger seat, and his head hit the windshield (he still has a big vertical scar in the middle of his forehead), and his friend that was driving got the ignition key jammed in his knee.

    • austinminiman

      However, in normal operation it keeps all the weight off the ignition switch so those "I'm gonna put 3837 keys and my wallet on my ignition key" set don't kill it. I've owned- a lot- of cars and never have spilled a drink in one. The real engineering fault is having children.

  • BGW

    [youtube M7u17Tmz5To http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7u17Tmz5To youtube]

  • Jim-Bob

    Croosovers. They should all be thrown in a giant shredding machine. Either get a real truck type SUV ( Land Rover Defender, Chevy Blazer, Ford Bronco, etc.) or a station wagon. Crossovers are like Crossdressers: they are pretending to be something they are not.

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      …the difference being that I've never seen an attractive crossover.

      Unless we count the Ford Edge, which is really just a wagon with a stupid beltline.

  • Charles_Barrett

    When I chauffeur my elderly folks around, Mom & Randy ride in the backseat, and my Dad gets shotgun. As a passenger, Dad has nothing to do but fuss with the vents, their position, aperature, fan speed, etc. I am GRATEFUL that he can fuss with HIS half of the dual-zone A/C, especially since his thyroid function seems to get more and more unpredictable and the sun her in Arizona is strong…

  • Charles_Barrett

    While a student at Caltech, I attempted to assist a damsel in distress: she had borrowed a friend's brand new Fiero, and wanted to refill the gas tank before returning it. She asked me if I could help her open the filler door. Being a car dude who'd subscribed to Car & Driver since my pre-teens, I figured "how hard could it be?"

    How hard indeed?

    My buddy and I searched for an embarrassing amount of time before I found it on the interior of the B-pillar, right next to where the driver's left ear would be. Nevertheless, I was the Knight in Shining Armor at the Chevron that evening.

  • James

    It used to be a lady-drivers joke, but today I think it applies equally to both genders.

    Electric starters. Worst invention ever.

    If everyone had to crank start their car, probably 75% of the population would find other means of transportation.

    It wouldn't be up to families to take Grampa's car away from him when his vision is gone. He'll stop driving when he no longer has the physical ability to start his car.

    Teenage girls? Probably not going to risk breaking a nail cranking their car up.

    The jackass in the SUV who is driving and going over work papers or reading emails on his blackberry? He's not going to get his hands dirty starting a car – that's a $2000 suit he's wearing for God's sake.

    I hate to be cynical, but I'm convinced that cars today are too accessible. So many people have no business commanding a 2 ton missile hurdling along the road at 70mph. They don't have the skills, the attention span, or the judgment to use cars safely.

    • Alff

      …and yet, they generally get where they're going.

  • Dutch

    The fact that everything has to be computer controlled. We had an '08 Dodge Ram come in the shop with the map lights inop at the switch on the lens. It worked just fine when the door was opened, but, would not work with the switch. The tech spent some time on this, and found the instrument cluster had a dead driver circuit. A reman cluster was ordered, and sure enough, the lamp came alive. $350.00 plus labor to fix a map light?!?! This guy had a GREAT service contract! My '66 F-100 looks better every day.

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    Yep. The similar Toyota Van remained popular, however, and even Mitsubishi sold a few Delica Star Wagons/Vans here – also, incidentally, with 2.4-litre engines.

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    I believe that headlight knobs should always be on the left side of the dash, but I also believe in pull-back high/low-beam switching instead of the Japanese push/pull setup, so my opinion may or may not count for much.

  • RahRahRecords

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned "park assist" or whatever they call it. It's the ultimate dumbing down of the driving experience. C'mon, isn't parallel parking required on most driving road tests? I can't say i've actually seen a car park itself except in the commercials, so I'm assuming the tech is not at the same level as the claims.

  • McQueen

    If any of you drive a pickup with the spare tire mounted at the back between the frame rails you will understand my extreme hatred for them . There is nothing worse than already being pissed of because you have a flat and then you finally find all of the necessary tools to drop the spare to find out that the stupid winch has rusted and won't operate .

  • west_coaster

    They actually started doing this about ten years ago. Trust me, it's no fun for the driver either. Both in parking lots and when your car is parallel parked on the street, you almost want to wait until there are no cars approaching at all before you hit the unlock button on the remote.

  • ptschett

    Also the plastic coolant crossover tube where the thermostat mounts on mid-'90's Ford modular-series V8's, with similar potential results to the BMW's issue. (Fortunately for me, when mine let go I was only a few hundred feet from my driveway anyway.)

    • P161911

      Mine was an intermittent problem for a few days. Thought I had fixed it with a new water pump, housing, and thermostat. by that time it had cracked the head.

  • And let's not forget the plastic intake manifolds on GM 3800 V6s. After a couple of years enduring the heat of the engine, they were as brittle and porous as sponge candy.

  • GMC

    ford's late 40'searly 50's, vaccu lit cigarette lighter, used engine vaccum to pull a draw on the ciggarette and element to light it. then you smoked the thing.
    or the hand crank? or having hoods that open, do we want the general public working on their vehicle?