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    Worst engines ever shoved into a car

    Finding a bad car is pretty easy, we all pretty much remember what was pure unmitigated junk, or we didn't do our homework and bought something we regreted. Sometimes though, a decent car will get stuck with a really horrible engine... here's my nominee for this thread:

    The Toyota 3VZE.

    Usually when we think of Toyota trucks, we think of simple and sturdy compact trucks that last 500,000+ miles on their economical and sturdy 22R 4 cylinders. However in the late 80's, Nissan offered their Hardbody pickup with the VG30E V6, Ford had the 2.9 V6 and later 4.0 V6 in their Ranger and Chevrolet had the 2.8 V6 and later on the 4.3 V6. Toyota needed a V6 to compete with the other trucks. What they came out with was bad, really bad. The 3VZE was a 3.0 liter SOHC V6, the only non- DOHC V6 Toyota has sold, which makes it an oddball. However this motor became notorious for blowing head gaskets (repeatedly), which resulted in multiple recalls, plus the engine was underpowered, lord help you if it was automatic. Plus this engine boasted the fuel economy of a V8 engine, without the power or torque of said V8. Not that it mattered because plenty of these engines blew themselves to pieces and wise owners replaced it with Toyota's proven 22R series of engines. The 3VZE is more then likely Toyota's most hated engine, one that is best avoided. I know first hand because I sell Toyota parts!

    Another example is sort of an interesting one, but this example shows what can happen when an engine isn't up to task for a car. Anybody remember the '79-'81 Dodge St. Regis? No? The St. Regis replaced the full sized Dodge Monaco, the St. Regis was smaller, but still very much a fullsize sedan. It had clear plexi-glass headight covers that retracted and could be had with the slant 6 or if you wanted more a 318 V8 or the 360 V8. Trouble was, nobody bought these, EXCEPT for fleet sales- specifically as police cars. With the 360, they made an acceptible patrol car, trouble was, not everyone could get it. In 1980, the only engine certified for use in the state of California in a Mopar police car was the 4 barrel 318 with all of 155 horsepower! Imagine being a Highway Patrol officer who just had a 440 Monaco that could do about 130 MPH (if there was no lightbar on the roof) and then went to the St. Regis as a replacement. 19 second quartermile time with a 95 MPH top speed. The problem was so bad and so many cops were miffed about the issue the CHP adopted the 5.0 Mustang GL as a pursuit car the next year and thus accentuated Dodge's fast fall frome grace.

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustang_Boy View Post
    Finding a bad car is pretty easy, we all pretty much remember what was pure unmitigated junk, or we didn't do our homework and bought something we regreted. Sometimes though, a decent car will get stuck with a really horrible engine... here's my nominee for this thread:

    The Toyota 3VZE.

    Usually when we think of Toyota trucks, we think of simple and sturdy compact trucks that last 500,000+ miles on their economical and sturdy 22R 4 cylinders. However in the late 80's, Nissan offered their Hardbody pickup with the VG30E V6, Ford had the 2.9 V6 and later 4.0 V6 in their Ranger and Chevrolet had the 2.8 V6 and later on the 4.3 V6. Toyota needed a V6 to compete with the other trucks. What they came out with was bad, really bad. The 3VZE was a 3.0 liter SOHC V6, the only non- DOHC V6 Toyota has sold, which makes it an oddball. However this motor became notorious for blowing head gaskets (repeatedly), which resulted in multiple recalls, plus the engine was underpowered, lord help you if it was automatic. Plus this engine boasted the fuel economy of a V8 engine, without the power or torque of said V8. Not that it mattered because plenty of these engines blew themselves to pieces and wise owners replaced it with Toyota's proven 22R series of engines. The 3VZE is more then likely Toyota's most hated engine, one that is best avoided. I know first hand because I sell Toyota parts!

    Another example is sort of an interesting one, but this example shows what can happen when an engine isn't up to task for a car. Anybody remember the '79-'81 Dodge St. Regis? No? The St. Regis replaced the full sized Dodge Monaco, the St. Regis was smaller, but still very much a fullsize sedan. It had clear plexi-glass headight covers that retracted and could be had with the slant 6 or if you wanted more a 318 V8 or the 360 V8. Trouble was, nobody bought these, EXCEPT for fleet sales- specifically as police cars. With the 360, they made an acceptible patrol car, trouble was, not everyone could get it. In 1980, the only engine certified for use in the state of California in a Mopar police car was the 4 barrel 318 with all of 155 horsepower! Imagine being a Highway Patrol officer who just had a 440 Monaco that could do about 130 MPH (if there was no lightbar on the roof) and then went to the St. Regis as a replacement. 19 second quartermile time with a 95 MPH top speed. The problem was so bad and so many cops were miffed about the issue the CHP adopted the 5.0 Mustang GL as a pursuit car the next year and thus accentuated Dodge's fast fall frome grace.

    Hey Mustang,

    Great stuff!

    I remember the St. Regis; I didn't realize the headlight covers retracted... that was a popular "look" at the time. Remember the '79-'81 Pontiac Trans-Ams? The quad headlights were supposed to have been fitted with retractable covers, too - but that was nixed because of cost considerations.

    Pretty much all the V-8s from that era were just awful. The Pontiac 301 produced around 120 hp. The Ford 302 was making about the same. In 1984, when Chevy released the "High Output" L69 305 V-8, its 190 hp was considered very impressive. Today, there are 2-liter fours that make more power and virtually every V-6 makes at least 210-220 hp. Many make 250-plus.

    Welcome to the site, by the way... have you seen the Main Page? http://ericpetersautos.com/ We just completed a major update...

  3. #3
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Want to see a bad engine? How about the four banger in the 1971 through early '75 Vegas and Monzas? Aluminum block without cylinder liners and steel rings. Each time they moved one stroke, they honed themselves out a bit. My sister bought one of the first '71 Vegas off the line. When she got rid of it, it had about 30,000 miles on it, it got 100 miles to a quart of oil and the entire car seemd to be made of compressed rust.

    In 1975 they got around to putting steel cylinder sleeves in the engine and called it the "Iron Duke" engine. The engine was pretty good when GM got around to doing what Chrysler did 10 years previous.

    When I ran a salvage yard, these were the engines of choice for mini stock racers. We'd take a truck load to claim races and sell the heck out of them.
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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grouch View Post
    Want to see a bad engine? How about the four banger in the 1971 through early '75 Vegas and Monzas? Aluminum block without cylinder liners and steel rings. Each time they moved one stroke, they honed themselves out a bit. My sister bought one of the first '71 Vegas off the line. When she got rid of it, it had about 30,000 miles on it, it got 100 miles to a quart of oil and the entire car seemd to be made of compressed rust.

    In 1975 they got around to putting steel cylinder sleeves in the engine and called it the "Iron Duke" engine. The engine was pretty good when GM got around to doing what Chrysler did 10 years previous.

    When I ran a salvage yard, these were the engines of choice for mini stock racers. We'd take a truck load to claim races and sell the heck out of them.
    God, I remember!

    Ever read DeLorean's book?

    He describes an early production Vega literally disintegrating on the GM test circuit.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    God, I remember!

    Ever read DeLorean's book?

    He describes an early production Vega literally disintegrating on the GM test circuit.
    I remember reading that in your book. Good 'ol General Motors!

  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustang_Boy View Post
    I remember reading that in your book. Good 'ol General Motors!
    The '70s/early '80s era was pretty funny; I would have enjoyed being able to test drive/review new cars back then. Imagine getting a Pacer (or Yugo) press car!

    Today, cars pretty much all work. Yeah, they have occasional small problems. But rarely are they nose to tail pieces d' shit, crappy from the get-go.

    And almost none are slow.

    The worst of them needs about 11 seconds to reach 60. That's twice as quick as an Old Beetle and 2-3 seconds faster than a Chevette. Most will comfortably cruise at 70 all day; and they can hit 100-plus on top, too.

    The downside is they're much more complex, and so when something does go wrong, it's often beyond the ability of the owner to deal with it. Plus, you can't (economically) keep them running forever, like you could an old POS car from the '70s.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    The six cylinder engines in the 1st generation BMW 5-series cars had a bad tendency toward blown head gaskets, cracked heads, and even cracked blocks.

  8. #8
    The Triumph Stag had a piece of shit V8 with many problems; timing chain breakage, warped cylinder heads, and overheating. I remember a friend of mine had one and we put a Buick V6 in after the original motor blew.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieseleverything View Post
    The Triumph Stag had a piece of shit V8 with many problems; timing chain breakage, warped cylinder heads, and overheating. I remember a friend of mine had one and we put a Buick V6 in after the original motor blew.
    Wasn't that the old Olds 215 aluminum V-8?

    One of GM's oddball engines from the '60s...

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Wasn't that the old Olds 215 aluminum V-8?

    One of GM's oddball engines from the '60s...
    No, the Stag had an OHC V8 that was never used in any other car. It was based on the Triumph Dolomite 4-cylinder engine, but with two banks.

    It was rather compact, and I don't think there was much of anything else that would fit under the Stag's hood when it expired. The most common alternate fitting seems to be the Ford Capri V6 engine.

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    No, the Stag had an OHC V8 that was never used in any other car. It was based on the Triumph Dolomite 4-cylinder engine, but with two banks.

    It was rather compact, and I don't think there was much of anything else that would fit under the Stag's hood when it expired. The most common alternate fitting seems to be the Ford Capri V6 engine.
    Interesting; I don't think I've ever seen one. I'll look it up and see what kind of power it put out, etc. and report back!

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    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    In my day, the worst POS Engine was the old Chevy 348 ci. We could always depend on them to be a fairly decent Boat anchor..Another was, from GM, the 5.7 Diesel of the late Seventies and early 80's. From broken Cranks to blown Head Gaskets. I think everyone had their share of oops. Ford first Y Block v-8s were a decent unit. If you didn't mind replacing push rods when you over revved it. I know, I had a 54 Ford with a 239 ci. It would do 74 Miles per hour, in second gear, but you had to replace about half of the push rods before it would run right again. ..

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM View Post
    In my day, the worst POS Engine was the old Chevy 348 ci. We could always depend on them to be a fairly decent Boat anchor..Another was, from GM, the 5.7 Diesel of the late Seventies and early 80's. From broken Cranks to blown Head Gaskets. I think everyone had their share of oops. Ford first Y Block v-8s were a decent unit. If you didn't mind replacing push rods when you over revved it. I know, I had a 54 Ford with a 239 ci. It would do 74 Miles per hour, in second gear, but you had to replace about half of the push rods before it would run right again. ..
    For my generation (Generation X) one of the worst American built engines was the Pontiac 301. This was the last V-8 Pontiac built, before GM shut down Pontiac's independent engine-building shop. The idea behind it was not bad at all. It was a lightweight design conceived with efficiency in mind. It had an unusual (and much lighter) crank, block and heads and if memory serves it weighed something like 150 pounds less than the standard Pontiac 400 V-8.

    But it was a weak engine, both in terms of horsepower and durability. Worse, virtually no parts interchanged with the traditional Pontiac V-8s. One of the great things about the traditional Pontiac V-8 was that there were no "big" or "small" blocks, and engines ranging from the 326 all the way up to the 455 had interchangeable cylinder heads, exhaust/intake manifolds, camshafts/valvetrain parts, external covers, etc. But not the 301. Virtually every piece of it was unique that engine. So, hopping it up via bolt-on parts was virtually impossible. Nothing from the rest of the Pontiac engine family fit; and the aftermarket never built much in the way of parts for the 301.

    That meant you were pretty much stuck with the stock engine, as built by Pontiac.

    And that pretty much sucked. Even in turbocharged form ('80-'81 Trans-Am), the 301 delivered performance that would be considered embarrassingly slow by today's standards: 16 second quarter miles and 16 miles per gallon.

  14. #14
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J. ZIMM View Post
    In my day, the worst POS Engine was the old Chevy 348 ci. We could always depend on them to be a fairly decent Boat anchor..Another was, from GM, the 5.7 Diesel of the late Seventies and early 80's. From broken Cranks to blown Head Gaskets. I think everyone had their share of oops. Ford first Y Block v-8s were a decent unit. If you didn't mind replacing push rods when you over revved it. I know, I had a 54 Ford with a 239 ci. It would do 74 Miles per hour, in second gear, but you had to replace about half of the push rods before it would run right again. ..

    That diesel was nothing more than a modified 350 gas engine. A friend bought one of the first oil burner 1/2 ton pickups, sight unseen. He wanted something to tow a boat with. When it showed up at the dealer, there was a huge sticker on the dash saying it was "Not to be used for towing or hauling heavy loads". Why bother? I sold a BUNCH of 350 gas engines to people with 5 year old cars and bad diesel engines when I ran a salvage yard in the early 80's.
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  15. #15
    Got 2 more engines to the list, both by Ford. If you've read Eric's book or been here long enough, you know that the late 70's and early 80's were really tough times for the American car industry. Engines of all sizes were choked by mandated emissions equipment, the unforgiving (and quite frankly stupid CAFE regulations- which even included emergency vehicles such as ambulances) and also safety equipment- which added weight; alot of weight to a car. So various methods were tried out on cars, some ideas worked, some didn't. For example, Chrysler's 'Lean Burn' computers was an idea that didn't work.

    Which brings me to my nominees, first is the Ford 255 cu.in V8 (4.2L) used in the early 80's Mustang, Crown Victoria LTD (retail and police), Thunderbird, Fairmont (retail and police- you can see those in the movie E.T) and if memory serves me right, the F-100 and F-150. Not technically a bad motor, it was just as functional as it's bigger 302 cu.in. brother- it was just a smaller displacement version of that engine. The problem was that it was too weak to be of any use.... it only made 120 hp from a "V8". The idea was sound, to give decent fuel economy and to cater to people who wanted 8 cylinders under their hood, same reason in the Mustang, but also to push buyers into buying the Turbo 2.3 4 cylinder engine as a performance engine... more on that later. The idea flopped of course- most people if they wanted the V8- just sprang for the 302 or they had the option, a 351. That, or they either bought a 2.3 or the straight 6 if they were after economy. You never see this engine today as time has forgotten it. This was the only picture I could find of it- seriously!


    Next victim- the early 80's Ford Mustang 'Turbo' 2.3 4 cylinder. Again in thearly 80's, performance cars were as gutless as you could get. V8's were emasculated, big blocks were no longer available so if you wanted a V8, you settled for a small block, such as the embarassingly feeble 318 in the Dodge St. Regis for example. One idea that was expiremented with was turbocharging. It was a good idea (and still is) but in the 80's, most cars were still carburated with either NO or limited computer usage. The Pontiac 301 has already been discussed here, though Ford tried it's hand at turbocharging itself. Initially it failed. The Ford 2.3 is a decent transportation engine, it was no powerhouse with 80-90 hp, but it was just as reliable as anything else back then. It was the base model engine in the Mustang from '74 up to '93. However, with Mustang fans demanding performance from the new '79 Mustang as well as looming CAFE regulations, Ford thought that the future was small turbocharged engines as performance engines. So Ford took the 2.3 and duct taped on a turbocharger to it. So like the Pontiac Turbo 301, the Turbo 2.3 was stuck with a carburater ( I think it was a 2 barrell ) that made an impressive for the times 143 hp. The problem was that there was extreme turbo lag and that the little 2.3 wasn't made for forced induction, so many gave up the ghost early on, plus many times the turbo would starve itself of oil, or even ignite itself on fire. Plus the V8 was cheaper and much more simple to work on. Performance with one in good health is 0-60 in 9 or so seconds and quarter mile times were 17.4 seconds @ 82 MPH, so it was quick for the era, but it didn't work and Ford canceled the engine in '81 and replaced it with the excellent 5.0 HO in '82 and a new EFI Turbo 2.3 in '83. Ford did try again, though this time the engine worked as promised (actually better) in the '84 Mustang SVO which could be had with 175- 200 hp and was actually quite the screamer. Unfortunately for the SVO, the 5.0 HO was better and cheaper.... and easier to modify as well, which killed it off. But still, it was fun while it lasted! In the picture, the 2.3 Turbo is the engine in the middle.

  16. #16
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Ah, memories!

    These were the cars of my high school/college years... I remember them all too well.

    The SVO Mustang was pretty neat; I had the chance to drive one that was owned by a friend's father. It seemed fast as hell to me at the time. These were low 15 second quarter-mile cars, which circa mid-1980s was very solid. The turbo flashed on pretty aggressively, too. Which I liked and miss in today's turbo cars, which are more progressive.

    One really mean car from that period was the Buick Regal GN (and GNX). These were (in the case of the GNX) 150 mph cars with 13 second quarter mile capability, factory stock.

    I haven't seen one in years; I doubt very many have survived. I'd like to own one. No one really makes hulking, NASCAR-esque performance coupes anymore....

  17. #17
    Senior Member grouch's Avatar
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    I've had many "lean burn" engines. I've been happy with all of them. Big and small block versions. Of course, I'd get a rebuilt electroni distributor, new regular brain box, ballast resistor and get a harness from the dealer. Later, you could get a Mopar Performance electronic ignition conversion kit. These are no longer available for 6 bangers though.

    When I had a badge, being a volunteer unit, we got retired police cars from the police department. We had a 1980 and an '85. Both had the 351W engine with the variable venturi carburetion system. Everybody wanted to drive the newer car because it was sleeker but the old '80 was my favorite. Yeah, it was boxy, it had a huge light bar but it was comfortable and since it sort of was my own personal car, it got...um....tuned. Instead of the 40 watt wimpy speaker for the siren I found a 100 watt unit. I sawed the horn down so it would fit and timed the engine so it would smoke the tires in first and chirp them when it went into 2nd and 3rd. If you've ever wondered why sirens are so hard to hear, newer cars have little insulation in the roof. That's why they have very weak speakers on the roof bar.

    I liked driving the car but my chief drove it out of town once and when he got back, he called me to retune the car. It seems it pecked all the way there and back for 300 miles.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    ...
    One really mean car from that period was the Buick Regal GN (and GNX). These were (in the case of the GNX) 150 mph cars with 13 second quarter mile capability, factory stock.

    I haven't seen one in years; I doubt very many have survived. I'd like to own one. No one really makes hulking, NASCAR-esque performance coupes anymore....
    I'd conjecture that a large percentage of Regal GN(X) cars went almost directly into storage, because everybody figured they'd be collectible someday. I'd further conjecture that there are so many of them rotting in storage that it will take a very long time to get back the purchase price and the $10,000 'limited availability' charge that the dealers routinely tacked on.

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    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    The 4.3 V6 Diesel from the rare 1983 Buick Regal Diesel was pretty grim.

    And what did they stick in the Chevette Diesel?

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    I think the Chevette's Diesel came from Isuzu.

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