Five worst car fails in Aussie history
5. The Ford Falcon XK
This was the very first all-Australian Ford, so when it was launched in 1960, the entire future of Ford Australia rested on its sleek shoulders. A shame, then, that the car was under-developed and soon gained a reputation for falling to bits. Not in a small way, either; the entire front suspension was pretty likely to collapse the first time you hit a decent pothole which, in 1960 Australia, was usually during the car’s maiden voyage home to show the neighbours.
Ford was sent scrambling to fix the problem, which it did by adding stronger parts to the car’s structure, but the marketing damage had already been done. It would take Ford another three models and half a decade before many buyers would take the Falcon badge seriously again. The tragedy is that the actual XK Falcon was so far ahead of its Holden competition in so many ways that, had the Ford hung together, it should have blitzed Holden in the sales race.
4. Vacuum windscreen wipers
The idea of having a component on a car that can take care of two tasks rather than just one is usually a sign of great design. But when it came to vacuum windscreen wipers, which persisted on Holden’s cars right up into the 1960s, the reality was rather different.
Instead of using a nice, simple, efficient electric motor to drive the wiper arms and clear your windscreen, vacuum wipers used, er, vacuum, a normal by-product of a car engine, to power those arms. The catch was that an engine only makes a useful amount of vacuum when it’s running at a steady throttle, idling, or is decelerating. Put your foot on the throttle to accelerate and the vacuum disappears.
Can you see the problem here? That’s right, every time you accelerated on a rainy day, your wipers would take a break and sit there uselessly on the windscreen while goodness knows what hurtled towards you. At least you never knew what hit you. Literally.
3. Holden four-cylinder Commodore
As four-wheeled turkeys go, the original four-cylinder Commodore of 1980 could soar with the best of them. Worried about fuel economy, Holden took its Commodore sedan and fitted a four-cylinder engine for those customers who valued squeezing every last kilometre out of every last litre.
There’s actually nothing wrong with the concept, but the execution was awful. The engine itself was more or less a Holden six-cylinder (itself no paragon of virtue) with a pair of cylinders sliced off. The result was an engine that was harsh and rough to use, didn’t rev nicely and made barely enough power to get the Commodore moving out from the kerb.
It pretty soon became a standing joke among car enthusiasts and an alarm bell for car buyers. And here’s the terribly irony: Because you had to drive the thing so hard to get anywhere, its fuel economy was barely (if any) better than the same Commodore with the six-cylinder engine. Truly, this car was a bigger flop than the Leyland P76, and that was a car that could set its own carpets alight!