Journal: What Design Flaw on Your Car Do You Find Charming?

What Design Flaw on Your Car Do You Find Charming?

By Petrolicious Productions
October 24, 2013

Every car is linked by a similar issue. It’s bound to happen, from the most expensive supercar to the commuter car, something is so wrong or weird that you just have to love the car for it regardless.

Air-cooled Porsches need to have their oil checked on a flat surface while the car is running and before it’s parked in the garage. This isn’t the most effective way to monitor whether you need to add a quart. After screening several owners of various Porsches over the years, they seemed to lavish in the fact that this process exists in their car.

It’s not only vintage cars that have odd, overlooked design flaws; as years and models have progress, there are still things that need a little ironing out. For example, our editor’s 2012 Fiat 500 has a few quirks: (1) the car’s seat adjustments are opposite of any normal car, the levers are situated toward the center of the car opposed to the doors, (2) the “SPORT” button situated on the dash apparently unleashes the 10 horsepower that Fiat rated the car, along with better steering input and throttle response. Seeing as the car is so small and conventional, why not just make these available all the time?

But there is something to be said for a car’s quirkiness. It adds to the charm of the car and provides the owner with that “I know something you don’t know” mentality when people ask about owning one.

So tell us: What design flaw on your car do you find charming?

Photography by Ezekiel Wheeler and Gerard Kassibian

Join the Conversation
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Step Tyner
Step Tyner(@solo)
8 years ago

Those equipped with a good sarcasm detector will understand when I say that my 2006 Magnum SRT-8’s most endearing idiosyncrasy is the front bumper/clip, cunningly designed to ride one Angstrom closer to the ground than the height of a standard concrete parking lot stop. My insurance company is equally delighted by that feature; I have 14,000 miles on the car and am on my third front bumper!

8 years ago

In the Lancia Fulvia Coupe I used to have, I could never leave the headlights on accidentally even though it was built way before warning buzzers were invented for such things. This was because the cabin ergonomics were such that if I left the stalk in the “On” position, when I went to get out of the car my right knee would bump it and knock it back into the “Off” setting.

Thanks to FWD and torque-steer it was great at reversing itself round corners too.

Lewis Davies
Lewis Davies(@lewj)
8 years ago

The door locks on my classic mini open and close the wrong way. Confuses everyone that goes to open the car!

8 years ago

My Alfa 156 is superbly engineered for the driver with the angled temp, gas and clock gauges only he can view, everything is within reach and easily operate.

Yet, no coffee cup holders anywhere. Not for the driver nor passengers… Seems this car is for driving enjoyment alone!

Ola Esbjug
Ola Esbjug(@guarneridelgesu)
8 years ago

I love the fact that alfa romeo put a big red warning light in the rev counter if you turn the heater fan on in a Giulia Super, but no warning light whatsoever for the oil pressure..

That Guy
That Guy(@thatguy)
8 years ago

Great question!
The handbrake in my RHD Porsche 924 is situated between the drver’s seat and the door, whenever I let someone else drive the car, they are caught searching for the handbrake, but once you are used to it, it seems like a very good place to have it.
Similarly, many Ferrari’s had the handbrake in that location, with the exception that you could lower the lever, while the brake still remained engaged. Had that in my 550, and it confused many drivers!

8 years ago

> Air-cooled Porsches need to have their oil checked on a flat surface while the car is running and before it’s parked in the garage

Or, you can of course simply look at the oil tank gauge, when warmed up at the traffic lights. A knowing 911 driver becomes very accustomed to the ebb and flow of both Oel Druck und Tank. In many, many years of 911 driving, I do not think I dipped my stick once. Regardless, the dry sumped 911 oiling system is indeed an entertaining quirk. Not least of which in an S or similar with the front toroid belching steam when driving in the wet. ‘Your radiator has a leak!’ was one cry from a fellow driver… Neko.

8 years ago

Alfa 75 (Milano) – Electric window switches on the roof. Where else would you put them?

Tom Hetrick
Tom Hetrick(@thetrick59)
8 years ago

the timing mark on an older MGB. under the timing case so you have to crawl under the car to get the light on the mark!!! Brilliant.

Anne Kromhout
Anne Kromhout(@fb_530191805)
8 years ago

The ignition is situated just south of my stick. I [i]have[/i] to put the car in reverse gear to be able to turn it off. The front windscreen wipers are engaged by pulling the right side lever at the wheel [i]down[/i].

I drive a Saab 900 S.

Adam Holter
Adam Holter(@aholter90)
8 years ago

I love the Chrysler Slant 6 in my Dodge Dart, however, its 30 degree offset does make for some work if you ever need to work on the ignition. If the car is warmed up, forget it..I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten burned trying to adjust timing. The flipside of that is that the engine protects the distributor from getting wet unless you ford a river. So, I guess the moral tot he story is that once you’ve gotten the timing set and ignition working properly, the Slant 6’s shape is a good thing. Until then, not so much.

Leo Basile
Leo Basile(@snakedriver)
8 years ago

My Morgan has a foot actuated, open oiling system for the front suspension. It would take oil out of the engine and pipe it to the suspension then drizzle it over the pillar.

Its always fun watching people try to open the door…the lever is on the inside, similar to the MGA.


Brett Evans
Brett Evans(@evans-bt)
8 years ago

I reckon they’re not design flaws per se, but my first BMW had manual everything–door locks, windows, sunroof, and mirrors–and no air conditioning. It made my next BMW, a 1991 535i, seem like the Queen’s limousine by comparison.

Jim Bair
Jim Bair(@5280jb)
8 years ago

I found it endearing that the ignition key to my ex-girlfriend’s VW Beetle would also unlock the front door to her house. One key was all she needed 🙂

JanMichael Franklin
JanMichael Franklin(@jmfranklin)
8 years ago

The rotary engine doesn’t un-flood itself after sitting, you must go through an un-flooding procedure. As if that isn’t enough, the 1984, 85 GSL-SE cannot be started and shut off before warming completely or it will flood. It has something to do with the early fuel injection setup. This model was the first fuel injection system used on a rotary. Talk about having to know a car in order to keep it going!

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant(@mgcam)
8 years ago

Great topic, I’ll give you 2 examples from vehicles that are in my garage. On the MGA roadster, there are no exterior door handles to open the doors, they are opened via a cable pull inside the door that are pulled from the inside. Takes a while to get used to and it is one of the most common questions asked about the car, but adds to it’s charm. On my ’02 Jeep, the electric window buttons for all 4 windows are located in the center console. There are buttons on the doors where you would expect to find the window actuators, but they are actually to lock the doors. It took me forever to get used to that and whenever people ride in the Jeep, it’s funny to see them hunting for the window buttons. At first I hated it and it took me some time to remember where they were. I’m sure I’ll have a heck of a time getting used to another car that doesn’t have them there.

Guss Tsatsakis
Guss Tsatsakis(@gussto)
8 years ago

I remember my ’90 Nissan 300ZX had the most annoying feature that over time became very endearing to the Z community as we all bonded over this one familiar function that anyone who owned a Z32 was very familiar with. Every time one would twist the knob to turn off their wiper function, Nissan deemed it necessary to have the wipers go another round before finally coming to their resting place. As if the car was giving the windshield an extra once-over cause YOU couldn’t be trusted to know when the glass was clean enough. Even though the rear wiper had a single-swipe [i]mist[/i] function, there was no way you were getting away with a single swipe for the front glass… ever!

catalino sopelario
catalino sopelario(@catalak)
8 years ago
Reply to  Guss Tsatsakis

hmm, my 240Z does this, too! Interesting…

Anthony Brunetti
Anthony Brunetti(@youpers)
8 years ago

I own a Classic Mini so quirkiness is otherwise a synonym. As far as specific examples, there are so many. One of my favorite things is how everything is 3/4 scale compared to any other car. When I powder coated everything, I was able to throw it all in the trunk of my Sonata with room to spare.

Nathan Leland
Nathan Leland(@fb_1021010292)
8 years ago

The trunk release on my ’66 GTV is only accessible by opening the passenger door. Makes sense that it is curbside but that the locks for the doors are in the center of a moving handle it makes it a 6 step process to get anything in or out of the trunk.

Not mine but to illustrate where they are (this must be a RHD car)…

Jethro Bronner
Jethro Bronner(@jethrojbronner)
8 years ago
Reply to  Nathan Leland

Oh, I have the same with my 73 GTV. The boot release and bonnet release are on the passenger side of the car. And on my 64 GT the boot release is on the driver’s side and bonnet release on the passenger side. They’re both RHD.

Juan Mastromarino
Juan Mastromarino(@fangio)
8 years ago

The refrigeration system of my 1966 FIAT 600 E. I know, it´s not nice to be stopping aside every 15 miles, but it sure helps the sightseen part of a trip!

Maximo Forcieri
Maximo Forcieri(@fb_100001479799565)
8 years ago

lindo 600..

Future Doc
Future Doc(@futuredoc)
8 years ago

My 2001 MR2 Spyder: No usable storage space. Ok, it has some space behind the seats, enough to stow a sweater and spare tools… and the room under the hood could carry a spare pair of loafers. However, if my wife buys a pair of shoes, the box will not fit. It is the perfect vehicle to curb weekend over-shopping.

8 years ago
Reply to  Future Doc

I was going to say the same thing, the only thing the front compartment is good for is the spare wheel and the hardtop cover!

Paul Misencik
Paul Misencik(@sensh)
8 years ago

I had a 1976 Alfetta GT. Loved that car. In the center of the dash was a warning light that said: “SLOW DOWN.” I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I traced the wiring and it led to an exhaust temperature sensor. Apparently the exhaust on those cars had a tendency to run hot, which would trigger the light. Kinda like a rotary, except with a legitimate design excuse.

I find it hugely endearing (and typically Italian, I might add) that Alfa Romeo chose NOT to design an exhaust that ran cooler, but rather to install a “SLOW DOWN” light. It became my mission in life to turn that damn light on every time I drove the car…

Sid Widmer
Sid Widmer(@sid)
8 years ago

My ’68 Firebird has no head rests so the seats stop below my neck, lap belts only and when I am behind the wheel everything in front of me is made of sharp metal edges. Occasionally I realize that I am basically sitting in an ill-handling death trap powered by a big V8 and I think “this car is dangerous as hell!” which turns into a moment of silence then a smile and a laugh as I stop on the gas. Your damned right it is.

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari(@xander18)
8 years ago

Alfa Romeo GTV6… psh, design flaws?! Okay, the design flaws that I [i]don’t[/i] find endearing are any of the ones that involve maintenance. Driveshaft work is not endearing, lack of adequate timing belt wrap (if the engine ever spins backwards you will most likely have to retime it), not endearing.

Endearing are the peculiar seating position and windshield angle, that have made many American cars feel claustrophobic to me. I’ve always been amused by the fact that if you can’t double clutch and rev match then you can’t drive the car. Weak grounds in the taillight circuit mean that when you put it in reverse the stereo cuts out.

8 years ago
Reply to  Xander Cesari

Ha!! The weak grounds on the taillights!! My Sud had the same thing!! Only it was the brake lights coming on. If the radio cuts out you know the brake lights are working! Italian genius! Took me a whole weekend to trace that one.

Daniel Kelly
Daniel Kelly(@deke)
8 years ago

Less of a flaw and more of a quirk: I love the flip-up interior door handles on ’68 Mustangs. It’s always fun watching first time riders try to get out of the car.

Shawn Guinty
Shawn Guinty(@302coupe)
8 years ago
Reply to  Daniel Kelly

Ha! Have them in my 1970, too. Couldn’t agree more

Ryan Lopez
Ryan Lopez(@fb_100004968843639)
8 years ago

does a 5th drum brake mounted to the drive shaft count as odd……..its even finned and also works better then the front brakes……