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Dullest 5 Cars of the Past 40 Years

Drew Dowdell

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Our friends over at Consumer Guide Automotive's - The Daily Drive Blog like to put out "Top Whatever of the last X Years" lists. That's cool, they're fun, and they spur debate. Sometimes I agree with their list, often times I don't. However, yesterday they re-ran an old list of the Top 5 Dullest Cars of the Last 40 Years and I took issue with not just a few of the nominations, but even their reason for being nominated. For a list so short, 40 years is a very broad range to pick from.

For the readers at home, I've met Tom Appel a few times, he's a good guy, and this is just in fun.

Here are my line-item vetos of Tom's "Top 5 Dullest Cars" list:

1990-2000 Chevrolet Lumina - Tom nominates the Lumina noting the Lumina's "edgy" predecessor, the Chevrolet Celebrity. If Tom finds the Celebrity to be edgy, he can come over and watch me tie my shoes, that should really get his heart rate up. The nomination of the Lumina jumped out at me only because of how often it is included in lists like this. People often forget that you could buy the Lumina with a 24-valve DOHC V6 producing 215 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque from 1991 - 1995 at a time when most other family cars were lucky to crest the 170hp mark with their V6 and even more were making due with a 90 horsepower deficit in their 4-cylinders. Even the Ford Mustang V8 was only running 215 horsepower till 1994. Coupe models of the Lumina received transverse fiberglass leaf spring technology borrowed from the Corvette and cool vertical mount door handles. Sure, those door handles would break within 5-years, but they weren't boring.

1997 - 2001 Cadillac Catera - The Cadillac Catera is the David Hasselhoff of the automotive world; the subject of mocking and derision in the U.S. while enjoying cult like status in Germany. No car that enjoys cult status in Germany deserves to be on a "Most Boring" list. In spite of its problems, the Catera did what Cadillac needed it to do; get the world used to the idea that a Cadillac could handle with the best from Germany. The complaints lists for the Catera were long, reviewers could complain about power or the stark interior, but on handling, the Catera was generally praised. In fact, even Consumer Guide rated the Catera's handling a 6 out of 10 right along with its contemporary Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz C-class. The Catera deserves to be on plenty of other lists, but "Most Boring" isn't one of them.

1992 - 1996 Toyota Camry - Here is a case of Tom not going far enough. Tom calls the Camry "the best overall vehicle on this list, the 1992-1996 Camry excited the senses like soggy unsalted pretzels served half frozen"; which is funny to me because the most remarkable thing about this generation of Camry is that it was Toyota's first semi-successful attempt at building a car that didn't dissolve into a pile of iron-oxide at the first sign of salt in a northern U.S. winter. But has any generation of Camry ever been exciting... ever? The Camry has only been around for 31 years and you had 40 to work with Tom, use it all.

Tom's other two nominations, the '78 - '83 Fairmont (I would expand this to include the restyled and renamed LTD that ran till '86) and the '81 - '89 Plymouth Reliant deserve to be on a "Most Boring" list. But that leaves me two vehicles short. So here are my some nominations to fill the gap.

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Toyota Corolla (All) - Doesn't matter the year, any Corolla of the past 40 years will do. This is the nameplate that finally pushed the decidedly non-boring Volkswagen Beetle out as the most produced nameplate ever. They come in any color you like as along as it's beige and they ran with 4-speed automatics up until just a few years ago while the domestics were getting raked over the coals for the same thing. The Corolla is, and has been, the car for people who hate cars, hate driving, but must have some form of transportation besides the bus.

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2000 - 2009 Kia Optima - This car was so bland that a very mildly disguised version of it was used by Subaru for an ad campaign titled "Mediocrity". Subaru likely picked the Optima due to the fact that so few people would actually be able to recognize the shapeless beige lump. Kia must have really taken that teasing to heart because when we reviewed the 2012 Kia Optima, we found it anything but boring.

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1982 - 2005 Buick Century - It's been a long while since the Buick Century was thought of as the Banker's Hotrod. This car originally got its name for being the first regular production car to be able to reach and maintain 100 miles per hour. In the 1950's the Century was Buick's performance line, using the largest V8 in the smallest body. Long gone are those days, and since 1982 the Century has been just about as dull a 3-box sedan as you could buy. Tom might not like this pick though because the 1982 - 1996 models were just a Chevrolet Celebrity without all the *cough* .. edginess.

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Ford Tempo (All) - The Ford Tempo took over after the Fairmont/LTD was done blanding up the place. They arrived with 83 horsepower 4-cylinders mated to 3-speed automatics and while the '87 Taurus gets all the credit for the styling renaissance that swept through Ford in the mid to late 80s, it was actually the lowly, unloved Tempo that actually debuted the "jellybean" style 4 years prior. Back in high school, a friend's dad had an AWD, Diesel, 5-speed gray-market Tempo which was interesting only that it existed in the first place.

What say you dear reader? More nominations for "Most Boring Cars" list? Disagree with my Vetos?



15 Comments


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Lumina just screamed "old person's car" ,unless it was a higher trim level. (though I liked tge outgoing LTZ one) It was faster, but it made that famous jelly bean ford look good......

Others I can agree on!

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catera was a really good driving car.

you could put just about any subaru on this list.

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Catera wasn't that dull it had a decent look to it, but what about he Plymoth Acclaim, that was pretty bad.

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The Ford Tempo was a truly hateful car, and about as flavorful as gnawing on raw brussel sprouts and old boot leather, but it did have one very interesting feature that's always overlooked in a discussion: it had optional shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive. So, back in the days of big hair and spandex, if you were too rabid to consider one of "them there ferrin job Suebahruse" or too leary to buy an AMC Eagle, but demanded an American sedan with all-wheel traction, you finally had a third option (and may God have mercy on your soul).

Because the Tempo actually had a quirky side, I don't know if I would exactly nominate it as being the dullest car ever built of the past forty years. One of the worst ever? Bar none.

http://articles.philly.com/1987-05-01/news/26165900_1_4wd-front-drive-car-wheel

http://www.tempotopaz.com/main/index.php?name=Sections&req=viewarticle&artid=31&page=2

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I re-read the Tempo's nomination above and I now see where an all-wheel drive model was mentioned, with both a diesel and a five-speed manual gearbox. That's just extra proof the Tempo isn't boring. C'mon. Who builds something like that today?

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I want to nominate the ugly little K Cars that we had to deal with in the 80's. Yes it saved Chrysler, but the box car was just pathetic.

Chrysler-K-cars-history-part-1_1-400x300

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for dull I would nominate any Buick Lesabre built after about 1992. Maybe some before that as well.

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I want to nominate the ugly little K Cars that we had to deal with in the 80's. Yes it saved Chrysler, but the box car was just pathetic.

Chrysler-K-cars-history-part-1_1-400x300

The K-Car was in Tom's original list.

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Boring or not, I still like the K-cars. And the Lumina, for that matter. And the Century! Those late 1980s models would haul @ss with the 3800. Or even the 3300.

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Here I go again, getting all defensive 'n' stuff...but I really liked the AA cars from Mopar--the Plymouth Acclaim, Dodge Spirit & Chrysler LeBaron sedan. They had lots of room inside (for four people, anyway) anc could be heated up pretty well with things like the turbo 4, or in Dodge's case, the 1991-92 R/T model with the high-boost turbo and Lotus-designed DOHC head.

I had a '94 Spirit with the Gold Package and 3.0L V6. It was surprisingly quick and a nice car on long trips.

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Yeah...for some reason I seem to be drawn to boring looking cars (if they are otherwise competent). I liked Falcons, Ramblers, Darts, Valiants...I preferred the 1952-55 Lincolns to the more exciting 1956-57 models. I'm a dull guy, I guess.

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I do find the Toyata Camry's as sleep inducing along with any of the older Buicks and yes the Tempo. The Catera should never have been in such company.<br /><br />Truth of the matter is there is always a market for the bland and boring as sort of an affordable beast of burden. Not for those who love their cars and want a bit of pizazz and not being embarassed to pull up in a "sensible car".

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I re-read the Tempo's nomination above and I now see where an all-wheel drive model was mentioned, with both a diesel and a five-speed manual gearbox. That's just extra proof the Tempo isn't boring. C'mon. Who builds something like that today?

I've wondered if it was a gray market Canadian model or something.

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