From Beetle to Roller - an eccentric survey of crap cars

Wed, Oct 20, 2004, 01:00

The great British urge to rubbish everything has turned its attention to the country's "crappest cars", with an almost poetically eloquent tirade against the top - or bottom - 50 worst marques.

Headed by the ever-popular Volkswagen Beetle and including models from Rolls-Royce and Porsche, the list may turn out to be too eccentric to carry any weight, but its author and researchers undoubtedly had fun.

Taking a leaf from the Crap Towns series, an unexpected bestseller on bookshop counters last year, the book suggests that the Morris Marina (fourth worst) was based on "something Noah found in his shed".

It also lambasts the Lada Riva (fifth) as the real reason that Russia threw off the communist yoke, and compares the engine of the Trabant (ninth) unfavourably with an electric carving knife.

The book is an unlikely spin-off from the BBC's TV motoring series Top Gear, whose scriptwriter Richard Porter wrote it in between maintaining his website, Sniff Petrol.

This has a similar sturdy line in trashing cars (it claims that the Land Rover Discovery is so heavy that its gravity sucks in child pedestrians), and is campaigning to convince car designers they should not grow moustaches or beards."The book is like a bit of the website you can read in the bath," Porter says. "It takes 50 of the biggest clunkers ever made, assembles them into a loose ranking and then gives them a nice kicking."

Like Crap Towns, whose contributors slagged off such unlikely targets as Oxford and the wealthy London quarter of St John's Wood, the ranking owes much to personal prejudice. Porter defends his final choice of the Beetle as crappest-ever car as proof of the mistaken importance given to sentimentality by British drivers.

He says in the book: "For some reason, beardy peaceniks and straggly-haired surfer dudes love the Beetle, thinking it is alternative and cool. Which is fine, except it overlooks the fact that it's also clearly bollocks."

Motoring in behind the Beetle comes the Austin Allegro - "the godfather of crap cars" - followed by the fakest of all the country's "pretend Jeeps", the Suzuki X90. The most original entry in the top 10 is the Bond Bug (seventh), exotic relative of the Reliant Robin (eighth), which is mocked as looking like a slice of cheese. "Frankly, you'd be better off trying to drive around in an actual piece of cheese. At least fewer people would laugh at you."

The book reflects Top Gear's fondness for speed, condemning the Nissan Serena not only for its name, but for an acceleration time from 0-60 which is "measurable in months".

"There are cars that make you laugh and cars that make you cry," says Porter. "And cars that induce a powerful sensation of overwhelming nausea."


1 Volkswagen Beetle

2 Austin Allegro

3 Suzuki X90

4 Morris Marina

5 Lada Riva

6 Nissan Serena

7 Bond Bug

8 Reliant Robin

9 Trabant

10 MGB

11 Seat Marbella

12 FSO Polonez

13 Suzuki SJ

14 Aston Martin Lagonda

15 Datsun Sunny 120Y

16 Yugo 45

17 Austin Ambassador

18 Ferrari 400

19 Daihatsu Applause

20 Fiat 126