Dean Clough

November 18, 2022

Portico Darwin: The Worst Cars


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You know, I got a lot of push back on the elite nature of my recent post on electric cars.   

OK, I actually got zero push back, but I need something to justify this list.  Because today, I give you the worst cars that I am aware of.  I'm talking the real f'ing dogs of the automotive world. 

I share my own run-in with a bad car at the end and I ask:  will any reader come clean and join me in admitting as to having owned one of these . . . fine vehicles?


Chevrolet Vega

Ford Pinto

AMC Gremlin

AMC Pacer


Chevrolet Chevette

Cadillac Cimarron


Pontiac Aztec

Ford Mustang II

Alfa Romeo Milano Platinum
This is worthy of a story (shocker).  As a college graduation gift, my father in 1985 sold his prized antique gun collection (one of the finest in upstate NY at the time!) and bought me a brand spanking new Volkswagen GTI.  Yes, that's the car behind me, and yes, that's a mullet.  And yes, I was spoiled as a child.

But my beloved and absolutely Killer GTI was stolen, stripped and found abandoned on top of Baldy Mountain outside of Santa Fe (true story!).  I got a nice insurance check, and what did I buy?  A Honda?  A Toyota?  Another VW?

No.  In 1988, I paid FULL STICKER PRICE (I think it was $22,500) for a 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano Platinum.  As I drove away, I couldn't understand why the salesmen were rolling around on the parking lot laughing their asses off?  Naïve?  DUMB?  I made it still worse by putting a 4 figure aftermarket sound system in it.

Here it is, and this is my actual car, the photo being in Albuquerque in 1989. 

Here are some Fun Facts about my 1987 Alfa Romeo Milano Platinum:

  • When operational, it was amazing to drive - the engine and handling were extraordinary.
  • Its seats were among the most uncomfortable of any on which I've sat.
  • I wowed two different women with this car - one ended up being my wife; in fact, I proposed to Julie in it.
  • Every.  Single.  Major.  System.  In.  This.  Car.  Failed.  The engine.  The electrical system.  The cooling system.  The transmission.  Oh, and the driver's side rear door faded to a different color, and the A/C sucked.
  • The only thing that worked perfectly were the dashboard warning lights, alerting the owner that yet something else has failed and requires attention; I learned not to ignore them.

It was easily my dumbest purchase (and that includes my Browning low-profile golf clubs, Steven Simon) and an expensive lesson.  But it gets better. 

On a business trip, I drove this car over the border from El Paso and into the maquiladora of Juarez, Mexico.  I proceeded to rear-end the car ahead of me, which my client was driving, whom I was following to his company's factory.  It was super fun - the hood of my car even flew up and broke the windshield!

Yet we got this lemon repaired and towed it to San Francisco when we moved here from Houston in 1992.  Let me tell you:  the drive from Houston to SF is a long one, especially when towing this POS.
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Getting away from this car took another accident.  On New Year's Day of 1993, a hotel valet totaled Julie's car, a very reliable and nice Toyota Celica ST (for "Secretarial Transport", as she would say).  It all turned out great, though - the settlement allowed us to pay off and sell the Alfa (we were upside down on the loan), pay off the totaled Celica and buy something new.  Our next car? 

A boring and incredibly wise 1993 Acura Integra.


Behind the scenes, and as I occasionally do, I shared an album I "discovered" with fellow music nut Hunter Deuce.  In this case, it was Grand Funk Railroad, and their excellent live album, Caught In The Act.

While that and Hunter's reply were all non-Portico Darwin stuff, his response is worth watching.

Grand Funk Railroad, Homer's Favorite Band

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


For the worst Cars, I could easily have just selected Panorama, and called it a day. 

But I take KLUF much too seriously for that, so here is Kraftwerk and their seminal and Textbook Autobahn.

About Dean Clough