Journal: What Did The Factory Get Right (And Wrong) With Your Car?

What Did The Factory Get Right (And Wrong) With Your Car?

By Michael Banovsky
July 7, 2016

Time reveals all. In the case of my personal transportation, time has helped me grow more fond of both my Porsche 914 2.0-litre and Fiat 500 Abarth. Time can also mean, however, that you may learn some unexpectedly disappointing things along the way.

Taken as something to be driven, loved, and enjoyed, I’m of the mind that few sports cars of any vintage can match the Porsche 914’s combination of practicality, simplicity, and outright handling capability. It’s fun at somewhere between 70 and 90 percent speeds, and most at home on flowing, exciting B-roads. A  classic mid-engined Porsche should drive well, after all.

Own a 914 long-term, however, and you’ll learn about the “hell hole”: a largely inaccessible spot just below the battery tray that will rot out with battery acid, organic material, and water…or a combination of the three. It’s something Porsche couldn’t really have noticed during testing, but I wish it had: the inaccessible spot is actually above the passenger side frame rail.

Once a hole is eaten through the metal, the firewall, rear floorpan, suspension, and jack post get structurally compromised. It’s very much a fixable problem, but definitely one to be aware of.

What did the factory get right—or wrong—with your car?

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Yann watkins
Yann watkins
3 years ago

Land rover series iii – all wrongs …… just about everything, that is what makes it so charming

Clay Horste
Clay Horste(@clay_horste)
4 years ago

I remember reading a review of the newest Porsche 911 (at the time) and the reviewer dinged it for not having cup holders. I thought that was the dumbest quip in a review, ever. Why would you need cup holders in a 911? So, years later, I find myself with a 2006 Cayman S and it has cup holders. Really bad cup holders. I think Porsche should have ignored the reviewer and not put them in if they were going to be so passive aggressive about the cup holders that they finally put into their cars. The rest of the car is pretty much perfect.

Gordon Miller
Gordon Miller
4 years ago

C’mon Ford. How about a rear window wiper that flips up so we can clean the backlight properly?

4 years ago

1993 Mazda RX-7. Hard to say. From an appearance stand point, nothing. From an engineering stand point, the car could use some more cooling. So, better rad, different hood (vented), better (and double in the versions that don’t have it) oil coolers, battery in trunk and larger intercooler. Also, the sequential turbo system is amazing, but incredibly complicated. Some of it is of course due to the time the car was designed. Better surface finish on the 93 model for the dash parts.
Now, when the car runs fine (and mine always has, although at some point I have had the need to rebuild due to warn out oil control rings -22 years in), there is this force that gets applied to both sides of your mouth whenever you push it to its limits, that makes you forget everything else, even your name.

4 years ago

1991 Golf mk1 Cabrio Karmann 72kw engine – stupidly difficult MAF senzor to adjust/maintain, gets worn over years, is impossible to buy new, even from the manufacturer himself, discontinued part… and when you could buy it, it cost aroud $800. And basically complete engine electronics and whatnot is pretty hard to adjust right, and only a few people can do it properly, cause it was in created in an era, when electronics were taking over analogue, but when adjusted right, man, the damn car flies!

1990 Corrado G60 – the G-lader is a little pricey to maintain, but when taken care of properly, you just do routine service, which is not that pricy. Or when you are a dickhead and don’t maintain it properly, it can get really pricy – $1000-2000 (in the EU). And the car itself is pretty hazy on propper engine electronics setup and functionality, so you have to carefully double check everything when doing setup.

All VW I’ve ever had an still have – MK1 Golf, MK2 Golf, Corrado, Vento, 2001 Polo – linkage from gearshift to the gearbox gets worn and shifting becomes shitty over time, just have to buy all those litlle thingies and joints and whatnot new and works like a charm again.

Other then that, all of them are fun cars to drive, responsible like hell, durable, easy to fix. MK1 and Corrado are headturners, of course, which is a nice added value.

4 years ago

Alfa Romeo was competitive with the 912 Porsche and the BMWTii in ’69-70. Then they got blown away by the german competition when they could have build some amazing cars with great design and horsepower that would blow away those two german marques even back then. Their closest competition. Now, they’re doing the same thing. BMW and Porsche…even Ferrari are in a different stratosphere and Alfa is building SEDANS and WindUP 4C Dolls with automatics, NOT SPORTS CARS! Pathetic! I should have run the company with Carlo Chiti from AutoDelta and blown all competitions aside. Real Sad. Totally bummed. Treating an Italian car with with such a heritage with such disrespect is terrible. Thanks Marchionni thanks a lot! You belong in Canada not Italy! You messed up a prestigious automobile. Now go sell your Maseratis and Ferraris. And weaken Alfa and Lancia. Nice going! I drove a new Maserati, it handles like a heavy sedan. Even that’s no birdcage Maserati. It’s a car to take the family with grandma in tow for a weekend tow to the movies or a shopping mall.
Biggest tragedy since Alfa gave a job to Enzo as a driver.

Stefanos Stavrou
Stefanos Stavrou(@stefanos_stavrou)
4 years ago

1989 Eunos Roadster

The Mx-5/miata/roadster is popular enough nowdays that you probably know all bout it’s rev-happy 1.6 twincam, it’s ease of placement on the road and it’s capability to embarrass powerfull cars on track. However the little roadster is plagued by creaks, squeaks and ratrles that are impossible to locate and extinguish. From the frame of the roof to the headlight mechanisms, ageing components begin to losen up and rattle over every road imperfections, making the Roadster quite unpleasant with the roof closed.

Travis Mihm
Travis Mihm
4 years ago

2014 Ford Fiesta ST – The characteristics of my Fiesta that made me want to purchase it still live on, but they’re now outweighed by a serious amount of build quality woes. I bought it in 2015 with 9900 miles. Around the time the bumper to bumper warranty expired, I started noticing that the top weather stripping around the drip railing had started pulling up on the front corners. I then noticed that the same thing was happening on the back corner of the molding on the bottom of the driver’s side window. A few other things get annoying as well. The brakes have never not squeaked. The dash pad looks like a 17 year old with a drug problem installed it, the front corners where it meets the a-pillars are not squared up at all. But, it’s just a Fiesta. And boy, did they ever nail the handling and attitude on the ST chassis. Two years later, it’s still surprising me.

David Thomas
David Thomas(@dave10005446)
4 years ago

If the car is 20+ years old and I still prefer it over modern sportscars can I even say the factory did anything wrong?

Andy White
Andy White(@andy_white)
4 years ago

1970 Mercury Cougar- long term owner since I started driving it to high school in 1989. Drove it all over the place and racked up a lot of miles. Currently welding in new metal and bolting in new go parts.
What they got right:
The first year 351 Cleveland is a magnificent engine. The headlight doors and sequential turn signals were very cool touches for an upmarket car meant to be an alternative to the bread and butter Mustang, Camaro, and whatnot. The factory installed 9 inch rear was a great piece, even with the small bearing car housing. Lots of chrome badges and trim, big chrome bumpers, and a trunk that can fit 3 bodies. The longer wheelbase (by 3 inches) makes it a good road car for the then hurriedly being completed Eisenhower interstate system, or backroads. It made for a nice car to look at, sit in, and drive.
The bad:
The cowl would clog with leaves, flood the floor vents with water, and rot the floors (and cowl) which required a lot of welding and drilling of spot welds and swearing.
The 351c was the victim of bean counters at Ford, receiving substandard valves (2 piece friction welded) and rod hardware (stretch at rpm= kablooey), among other woeful choices like the el-cheapo rockers and the casting problems (porosity and core shift) since Ford was feeling its way in the dark with thin wall blocks in 1969.
No rust proofing to speak of meant the back end would rust and fall off in a few years of salt spray.
No subframe connectors meant the chassis would weeble and wobble til it fell down or you couldn’t close the doors. With Mercury pushing the Cougar as its flagship car (Mercury: at the sign of the cat!), you’d think they’d build some kind of performance that wasn’t just enough to last the model year.
When the neato headlight doors or sequentials broke, you were lucky if any mechanic within 20 miles would work on them.
The front suspension, with the stupid shock towers and ball joint eating stamped steel bits, was a half measure at best.
Driving it on the road for many years, trunk stuffed with camping and hunting gear, the sides flecked with mud and grime, I learned a lot about the car. It’s not a racing car. The Cougar is a great road car, meant to be driving down the slab at a moderate pace, or maybe doing some straight line stuff on Saturday nights. And that’s okay. I spent a lot of days with a sunburn being etched into my left arm and smile on my face thanks to that old chrome festooned boat. As you get older, you realize that everything has limitations and there will always be someone somewhere faster or quicker, but there doesn’t have to be someone having more fun than you.
The greatest compliment I can give it is that it’s a fun car, despite it’s failings and weaknesses.

François Martinez
François Martinez(@francois_martinez)
4 years ago

1979 Mustang(s) :

Mechanically, a better rear suspension with panhard bar and torque arm would have helped
esthetically : a better choice of rims, just one good 15″x7 style would have been fine, but no, only TRX or tiny rims

1984 Trans Am

A better access to the spark plugs, a lot more organisation on the emissions, depression and cooling hoses, aluminium hood as standard (was installed on a few 82 Trans Ams and the later Firehawks), factory subframe connectors especially for T-Tops models.

1974 Firebird Formula

Not much to say since I haven’t driven the car and it won’t be original at all when it’s done, but a better center console design and a bit of carpet in the trunk would have been a great addition.
A better design of the trunk drop offs would have prevented a lot of rust problems as well. Too little space in there and whatever goes in is hard to remove.

1987 Corvette

Better quality of the leather used on the seats, and removal of that weird pad on the passenger side dashboard, other than that it’s a neat car.

1981 Ferrari Mondial 8

Poor interior ergonomy, mostly corrected with the later models though, but for a “luxury” style coupé, it’s really a poor interior design. Seating in the car is a bit awkward due to the seats being so far in the front and rather close to the door hinges. And also a choice of standard size rims, instead of only the TRX but that was the best choice in those days. Other than that it’s nice, simple car to maintain.

Mustafa Uyal
Mustafa Uyal
4 years ago

1973 Ford Capri 3000
Rear disc brakes , 14″ wheels and 5 speed gearbox are definitely missing in my car. Also a standard LSD would be nice.
1973 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000
All is well, only an AC unit would be an improvement.

Gary McGraw
Gary McGraw(@gary_mcgraw)
4 years ago

1971 Lotus Elan Sprint – The rubber fuel line hose in the engine compartment came from the factory with a plastic tee to split the fuel supply to the two carbs. Unfortunately, this plastic tee was located directly over the distributor and was prone to melting … resulting in more than one Elan being consumed in an engine fire. My first move after purchasing my Elan 30 years ago was to fit an Aeroquip hose and fittings (including the tee) to remedy the situation.

4 years ago

2007 Saab 9-3 Aero Convertible: Aside from the extra weight of the convertible top, the major failures are all the cheap GM parts this otherwise nice car is stuck with. The hideous climate control system, cheap sound system and the fuel pump/tank that throws a code you can eliminate only with a $700+ replacement are the most egregious. The lack of limited slip with a torquey turbo compromises handling under power but hey, that would have cost money GM didn’t want to invest in their premium division

4 years ago

2002 Porsche Boxster 2.7

For me – it’s the total package. Obviously there are things you can make better (more power & engine/exhaust sound) but it doesn’t feel lacking in any way. Great handling balance, can carry plenty of corner speed, punchy flat 6 loves to rev, the 5 speed gearbox is a spot on match (2nd is good for 115kph) so you miss having a 6th like most modern cars.

The only quirk I don’t like is the steering column doesn’t height adjust.

4 years ago

Every time I start engine I have to turn of anti skid control in my E46 BMW, Washing front window, allways turns of rear window wiper…

4 years ago

2002 USDM Civic Si hatch. The list of issues can be summed up in one statement: it’s not the Type R

Scott Spaeth
Scott Spaeth(@fb_1601306911)
4 years ago

’84 Alfa GTV 6: shifter linkage is bad, there is no way to spin this as a charming feature, it’s just bad design. No car has ever needed a torque tube driveshaft more. And rust, so much rust everywhere.

’04 Volvo S60R: too early adoption to active shocks and a couple VERY weak links in the awd.

Gary Groce
Gary Groce(@groceg)
5 years ago

73′ BMW 2002tii: Only one complaint. The stock steering wheel blocks the heater control panels on either side of the steering column. There is no way to see the heater controls unless you’re 5ft 2in or 6ft2in or you turn the wheel to one side or the other 🙁 The rest of the design more than makes up for this and compared to a typical modern car, there are NO flaws in an 02.

5 years ago

An old man who has owned almost everything – me – has decided that as time passes I have forgotten the faults and recall only the song and beauty. Maybe the only consolation to seeing that guy in the mirror.

Dirk Stoop
Dirk Stoop(@dirkstoop)
5 years ago

’73 Datsun 240Z: wonderful driving dynamics, great steering feel, very light for the power it has which makes it surprisingly nimble, lovely soundtrack from the straight six. Great driving position. Absolutely love it.

The bad: the giant engine bay gets hot and easily heat soaks. It also has a lot of chassis flex in the front. Related: stock the car develops a lot of lift in the front (145lb at 60mph if I remember correctly), but that’s easily mitigated by closing off all holes around the radiator in the front balance and maybe adding a little front spook. Finally, the rear end is pretty fragile, with lots of reasons to develop clunking on on/off accelerator transitions.

Paolo Rossi
Paolo Rossi(@paoloandthefulvia)
5 years ago

The guys at Lancia in late 60’s Fulvia (1st series) got absolutely right the styling of the whole car and the sound mix between aspiration, engine and exhaust quiet and relaxing at low RPM but grunty and slightly intoxicating when you put your foot down.
Brakes and clutch could have been better and in fact they were uprated from second series.
The real problem with it is the corrosion on the floor and the mounting points of the engine subframe.

5 years ago

’91 Toyota MR2:
Better cooling, especially on the turbocharged models. Simple intercooler-related upgrades, a different exhaust, one or two little things, and a tad more boost are all it takes to make quite a bit more power. Also, heat soak becomes a problem on the turbo motors at track days, necessitating such mods if one does not wish to spend quite so much time cooling down the motor.

Other then that, I can’t think of much.

5 years ago
Reply to  HitTheApex

I meant “other than that”. Stupid autocorrect!

Sandro Gonçalves
Sandro Gonçalves(@sandrogoncalves3)
5 years ago

So far the only things I’d say factory didn’t get right back in ’92 with my Lancia Dedra 1.6 i.e. were, the electronics, which considering how much tech that car had back then it’s no surprise. Something else were the speakers that I long changed for better ones (sony xplod ones). Lastly… while the small 1.6 engine does behave wonderfully, having a weird almost magical power to the only 90hp it has, that little engine’s been able to grant me slightly joking drag wins vs porches in a straight climbing road I have here. For while they might be faster in a straight line, this little car managed to beat even 4x4s in steep climbs like this one, but I did wish the engine was bigger and the free space in the engine wasn’t so damn much… which helps with the maintenance ‘tho. easy access to about everything.

Neale Laird
Neale Laird(@nealelaird)
5 years ago

Mazda RX8 BRILLIANT TO DRIVE PRACTICAL AND SMOOTH. … however the engine has its faults won’t even go there
The other ones are the cup holders get extremely hot so not a good place for cold drinks. .. ideal for coffee. The rear lamps fog up and there is a peak point in the front stabilised the drop links are poor

5 years ago

BMW 2002-
Just about everything was right: handling, power, weight, colors.

They didn’t quite get the drains on the sun roof right. They are plumbed via rubber hoses to down to the rocker panels, which lead to these rusting on almost every car.

Brian Benefield
Brian Benefield(@brbrian)
5 years ago
Reply to  readfrost

I love my ’02 from bumper to bumper but would improve interior ventilation if I could find my magic wand.

Mario Carneiro Neto
Mario Carneiro Neto(@mers)
5 years ago

1985 BMW 635csi

I like that the car can fit 4 real people. I love the tasteful design. I love the old-school BMW driving dynamics…

I just wish the Auto gearbox wasn’t electronically controlled….Makes it more complicated than it should be. And I don’t mind that it’s an auto, in fact it’s great for daily driving. But it could’ve been a better auto.

Also, I hate that the original wheels were TRX only, although I’ve fixed that…

Cameron S
Cameron S(@chester-sing)
5 years ago

Love your car!

Pardon my ignorance – is there an auto transmission that is not electronically controlled?

Ian Cassley
Ian Cassley(@iancassley)
5 years ago

90-93 Ford Festiva. The body structure of this Mazda engineered econobox has proved itself to be extremely well suited for track use…that’s the good part.

What did they get wrong, you ask? The suspension was way too soft and the engine underpowered. Add more horsepower and some better shocks and you end up with a car that can hold its own against a lot of cars that you’d think it shouldn’t be able to…..

Also check out “Chasing a stupid fast Festiva” on Youtube.

5 years ago

I have Wankel engine, so quite a bit of right and wrong.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
5 years ago

Daytona – got right, everything except for below

Got wrong, The windscreen wipers, and the (optional) AC is rubbish, which is a problem when you have the heat from a V12 engine soaking into the cockpit. Finally the catches on the quarterlights will not stay attached to the quarterlights without modifications.

5 years ago

What they got right at the factory; easy to repair and well proven mechanics.

What they got wrong: lack of passion

Luis Costa
Luis Costa(@ldcosta15)
5 years ago

1976 Corolla ke30

Good: weight, only 700kg and is the most reliable car i know!

Bad: only 54 hp, suspension too soft

But is a really fun car no matter what, and i love drive it

Cameron S
Cameron S(@chester-sing)
5 years ago

Nissan S14 Kouki: 1. Suspension – it could’ve been made a tad bit stiffer at minimal additional costs. 2. Power – it could’ve been made a bit more powerful (perhaps by 5 hp to 10 hp) simply by increasing the volume of the headers and exhaust pipes. Once again, this couldv’e been done at minimal additional costs. 3. Interior – given the price, one cannot complain about its mostly plastic finish. The fabric pattern could’ve been more tastefully chosen though.

5 years ago

Battery tray problems as well on the 944. Constantly checking for corrosion.