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Hooniverse Asks- What Cars Are Vilified in Their Home Country but Loved in Others?

Robert Emslie June 11, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 58 Comments

They say abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. Or maybe it’s absinthe makes the heart go flutter? Either way, it always seems we want the most that which we cannot have, especially when it comes to cars. Usually, when we do finally get the object of our desires we treat it with unwarranted idolatry. Just the fact that it’s a Fiat makes the new 500 special in the minds of many U.S. car buyers, even though it’s just another small hatch back on the boot.

And sometimes cars that are loved in one place, are hated back where they originated. Part of this discordance could be attributed to scarcity, as almost everything that’s rare or an unusual sight generates, at the very least, interest. But what about enthusiasm? What of cars that are seen as odious in their home country, but have a healthy following elsewhere? Are there automotive equivalents of David Hasselhoff?

Chevy’s S-10 based SSR was not a particularly good vehicle on any count, and that’s being charitable. However, I have seen posts on European forums where SSRs have been feted after continental drifting over there. I don’t know if it’s the inherent American-ness of it – Europeans envisioning adopting cowboy accouterments and a hee-haw attitude and whooping it up in the thing – but I can’t think of another explanation. Whatever the irrational rationale, what other cars are hated at home but loved abroad?

Image: [Telkine via Flickr]

  • The Chevy Astro has never received much love in the USA, but it seems Japanese customizers love them.
    <img src="http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/AstroVan-custom.jpg"width=400&gt;

    • I know they're horribly unreliable and made out of tin cans and old gum wrappers, but I have always wanted a stripper Astro cargo van.

      • I've known a few people that have them. They are generally reliable, usually have the 4.3L (3/4th of a 350) V-6 and a RWD. My neighbor has a Safari (GMC Astro twin) stripped down version that he usually drives with just the two front seats in place. Astros are just S-10s with a van body.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          The neighbor behind my house and to the right has got a Astro conversion van. Pretty reliable as well and when things wear out, they are not too bad to repair. Rusty van though, made worse by the conversion.

      • I drove an Astro when I was a cabdriver in Salt Lake, and it held up just fine.

      • Smells_Homeless

        My favorite vehicle as a NAPA delivery driver was an Astro panel. 2.5 auto, even. It was the perfect work truck for what we were doing.

    • Very popular at dog shows.. Seems they're a little easier to handle for small-time dog trainers, breeders, etc. than their Econoline brethren.

    • clunkerlove

      EXCELLENT! I lived in Odawara and also Tsukuba Japan from 1999 to 2000 and saw more than a few Astros on the road which struck me as far fetched to say the least. They always looked loved and cared for, usually with some absurd customizations. I'd forgotten about that until I saw your comment. Odawara had a strong contingent of retired Yakuza, and the Bosozoku liked old American iron. Very surreal.

  • JHoward

    Robert, the SSR wasn't on an S10 chassis… it was based on the Trailblazer chassis. I think the SSR, while fat and heavy, was pretty under-rated. Price was a real issue. Could have had a vette for what those tanks cost.

    • Maymar

      Once it got an LS and six-speed, it was much closer to Vette specs, and mitigated a lot of the initial mediocrity.

  • TurboBrick

    Dodge Aspen. Finns loved the original Mopar A-bodies, I would go and say that they still have the highest # of streetworthy Dodge Aspens per capita anywhere in the world. Not that that's very many, but considering that on the left side of the pond Aspens seem to be somewhere between "Chevy Vega" and "the turd that my cat dropped 4 inches away from the litter box" in terms of appreciation.

    If you want to get in to the hobby of ordering stuff from Year One and being pestered at the gas station about "how much does it eat every 100km?", then this is usually your cheapest entry into it.

    <img src="; WIDTH="500">

    • PuddleRising

      Yeppers, always wanted me some Dodge Aspen action, chicks dig 'em

  • The VW New Beetle. In Germany, people buy the cheaper, more practical Golf in much higher numbers. In the US, the picture is not that clear…

    • Same can be said of the Jetta, though it must be said that notchback sedans are to most Europeans what wagons are to most Americans (i.e. the oddball, contrarian body style choice).

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0f/Tatra_mit_Ro80_im_Hintergrund_color_corrected.jpg/500px-Tatra_mit_Ro80_im_Hintergrund_color_corrected.jpg"&gt; The Tatra 603 left a bad taste in former Czechoslovakia because of it's use by officials and later Czech mafia. There was a time that carcases of old Tatras could be bought very inexpensively in Czech Republic, but those times are gone now. They are worth a lot here in USA.

    • Wow a Tatra, a MkI Escort and a Ro 80 in the same picture. Thumbs up.

    • HTWHLS

      …left a bad taste in former Czechoslovakia?? …it ain't exactly tasting sweet here either….

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Neat, which country do you mean?

  • Trabant. A blot on Germany, hipster cool in North America.

    <img src="http://world-viewer.com/data_images/trabant-601/trabant-601-03.jpg&quot; width="512">

    • RegalRegalia

      Dude, no way. Trabi are the poster-children for Ostalgie, nostalgia for the GDR. Who can even say which side of the pond loves them more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostalgie

    • HTWHLS

      who's she???

  • Land Rover Defenders. In the UK they are just basic work trucks/SUVs that trade for $5k-$10k in the used market. Here in the USA they are $25k+ rich boy toys.
    <img src="http://www.4wdonline.com/LandRover/Defender/PiCs37/D90.UKhtTDI.jpg"width=400&gt;

  • Not a car, and neither is technically its "home country," but I have to mention the original 4×4 ATV, the Fourtrax 350. With it's bizarre swingarm FRONT suspension, it's largely considered the worst 4×4 ATV ever in the USA and Canada…yet has a rabid, nearly cult-like following in Aussie Outbackistan, or so I've heard.

    <img src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6208/6076235271_44094da554_o.jpg&quot; width="512">

  • Hard to believe, but the products of KV/KVS are not highly regarded in their native France.

    <img src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6082/6040669993_9fa7f3a4d2_z.jpg&quot; width="500">

    • OA5599

      I can believe it. The "but loved in others" is the part of the question I'm struggling with.

      • At least two thirds of those known in the US are in the hands of the rabidly devoted.

        • topdeadcentre

          At least two thirds of those known in the US are in the hands of the rabidly deranged.

          FTFY, no charge. 🙂

          • No, no, no: They're mine.

            • pj134

              … I'd drive it.

    • HTWHLS

      I think it had to do with friction drive…

  • calzonegolem

    The leading picture is a Prowler not an SSR.

  • Back in the early eighties, when I was stationed in Italy, one of the guys in my outfit had had his gaudy custom Econoline van shipped over. It worked great for touring around with his wife and kids, but man, that van was over the top. It had everything, Cragars, fender flares, running board, godawful custom paint w/mural, velour everything inside, custom windows in back with a portrait of his wife sandblasted onto them, the whole nine yards. The Italians LOVED the thing! He couldn't park it without letting them climb inside, try out the seats, ask questions, take pictures, etc. Damndest thing. Another guy had a Harley Sportster, and he got a similar reaction.

    • MVEilenstein

      You say "velour everything" like it's a bad thing.

      • Well, other than that it was orange shag carpeting. Like an orange shag/velour womb, which I guess wouldn't be all that bad now that I think about it.

  • <img src="http://www.arthursclipart.org/transport/land/car%20logos/buick%20logo.gif&quot;, width=300>

    We continue to view them as a car for our elders but the Chinese love'em.

  • salguod

    The phrase is actually "absence makes the heart grow fonder", although 'abstinence' produces a similar effect.

    • RegalRegalia

      Dude, really?

  • NoKetchup

    while a bit off topic, I wanted to comment about the prowler. I remember when they came out not seeing a single one of them actually on the road for many many years. today, I see a handful of them a week (even in the sh** of winter). I'm glad people starting to use them as actual cars and not garage ornaments.

    • Devin

      That had to be the biggest problem with the Prowler, it was sort of pitched as an "instant collectible" and things that are instantly collectible tend to be bought by people who don't use them.

      The second biggest problem was that it was pitched as a hot rod but had a V6, which was rather controversial at the time, probably for good reason.

      • HTWHLS

        That you couldn't even put a gym bag anywhere in them wounded them severely, but the lack of a V8 killed them…
        You can't have a car that looks like that and run a V6. Might as well start wearing a skirt and lip gloss. Some guys put nitrous on them but it just didn't have the soul. Rode/drove a couple and they were like washing machines with terrible sightlines.

  • Devin

    I'll say everyone else's boring sedans that aren't available here, inspired by the Opel Vectra.

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6a/Opel_Vectra_C_front_20080331.jpg/250px-Opel_Vectra_C_front_20080331.jpg"&gt;

    Love might be a strong word, but there seems to be a grass is always greener philosophy in the press, where they'll always say that a company should clearly bring out that mainstream model they use in other markets, instead of the crappy stupid one that's sold in North America instead. But in those other markets, it's the local model that's crappy and stupid, though I'm not sure they pine for the North American boring sedan. Sometimes those foreign model sedans are actually good, but the Vectra inspired this because I distinctly remember reading magazines going on about how the Malibu sucks and the Vectra would be better, while watching Top Gear, where they were calling the Vectra the worst thing in the world.

  • MVEilenstein

    That's a shame, because it's not a terrilbe-looking car. To be honest, though, a hatchback is the only way to go, in my opinion, if you're going to buy a small car.

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